The City of Baton Rouge got its name more than three centuries ago when Sieur d'Iberville explored the Mississippi River and found a bloody pole (a "baton rouge") that divided two indigenous tribes. As the capital of Louisiana, it presents the best the State has to offer for visitors. Cajun culture lends flair with unique food and lively music, and the Port of Greater Baton Rouge has an almost unlimited choice of things to see and do.
The Port of Greater Baton Rouge has a humid subtropical climate with hot humid summers and mild winters, plenty of rain, and occasional high winds and tornadoes throughout the year. Being near the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge also suffers occasional hurricanes, like the devastating 2008 Hurricane Gustav. Temperatures in the Port of Greater Baton Rouge range from an average high of 33°C (91°F) in July and August to an average low of 4.5°C (40°F) in January. The Port of Greater Baton Rouge receive some 63 inches in rain every year, fairly evenly distributed throughout the year.
Visitors to the Port of Greater Baton Rouge will want to visit the Old Louisiana State Capitol, a National Historic Landmark, located next to the Mississippi River in downtown Baton Rouge on the site of what is believed to be the location of the original red pole ("le baton rouge"). The building now contains the Center for Political and Governmental History that includes some state-of-the-art exhibits. Designed by James Harrison Dakin, the building is one of the country's best examples of Gothic Revival architecture.
Calling it the "old gray castle," Union troops used this Port of Greater Baton Rouge building as a prison and garrison for African-American troops. At the end of the Civil War, it was little more than an empty shell. Reconstructed in 1882, the state house was abandoned in 1932 for a new state capitol building. After that, it was used for federal veterans' groups and the Works Progress Administration.
In the 1990s, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge Old Louisiana State Capitol was restored and converted into a museum covering the political history of Louisiana. Multi-media exhibits involve visitors in Louisiana's people and events. Other events are held in the building, including press conferences, special programs, traveling exhibits, and an annual series of lectures.
Less than 48 kilometers (30 miles) north-northwest of Baton Rouge is the famous Myrtles Plantation, a 215-year-old home built by General David (Whiskey Dave) Bradford. The property has an 11-room bed and breakfast and a full-service restaurant. This National Historic Landmark recalls the Antebellum South, and it is known as one of the country's most haunted homes. Guided tours, which are included in all bed and breakfast reservations, are offered daily. Historic tours are conducted from 9am to 5pm daily. Mystery tours are on Friday and Saturday nights. The tour covers the hand-painted stained glass, plaster frieze work, Baccarat crystal chandeliers, Aubusson tapestries, Carrera marble mantles, and beautiful gold-leafed French furniture.
The story behind the haunting of The Myrtles involve a plantation slave called Chloe, who Judge Clarke Woodruff (son-in-law of the home's builder) took as a mistress and moved to the house to care for his children. Chloe had a bad habit of eavesdropping on the Judge, and he punished her by cutting off her left ear and sending her from the house to the fields. Wanting to return to the house, Chloe cooked up a plan. She would make the children sick by putting a potion made of Oleander leaves in a birthday cake. She thought that she could be a hero by giving them an herbal cure. Unfortunately, Mrs. Woodruff and two of the children died. When the Judge returned and learned about Chloe's treachery, she was hung and then dropped into the river. Soon after her death, people began telling stories about Chloe's spirit roaming the house. These visitations continue today, and many people have stories about their encounters with long-dead Chloe.
The USS Kidd, the "Pirate of the Pacific," is located in the heart of the downtown Port of Greater Baton Rouge, serving as a memorial for the men and women of the United States' Armed Forces. Touring the Fletcher-class destroyer, visitors will walk the decks, see aircraft that participated in US conflicts in Southeast Asia, inspect a helmet worn by an infantryman as he stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in World War II, and touch the black granite walls where the names of Americans fallen in war are carved.
The ship is named for Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr., who died aboard his flagship, the USS Arizona, during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was the first Navy flag officer who died in World War II. The USS Kidd is the only destroyer that still has its World War II configuration and armament.
This Port of Greater Baton Rouge attraction was used in the 1958 film "Run Silent Run Deep" with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. The USS Kidd is open from 9am until 5pm every day but Thanksgiving and Christmas. Overnight visits are allows for children and adults who spend the night aboard the USS Kidd to learn about life and war aboard an American destroyer.
Families love visiting the Baton Rouge Zoo where more than 1800 animals are housed in beautiful landscaping. Individual exhibits in this Port of Greater Baton Rouge attraction include L'aquarium de Louisiane, The Otter Pond, the New Safari Playground, Parrot Paradise, and KidsZoo (with farm animals). Visitors can ride the White Tiger Tram or the Cypress Bayou Railroad. The Realm of the Tiger is a new exhibit that features an aviary, Siamang gibbons, and highly-endangered Sumatran and Malayan tigers. Open from 9:30am until 4pm Monday through Friday and 9:30am to 5pm on Saturday, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge Zoo is closed on New Years, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. General admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $4 for children aged 2 to 12. Children aged one and under are free.
For information on more attractions in the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, visit the city's tourism website.