Museums are all about untouchable paintings, hushed tones, behind-glass artifacts and snooze-inducing history, right? Sometimes, perhaps, but not in this case. At the LSU Rural Life Museum, located in Louisiana’s Capital City, you can get up-close-and-personal with the lifestyle of the working class of the 18th and 19th century.
Some visitors call this place Louisiana’s Central Park. Housed on 450 acres of land in the heart of Baton Rouge, the museum is a gem of historical knowledge. This combination outdoor and indoor museum exists to collect, preserve and interpret life in rural Louisiana and the Lower Mississippi River Valley.
The museum houses the largest collection of Louisiana Vernacular Architecture. You can visit 32 buildings, each filled with thousands of artifacts ranging from coffins and children’s toys to horse-drawn carriages and farm implements. You’ll see how rural life was lived -- ranging from a simple farmer to a well-to-do plantation owner. There are plantation dwellings, a blacksmith shop, school, sick house, commissary, slave cabins, a chapel and gorgeous gardens. Plus, the museum is thought to be the first in the state to interpret plantation life, including the life of slaves.
Make sure and check out their calendar, as they often have special events, including Harvest Days and Rural Life Christmas, as well as summer camps. During these times, there are usually hayrides, furniture making and cooking demonstrations, docents in period costumes, music performances, crafts and more.
Things to know before visiting the LSU Rural Life Museum:
You are allowed to bring your own water, but food is not allowed except during special events.
All the grounds are wheelchair accessible.
Much of the museum is outdoors so dress accordingly and bring an umbrella if needed.
Also on the expansive grounds is LSU’s Agricultural Research Station.
You can explore the museum on your own, or take a docent-led tour. Call ahead to make sure there is space.
If you want to visit the LSU Rural Life Museum:
Address: 4560 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA
LSU Rural Life Museum and Windrush Gardens Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.