Have you ever been an understudy, won second place, or been the runner up - lingering in the shadows cast by a shining star? When I was plotting my trip to Louisiana, I wondered if that was how Baton Rouge would feel – a child neglected while everyone fawned over Mardi Gras down the road in New Orleans. But after exploring the city for a few days, and eating everything in sight (even the ‘crawfish’), I am convinced this city is more than worthy of being in the spotlight.
Just an hour and a half from the world famous French Quarter in the Big Easy, this gem is steeped in cultural heritage, wonderful shopping discoveries, and delicious food. Oh the food. Wander the flowery boulevards (with cocktail in hand), pop into a number of shops that will dazzle you, and feast on endless culinary delights.
Baton Rouge is the proud capital city of Louisiana, and full of vibrant tales that paint a rich history. Ask anyone about Huey P. Long, aka Kingfish, a senator who was assassinated in 1935 for his Robin Hood ideals. Both deeply admired, and highly controversial, he was a political pioneer who believed every man should be a king. His presence is found all over Baton Rouge – from a bridge named in his honour to his grave and a large statue at the State Capitol buildings. But don’t take my word for it – stop by the Capitol Park Museum and hear his speeches, see photos and read all about him.
This isn’t just any old museum… I’ve been to oodles of museums, even one with a two headed calf, and this is by far the best one I have been to. Rather than standing back and viewing stuffy displays, you are immersed in them. Celebrating all things Louisiana, from a life-sized fishing boat to wailing Mardi Grasjazz tunes, the bold colours and vibrant displays are sure to impress. There’s even a hot dog cart. You could take a virtual tour a la Google, but I recommend seeing it first hand.
Make sure you bring your piggy bank with you – not because things are expensive, but because you’ll want to fill up every last bit of space in your luggage with goodies. Stop by the mid-city’s antique district – Circa 1857 offers an eclectic collection of treasures ranging from the rustic to the refined. The nearby shops display a dazzling array of art, house wares, and just about everything on your Santa list.
Bring your appetite, and a strong will to keep eating despite your stomach screaming “for the love of all things holy, no more!” You’ll find room for more, trust me. There is a feast to be had in Baton Rouge. If you’re into football parties, plan your trip around Taste of Tiger Tailgating – a feeding frenzy held each August before the football season gets going. Picture an arena filled with all the best catering available for a tailgating party – or really, any Sunday afternoon when you’re still recovering from Saturday and don’t want to cook. Sample a myriad of gumbos, jambalayas, and other southern comfort foods. Add in some beauty queens and marines, and you’ve got a fun afternoon out. (Hint: If you wear your purple and gold, and drop a “Geaux Tigers!” cheer every so often, you’ll score bigger samples. These are serious football fans!)
If you prefer to do the cooking, then the Red Stick Spice Company is an absolute must. I barely cook, and I not only lingered over the rows of seasonings and fancy oils, I brought a bunch of it home and embraced my inner chef. The jambalaya seasoning can be used in a ‘one-pot pastalaya‘ that will have you drooling. Ask for a custom blend, or their favourite combination of spices to make your chili a champion – they won’t steer you wrong.
If you find yourself in the beautiful south, then be sure to put Baton Rouge on your itinerary – this new foodie mecca, steeped with history and charm, is waiting for you. Remember to bring your stretchy pants – there is no resisting indulgence here.
Some details: While the opinions and expanded waistline are all mine, a big thank you to Visit Baton Rouge who enabled my feeding frenzy. Mosey on over to their website or give them a buzz – they’ll help y’all out with trip planning, all with gobs of southern charm.