Published November 14, 2018
On a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, Baton Rouge is one of the South’s most colorful cities.
As Louisiana’s capital, the city brings over 300 years of history to life through beautiful antebellum homes, fine Cajun restaurants and live music venues that showcase distinct genres like zydeco and blues. It is also home to Louisiana State University, one of the state’s most visited attractions.
Meeting planners will discover many reasons to choose Louisiana’s capital city as their next conference or meeting destination. The city is centrally located in the state — an hour from New Orleans to the east and Lafayette to the west — and sits at the intersection of two major interstates , providing easy access for business travelers from every part of the country.
“Our city is known to be very affordable and very easy to get around,” said Christy Chachere Lohmann, communications specialist at Visit Baton Rouge. “A lot of hotels offer free pickup from the airport, which is just seven minutes from the center of downtown.”
Major Meeting Venues and Hotels
Named after the popular Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers restaurant franchise, which holds its roots in Baton Rouge, the Raising Cane’s River Center has played an influential role in shaping the city’s vibrant downtown district. The complex encompasses a 10,000-seat arena, a 1,900-seat performing arts theater, a 26,336-square-foot grand ballroom and two exhibition halls with 70,000 square feet of unobstructed floor space. Meeting groups can take advantage of seven hotels within walking distance of the convention center, as well as two attached parking garages.
In addition to using the facility for large-scale events, attendees may be able to check out one of the scheduled community events at the convention center, which regularly hosts the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, the Baton Rouge Ballet and the Broadway in Baton Rouge.
For a more midsize venue, planners can consider convention hotel properties like the Crowne Plaza Baton Rouge, the Baton Rouge Marriott and the Renaissance Baton Rouge Hotel.
State Capital History
One of the first things visitors will notice as they drive into Baton Rouge from the airport is the towering facade of the New State Capitol building, the tallest capitol in the country. With a height of 450 feet with 35 floors, the elegant limestone structure was completed in just 14 months and stands on a 27-acre tract of land. Groups can tour the Capitol free of charge and stop by the observation deck on the 27th floor for a panoramic view of the city from 350 feet in the air.
On the opposite end of downtown, the Old Louisiana State Capitol is an impressive sight to behold. Nicknamed Louisiana’s “Castle on the River,” the ornate Gothic- and Victorian-style structure overlooks the Mississippi River from a bluff, showcasing colorful architectural features within, such as a cast-iron staircase and a soaring stained-glass dome. The property is within walking distance of the New State Capitol, as well as prominent attractions like the Old Louisiana Governor’s Mansion, the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum, St. Joseph Cathedral and the Shaw Center for the Arts.
Groups can rent out the old Senate chamber or House of Representatives for an exclusive event setting in a National Historic Landmark. In addition to browsing historical exhibits and state rooms, guests can watch the award-winning “Ghost of the Castle” show, an immersive 4D theatrical experience that explores the castle’s colorful history through the ghost of a real-life Civil War-era writer named Sara Morgan.
Groups can also delve into local history at the Capital Park Museum, a branch of the Louisiana State Museum that showcases more than 500,000 Louisiana-based artifacts, from early jazz sheet music to judicial records dating back to Spanish and French colonial rule.
As meeting groups begin to explore the city, they will discover a number of distinct attractions and landmarks. Nicknamed the Pirate of the Pacific, the USS Kidd is a Fletcher-class destroyer permanently moored on the Mississippi River in the heart of downtown. It was named after naval hero Rear Adm. Isaac C. Kidd, who died during the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that precipitated the United States’ entry into World War II. Groups can take a self-guided tour of the ship and attached museum to learn about the history of warships and significant naval battles that took place in the Pacific theater during World War II.
Just outside downtown, the Cane Land Distilling Company is one of the only distilleries in the United States that owns and operates its entire production process: growing, refining and distilling raw sugar cane into spirits on the Alma Plantation family estate. Groups can learn about this process during a 45-minute guided tour, which is followed by a sampling of cane-to-glass premium rums in the Tasting Room.
Drawing nearly 175,000 visitors each year, the Louisiana Art and Science Museum is housed inside a historic 1925 railway station on the banks of the Mississippi. Inside, guests can browse exhibits on ancient Egypt, the solar system, photography, American and European art and contemporary Louisiana art. Groups can also stop by the planetarium for immersive educational shows that explore subjects like gravity, dinosaurs and famous explorers.
On 420 beautiful acres in the middle of the city, the Rural Life Museum at Louisiana State University sheds light on the lifestyles and cultural artifacts of rural Louisiana communities during the 18th and 19th centuries. Guides are available for groups of 10 or more.
Louisiana’s River Road was once lined with nearly 350 antebellum plantation homes ranging from simple farmhouses to lavish mansions. Today, about a dozen of the remaining properties are open to the public for tours. Just a short distance from downtown Baton Rouge, the Magnolia Mound Plantation is a small but well-maintained historic property that features one of the finest existing collections of Louisiana-made products from the Colonial era. Groups can sign up for a guided tour of the main house or take a self-guided tour of the slave-quarters, house, kitchen and gardens.
Several other notable homes can be found just outside the city. Nottoway Plantation is the largest surviving antebellum plantation in the American South and offers several exquisite venues for off-site banquets or wine classes. As visitors tour the Greek Revival and Italianate-style mansion, they will discover opulent period furnishings, handcarved marble fireplaces, plaster frieze moldings and many other unique features.
Nicknamed the Sugar Palace, Houmas House Plantation and Gardens provides another scenic backdrop for rehearsal dinners, corporate retreats and other events. Groups can follow a docent clad in period clothing through the mansion and 38 acres of gardens to learn more about the history of the wealthy sugar barons who built and developed the property.
For those interested in exploring Louisiana’s rich natural scenery, there are also a number of swamp tours in the surrounding region that take passengers through remote waterways with wildlife such as alligators and colorful migratory birds.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Location: Southeastern Louisiana
Access: Interstates 10, 12, 49 and 55; Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Major Meeting Spaces: Raising Cane’s River Center, Crowne Plaza Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge Marriott, Renaissance Baton Rouge Hotel
Hotel Rooms: 13,000
Offsite Venues: Old State Capitol, the Estuary, Tin Roof Brewing, Capital Park Museum, Louisiana Art and Science Museum, Rural Life Museum, Nottoway Plantation Resort, Houmas House Plantation and Gardens
Visit Baton Rouge