This story previously appeared in the 2023 Welcome Guide.
Three-hundred years is a long time – long enough to have accumulated plenty of topics and history to overflow the walls of museums throughout Baton Rouge. While some may be niche, like the Robert A. Bogan Fire Museum, and others expansive, like the Louisiana Art & Science Museum, all have information you won’t learn anywhere else in the world. Travel back through history, get to know our culture or get your hands dirty – learning comes in all shapes and forms at the museums in Baton Rouge.
Downtown Baton Rouge is filled with offices, restaurants, shops and of course, museums, tucked into every corner you can find down its busy streets. With as many as eight museums within a mile of each other, it could certainly take you a week to get through them all. One of the highlights along the mile of museums would be the Baton Rouge African American Museum, where you can climb aboard an authentic bus from 1953, much like one from the Baton Rouge Bus Boycotts that served as a catalyst for bus boycotts throughout the country, marking the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Make an appointment to hear the stories of African Americans in Baton Rouge and learn about their contributions to our city through art, leadership and inventions we use in our everyday lives.
Just down River Road, the USS KIDD is docked on the Mississippi River, and you can hit the decks of this Fletcher-class destroyer that has been restored to her World War II configuration – the only one in the world. Get a glimpse at how sailors lived their day-to-day or pay your respects to the fallen at the Louisiana Memorial Plaza.
At the intersection of art and science lies Louisiana Art & Science Museum. This connection of art and science finds its home in an old train depot, making the outdoor façade just as unique as the exhibitions inside. Here, you’ll find rotating exhibits of internationally renowned artists, a permanent art collection, hands-on galleries with scientific learning opportunities for kids, fossil displays and even a mummy from Ancient Egypt’s Ptolemaic period. Before ending your exploration of LASM, hit the state-of-the-art Irene W. Pennington Planetarium and catch innovative programming about both art and science.
All the museums in Baton Rouge are filled with fun facts and educational opportunities, but none as informative on Louisiana culture as Capitol Park Museum. Housing a full-size shrimp boat, Louis Armstrong’s bugle, Civil War artifacts and interactive musical exhibits, Capitol Park Museum details the history, culture and industry of the most vibrant state in America. Embark on an exploration that tells a story of passion, adventure and discovery that could not have happened anywhere else.
One final stop on the Museum Mile is the Louisiana State University Museum of Art, located on the fifth floor of the Shaw Center for the Arts. This dynamic venue holds one of the largest university-affiliated art collections in the South, and features world-class touring exhibitions of regional, American and European art. This 5,000-work collection showcases an array of media, ranging from painting and photography to Arts and Crafts-era pottery and Chinese Jade, as well as ongoing projects from students at LSU.
Louisiana’s political history is one of colorful stories and an eclectic past. From the former state house to the current, Downtown Baton Rouge is certainly the epicenter of politics in Louisiana. Take a trip back in time to learn about the famed characters and historic events throughout Louisiana’s history.
Louisiana’s Old State Capitol has certainly seen it all – from fires to battles and from eventual abandonment to restoration. Standing high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, Louisiana’s very own “Castle on the River” gives way to a skyline unique to Baton Rouge. The Old State Capitol now houses the Museum of Political History, featuring a permanent exhibit on the famed governor and politician responsible for the construction of the current capitol, Huey P. Long, as well as traveling exhibits filled with unique artifacts.
Just down North Boulevard you’ll find the Old Governor’s Mansion, built to be an exact replica of the White House, so that Governor Long could familiarize himself with the layout as he embarked on a campaign to become President of the United States. While Huey may not have made it to the White House, the Old Governor’s Mansion features furnishings and artifacts from the nine governors who called it home, including a grand ballroom, French wallpaper, crystal chandeliers and a stunning marble staircase.
Located only blocks away from both the Old State Capitol and the Old Governor’s Mansion is the current room (or rooms) where it happens. The Louisiana State Capitol stands tall as the nation’s tallest state capitol – a whopping 34 stories and 450 feet high. This art-deco building is filled with decadent marble and houses the current Louisiana State Legislature, made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the Office of the Governor. Take the bronze elevators up to the 27th floor to the observation deck to see panoramic views of the city and the Mighty Mississippi.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
While downtown Baton Rouge is certainly home to a plethora of museums for all interests, one can find museums in nearly every corner of the city. Located just off Essen Lane beyond a shroud of trees is the LSU Rural Life Museum and the adjacent Burden Museum and Windrush Gardens. A day spent on these grounds is a day well spent, and it certainly may take all day to see all there is to explore. Transport back in time to the 18th and 19th centuries and experience the lifestyles and cultures of Louisiana’s people during that time. Tour nearly 32 restored original buildings and take advantage of the surrounding gardens to see the native flora and fauna that makeup Louisiana’s lush landscapes.
Set high on Knock Knock Hill overlooking City Park Lake, Knock Knock Children’s Museum is filled with hands-on, interactive exhibits – all anchored in research and evidence-based practices addressing all areas of childhood development. Knock Knock offers over 18 learning zones to children from birth through age eight that focus on literary skills, such as reading, writing, listening and speaking, as well as expanding the knowledge and interest in STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and math. By engaging in fun, everyday activities like grocery shopping, “constructing” a bridge similar to that which spans the Mississippi River and painting self-portraits, the kiddos will have so much fun, they won’t even know that they’re learning!
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL…
As a city filled with culture, the educational opportunities are endless in Baton Rouge. From technologically advanced shows and historical artifacts to hands-on activities and interactive experiences, the museums in Baton Rouge have much to teach anyone who walks through the doors. The first step to your next adventure awaits at visitbatonrouge.com/museums.