Located in the center of East Baton Rouge Parish, Independence Community Park encompasses a large geographic area of about 96 acres. Larger than a neighborhood park, Independence is designed to engage the family for the whole day with consistent maintenance of facilities, security, and recreational opportunities. Some amenities of the park include a playground and picnic areas located beneath a hearty oak grove, pavilion rentals, recreation center, adult leisure program location, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a lighted baseball field, soccer field, bocce ball, hard surface walking paths, and a walking loop around the park. Another popular attraction is the Independence Park Theatre that has been host to hundreds of events including concerts, plays, musicals, dance recitals, lectures, graduations, seminars, workshops, conferences and pageants. If the activities are just all too much to choose from, you might just prefer to take a stroll through the blooming Botanic Gardens of the park, which are free and open to the public as well.
Independence Community Park, 7500 Independence Blvd, Baton Rouge, LA, USA + 1 225 928 7860
Nestled within Independence Community Park, as mentioned above, this little gem of a garden deserves an entry of its own. Thriving with perennials, annuals, ground covers and wetland plants, the Botanic Gardens were created in 1991 and have since been dedicated to horticultural education, recreation, and nature studies. Whether you prefer to peruse the Sensory Garden full of aromatic herbs used for cooking, or fancy a stroll through the Rose Garden colored with over 400 varieties of rose plants, the Baton Rouge Botanic Gardens are sure to stimulate the senses in the most pleasant way possible. Occasional events and meetings are held in the the Baton Rouge Garden Center, and some other features of the park include the Crape Myrtle Garden in its array of reds, whites, pinks, and lavenders, the Louisiana Iris garden, the Daylily garden, the butterfly garden, the fern and ginger collections, and the Independence Promenade lined with several hundred live oaks and crape myrtles. The Botanic Gardens offers a complete immersion in all things flora, with blooming colors and wonderful aromas to get lost in.
Botanic Gardens, 7950 Independence Blvd, Baton Rouge, LA + 1 225 928 2270
Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center
Covering about 103 acres, the facility of the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center is dedicated to the mission of conservation, education, recreation, and tourism. The award-winning exhibit building of the property has been host to live animal exhibits, photographic presentations of the site’s flora and fauna, natural artifact and mineral displays, and periodic ecology and art exhibits as well. The site is home to a variety of different habitats that lay home to native wildlife. Many species of bird, raccoons, rabbits, opossums, armadillos, squirrels, foxes, coyotes, deer and otters all frequent the backwoods of the swamp. Over a mile of gravel paths and boardwalks link the cypress-tupelo swamp, beech-magnolia, and hardwood forest habitats where these wild critters dwell. The Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center seeks to nurture an awareness and appreciation for natural resources and wildlife. With a large area of nature to explore, the park encourages visitors to enjoy the little things seen in the swamp, consider what a difference they make, and have a positive outdoor experience.
Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center, 10503 N Oak Hills Pkwy, Baton Rouge, LA, USA + 1 225 757 8905
Another one of the larger community parks, Forest Community Park covers a whopping 115.62 acres and features an array of amenities like the playground and picnic areas, pavilion rentals, recreation center, indoor basketball, lighted tennis courts and baseball field, dog park, walking paths and loop, and a fishing lake open for bank fishing only. While adults might enjoy a leisurely walk around the many footpaths of the park, the playground is a hot spot for kids hosting a variety of slides, equipment and climbing apparatus. The Splash Pad is another popular attraction in the summer months, which acts as an interactive water play area with spray features that the kids just love. If you live nearby and want to get more involved with other members of the community, the park also offers league sports, like youth and adult softball league games. Forest Community Park offers a walk on the greener side of life with a wide selection of activities to get people out and active.
Forest Community Park, 13900 South Harrell’s Ferry Road, Baton Rouge, LA, USA + 1 225 752 1853
In a partnership with Louisiana State University, the Hilltop Arboretum seeks to preserve, protect, and enhance some of the natural wonders of the Baton Rouge area. It is a sanctuary where students and visitors alike can learn about natural systems, plants, and landscape design. But beyond the educational experience, the arboretum offers a quiet place of solace and contemplation to forget the constant worries of life. You might want to bask in a sunny meadow of tall grasses and wildflowers, or hideaway in the ‘cathedral,’ where tree canopies form a green protective room for all who dwell below. Listen to the sounds of nature in the arboretum’s bamboo grove, or wander to an old bridge that lay over a twenty-foot deep ravine. The Hilltop Arboretum consists of fourteen acres of pristine nature that showcase an extensive collection of Louisiana native trees and shrubs. It is open to the public, free of charge, and acts as a down-to-earth way to bring members of the community together.
Hilltop Arboretum, 11855 Highland Rd, Baton Rouge, LA, USA + 1 225 767 6916
By Alana Jajko
Since graduating from Bucknell University, Alana has been seeking out life as a nature and travel writer. With a thirst for adventure, she has traveled extensively through Greece for archaeology, Nepal as a volunteer, and much of the U.S. by road trip, seeing natural wonders of her native country.
With every place, she keeps a writing and sketch journal to capture everything in the moment. She feels it is key to attaining the essence of what makes a place so alive.