Baton Rouge Introduction Walking Tour, Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge is the capital of the state of Louisiana. The area that is now Baton Rouge was initially settled by the Houma and Bayougoula Indian Tribes. These two indigenous tribes used a giant cypress pole painted in red to mark the boundary between the tribal lands. Early French settlers dubbed that cypress pole "Le Baton Rouge" or Red Stick.

European settlement of Baton Rouge began in 1721 when French colonists established a military and trading post. Since then, Baton Rouge has been governed by seven different governments: French, British, and Spanish in the colonial era, the Republic of West Florida as a United States territory and state, Confederate, and United States again since the end of the American Civil War.

Baton Rouge owes its economic importance to its strategic site upon the Istrouma Bluff, the first natural bluff upriver from the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. It is a culturally rich city, with settlements by immigrants from many European nations and Africans brought to North America as slaves or indentured servants.

The fascinating history and architecture can be seen in many of the city's historic buildings. The Louisiana State Capitol building is one of the few state capitals to feature a skyscraper rather than a traditional dome. The modern building stands in stark contrast to the Old State Capitol building, which was designed to look like a medieval castle. It now functions as a museum and art gallery.

The Old Governor's Mansion was designed to mimic the White House at the behest of then-Governor Huey Long. The U.S.S. Kidd and Nautical Center hold the only destroyer-class ship that maintains its appearance from World War II and welcomes visitors to explore.

Take this self-guided walking tour to explore Baton Rouge at your own pace.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Baton Rouge Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Baton Rouge Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Baton Rouge (See other walking tours in Baton Rouge)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Author: jenny
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Louisiana State Capitol
  • Capitol Park Museum
  • St. Joseph's Cathedral
  • Old Governor's Mansion
  • Old State Capitol
  • Louisiana Art & Science Museum
  • U.S.S. Kidd and Nautical Center
Louisiana State Capitol

1) Louisiana State Capitol (must see)

The Louisiana State Capitol is the seat of government for the state of Louisiana. It includes chambers for the state's House of Representatives, Senate, and Governor. The Louisiana State Capitol is known for being the tallest capitol building in the United States. At 34 stories tall, it is the tallest building in Baton Rouge and the seventh tallest building in the State of Louisiana.

The building was designed in the Art Deco architectural style by the architect Leon Charles Weiss and his architectural firm Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth, well known for the many public buildings it had designed in Louisiana. Construction on the capitol building began in 1930 and was completed in 1932 with a budget of $5 million. It was inspired by the Nebraska State Capitol, the first to use a tower design rather than a traditional dome.

The facade of the building includes several sculptures, reliefs, and friezes. Most of these reflect symbols from the history of Louisiana. There are also portraits of famous Louisianans between the pilasters. Statues on the tower represent Art, Law, Philosophy, and Science.

The building was significantly damaged in 1970 when a bomb, made from approximately two dozen sticks of dynamite, was detonated. Evidence of the bomb remains in the Senate Chamber: a pencil embedded in the ceiling from the force of a bomb. It can still be seen today.

The grounds of the Louisiana State Capitol include the Capitol Garden, a 30-acre garden designed by Leon Weiss. Among its flora are 200-year-old oak trees. There are also flower gardens, including the Louisiana state flower, the magnolia.

The Louisiana State Capitol building and its gardens were placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The building was also named a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1982.
Capitol Park Museum

2) Capitol Park Museum

Capitol Park Museum is a museum branch of the Louisiana State Museum. The museum includes two permanent thematic exhibits detailing the state's history, industry, and culture.

The museum covers the native inhabitants of the land. It leads patrons through a journey of colonization, industry, and the region's rich culture. Some of the notable items in the museum include a 48-foot shrimp trawler, a two-row sugar cane harvester, and a Civil War submarine.

The state's history of slavery is detailed with exhibits on the slave trade. The museum offers a rebuilt holding cell with an authentic door from the Fairview Plantation jail. The museum covers Jim Crow and the fight against racial discrimination, which includes an exhibit about the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott (1953), an organized, eight-day-long protest of the segregated seating system on city buses.

The vast cultural landscape of Louisiana is on display at the Capitol Park Museum. Visitors will see Louis Armstrong's childhood bugle, Pete Fountain's clarinet, and Buddy Guy's guitar. There is an interactive music area with zydeco, swamp pop, blues, and jazz.
St. Joseph's Cathedral

3) St. Joseph's Cathedral

St. Joseph's Cathedral is a Catholic cathedral in Baton Rouge. It was founded as the Parish of Our Lady of Sorrows (Parroquia de Nuestra Senora de los Dolores) in 1792 but was renamed after Louisiana statehood. It is the mother church of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

The cathedral is the third religious structure built on this site. It was designed in the Gothic Revival architectural style by Father John Cambiaso. Erected in 1853, it is the oldest church building in Baton Rouge.

The church was greatly damaged by cannon fire during U.S. Civil War. The reconstruction replaced the exterior red brick with stucco and added a steeple. In the early 20th century, stained glass was added, and the church building was expanded to meet the needs of a growing congregation.

One of the main features of the cathedral's interior is its large mahogany crucifix. The modern-style crucifix was sculpted by the Croatian sculptor and architect Ivan Mestrovic.

The St. Joseph's Cathedral has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1990.
Old Governor's Mansion

4) Old Governor's Mansion

The Old Governor's Mansion was the home of the state's governor from 1930 to 1963. It was built to replace the existing governor's mansion, erected in 1857.

The mansion was designed by the architectural firm Dreyfus, Weiss & Seifert. Classical Revival architecture was inspired by Thomas Jefferson's original plans for the White House. Legend states that then-Governor Huey Long wanted to replicate the White House in preparation for his plan to become President of the United States.

Nine governors lived in the mansion until a new Governor's Mansion was erected in 1963. The following year, the Old Governor's Mansion became the headquarters of the Louisiana Arts & Science Museum. Today it is a historic house museum open for tours to the general public. It is also a popular venue for weddings and celebrations.

The Old Governor's Mansion has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.
Old State Capitol

5) Old State Capitol (must see)

The Old State Capitol also referred to as the State House or the Louisiana Castle, is a museum and former government building. It originally served as a home to the Louisiana State Legislature.

Construction on the building began in 1847 and was completed in 1852. It was designed in the Gothic Revival architectural style by the architect James H. Dakin. The Old State Capitol was designed to resemble a castle.

The location of the capitol building holds significance to the history of Baton Rouge. It is believed that the land for the castle was once a Native American meeting site marked by a red pole. The French explorers who settled in the region referred to that red pole as "baton rouge."

During the U.S. Civil War, the Union Army used the building as a prison. It later turned into a garrison for African-American troops. The interior of the building was mostly destroyed during this time. Much of the destruction came from a fire in 1862.

The building was reconstructed under the leadership of architect William A. Freret. Freret rebuilt the Old State Capitol to its original aspect, adding the stained glass dome and a spiral staircase.

The Old State Capitol was used for governmental purposes through 1932 when the new Capitol was constructed. It is now the Museum of Political history. It includes exhibits that highlight the architecture of the building and an interactive gallery of Louisiana state governors. Its main attraction is a theatrical production called "The Ghost of the Castle." Guests can "meet" the ghost of Sarah Morgan Dawson, who describes the history of the building in detail.

The Old State Capitol building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973. It was designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark the following year.
Louisiana Art & Science Museum

6) Louisiana Art & Science Museum

The Louisiana Art and Science Museum is a museum and learning center in Baton Rouge. The museum is housed in the former Baton Rouge train station. The two-story central block and the two one-story wings, designed in Classical Revival style, stand directly across the Old State Capitol building. The former train station building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Though many of the passenger cars have been removed from the site, the museum still displays a former steam engine that was once owned by the Charles Black Sand & Gravel Company. The remainder of the building now holds art galleries, scientific displays, and a planetarium.

The museum offers four permanent collections. Ancient Egypt displays an Egyptian mummy from the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Solar System has images from the Hubble Space Telescope, meteorites, and a triceratops skull. Planet Tower gives visitors an up-close glimpse at the planets in our solar system, and the Universe Gallery offers the latest images from NASA.

The Louisiana Art and Science Museum also offers revolving exhibits that change throughout the year. These can focus on areas ranging from photography to health to nature. A variety of planetarium shows are hosted daily.
U.S.S. Kidd and Nautical Center

7) U.S.S. Kidd and Nautical Center (must see)

The USS Kidd is a Fletcher-class destroyer used in World War II, most notably during the Battle of Okinawa. Now, it serves as a museum ship boarded by visitors. It is part of the Nautical Center, which includes the Naval Veterans Memorial and the Veterans Museum.

The USS Kidd rests on dry-dock in the Mississippi River. The ship has been preserved to reflect its appearance and function from August 1945. It is the only Fletcher-class museum ship that has stayed true to its World War II form. The destroyer was named a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Visitors to the museum will see aircraft and equipment used during World War II. They can hear stories from veterans while they learn from the past. As the exhibits are often changing, patrons may have a different experience each time they visit.

One of the permanent exhibits is a walkthrough exhibit of the gun deck of Old Ironsides. One of the most recent additions to the museum is an exhibition of marine graffiti from the 1960s.

Along with exhibits, the ship, and Nautical Center have a regular celebration and remembrance ceremonies. Each April 11th, a remembrance ceremony honors the date that a kamikaze pilot tore through the destroyer's hull, killing 38 crew members and injuring another 55.

The USS Kidd and Nautical Center are open daily from 9 AM to 3:30 PM. They are closed on some national holidays and for private events. Those who want to ensure a visit to the USS Kidd should contact the Nautical Center in advance to inquire about any unlisted closures.

Walking Tours in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Create Your Own Walk in Baton Rouge

Create Your Own Walk in Baton Rouge

Creating your own self-guided walk in Baton Rouge is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Louisiana State University Walking Tour

Louisiana State University Walking Tour

Louisiana State University is the flagship university of the LSU system. It was originally founded in Pineville in 1860 as a seminary and military academy. The present campus in Baton Rouge was established in 1926.

The LSU campus is noted for its architecture and historical center. The campus has 250 buildings designed in the Italian Renaissance style. Among these are the Memorial Tower, Hill...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles