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Introducing Baton Rouge

In 1699, French explorers named this area baton rouge (red stick) when they came upon a reddened cypress pole that Bayagoulas and Houma Native Americans had staked in the ground to mark the boundaries of their respective hunting territories. An industrial town with a bustling port and the state capital, formerly lethargic Baton Rouge has swollen in size as relocated New Orleanians settle post-Katrina. Visitors are mostly drawn to Baton Rouge for Louisiana State University (LSU) and Southern University (the largest historically African American university in the country) or a visit to the tallest capitol building in the nation.

Most attractions are downtown, off I-110 which intersects I-10 near the river. Beware: North Blvd and North St are two different downtown roads. LSU is in the southwest quadrant of the city where Highland Rd is the main thoroughfare. The most centrally located visitor center (225-346-1253, 800-527-6843; www.visitbatonrouge.com; 702 River Rd; 8am-5pm) has maps and festival schedules.