Some of the best things to do with four hours in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
If you're driving through Baton Rouge, Louisiana, plan some extra time and leave the highway. There are more than a few things to see, and ideally, you would have more than a few hours to see them! But even as a pit stop on a road trip from Dallas to New Orleans or somewhere else, you can enjoy art, history and great food in this capital city along the mighty Mississippi.
We recently had some time to spend in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and here are our favorite local finds that you won't see anywhere else.
A Half-Day Guide to Baton Rouge
A half day in Baton Rouge is just enough time to hit some of the city's high points, sampling its local history, culture and food. If you're new to Louisiana travel, Baton Rouge is an excellent place to start exploring the Pelican State. The Louisiana state capital and political center, it's home to two prominent capitol buildings; a thriving college and university system and a vibrant city center. The busy Mississippi River waterway flows past downtown, with a riverfront and levee path for optimal viewing.
Baton Rouge History: Old Capitol Building
Arts & Culture in Baton Rouge
Where to Eat in Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge Travel Planner
Exploring Baton Rouge History
Baton Rouge, or "red stick" in French has been the state capital of Louisiana since 1849, with a rich history and French and Spanish influences. Baton Rouge state business is currently carried out at its modern capital or Capitole de l'État de Louisiane, which also happens to be America's tallist capitol building at 460 feet. But if you have limited time in Baton Rouge, Louisiana's Old State Capitol is truly unique.
This Gothic-style building has stood for 165 years, with a restoration project in 1990 that enables it to function as a museum and Center for Political and Governmental History. Its exterior looks like a castle, and its interior is even more beautiful, with stained glass throughout, Its focal point is a winding, center staircase below a massive kaleidescope-like dome. Depending on the time of day and position of the sun, colored light dances along the interior. It truly is beautiful, and it is also educational, with historical and political exhibits in the House and Senate Chambers and Governor's Portrait Room as well as temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Admission is free.
Arts in Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge has a wide variety of museums, galleries and other art spaces, and murals and other public art throughout the city.
If you only have a few hours in Baton Rouge, the LSU Museum of Art is a convenient stop and showcases touring exhibitions and a large permanent collection of modern art and earlier works.
The Walls Project is a community and creative economic development organization that engages the public to create murals and other public arts programs in Baton Rouge. You'll see its handiwork on colorful walls in downtown, along the riverfront, in Mid City and other neighborhoods.
The River Center Branch of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library system is a striking, modern building that sits next to Bernardo de Gálvez Plaza, a public sculpture and community space named for the colonial governor of Spanish Louisiana. (Texans especially may recognize another of his civic legacies - Galveston.)
Where to Eat in Baton Rouge
Louisiana's culinary culture is truly unique, with dishes that bring in elements of French, Spanish, African and Native American food to comprise Creole cuisine, and Cajun flavors, which are more modern and originate from Acadian regions and cultures.
In Baton Rouge, with only a few hours - and one mealtime - to fill, we researched local favorites and picked one. And, Anthony's Italian Deli didn't disappoint! This Baton Rouge restaurant is a consistent local pick known for its muffuletta sandwich, which was invented by a Sicilian immigrant in early-1900s New Orleans and has since become a signature Louisiana dish.
The muffuletta sandwich at Anthony's Italian Deli was large, which is a good thing because it was also delicious! But leave room for dessert. (We tried a spectacular slice of lemon pie.) The restaurant was busy within typical lunch hours on a Friday, but the atmosphere was warm and convivial, and the service was great.
Baton Rouge Travel Planner
Our half-day Baton Rouge Itinerary at a Glance
Where to Stay: Courtyard by Marriott Baton Rouge Downtown. We arrived late on a Thursday night knowing that we would only have a few hours in Baton Rouge the next morning, so we wanted something within walking distance to our main destinations. This Baton Rouge downtown hotel fit the bill, and we find Courtyard Marriott Hotels in general to be excellent value for the price. This one had Mardi Gras themed decor, which was fun.
Walk from hotel through Downtown Baton Rouge (15 minutes)
Old State Capitol Building (1.5 Hour)
City Center Arts, Architecture and Culture Exploring (1 Hour)
Anthony's Italian Deli (1 Hour)
Google Map: Dallas to New Orleans Road Trip: Baton Rouge
Misc: We visited in December and the weather was chilly, but not cold. A light cardigan was helpful in the morning. The neighborhoods we experienced felt clean and perfectly safe, although it is a good idea to stay aware and practice good common sense anywhere that isn't familiar to you.
Our road trip to Louisiana coincided with a significant decrease in Covid cases, but we realize that things change quickly. Much of our Baton Rouge itinerary was outdoors, and what wasn't had reasonable mitigations in place, such as optional but available masks and easily accessible sanitizing stations. If you have questions, ask the venue directly and please do comply with local and business public health policies.
Since 2016, K.Co has been a platform to share inspiration, creative connections and unique experiences found in local businesses, culture and communities, and off-the-path travel.