Monday, January 23, 2012

The Layover: Baton Rouge in 25 Hours

Alright, people, here's your situation: you are stuck in the capital city of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, for 25 hours. The reason? Your flight is grounded at Ryan Metropolitan Airport for repairs and all other flights out are booked to the last seat. You're trapped, for better or worse. Luckily, if you're reading this, your stay in the 225 will be for the better. I promise. Baton Rouge is a great city with so much to offer but the only way we're going to get to see any of it is to get out of BTR and into the city...buckle up 'cause here we go...

25 hours remaining (7 AM): Alright, so you need a place to crash and need it fast. Luckily for you, there are a bunch of hotels to choose from in Baton Rouge. So after renting our car at the airport, we hop on the I-110, hang a left , and make a beeline for the Bengal. For this layover, a central location is a must and where better to start your day in Baton Rouge than the LSU, home of the Fightin' Tigers? Check into Staybridge Suites, a new hotel near campus and a landmark on Nicholson if you happen to get lost.

23 hours remaining (9 AM): Now that you have some digs to spend the night at, it's time to get exploring. Baton Rouge is a navigational nightmare to new residents and visitors, so keep in mind to access things using the interstate. I think I just heard multiple residents groan at me for saying that but if you don't venture onto it between 6-9 AM and 3-6 PM you should have a fairly easy time navigating around town. Before that, however, I know you're hungry so we'll stop by Louie's Diner, located at the Northgate Area of the LSU campus and a quick drive on Highland Road from the hotel. Louie's is a Baton Rouge institution that has served students, residents, and partiers 24 hours a day for the last 80 years. It's a great place to pick up a copy of the Baton Rouge Advocate or 225 Magazine to read and catch up on all things Red Stick while eating those oh-so-delicious pancakes. Yes, I'll have three more, thank you...

22 hours remaining (10 AM): After finishing up your breakfast at Louie's, now is the perfect time to explore what makes Baton Rouge a cultural center of the South: Louisiana State University. Founded in 1860, LSU has been fielding major research and academic programs almost as long as the tailgating has been good. While LSU is a huge campus, be sure to find a designated parking spot. As many students will attest to, nothing ruins your day more than a boot on your car. Once on campus, however, it's best to ditch the car and walk. Heading towards a co-cathedral of college football, Tiger Stadium, will score you an encounter with LSU's mascot, Mike the Tiger; an LSU gift shop and, after you head back up Victory Hill, the Quad where (purported) learning takes place. Well, maybe not on Saturdays. If you go in the opposite direction, be sure to check out the Adonie Museum, LSU's athletic museum and Hall of Fame at the Lod Cook Alumni Center. Either way, a quick walk around campus will give you a brief insight into why the first and last words of the alma mater read, "Where stately oaks and broad magnolias shade inspiring halls...Forever LSU!"

20 hours remaining (12 PM): Hungry again? Well, you are in Louisiana. There isn't a better place in the world to be hungry. Head to the Faculty House on campus for lunch at the Faculty Club, LSU's best kept secret. The prices are cheap and the food is amazing. If you're not up for white linen, the Magnolia Room in the LSU Union serves a Louisiana buffet lunch with all the trimmings for an amazing price.

19 hours remaining (1 PM): With your hunger satisfied, it's time for a trip downtown. Baton Rouge's downtown area has recently experienced a cultural rebirth and now stands as one of the best areas in the city to experience a true taste of the 225. Park in the Visitor's Parking Garage on River Road and Third Street to enjoy free validated parking and head off into the city. Downtown BR is a small CBD compared to other cities but some must-see attractions include: The Old State Capitol, New State Capitol, Main Street Market, Louisiana State Museum, Louisiana Art and Science Museum, USS Kidd, Shaw Center for the Arts, and Belle of Baton Rouge and Hollywood Casinos. With so much to do, it's a wonder you'll need a drink by happy hour! Stop by Tsunami at the Shaw Center for amazing drink specials and even better views, Capitol City Grille for a cold draft beer, or any restaurant on Third Street for a great drink. After sobering up, take Nicholson Drive back to the hotel and rest up! Still got a great night ahead of us!

14 hours remaining (6 PM): Long day, eh? Well, it's only fair we get you back to the airport in one piece. That doesn't mean we're passing up dinner though. There are many great places to eat around your hotel including Walk-On's Bistreaux and Bar for the sports crowd, Cou-Yon's and Voodoo BBQ for the barbeque fanatics, and The Chimes for Creole cuisine. But enough of campus, with only a few hours remaining it's time to venture out into the rest of the city and I have just the place for you. Sammy's Grill on Perkins before Kenilworth has been serving the best seafood to Baton Rougeans for 24 years and with crawfish season upon us, it's the place to go for boiled crustaceans. Now, arguing who has the best seafood in Baton Rouge is like arguing which running back on LSU's roster is the best so if you get a glowing recommendation from someone, take it to heart. After dinner, it's a short drive to the Mall of Louisiana, Towne Center, or back to Northgate for some retail therapy if needed or, just a nice stroll down the outdoor malls.

So that wraps up my take on Baton Rouge in 25 hours. At 8 AM the next day you'd be on the next flight out to another (less interesting) city and hopefully already making plans for a longer return stay. This obviously isn't everything I wanted to do in a day, much less a week, but I hope that if you decide to visit for business or pleasure this comes in handy. And BR'eans, if you have anything to add please do. I'd love to go off the beaten path to discover something great about my city.

Until then...Geaux! Allons!

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