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Enhanced Editorial

The Beat Goes on in Baton Rouge
The Louisiana capital is the entire package—boasting music, art, history and a Hollywood legacy.

Baton Rouge, La., is hot. No, not hot as in high temps, but hot as in the place to be. Now.

Hollywood discovered Baton Rouge long ago—26 productions were shot here in 2009 alone. And who could forget the popular HBO series, True Blood, shot on location here? But those with a thirst for music, art and history, as well as vampires, will find their needs satisfied well beyond their expectations in Louisiana’s capital city.

So, those who haven’t yet discovered this fine Southern city, 80 miles west of New Orleans, should beat a path there. And be aware, those who do know the city may get there before you.

Turn Up the Boom Box
Music and the arts have a home in Baton Rouge, and festivals this spring are going to celebrate those pursuits with gusto. No one, no where can sing the blues like they do in the South, and the 2010 Baton Rouge Blues Festival, April 24 in Repentance Park, will prove it. The crowning event for Baton Rouge Blues Week, April 18–24, the Blues Festival will delight festivalgoers with performances by such stellar artists as 2010 Grammy nominee Ruthie Foster; 2009 B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, Janiva Magness; and blues guitar giant Sonny Landreth.

baton rouge skylineAlso on hand are blues legend Chris Thomas King, whose music was showcased in such films as Ray and O Brother, Where Art Thou?;blues-rock star Tony Joe White, known for hit songs such as Rainy Night in Georgia and collaborations with world-famous artists such as Eric Clapton and Tina Turner; and blues/rap/hip-hop artist Tyree Neal, newcomer and son of a legendary local blues family. But that’s not all—in addition to taste sensations by Ben Payne’s Jambalaya and Red Beans and Bluesman Chicago Al’s mouthwatering hot dogs, the Neal-family matriarch, Shirley, will provide home-cooked crowd pleasers for this third annual event.

Bayou Downbeat
The free-admission Fest for All, May 1–2 along beautiful, oak-lined North Boulevard downtown, celebrates not just music but the arts as well. Art lovers will find more than 100 visual artists from 16 states displaying everything from pottery and jewelry to metalwork and woodwork in this juried art show.

Music will include practically every genre, from blues to opera. Multiple Grammy award-winning group BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, considered the most esteemed Cajun group in music, will have the audience on its feet with a distinct blend of Zydeco, New Orleans jazz and Tex-Mex country. Another Grammy-winning artist, Terrance Simien, whose music was among that featured in the December 2009 Pixar film The Princess and The Frog, has taken his unique blend of “Zydeco-roots-New Orleans funk-reggae-flavored-Afro-Caribbean-world” music to more than 40 countries for more than 5,000 concerts and now brings his magic blend to Baton Rouge.

baton rouge floatAnd there’s more. John Gray’s Soul Jukeboxx (funk/soul/R&B), Dread Clampitt (blues), Henry Gray and the Cats (blues), The Sax Project (alt country rock) and Norcio (alternative) will perform, plus local talent will chime in with classical piano, pop, bluegrass, Celtic, chamber music, opera and even jazz harp.

Performing art runs the gamut from dance—contemporary, ballet and fusion—to professional dramatic theater to Shakespeare. Plus, there’s an Art Bike Parade; the debut of the public art project Get a Kick Out of Art, featuring 25 Louisiana- and soccer-theme-inspired soccer balls; and a raffle to win a cute, shiny red Vespa motor scooter, for $5 a chance. And children will have a blast at the Children’s Village, held on Louisiana’s Old State Capitol grounds, where puppeteers, storytellers, jugglers, magicians and hands-on art activities will await tiny visitors.

Baton Rouge Boot Scootin’
Moving along in May, country music lovers won’t want to miss the opportunity to celebrate Memorial Day along with some of the biggest names today. Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, and Brooks & Dunn will headline the inaugural Bayou Country Superfest, May 29–30. They’ll be joined by Kellie Pickler, Jason Aldean, David Nail, Jake Owen, Gloriana and Justin Moore at this premiere music festival in Louisiana State University’s Tiger Stadium.

state capitalThis will be one of the only chances to see four-time Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year Kenny Chesney in concert this year because he’s not touring, and Brooks & Dunn—who produced 23 number-one hits—will not perform live together again after 2010. Tickets for these reserved-seating concerts, which start at $40 for a single-day pass, are on sale now at Ticketmaster.com and the Baton Rouge River Center box office. And concertgoers should come early and stay late for the Fan Fest & Tailgate Party, featuring food, more music and nightly fireworks displays. Also available are almost 10,000 Baton Rouge hotel rooms, some with special packages that will help travelers save money, sure to make anyone’s trip even better.

Other Enticements
In between music venues, Baton Rouge visitors will find loads of attractions to draw them in. History lovers are going to be head over heels because this is the kind of place they dream about. Being the state capital has its advantages—such as the Louisiana State Capitol, a 1932, 34-story building overlooking the Mississippi. Visitors can explore its spectacular marble and bronze work inside before heading to the 27th-floor observation deck for a panoramic view of the city and the river.

The state’s government may reside in the State Capitol now, but it once laid claim to the Louisiana Old State Capitol, a 150-year-old Gothic treasure, on North Boulevard. Lording over the Mississippi from its hilltop vantage point, the Capitol—now referred to as the Museum of Political History—has withstood war, fire, political scandal and the test of time. Following an extensive four-year restoration in the early ’90s, the building reopened and has since earned awards for its architecture, exhibits and preservation.

Just a short hop away is the Louisiana Art & Science Museum, where visitors can immerse themselves in exhibitions of internationally renowned artists, state-of-the-art Pennington Planetarium, and kid-friendly Discovery Depot, Science Station and Ancient Egypt and Universe galleries. Perched on the Mississippi in a historic railroad depot, this museum is a place where all ages are going to completely lose track of time.

The City That Keeps on Giving
When they’ve recovered, they can learn more about the nation’s 18th state by stopping at the Louisiana State Museum–Baton Rouge, the state’s newest. More than 30,000 square feet of exhibits will teach visitors everything they need to know about Louisiana’s history, environment, culture and people. Then, it’s impossible to resist heading south to the Pelican State’s famous gems: the plantations.

No strangers to filmdom either, these architecturally spectacular homes and gorgeous gardens give visitors a glimpse of times past. Seventeen plantations are strung between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and they feature a variety of temptations, from tours and garden strolls to bed-and-breakfast accommodations and dining options. For example, Nottoway Plantation is the South’s largest plantation home, sports 365 doors and windows (one for each day of the year), and features guided tours, overnight accommodations and dining for any time of day in Ramsay’s Mansion Restaurant.

And that’s just one of the offerings. Visitors will also want to stop by Houmas House Plantation and Gardens, where they can stroll 16 acres of gardens; tour 14 newly restored, period-antique-filled rooms showcasing Louisiana artwork; and find both a cafe and elegant evening dining. It’s also the site for the famous Bette Davis film Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte, as well as other productions.

And those who think they’ve seen Oak Alley Plantation, Restaurant and Inn somewhere before are right. Oak Alley, with its famous namesake tree-lined entryway, has appeared in countless commercials, print ads, TV shows and movies such as Primary Colors, Interview With a Vampire and the TV version of Long Hot Summer. Known as the Grande Dame of the Great River Road, Oak Alley just proves Louisiana has been ready for its close-up for a very long time.

Just goes to show—the beat goes on … and on … and on … and on….

Planning Your Trip
To learn more about Baton Rouge and plan that spring getaway, call (800) 527-6843 or go online to www.visitbatonrouge.com. For up-to-date festival information, log on to www.batonrougebluesfestival.org, www.artsbr.org andwww.bayoucountrysuperfest.com. For trip-planning assistance, contact your AAA Travel agent or AAA.com.

Mar/Apr 2010 Issue

This Enhanced Editorial was paid for by a promotional fee from an advertiser.

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