Baton Rouge is a vibrant southern destination any day of the year, but this city is home to some spectacular special events that could make you reconsider the timing of your visit. If you’re interested in seeing a once-a-year highlight here, make sure to mark your calendar for one of these occasions.
Jewish Film Festival
The Baton Rouge Jewish Film Festival typically takes place in January, kicking off a year of outstanding events in the city. The event lasts for three nights and one afternoon. The 2015 festival included six films and drew in 700 movie fans. With exceptionally affordable ticket prices and several options for cheap Baton Rouge hotels, it’s possible to include all showings in your visit without breaking your travel budget. The films all strive to form an emotional connection with viewers. A special speaker is booked for the annual event as well.
Image via Flickr by Mark Gstohl
Baton Rouge is no New Orleans, but it’s close enough that you can be certain Mardi Gras won’t go unsung in this city. If you want to enjoy some Mardi Gras festivities in a more laid-back environment, this is a great option. Baton Rouge hosts the annual Krewe of Artemis Mardi Gras Parade downtown. The parade begins at 7:00 P.M. and loops around the city, both starting and ending at Government Street and St. Philip Street.
Beads aren’t the only item thrown in this parade. Themed pieces include footballs, stuffed animals, and lighted toys. Each year has its own theme to celebrate, so check out the annual plans before your visit so you can party accordingly. The parade typically includes at least a dozen floats and several marching bands.
While the Artemis parade is one of the longest-running, it’s not the only option in town. Several afternoon and evening parades are held in Baton Rouge in February.
Baton Rouge Blues Festival
Baton Rouge is the home of swamp blues, so it’s only appropriate that this city play host to an annual event in honor of this distinctive music genre. The Baton Rouge Blues Festival first took place in 1981 on the Southern University campus. The homegrown festival pays homage to famous locals like Slim Harpo and Chewin’ Gum Johnson. In recent years, it’s grown beyond the bounds of Louisiana and drawn national and international acts like Marcia Ball and Ruthie Foster.
While the music is the main draw, it’s far from the only thing you can enjoy at this event. The festival also offers food and drink vendors highlighting local specialties, local art vendors, and other merchandise stands. 2015 marks the debut of the 12 Bar on the River Center balcony, which offers exclusive viewing for the Foundation Stage as well as specialty beers and cocktails. The Blues Festival gives the entire city a festive air during its spring weekend and many local bars and restaurants offer special deals in honor of the event.
Four Baton Rouge hotels are within walking distance of the festival, offering an ideal home base. Stay at the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino and Hotel, Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge Downtown, Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center, or Hampton Inn & Suites in Downtown Baton Rouge and you’ll be just steps from the action.
FestForAll is an annual art and music festival hosted by the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. Each year, visitors can browse 100 artists while enjoying two days of live music. In 2014, the music lineup included funk, pop, country, jazz, blues, folk rock, and African dance. Event maps highlight not only the festival, but many of Baton Rouge’s local highlights including historic attractions and museums.
A Children’s Village set up at the FestForAll welcomes even the youngest visitors with face painting, carnival games, a balloon twister, caricatures, mini art lessons, and hands-on activities. This is a great pick if you’re visiting Baton Rouge with the whole family. In previous years, the event also included special films at the Manship Theatre, a bike tour of the festival, and live painting demonstration. Naturally, food and beverage stands are always on hand to highlight local restaurants and keep you well-fed throughout the day.
The Fourth of July
Independence Day is a big deal in Baton Rouge. The USS KIDD Veterans Museum hosts its Freedom Festival during the day. This free public event includes music and activities. Though the tradition was suspended in 2014, the event typically includes tickets for fireworks viewing from the ship. Downtown, visitors can watch fireworks burst over the mighty Mississippi River.
If you’re looking for something a bit rowdier, the L’Auberge Casino and Hotel Baton Rouge also holds special festivities for Independence Day. In addition to the lively casino experience you can always enjoy at L Auberge Baton Rouge, this event also includes a pool party and fireworks over the river.
Baton Rouge Uncorked
Each fall, Baton Rouge Uncorked takes place to benefit a local charity. This unique wine tasting event focuses on a different varietal each year. Attendees gather in teams of three to compete with one another. Each team chooses a wine to present and brings three identical bottles. Two of the bottles are used for tastings while the remainder are used in the silent auction or as rewards for the winning teams.
Teams taste and score all wines entered into the Baton Rouge Uncorked competition. If you have a larger team to bring to the event, you can still participate, but you will need to bring extra bottles of wine to the event. This is an excellent activity for foodies to include in their visit.
Baton Rouge offers a little something for everyone with attractions that range from the 1847 Gothic-Revival castle that serves as the Old State Capitol building to the engaging animals and exhibits of the Baton Rouge Zoo. You can immerse yourself in history or enjoy the vibrant culture that rules the city today. Plan your visit around one of these annual events to add something special to your stay. Please share your favorite Baton Rouge events in the comments below.
Mandi Rogier lives and writes in sunny central Florida. She spends her free time bustling about theme parks or relaxing on beaches. She writes travel pieces for several websites including Hipmunk.