Food, festivals, and football: Everything you need to know about fall in Louisiana's state capital can be summed up in these three words. But don't let that fool you into thinking there isn't much to see and do: From a splendid farmers market to hip cocktails to luxury lodging, Baton Rouge buzzing—and nearly everything is wallet-friendly. Here's our weekend guide.
Where to stay
Just two years old, the Watermark hotel is an art deco-inspired Autograph Collection property in Baton Rouge's downtown district. The hotel, housed in what was formerly the Louisiana Trust & Savings Bank, retains many of the building's original features including murals, grand marble staircases, and the basement bank vault. The best part: Rates start at $167 per night in the peak fall season—that's hundreds less than, say, if you were to book the same accommodations in New York or even New Orleans.
What to eat and drink
Southerners are passionate about food—and there's plenty of it in Baton Rouge. Inside the Watermark is The Gregory, named for Angela Gregory, a Louisiana artist who studied with Rodan’s protégé and painted the murals that grace the restaurant’s walls. The place is bustling, packed with well-heeled locals who come for the lively bar scene and stay for the excellent bone marrow and fois gras appetizer, cast-iron-seared redfish, or Louisiana shrimp pasta cooked in Abita beer.
Baton Rouge's Mid-City area is home to two new and very noteworthy restaurants that should be on every visitor's list. There's Soji, which serves modern Asian plates and incredible Tiki-style cocktails to a soundtrack of old-school hip-hop. (Small plates run from $9-11; raw bar dishes, like poke, come in at $13; and noodles are $13). And then there's White Star Market, an urban food hall with nine vendors. Our favorites include Gov't Taco from "Food Network Star" runner-up Jay Ducote, The Big Squeezy for $5 Friday cold-pressed juices, and MJ's Cafe for exemplary vegan food. (Entrees for about $10.)
Don't leave without having a pre-dinner drink at Tsunami sushi restaurant. Note: They have multiple locations—you want the located at the top of the Shaw Center, which offers stunning sunset views over the Mississippi River.
What to do
As passionate as Southerners are about food, they might be even more so about football. And in Baton Rouge, it's all about purple and gold. Home to Louisiana State University, an LSU home game should not be missed. Score affordable tickets on StubHub, and get there early to experience the electric pre-game atmosphere. Check out Tiger One Village, where they host the pre-game radio broadcast and have a band stage featuring some of the best music in Louisiana, a kid zone, and a food court. And don't miss visiting the beloved Mike the Tiger, a live Bengal Tiger who roams a 15,000-square-foot space overflowing with plants and trees. Bring a cooler to tailgate like the locals—they'll likely invite you to join them in on the fun.
Louisiana State Capitol is free and open to the public. The building boasts an impressive observation deck that can be reached by taking the elevator to the 26th floor, and affords sweeping views of the entire city and beyond. Also free is the Mississippi River Levee Path, a pleasant place to walk, jog, or even just sit on one of the benches or Adirondack chairs that look out at the river.
Don't miss Saturday's Red Stick Farmers Market, located downtown. The year-round market is one of the most impressive we've been to and is chock-full of vendors selling local favorites, including gourmet cheese, homemade bread, and veggies. Inside, there are cooking demonstrations and full meals.