While we were checking out Louisiana, we wanted to stop in Baton Rouge to see what they had to offer for fun and interesting stops. While we didn’t have much time to explore, we did find a couple of fun stops that fit into our schedule and interests.
Our first stop was at the Bluebonnet Swamp, which is a county park located in the eastern part of the city of Baton Rouge. This 103-acre park is an ideal location to get out and explore the swamp, and it’s an exceptional stop if you are a “bird nerd.”
Located just a short walk from the parking lot is a 9,500-square-foot exhibit building that houses a small gift shop and numerous animal habitats including many snakes and other reptiles. Outside are several walking trails that lead along the swamp edge and through woods; the walks vary in length from 1/3 of a mile to 1 and 1/2 miles long. Bluebonnet is a great place to spend an hour or so learning about and exploring, Louisiana swamp habitats. It’s also an exceptional area to visit if you enjoy birding.
The other place that we went to while in Baton Rouge, was to the USS Kidd, which is located in downtown Baton Rouge (yet easy to access, tho not big rig friendly). While we love to visit decommissioned vessels, this was our first destroyer. We were pretty excited! The Kidd (also known as the Pirate of the Pacific) is the only destroyer in the world that has been restored to what it was/looked like in WWII, and as a destination is unique in several ways. First, the location has a fabulous museum in its own building near the ship instead of on it. The museum has several different subjects that it covers, and is incredibly well done. Located just inside the lobby, there is a nice gift shop. Next is a hallway that is lined with displays dedicated to soldiers, focusing on soldiers that were on the USS Kidd. There is a room with WWII exhibits, and a theater. Before you head outside to the yard, there is a small cafe that is open to the public (limited hours). When you exit the other end of the building from where you entered, there is an enclosed yard that is lined with inspiring war-related quotes, and has a decorated P-40 Tomcat hanging from the see-through roof. You can reach the second floor of the museum from either a staircase located in this outer yard, from an interior staircase located by the main entrance, or there is also an elevator available.
Upstairs, there are many, many more displays. My younger kids really enjoyed the mock pirate ship, which had canons poking out of ship portals, and rousing pirate music playing inside. The older kids appreciated the local fallen hero hall, which showcased the lives of local soldiers who had given the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country. There were also various military/maritime displays that featured everything from large models of warships, to an area with a mock steamboat pilothouse.
A short, paved walk leading from the second story of the museum takes you out to the USS Kidd. While the entire battleship is not handicapped accessible, for obvious reasons, (there is a 30 minute film that includes history of the Kidd, and some footage of areas of the ship that are not accessible to those with mobility issues), much of the main deck (as well as the walkway leading to the battleship), is wheelchair friendly.
The self-guided tour, easily followed thanks to the numbered map given to us when we got our tickets, also gave us a short description of the different areas that we were visiting during our walk.
The tour takes you around the main deck of the ship, as well as two lower decks and an upper. One of the things about the tour that made it unique was that nearly every door along the tour route was open, and the room behind either accessible or restored to its service appearance. There were many rooms that were laid out as they would have been while in use, with everything from letters from home to soup ladles. There was so much to see in such a condensed ship! It took us well over an hour to do the self-guided ship tour—you can do a faster version, but my sons don’t recommend it!
We loved our tour of the USS Kidd! Since the ship is completely open along the tour route, we really got to see how the ship was laid out and get a feel for the cramped quarters (tho we live in an RV so “cramped” is relative).
We were pleasantly surprised by how affordable this ship is to visit – at $7 for seniors, $8 other adults, $5 ages 5 to 12, and 4 and under free, which includes both the ship and the museum, the USS Kidd is the most inexpensive battleship that we have visited! There are also discounts for active military, as well as reduced rates if you would like to visit just the museum. You can find out more about the USS Kidd on their website, where you can find info on visiting as well as links to virtual tours of both the museum and the destroyer.
There are many other great stops in and around Baton Rouge, including right there in the downtown area where the USS Kidd is located. Next time you find yourself traveling I-10, stop for a day and check out what Baton Rouge has to offer!