Local parenting writer Tricia Raney shares her family’s favorite local activities. Read on for her picks.
- Explore the themed playgrounds at LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens. March your little ones to the nature-inspired Oak Grove Playground (think climbing stumps, balance logs and a wooden swing) or the brand-new, bug-themed Pollinator Playground. Plus, we think it has the best-stocked Little Free Library and most beautiful fields of flowers. (Its sunflowers are the backdrop of 90% of my friends’ profile pictures.) lsu.edu/botanic-gardens
- Turn a visit to BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo into your own DIY scavenger hunt. Print a zoo-themed scavenger hunt from a site like Pinterest, and see what animals you can find! Afterward, bring the zoo home with you by watching its virtual educational programming on its YouTube channel. brzoo.org
- Read on a library rooftop terrace. Our family just recently discovered the rooftop terrace at the Main Library at Goodwood, and the view is absolutely stunning. Or, you can head to the other side of town and check out the brand-new River Center Branch Library’s outdoor terrace, complete with a greenery wall and Mississippi River views.
- Grab a Chicly Brewed tea sampler for an at-home tea party. We love to visit the Prairieville tea shop to pick up a three-tea sampler. Toss some cookies (or biscuits) on the table, and pretend you’ve traveled to Europe. It might inspire you to start collecting teas, kettles and milk frothers! chiclybrewed.com
- Picnic at Manchac Park Trail. Just off Old Jefferson Highway near Hoo Shoo Too Road is a hidden gem of a park. Grab a to-go meal from your favorite restaurant and head to this green space, where you’ll find a little playground, baseball field and basketball court. Head to the very back to uncover a beautiful shaded trail. It’s about 1 mile of easy walking, and is a go-to of ours. brec.org
- Shoot for the stars at Highland Road Observatory. I am raising a Mars-bound, space loving, astronaut-in-training. We first visited the observatory for Mercury’s transit in 2019, and I was blown away that this place existed in our backyard and we’d missed it all these years. It’s amazing and informative, and it’s a great place to view meteor showers, moon phases and so much more. bro.lsu.edu
- Book a private cooking class. Our kids are more prone to branch out and even—gasp—eat without complaining if they help prepare the meal. Family cooking classes are such a fun way to bond, help a small business and get a delicious dinner out of it. Our family likes chef Jeremy Coco’s classes, but you can book the chef of your choice. chefjeremycoco.com
- Walk the Mississippi River levee. From measuring how high the water is to seeing how many steps we can get in, my kids absolutely love everything about the levee. There are plenty of restaurants within walking distance to pick up from and have a picnic. downtownbatonrouge.org
- Check out the aquariums at Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops. My kids LOVE to go look at the fish and turtles. We’ve gotten lucky a few times to be present when workers donning scuba gear are cleaning the tank. It has given my son a new career path! basspro.com and
- Catch some air at a skate park. Did you know BREC has multiple skate parks around town? For a little adventure, head to Perkins Road Community Park, Old Hammond
Highway Park or Zachary Community Park. Just don’t forget your helmet. brec.org
- Fly a kite or splash around at Highland Road Park. This park’s wide-open green spaces are perfect for flying kites! There’s also a shaded playground, splash pad and boat launch—just the thing for summer sunshine. brec.org
- Gather art supplies from your backyard for a craft day. Do a little exploring of all nature has to offer us in Louisiana. Pick items like sticks, leaves, pine needles, flowers and acorns. Create your own mixed media piece, nature mandala, or even a selfie backdrop.
- Rent a private movie showing. The pandemic limited the movie-theater-going days of many families. But now, AMC’s private movies have become quite popular for “quarantine birthday parties” for many of our friends. For an even more intimate experience that supports local, rent out the Manship Theatre. amctheatres.com and manshiptheatre.org
- Play some disc golf. My husband loves disc golf, so of course our kids have come to love it, too! There are several places to play around town: Highland Road Community Park, Greenwood Community Park, Flanacher Park Disc Golf Course in Zachary and Louisiana Healthcare Connections Disc Golf Park in Scotlandville. brec.org
- Check out a pop-up book shop with Red Stick Reads. Red Stick Reads is a new addition to town that began by popping up at local boutiques and coffee shops with a curated book selection. In December, the company opened a small boutique bookshop with story time sessions and plenty of children’s books to encourage kids to explore the world through reading. redstickreads.com
- Make a French fry charcuterie-style board. This was my 3-year-old’s idea! For her birthday, she’s allowed to pick what we eat all day, and she just wanted French fries. So I hopped in the car and made a 1-mile loop hitting up all the fries in our area, ensuring we had a good mix of plain fries, cheese fries, chilli fries, tater tots and onion rings. Once home, we tossed them on our largest cutting board to make a French fry tasting board.
- Shop local game shops and plan a game night. Our family loves game nights. We find our unique games at The Rouge Games local shop of board, collectible card and role playing games. Or, you can check out all the gaming options at Little Wars. Find them on Facebook
- Have an adventure at Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center. Just past Perkins Rowe off Bluebonnet, you’ll find a bit of wild in the middle of the city. An easy-to-navigate trail walks you through the swamps, and on a good day you’ll see turtles, snakes, all kinds of birds, grasshoppers, dragonflies and so much more! There are even some covered seating areas for resting and cooling off. brec.org
- Day trip to Prehistoric Park in Henderson. If you have a dinosaur lover on your hands, this park is so worth the quick drive. On 12 acres of paved walkways, life-size dino depictions tower overhead. prehistoric-park.com
- Teach your kids about shopping local ingredients at the weekend edition of the Red Stick Farmers Market. It’s outdoors, full of fresh food, and supports small, local businesses—is there anything better on a Saturday morning? breada.org
- Spend a day learning at USS Kidd Veterans Museum. The Historic Naval Ships Association recognized it as one of the most authentically restored vessels in the world. Browse artifacts from veteran and naval military history. usskidd.com
- Say hi to Mike the Tiger. Have you even lived in Baton Rouge if you haven’t visited Mike the Tiger? LSU is one of the few colleges with a live mascot, and Mike is a handsome, 4-year-old tiger, often found taking dips in his wading pool or curled in the shade of his expansive habitat. lsu.edu
- Plan a dessert night with local treats. Y’all, stop what you’re doing now and plan a trip to one of the new treat shops that’s opened in the past year. Bonjour will make all your dessert dreams come true with its bubble waffles, crepes and milkshakes. Sweet Society is a haven for Asian-style desserts like taiyaki fish-shaped waffle cones stuffed with ice cream, and Boom Box Pops is a popsicle and ice cream shop with a delightful ’80s theme.
- Learn about trees, shrubs and wildflowers at Hilltop Arboretum. Take in the scenery of the walking trails and the unique architecture of the covered pavilion, walkways and auditorium. There’s a new Children’s Bookshelf open in the gift shop. Personally, my kids are all about rolling down the hill! lsu.edu/hilltop
- Browse the Mid City Makers Market. This craft fair is full of goods by some of the most talented Baton Rougeans. It is a great way for kids to meet creators who have turned their passions into incomes. midcitymakersmarket.com
- Walk the Blackwater Conservation Area. The trails at this ecosystem restoration area are easy on tiny legs and partially shaded—and if you follow the right path, you’ll be led to the Comite River. brec.org
- Do a car wash tour. Hear me out on this one. During the long weeks of social distancing, my kids begged to ride through car washes around town. So we made it a thing! We made a list of car washes close to us and broke them into categories of price, length, colors, coolness and vacuum strength. After each new car wash, we’d rate them on our scorecards.
- Wind down the Harris Walking Trail at Woman’s Hospital. There’s a great little pea gravel 1-mile walking path around the ponds. My kids love to go look for turtles on sunny spring days and have foot races along the walking path. womans.org
- Take a family bike ride. I think everyone took up biking as a hobby thanks to quarantine. There are plenty of places around town to ride bikes, but our favorite route is to pedal around LSU’s campus to River Road.
- Try a private chef experience. Book your favorite chef for a private dinner. The owner of Odom’s Kitchen is another rock-star chef we love, with delicious offerings like seafood over stuffed potatoes, amazing wings and lamb that will make you cry! eatwithodoms.com
- Wander the grounds of the State Capitol. Between Capitol Gardens and Louisiana Veterans Memorial Park, there’s so much to see. Soak in the views of oak trees, large hills and lakes.
- Enjoy some patio dining. While we love supporting local businesses and have done lots of take-out, my family hasn’t fully jumped into dining at restaurants yet. I know many people feel much better about outdoor dining, and I personally love the patios at spots like Willie’s Restaurant, Gov’t Taco and Fat Cow. Our kids love to eat Velvet Cactus’ dessert nachos—cinnamon sugar chips covered in ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream—on the patio.
- Feed the birds at the LSU and City Park lakes. These popular green spaces are home to plenty of runners and bikers and families of ducks and geese. We like to bring some bird seed and chat with the birds.
- Head to a drive-in movie. Millennial Park, Mongo’s Movies and Outside Movie have held pop-up movie nights. Or, DIY your own drive-in. Use Amazon boxes to make cars for the kids to decorate, rent a movie online, pop some popcorn and turn your living room into a theater! Our kids have made rockets, race cars and even a dump truck.
- Explore a new part of town by staging a progressive dinner. Our family loves to pick a neighborhood, set a radius, then hit up all the curbside pickup deliciousness for a take-home feast. Here’s our sample menu from Mid City: Truffle Parm Fries from Curbside, Wild Chow Wings from Chow Yum Phat, and Crawfish Queso and a Chocolate Cream Pie from Elsie’s Plate & Pie.
- Make new plant friends at Cohn Nature Preserve. This gorgeous 16-acre spot is one of our go-to outdoor destinations, with both wooded and landscaped areas full of native and foreign plants. brec.org
Tricia Raney is a mom of five and a contributing writer and event assistant for local parenting website, Red Stick Mom. She loves exploring Baton Rouge and all it has to offer in terms of family fun for her 9-year-old, 5-year-old, 3-year-old and two angel babies—and the occasional date night, too!
This article was originally published in the April 2021 issue of 225 magazine.