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    Baton Rouge,

    Louisiana

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    Baton Rouge ( BAT-ən ROOZH; from French Bâton-Rouge 'red stick') is the capital city of the U.S. state of Louisiana. On the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, it is the parish seat of East Baton Rouge Parish, the most-populous parish in Louisiana. Since 2020, the city of Baton Rouge has been the 99th-most-populous city in the United States, and second-largest city in Louisiana after New Orleans. It is also the 18th-most-populous state capital. At the U.S. Census Bureau's 2020 tabulation, Baton Rouge had a population of 227,470; the consolidated population of Baton Rouge was 456,781 in 2020 The city of Baton Rouge is the center of the Greater Baton Rouge area, the second-largest metropolitan area in Louisiana, with a population of 870,569 as of 2020, up from 802,484 in 2010.The Baton Rouge area owes its historical importance to its strategic site upon the Istrouma Bluff, the first natural bluff upriver from the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. This allowed development of a business quarter safe from seasonal flooding. In addition, the city built a levee system stretching from the bluff southward to protect the riverfront and low-lying agricultural areas. The city is a culturally rich center, with settlement by immigrants from numerous European nations and African peoples brought to North America as slaves or indentured servants. It was ruled by seven different governments: French, British, and Spanish in the colonial era; the Republic of West Florida, as a United States territory and state, Confederate, and United States again since the end of the American Civil War. The city of Baton Rouge is a major industrial, petrochemical, medical, research, motion picture, and growing technology center of the American South. It is the location of Louisiana State University, the LSU System's flagship university and the largest institution of higher education in the state. It is also the location of Southern University, the flagship institution of the Southern University System, the only historically black college system in the United States. The Port of Greater Baton Rouge is the 10th-largest in the U.S. in terms of tonnage shipped, and is the farthest upstream Mississippi River port capable of handling Panamax ships. Major corporations participating in the economy of Baton Rouge and its metropolitan statistical area include Lamar Advertising Company, BBQGuys, Marucci Sports, Piccadilly Restaurants, Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, ExxonMobil, and Dow Chemical Company.
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    Inspiration

    Celebrate Mardi Gras By Mail Ordering A King Cake

    There are bakeries across the American South that ship their creations of this oval-shaped and tri-hued dessert across most of the U.S. Often many of them maintain the traditional king cake recipe of a brioche base adorned with white icing and gold, green and purple colored sugaring. Others have experimented with more contemporary versions and fill them with cream cheese or fruit flavors and go all out with toppings. And most bakeries can process mail orders to send a king cake right to your doorstep. Louisiana Of course, Louisiana is synonymous with Mardi Gras and has many bakeries that ship king cakes. New Orleans In New Orleans, Gracious Bakery + Café’s King Cake Mix is available for purchase online. The artisan bakery has boxed up what’s needed for making a king cake in your kitchen; you just need to add in the wet ingredients. Randazzo’s Camellia City Bakery in Slidell sells out quickly on its king cake shipping orders. Upon seeing their webpage, you’ll know the reason why. Theirs range from traditional to ones filled with cream cheese or topped with pecans. Brennan's in New Orleans is famous for its bananas foster but for 2022 Mardi Gras the fine dining restaurant is shipping three special king cake varieties. They are traditional, a Chocolate “Black & Gold”, “Pink Parade” Strawberry Cream Cheese and Banana Foster. courtesy of Brennan’s Gambino’s Bakery, a NOLA longtimer, has king cake specialty packs with Mardi Gras attire to don while dining on this dessert, among other choices. Cannata’s Market in Houma has a RougaGooey King Cake adorned with Louisiana roasted pecans and cane sugar, white chocolate, and gooey butter along with Mardi Gras beads. Another reason to buy this cake: a donation from its sale goes to the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center. Among its king cakes, Cajun Pecan House in Cutoff has a popular cinnamon-pecan flavored king cake. Or splurge on king cake carnival packs, having the King Cake story, Mardi Gras beads, doubloons and a porcelain mask. NOLA’s Haydel’s Bakery broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest king cake in 2010, by creating two giant rings that wrapped around the Superdome. Haydel’s king cakes include traditional or filled with cream cheese, German chocolate and other choices. Also in NOLA, Adrian’s Bakery sends out king cake choices including Bavarian cream, lemon, pineapple and praline. Lake Charles Delicious Donuts & Bakery in Lake Charles takes mail orders by phone. Their king cakes choices involve their pecan and praline along with fruit or cream fillings with choices including cream cheese, apple, blueberry, cherry, and strawberry. Baton Rouge In Baton Rouge, The Ambrosia Bakery sells mini, small, and large versions of its traditional king cake along with a Zulu King Cake with a coconut, cream cheese and chocolate morsel filling. Lafayette Crystal Weddings in Lafayette has an alphabet of king cake flavor options, from almond amaretto to strawberry cream cheese. Also in Lafayette, Poupart Bakery ships both a traditional French king cake--a round puff pastry with almond filling--and the Mardi Gras king cake. Alabama courtesy of Lighthouse Bakery Mobile, Alabama also celebrates this pre-Lenten festival. The Lighthouse Bakery in Dauphin Island, Ala. ships their baby king cakes by mail but requires orders to be placed over the phone during business hours. Texas Galveston has both the largest Mardi Gras celebration in Texas and the third largest one in the nation behind New Orleans and Mobile. Both the Maceo Spice and Import Company and Gypsy Joynt take orders over the phone for shipping king cakes. In Houston, which also honors Mardi Gras, Rao’s Bakery ships king cakes with traditional cinnamon or strawberry, blueberry and raspberry fillings; mini king cakes are also available.

    Budget Travel Lists

    9 Perfect Day Trips From New Orleans

    Whether you're fleeing from the brutally hot and humid weather or simply looking for a respite from the Big Easy's riot of colors and sounds, here are nine of the best day trips from New Orleans. 1. Barataria Preserve There are all sorts of swamp tours that operate out of New Orleans – we're even recommending one below – but one of our favorite ways to experience the south Louisiana wetlands is a visit to Barataria Preserve, a national park located about 25 miles south of New Orleans. Easy trails – dirt and boardwalk – thread through the swamps, and you may be able to spot local alligators, although wildlife viewing is hindered by prolific invasive water flora. On your way back to New Orleans, make sure to pop into the superlatively good Tan Dinh for some excellent Vietnamese food. Getting there: Take US-90 and cross the Crescent City Connection Bridge over the Mississippi to the New Orleans West Bank. From US-90, take exit 4B to access Barataria Blvd which takes you to the preserve. 2. Whitney Plantation A cluster of restored mansions sit roughly 50 miles west of New Orleans, with the Whitney being the most interesting of the bunch to visit. While most plantations now pay lip service to the history of slavery, the Whitney is a museum dedicated to unpacking the grim institution. Through a series of thoughtful exhibits, the Whitney demonstrates how the South did not just benefit from but was built upon chattel slavery. Getting there: The most direct route is I-10 West for about 40 miles, then detour south on LA-641 for another 10 miles. 3. Lafayette Cajun country is as fabled a destination as New Orleans, a land of low prairies, deep swamps, good music and delicious meals that you may never want to let your cardiologist know about. ‘Acadiana’, as the area is known, consists of many small towns scattered over southwest Louisiana. The capital of the region is Lafayette, a friendly small city located 140 miles west of New Orleans, packed with great food and excellent live music venues – don’t leave without stopping in for a night of dancing at the Blue Moon. Getting there: Take I-10 West for about 2-and-a-half hours. Part of the route goes through the preserved Atchafalaya Basin, one of the state’s remaining wild wetlands. 4. St Francisville When the furnace of New Orleans gets too hot or you just need some small-town arts atmosphere, head north about 120 miles to St Francisville, a tidy bohemian retreat set amidst hills and forests. A glut of historical buildings, cute cafes, antique-and-artsy shopping and hiking trails through the woods makes for a perfect break from New Orleans. Getting there: Take I-10 West up through the state capital to Baton Rouge, take exit 8C to get on I-110 North. From there, take US-61 North to St Francisville. 5. Mississippi Gulf Shore Despite being totally tied to the water, there’s no real beach access in New Orleans, barring a few stretches of not very friendly sand on Lake Pontchartrain. While the beaches of Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island, AL are pretty lovely, they’re also a fair distance. Consider instead the decent sand, friendly restaurants and generally laid-back seashore vibe at Mississippi Gulf Coast towns like Bay St Louis and Gulfport. While this area can get inundated with day-trippers on hot weekends, you can still embark on a relatively quiet escape during the week. Getting there: It depends on where you’re going, but this advice applies from Biloxi to the Alabama border – just head east on I-10. 6. North Shore The north shore of Lake Pontchartrain is made up of several bedroom suburbs of New Orleans and radiates a more sedate vibe than what you’ll find in the Crescent City. Attractions include sampling some brews at the Abita Brewery or exploring the surreal madness of theAbita Mystery House, one of the state’s great roadside attractions. Need a place to stay? Cabins at Fontainebleau State Park are raised on stilts over Lake Pontchartrain and make for a supremely relaxing, breezy escape. Getting there: To cross Lake Pontchartrain, take I-10 West and exit to cross the Pontchartrain Causeway, one of the largest bridges in the world. 7. New Iberia The hazy, humid town of New Iberia sits about 140 miles west of New Orleans. On the sleepy main streets you’ll find the well-preserved plantation of Shadows on the Teche, and just outside of town is the area’s main attraction: Avery Island (not really much of island), home of a huge salt mine and the headquarters of Tabasco, the iconic hot sauce maker. You can take a tour of the Tabasco Factory, and afterward amuse yourself by exploring the nearby Jungle Gardens, a sort of hybrid botanical retreat, wildlife preserve, aviary and a slice of historical trivia. Getting there: US-90 West gets you almost 100 percent into New Iberia, and you’ll get to see some low-lying Louisiana prairie and farmland on the way. 8. Paddling Into the Bayou While it’s great fun to trod a boardwalk at Barataria or watch an old fisherman point out gators on a motorized boat tour, there’s something utterly otherworldly about paddling the Louisiana swamps. It’s a strange, primal, beautiful experience; you are at once present in the midst of the bayou, yet also deeply aware that you are a visitor to this ecosystem, a fish out of water (or a human gliding across it, more accurately). Louisiana Lost Land Tours, conducted by local environmental experts, give participants an excellent kayaking experience, as well as a solid grounding in the unique environmental issues confronting south Louisiana. Getting there: Lost Lands will help you coordinate the launching point for your swamp adventure. 9. Baton Rouge A lot of New Orleanians blow off Baton Rouge – named for a red stick used as a geographic marker by local Native Americans. This may be known as the state’s grey, faceless capital, yet it's also a sprawling town with some decent attractions. Football games at LSU are a non-stop display of pageantry and spectacle; it's a glimpse into the football-mad world of the American South where a tailgating party is a monumental sports moment. For a quieter experience, the Rural Life Museum is a window onto the state’s past. Getting there: The ‘BR’ is an easy 80-mile trek northwest of New Orleans via I-10. Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with Lonely Planet’s weekly newsletter.

    Inspiration

    A Tour of Louisiana Watering Holes

    When you’re visiting the state that invented America’s first cocktail, the Sazerac, you’ve got to set aside some time to wet your whistle. Here, we take a look at some of the best, unique bars and music clubs in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Shreveport, plus a dive into Louisiana’s incredible array of homegrown beers, wines, and spirits. NEW ORLEANS Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 (Courtesy @latitude29nola.Instagram)Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits has a rather humble brick exterior, but once you step inside you’re entranced by sweet design, great food (tapas style!), and a fine selection of wines, beers, and signature cocktails like the King Jukebox (gin, mint, lime, yellow Chartreuse, celery, and Topo Chico). Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 wears its namesake owner’s affection for tiki culture and tropical drinks on its sleeve. Try the multicultural Sean & Juan (Tequila and Irish whiskey, lemon, guava, and crème de cacao). Le Bon Temps Roule is the place to be when you want to hear up-and-coming NOLA bands and sip reasonably priced beer or elaborately (and we mean elaborately) garnished Bloody Marys. The Spotted Cat is your escape from the, um, rowdier variety of NOLA tourist. You’ll hear real jazz and blues in the company of other people who appreciate authentic American roots music. The Three Muses features an entertaining mix of rising musicians, plus an exceptional menu of short ribs, jerk duck, and other specialties. Signature cocktails evolve daily — order the “Today's Riff" drink special of the day. Bullet's Sports Bar sure looks like an average dive until you realize it was featured in the HBO series Treme and it is an authentic spot to down a cold beer while grooving to live R&B, jazz, and blues. Hungry? Order the charbroiled oysters. BATON ROUGE Radio Bar is literally shaped like an old-timey radio, a harbinger of good times to be had inside. The joint has an industrial feel – for instance, to get to the patio you have to pass through garage doors. While a great selection of beers is available, the bartenders also stir up cocktails like the Aperol Spritz (Aperol, Prosecco, and soda water). Olive or Twist deserves a shout just for its subtly Dickens-inspired moniker, and its mixologists get high marks for their Ramos Gin Fizz, Sazerac, and the classic bourbon- based Old Fashioned. LAFAYETTE Artmosphere Bistro will please thirsty art lovers with its in-house gallery, brunch mimosas, and nightly live music. SHREVEPORT Strange Brew is a reliable choice for its massive beer selection, exceptional live music, and games like billiards. Bear’s not only boasts the full drink menu you’d expect from a popular Shreveport watering hole, but also hosts karaoke, burlesque night, and other games and activities that keep visitors and locals alike flocking back. Straycat gets raves for its ample patio and friendly bartenders. It’s a sweet spot to kick back with friends after seeing the sights. CRAFT BEER Abita Beer ready to taste. (Courtesy @abitabeer/Instagram) Louisiana’s deep devotion to cuisine and hospitality have led to an explosion of brewing, from small towns to big cities across the state. Abita Brewing Company in charming Abita Springs, which kicked off Louisiana’s current craft beer scene back in 1986, is now one of the largest craft brewers in the U.S. It’s in good company with other Pelican State brewers such as Parish Brewing Company in Broussard, Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville, Broken Wheel Brewery at Fresh Catch Bistreaux in Marksville, Tin Roof Brewing Company in Baton Rouge, Covington Brewhouse in Covington, Chafunkta Brewing Company in Mandeville, Old Rail Brewing in Abita Springs, Flying Tiger in Monroe, and New Orleans’ NOLA Brewing Company and Courtyard Brewery. Learn more about these and other tasty Louisiana craft brewers at libations.louisianatravel.com. WINE You may not have realized that Louisiana is also home to a vibrant and growing wine industry, with vineyards hosting tastings and live music events, such as Landry Vineyards, in West Monroe, with its popular series of outdoor concerts. The annual New Orleans Wine and Food Experience provides a chance to get up-to-the-minute news about this up-and- coming wine region with its Vino Stroll, Grand Tastings, and other offerings. SPIRITS Louisiana also boasts a vibrant distillery scene. Locally grown sugarcane is transformed into world-class rum, and a variety of other spirits are distilled statewide. We suggest you begin your exploration of Louisiana spirits with a tour of a sugarcane plantation to learn the process from field to glass. Try Bayou Rum in Laccasine, Atelier Vie for a taste of real Louisiana absinthe in NOLA, and Caneland Distilling in Baton Rouge.

    Inspiration

    Rivers wreaking havoc: Mississippi too high, Rhine too low

    As a rain-bloated Mississippi River threatens to spill into more towns along its banks, water levels on Europe's Rhine River have dropped to 18-month lows, potentially impacting river cruise itineraries there. Tourism destinations along the Mississippi this week are assuring visitors that their sites and attractions are not underwater. "Graceland is safe. And we would charge hell with a water pistol to keep it that way and I'd be willing to lead the charge," said Bob Nations Jr., director of the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency. Elvis Presleys's home, the Graceland mansion, is in Memphis, Tenn., where the Mississippi River crested on Tuesday. But the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau said that only one downtown attraction has been affected by the high water, Mud Island River Park and Museum, which is temporarily closed due to the lack of road access. Further downriver, "New Orleans is not subject to the type of river and tributary flooding seen along other parts of the Mississippi River due to the extensive water diversion systems that guide high river waters away from New Orleans," the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau assured visitors. When there is "flooding from a river like the Mississippi, probably the best place in the country to be is Baton Rouge and New Orleans," said Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans CVB. Meanwhile, in Europe, the Rhine River could use some of the Mississippi's overflow. Water levels on the Rhine have dropped to their lowest levels in 18 months and are threatening to fall further, according to a Bloomberg news report. Consequently, river cruise companies are having to come up with contingency plans in case the waters don't rise soon. Avalon Waterways, which is christening its new Avalon Panorama ship this weekend, had to send guests and media invited to the christening ceremony and inaugural "Romantic Rhine" cruise from Frankfurt to Amsterdam a "Plan A," and a multi-pronged "Plan B," dependent on daily monitoring of water levels. Other river cruise operators are also monitoring the situation, but haven't altered itineraries yet. "Starting today, there is rain in the Alpine region, which feeds the Rhine," said Rudi Schreiner, president and co-owner of Ama Waterways. "The forecast for the next seven days looks very wet and hopefully the situation will improve." If and when river cruise ships can't navigate portions of a river where the water level creates a problem, river cruise operators get creative to make sure that passengers can continue on their planned itinerary. "A few years back, we had a high water situation on the Danube and two of our ships were stopped at the Deggendorf Bridge in Bavaria. So, we performed a 'ship swap.' We simply moved guests and their belongings from one ship to the other, turned the ships around and both continued on their journeys as per normal," recalled Guy Young, president of Uniworld River Cruises. "Fortunately, the rivers of Europe are highly controlled through a series of locks and dam," explained Young. "Fluctuations in river water levels that impact the operation of passenger ships are therefore quite rare." More from Budget Travel: 25 Reasons We Love New Orleans 8 Places Every American Should See River Cruises: Into the Heart of Europe

    Inspiration

    A farewell tour for Ladysmith Black Mambazo's founder?

    The South African vocalists have earned a global following—and racked up Grammy awards—since Joseph Shabalala had a dream (literally) about starting a group back in the 1960s. Highlights along the way have included collaborating on Paul Simon's Graceland and accompanying Nelson Mandela when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway. Ladysmith Black Mambazo released its latest album, Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu, in January and has taken its crowd-pleasing blend of Christian gospel and Zulu isicathamiya harmonies on the road. The group sings tonight in Baton Rouge, La., and continues west with stops in more than 20 cities between now and mid-March. An additional concert is slated for the Kennedy Center in D.C. on June 1. Check tour dates and preview songs by visiting rockpaperscissors.biz. While Shabalala, 65, has yet to announce an official retirement date, this tour will be one of his last—he's passing the torch to his son Thamsanqa. MORE MUSIC COVERAGE -Eating on Tour With Franz Ferdinand: An Excerpt from Sound Bites -Andy Palacio: At the Crossroads of Africa and Central America -Musicians Without Borders: Balkan Beat Box -Audio Slide Show: On the Road With Gerry Beckley of America

    Road Trips

    #BTRoadTrip: Del Rio, Texas, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    Hop in the passenger's seat on the ultimate road trip! We're posting real-time dispatches as Budget Travel's Photo Editor, Whitney Tressel, journeys across the country using tips from locals as her guide. Prepare for beautiful beaches and parks, amazing local cuisine, and one-of-a-kind experiences you only get when you talk to the real Americans who make this country great. Like the Dukes of Hazzard on the run from Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, the law finally caught up with Whitney en route from Del Rio, Texas, to San Antonio. Two-plus weeks on the road will increase anyone's odds for a traffic stop, but in this particular case, Whitney had taken a long-cut around Brackettville, Texas, to avoid stirring up her irrational fear of wind turbines. (We are not making this up—it's called anemomenophobia.) Turns out, the road less traveled is often used by shady types looking to avoid the border patrol checkpoint along I-90. Before long, Whitney had two cops on her tail and was swiftly pulled over. After mentally running through a checklist of things she hadn't done (speeding, harboring contraband, etc.), she owned up to her wind-farm phobia to one very serious-looking officer. In Duke Boys terminology, she thought she'd never get out of this pickle. But as they say, the truth will set you free, and as soon as they realized her fear of giant windmills was no joke, they sent her on her way. Despite the trouble from the fuzz, taking the detour was ultimately worth it for the wildlife: Along the way, she spotted several antelopes with prominent spiral horns. Although seeing kudus in Texas is highly improbable, Whitney's mind immediately flashed back to the creatures from her Big Buck Hunter tournament days—she used to organize team outings, matching tie-dye T-shirts and all—and pulled to the side of the road, taking shot after shot of the big beauties. It was raining and cloudy by the time Whitney arrived in San Antonio. She took a much-deserved break at the Pearl, a cultural and foodie destination a couple of miles north of the River Walk, browsing handmade textiles, home decor, and jewelry at The Tiny Finch, then fueling up with a fresh fruit-and-veggie shake at One Lucky Duck. Next on the map? Austin. And the close wildlife encounters were just beginning: Back in Marfa, she received a true Keep Austin Weird–style suggestion to visit Mayfield Park, a "peacock park" that is not a zoo. The pretty beasts unfurled their plumage as Whitney snapped them mid-mating dance. Later that night, Whitney got her ultimate Texas experience at The Broken Spoke in Austin, a dance hall dubbed the "best honky-tonk in Texas," where locals pay a $12 cover to two-step to live music, sip beers, eat barbecued brisket and cups of potato salad, and watch newcomers try their best to fit in. Whitney had no problem there: Soon after she arrived, a local named Polo who says he comes every Saturday asked her to dance. Even better, a local legend was in the house: Dressed in a flashy red shirt studded with rhinestones, Broken Spoke founder James M. White made his way through the crowd, which treated him with deference and respect, as though he were a beloved local politician. As barbecue fans know, sampling only one barbecue joint's fare on a visit to Texas just isn't enough, so on the suggestion of a Houstonite, Whitney traveled southeast of Austin and spent most of her day among the "pit bosses" at Smitty's Market in Lockhart, Texas, an authentic smokehouse known for its sausages that's about as non-touristy as you can get. (Think: fictional Freddy's BBQ Joint on House of Cards before the media got wind of it.) Whitney eagerly carved into a pile of meat served on a double-stack of butcher paper, which was easier said than done: Smitty's gives patrons only a knife and a spoon, encouraging guests to eat with their hands and get delightfully sloppy. Wet-Naps? As if. A soothing punctuation mark to this Texas travelogue was a sunrise visit to artist James Turrell's Twilight Epiphany Skyspace structure, a grass, concrete, stone, and steel structure with a rectangular window to the sky, designed to function as a mind-bending play on color when the sun rises and sets. Whitney lay on the ground and watched the colors of the sky change as the pavilion's artificial light glowed around it, tricking the mind into thinking the sky is a different color than it actually is—an immersive, highbrow version of the 'blue or white dress" debate. Visits are always free. Whitney's Travel Tip: First, don't cut around the Brackettville/Uvalde border patrol checkpoint if you know what's good for you. Second, at James Turrell's Skyspace, sunset viewings are usually packed with people and require a reservation, but if you have the chutzpah to rise and shine before the sun comes up, morning "shows" are wide open. In fact, you might have the entire exhibit to yourself. Next stop: Finding our inner Francophile in Louisiana Previously:#BTRoadTrip: Tucson to Del Rio, Texas#BTRoadTrip: San Diego to Tucson#BTRoadTrip: Los Angeles to San Diego

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    DESTINATION IN Louisiana

    West Baton Rouge

    Baton Rouge ( BAT-ən ROOZH; from French Bâton-Rouge 'red stick') is the capital city of the U.S. state of Louisiana. On the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, it is the parish seat of East Baton Rouge Parish, the most-populous parish in Louisiana. Since 2020, the city of Baton Rouge has been the 99th-most-populous city in the United States, and second-largest city in Louisiana after New Orleans. It is also the 18th-most-populous state capital. At the U.S. Census Bureau's 2020 tabulation, Baton Rouge had a population of 227,470; the consolidated population of Baton Rouge was 456,781 in 2020 The city of Baton Rouge is the center of the Greater Baton Rouge area, the second-largest metropolitan area in Louisiana, with a population of 870,569 as of 2020, up from 802,484 in 2010.The Baton Rouge area owes its historical importance to its strategic site upon the Istrouma Bluff, the first natural bluff upriver from the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. This allowed development of a business quarter safe from seasonal flooding. In addition, the city built a levee system stretching from the bluff southward to protect the riverfront and low-lying agricultural areas. The city is a culturally rich center, with settlement by immigrants from numerous European nations and African peoples brought to North America as slaves or indentured servants. It was ruled by seven different governments: French, British, and Spanish in the colonial era; the Republic of West Florida, as a United States territory and state, Confederate, and United States again since the end of the American Civil War. The city of Baton Rouge is a major industrial, petrochemical, medical, research, motion picture, and growing technology center of the American South. It is the location of Louisiana State University, the LSU System's flagship university and the largest institution of higher education in the state. It is also the location of Southern University, the flagship institution of the Southern University System, the only historically black college system in the United States. The Port of Greater Baton Rouge is the 10th-largest in the U.S. in terms of tonnage shipped, and is the farthest upstream Mississippi River port capable of handling Panamax ships. Major corporations participating in the economy of Baton Rouge and its metropolitan statistical area include Lamar Advertising Company, BBQGuys, Marucci Sports, Piccadilly Restaurants, Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, ExxonMobil, and Dow Chemical Company.