City Cheat Sheet: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Baton Rouge Travel GuideThe Scout Guide Baton Rouge Editor Rachel Ransom photographed by Quinn Miller at Bistro Byronz.

A trip to Louisiana’s capital city is an experience like no other, filled with unique local customs and lots of southern hospitality. Whether you’re in town for a football game at Tiger Stadium, business, or pleasure, you’ll find plenty to do and enjoy, and unless you’re rooting for the opposing team, you can expect a warm and enthusiastic welcome.

“We celebrate everything to the fullest, whether it’s the local arts scene or LSU. People in Baton Rouge are passionate,” says The Scout Guide Baton Rouge Editor Rachel Ransom, who has lived in Baton Rouge her whole life. “We don’t need a reason to celebrate, either. It could be a Thursday afternoon and the sun is out, we will have a party to celebrate.”

Here, Ransom shares her tips for touring her hometown. Read on for what to do and where to “geaux.”

Where to Stay

If you’re going to Baton Rouge during college football season and want to see an LSU game (which Rachel, a diehard Tigers fan and LSU alum, highly recommends), then you’ll want to stay at The Cook Hotel (3848 West Lakeshore Drive). This Hilton property is located right on campus, making it perfect for game day since you can walk from the hotel to the stadium.

For an off-campus option, Rachel recommends checking into the elegant Watermark Hotel (150 3rd Street) in downtown Baton Rouge, one of the most historic buildings in town. Angela Gregory, a famous New Orleans artist, painted the incredible murals on the hotel’s ceilings.

For something a little more off-the-beaten path, Rachel suggests The Inn at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens (40136 Highway 942, Darrow, Louisiana), which is about a 30-minute drive from Baton Rouge. This historic sugar plantation features daily tours of its stately 16-room mansion and vast native gardens, plus five different restaurants and a row of quaint guest cottages.

Where to Eat

“Crawfish is huge down here,” Rachel says of the Baton Rouge culinary scene. “Going to a crawfish boil at someone’s house during crawfish season in Baton Rouge is absolutely wonderful, with kids running around and adults hanging out.” Crawfish season usually starts in late February or early March, but even if you’re not going to a boil at someone’s house, you can still get a taste of the tradition thanks to local favorite Sammy’s Grill (8635 Highland Road). “This is the best crawfish in Baton Rouge,” Rachel says. She recommends picking up your order and bringing it back to your hotel for a picnic (most hotels in town have plenty of outdoor seating). Just lay down your newspaper and enjoy. “Nobody will look at you sideways because it’s Sammy’s,” says Rachel.

For lunch, Rachel’s favorite place is Bistro Byronz (5412 Government Street), a stylish spot where she says to order the turkey burger au gruyere with sweet potatoes. Interested in sampling some Cajun-Mexican cuisine? The Velvet Cactus (7655 Old Hammond Highway) has outdoor seating, games playing on its big-screen TVs, margaritas for all, and amazing chipotle cheese grits.

If you’re looking for an authentic LSU dining experience, grab a breakfast sandwich at Tiger Deauxnuts (5162 Government Street). The boudin and egg on a savory donut bun is not to be missed. After the deauxnuts, balance yourself out with a raw, cold-pressed juice from The Big Squeezy (multiple locations). You can find Rachel there every Friday for $5 juice. For a hearty lunch near the university, Rachel recommends a burger at Fat Cow Burgers and Salads (4350 Highland Road B1), right next to campus.

When you’re ready to unwind with a cocktail, hit the patio at The Overpass Merchant (2904 Perkins Road) for a house Moscow mule or a local beer. Rachel’s favorite is the Abita Andygator.

A Guide to Game Day

“A Saturday night home football game at LSU is maybe one of the best experiences of your life,” Rachel says. “It’s absolutely electric.” So, how do you approach Tiger football like a local?

Sartorially speaking, it’s best to be in purple and gold on game day. You’ll also want to put in a little effort. “We dress up down here,” says Rachel. “The game is an opportunity to wear your pearls and look nice.” Night games can get pretty fancy, but a purple dress with cowboy boots or wedges should do the trick. For men, purple polos will work, but if you really want to go native, try some purple pants or shorts with the gold LSU tiger embroidered all over them, which you can find at Carriages (7620 Old Hammond Highway), a local men’s store. Day games have a looser unofficial dress code—shorts and a nice blouse would do nicely, pearls optional. (A word to the wise: Some games are color-coded, meaning all fans wear the same color, so check LSU’s calendar before you pack!)

If you’re going to Baton Rouge for a game, you’re going to want to tailgate, too. Just remember, this stadium isn’t known as Death Valley for nothing. If you’re rooting for the opposition (and specifically, the Florida Gators), then go at your own risk. LSU’s stadium consistently ranks among ESPN’s list of the top scariest venues for opposing teams. That said, the crowd can be warm and friendly to visitors. In fact, according to Rachel, you can join almost any tailgate by offering some beer and a friendly greeting.

The place to be for tailgating is the Parade Grounds, where ESPN sets up in front of the campus clock tower. Pay a visit to Mike the Tiger, an actual tiger who is fed raw meat in the shape of the opposing team’s mascot prior to every home game, in his yard. Between beers and tiger sightings, pop into Walk-on’s (3838 Burbank Drive) to see highlights of other games and check scores if you’re interested. Finally, before you go into the stadium, join the crowd up on the hill to watch the LSU band and Tiger Girls march by on their way down into Death Valley.

Local Attractions

Baton Rouge has two state capitol buildings, both of which are worth visiting. The Louisiana State Capitol building (900 North 3rd Street) is the tallest capitol building in the nation, and today you can go all the way to the top to see the entire city. The Old State Capitol Building (100 North Boulevard) is also worth stopping by due to its medieval castle-like appearance and impressive stained glass. While there, take a moment to relax on the beautiful lawn, where you might just spot a bride and groom at this popular location for wedding photography.

While college football is a big draw, LSU is a beautiful place to visit no matter the season. The LSU Lakes surrounding the campus and bring bikers, joggers, and strollers out all year round, and the walk there from mid-city is lovely. The best time to visit the lakes is sunset, when you can almost always catch a breeze.

Last but not least, for live music, local food, and locally handcrafted goods, stop in to Mid City Makers Market (541 South Eugene Street), where Rachel’s favorite artisan is local jewelry maker Mimosa Handcrafted. Pick up one of her locally inspired pieces, like a pelican cuff, to bring a piece of Baton Rouge home with you.

Where to Shop

Baton Rouge is home to a host of eclectic, locally owned shops where you can find special and unique items. For this reason, it’s a great place to go shopping for gifts (especially if you know any Tigers fans).

The Royal Standard (multiple locations) has an eclectic selection of high-end gift items, and lots of options for your home as well. Pop into Mint (5720 Corporate Boulevard) to shop for home decor, art, and shoes—a pretty perfect combination! Red Onion (15680 Perkins Road), known for home decor and unique floral arrangements, is worth a visit just to peruse the shop and grounds.

For fun, hit Giggles (8201 Village Plaza Court), a toy and candy store that’s perfect for souvenirs for the kids. Bring home a taste of Baton Rouge via seasonings from Red Stick Spice Company (660 Jefferson Highway), which also has an impressive selection of teas and olive oils.

For women’s clothing, Rachel recommends Chattabox Boutique (17650 Highland Road) for glamorous pieces for day or night, and Eros (7425 Corporate Boulevard) for chic everyday clothing and accessories. Naturally, both carry plenty of purple and gold options! Edit by LBP (3535 Perkins Road) is a must-visit too, for their highly curated collection of fashionable finds housed in a charming building.

For more insider’s tips on what to do and see in Baton Rouge, follow The Scout Guide Baton Rouge on Instagram.