Louisiana's state capital sits on the east bank of the Mississippi, and is a lively hub of politics, shipping, shopping and education. The top university in Louisiana has its Renaissance campus alongside the river, including an immense 92,000-capacity stadium. For a little political history, head to the extravagant art deco-style State Capitol, built in the early years of the Great Depression under the oversight of controversial left-wing Governor Huey P. Long. And there are also a handful of excellent and unusual museums, on topics from rural life through the centuries to the Pacific Front in WW2. Fuel all this with tasty Cajun food, sprinkle over a few art galleries and theaters, and bathe it in a sub-tropical climate, and you've got a great destination for a weekend trip away.
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Baton Rouge has an exceptionally vibrant and eventful political history, and Louisiana's striking art deco-style State Capitol has been at the heart of it. Dominating the city skyline, it was built by the controversial Governor Huey P. Long, who denounced the banks and called for greater redistribution during the early years of the Great Depression. He was assassinated in 1935 in the corridors of the very building whose construction he had overseen. Visitors can explore the extravagantly designed lobby and House of Senate and Representatives, and there's also a display in the hallway where Long was shot describing the event. An observation deck on the 27th Floor offers spectacular views over the city.
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This excellent and unusual museum takes visitors on an evocative journey through Louisiana's diverse cultural ancestry. It's social history at it's very best, depicting the lives and loves, passions and woes, toil and pleasures of the common people whose experiences were so often eclipsed by the homes and stories of the rich and powerful. This is achieved through three separate areas. There's a big wooden Barn, displaying various artifacts used in the daily lives of Louisiana's 19th century rural inhabitants including tools, furnishings, farming equipment and kitchen utensils. There's a replica plantation with various buildings including a commissary, slave cabins, sick house, blacksmiths, mill and school house. And there's a Folk Architecture exhibit composed of buildings in the style of the state's early settlers, such as a country church and pioneer's cabin. Special events and interpretive programs take place throughout the year.
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Founded in 1853, LSU is the top university in Louisiana, The lush green campus, shaded by century old oaks, is studded with beautiful nineteenth century buildings, many in a grand and columnar Renaissance style. Strolling the grounds is a pleasure in itself, and there are several specific attractions too. Most eye-catching is the LSU Tiger Stadium, with a mighty capacity of 92,000 that invests college football games with a vibrant atmosphere. The team's mascot is Mike the Tiger, and rather remarkably a real-life tiger prowls his own $2 million habitat near the stadium. There's also an outdoor Greek ampitheater, an art gallery and a Museum of Natural Science.
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A 65-acre cypress-tupelo swamp, navigable by boardwalk, lies at the heart of this 101-acre nature reserve, located in the southern suburbs of Baton Rouge. Surrounding the swamp are shadowy beech-magnolia and hardwood forests, with several labelled walking trails winding between the trees. Lots of wildlife species live across these varied habitats, including, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, otters, turtles, snakes and alligators. Birders can look out for the hundreds of bird species that make use of the reserve over the course of the year. And there's also a lively exhibit building filled with live animal exhibits and photographic displays of the site's flora and fauna.
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Banked up on the Mississippi across from the Old State Capitol is a huge warship. This is the USS Kidd , a Fletcher class destroyer that was constructed in New Jersey and fought in the Pacific during WW2. In 1945, it suffered a kamikaze attack by a Japanese pilot, killing 38 crewmen. After the War, the ship was decommissioned and towed down the Mississippi from Philadelphia to Baton Rouge to become a museum-memorial. It was restored back to its 1945 VJ Day appearance, and contains various exhibitions and displays, including servicemen accommodations and a museum filled with equipment, artillery and model ships.