Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Baton Rouge, Louisiana was founded in 1699 by a French explorer named Sieur d’Iberville. As he was exploring the area, he came across a reddish cypress pole that marked the boundary between the Houma and Bayou Goula hunting grounds. He called the area Baton Rouge, which translates “red stick.” The first settlement in Baton Rouge – a French military outpost – was built in 1719. Since that time, Baton Rouge has been under the rule of Britain, Spain, Louisiana, the Florida Republic, the Confederate States, and the United States.
Baton Rouge draws visitors from all walks of life for a variety of different purposes. Part of its charm is its diversified history. A visit to Magnolia Mounds Plantation provides visitors a remarkable sense of historical perspective. A Baton Rouge Environment Commission (BREC) facility, Magnolia Mounds began its existence as a 900 acre French Creole indigo plantation in 1792. In 1802, under new ownership, Magnolia Mounds re-invented itself as a cotton and sugar cane plantation. The current site is fifteen acres and houses the Historic House museum (c. 1825), an open-hearth kitchen equipped with culinary tools of the day, an overseer’s house (c. 1871), a double slave cabin (c. 1830), a pigeonnier (c.1825) for housing squab and other game birds, and a rare three see privy. Visiting Magnolia Mounds is an excellent way to get a glimpse of what life was like for the people of the area during the early years of Baton Rouge.
Music is a cornerstone of the Baton Rouge culture. Visitors can literally find music in Baton Rouge 24 hours a day. If big events are your idea of a good time, head to Baton Rouge for the annual Bayou Country Superfest or the Baton Rouge Blues Festival, known as one of the oldest blues festivals in America. If you are more into the local flavor, both literally and figuratively, try dinner and music at local venues such as Chelsea’s Café, Superior Grill, or Pastime Restaurant. Both the food and the entertainment are sure to please! Just want to soak up the tunes and dance a little? The Roux House and Boudreaux’s and Thibodeaux’s will provide excellent local talent to make any evening ripe for kicking up your heels. If you want something uniquely unforgettable, you have to take a trip to the Red Dragon Listening Room or Teddy’s Juke Joint. At opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to atmosphere and clientele, both will please your craving for a one-of-a-kind experience. More budget conscious with your vacation funding? Spring and fall in Baton Rouge welcome several free concert series such as Live after Five, Rock ‘n’ Rowe, the Belle of Baton Rouge Concert series, and Sunday in the Park. Each provides its own individual perspective on musical life in the Red Stick.
It would be remiss to talk about Baton Rouge without talking about its casinos. L’Auberge Casino is likely the most upscale casino in the city. All of its facilities are on one floor and the atmosphere is, to say the least, “swanky.” If you want to dress to the nines for a night on the town, this should be your destination. If you are looking for more of a good time defined by noisy slots and loudly celebrating winners, then you should try the Hollywood Casino or the Belle of Baton Rouge. Both are excellent casinos with all of the excitement without the more refined atmosphere. Of course, there are also Mississippi riverboat casinos and it is my opinion that everyone should try the experience at least once. Some are thrilled with the selection of games and enjoy the scenic ride on the river while others complain that the boats need to be updated and that the smell of mold is prevalent. I personally have not tried them, but hope to take my own advice one day soon!
Make your plans to visit Bayou Country and make a stop in Baton Rouge. You won’t regret the visit and you will walk away with distinctive taste and sound experiences that will fill you with joie de vivre.