West Baton Rouge Museum houses a chronological arsenal of artifacts and exhibits that represent Louisiana's rich history. In the Interest of Our Parish: Three Hundred Years of History in West Baton Rouge visually outlines the city's beginnings, from the building of river levees to a discussion of how the crawfish came to be the state bird. An outdoor neighborhood of six antique structures showcases historically decorated slave cabins plucked from the 19th-century Allendale Plantation, and the Reed Shotgun House opens its doors to provide patrons a peek at life as a 1938 migrant worker. The remainder of the museum's cache includes a model of a 1904 sugar mill and regular rotating exhibits, as well as a cash-crop garden and photogenic courtyard. Visiting families can opt to shuttle through the grounds with the informative lead of a museum tour guide or by following a careful trail of beignets from sight to sight.
Offering BYOB art classes in a welcoming, instructor-assisted atmosphere, Corks N Canvas provides a laidback setting for self-expression. Participants will receive step-by-step instruction to craft striking artwork they can take home at the end of the session and place above their mantle, secret trap-door bookcase, or army-men-figurine reenactment of the battle of Pork Chop Hill. Choose among several sessions (click on the address of your chosen location to see a calendar of events) that teach budding strokesters to paint vibrant doggie portraits, landscapes, or abstract-expressionist renditions of the DMV. The creative paintventure may finally spark the dormant artist within that’s been reclusively hiding like Boo Radley since the finger-painting period.
Having given residential refuge to nine governors and their families, the Old Governor’s Mansion stands as one of the state’s foremost historical structures. Amble across floors once trampled by the feet of such men as governor and country-music legend Jimmie Davis, Governor O.K. Allen, and Governor Huey P. Long, the “Kingfish,” feared for his shrewd political skills and mighty mackerel militia. Some of the mansion’s most majestic spaces include the terrazzo-floored and crystal-chandeliered East Ballroom, once used to host visiting VIPs, and an opulent marble staircase, the site of marathon slinky races used to set tax policy. The library, completely coated in dark-wood paneling and a hard candy shell, features an enormous fireplace, as well as secret doors that lead to North Dakota.
The Enchanted Mansion whisks guests away to a storybook land of diminutive proportions, where fairies and first ladies alike commingle in a series of themed display rooms. Tucked into a picturesque Southern setting, the quaint mansion houses a diverse collection of hundreds of dolls dating back to the pre-Revolutionary era. The building’s deceptive three-story façade gives way to a single floor filled with oversized furnishings to promote tolerance for persecuted porcelain by making guests feel doll-sized themselves. Presidential dolls hold forth on foreign policy and puppet regimes in the White House room, and childlike figurines develop literacy in the storybook room as an antique collection watches proudly nearby.
With its imposing, slate-gray façade, the 170-year-old U.S. Custom House may be the last building in which you’d expect to hear the delighted squeals of children. But behind the steely columns, the building erupts into 23,000 square feet of colorful displays and fluttering, scuttling insects, courtesy of the Audubon Society and Insectarium. In the Asian garden, hundreds of butterflies dodge shafts of sunlight to alight on tropical ferns and the shoulders of young visitors. And at the Insects of New Orleans gallery, visitors can ogle the pink katydids, cockroaches, and lovebugs that contribute to the city’s heritage.
These bug-filled displays are all part of the insectarium’s mission to conserve Louisiana’s indigenous species and inspire stewardship in its visitors. While adults can sate their curiosity with the vast array of exotic species, curators gear many displays toward young guests by making them lighthearted and interactive: the Field Camp’s entomologist answers questions about how to collect bugs or break up flea-circus strikes, and at Bug Appétit, chefs dole out insect-filled delicacies to adventurous palates.