The Beauty in our Backyard – Domestic Travel, Antebellum Edition

Since we’re all about domestic travel lately, we’ll discuss a few lesser known destinations around the country. Everybody knows of Times Square, or the Golden Gate bridge, or Disney World, but many don’t know about historical destinations such as St. Francisville and Baton Rouge, two Louisiana towns dripping in southern charm and enriched by all the events that are now part of their narrative.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll post about lesser known domestic destinations. Curious about a place and want us to talk about it? Let us know in the comments (or contact us) and we will study the location; odds are, one of our agents has probably been there!

St. Francisville

St Francisville is only 30 miles north of Louisiana’s capital and is bustling with history, charm and Cajun culture. The historic downtown St. Francisville is recognized on the Register of Historic Significant Sites and has shopping, dining and lots of history.

The Grace Episcopal Church, for example, established in 1827, survived gunboats barrage from the Mississippi River and has a historic cemetery framed by ancient live oaks.

Another interesting place to visit in St. Francisville is the Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge, along a large bend in the Mississippi River – it’s over 10 thousand acres and is open for activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, birdwatching, and photography. It’s also home to the Giant Bald Cypress Tree, a 1500-year-old tree measuring 96 feet tall and a circumference of 56 feet!

For even more beauty, the Afton Villa Gardens, created in 1849, is known for its over 20 acres of beautiful antebellum landscapes – the azaleas grown there are beloved by many and they even created their own strain, the Pride of Afton.

Fun fact: In 1810, St. Francisville served as the capital of the Republic of West Florida and was an independent republic for 74 days, before being annexed to the Territory of Orleans, as a possession of the United States.

Baton Rouge

Located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi delta, Baton Rouge blends southern charm with creole spice, a mix that sprinkles on everything from food, to language, to architecture, creating a unique culture that strengthens local identities and attracts countless visitors.

Baton Rouge has two State Capitol buildings: the Old State Capitol, a controversial building turned historical landmark that showcases stained glassed domes and a cast iron staircase; and the current State Capitol, known as the tallest State Capitol building in the country, at 450 feet tall.

Geaux Tigers! It is said that there is an underground tunnel that connects the Governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge to LSU’s Tiger Stadium. Although that myth hasn’t been confirmed, there is a tunnel built by Gov. Huey P. Long that connects the old Heidelberg Hotel – once the Louisiana Capitol itself – to the King’s Hotel across the street, granting Long discreet access to his mistress.

For those interested in natural history, the Indian Mounds on the LSU campus are listed on the National Register of Historic Places; estimated to be 6000 years old, its older than the pyramids. The mysterious structures still attract archeologists to this day, with varying theories on what it was built for.

Fun Fact: the Old State Capitol is said to be haunted by Senator Pierre Couvillon, who is fabled to have died there after a heated argument in 1852.

What are some of your favorite hidden gems in America?
Are there any destinations you’re curious about?
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