Baton Rouge is sometimes overshadowed by neighboring metropolis New Orleans, but that doesn’t seem to bother any of its residents. At merely an hour's drive from the world-famous Mardi Gras epicenter, Baton Rouge offers easy access to the city while maintaining its quaint-yet-thriving vibe. Indeed, Baton Rouge, the capital city of Louisiana, is ideal for those young professionals and families looking to put down roots, thanks to its booming job and housing market, quiet neighborhoods and status as a low-tax state. Cost of living is also a major perk, with the area considered a serious bargain when held up to other major cities. Baton Rouge homes for sale are currently listed at an ultra-affordable median price of $207,000. Homes for sale in Baton Rouge can be found in popular neighborhoods like high-end Bocage, family friendly Broadmoor and the historic Garden District.

The name Baton Rouge (literal translation: “red stick”) was so dubbed when French explorers spotted a red cypress tree along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. Centuries later, French, Cajun and creole influences can still be felt, most notably in the region’s singular cuisine. Jambalaya, po’ boys and gumbo are traditional favorites, but don’t be afraid to dine outside the box by trying some other authentic fare, like crawdad tails and cheese grits. A visit to the city would not be complete without a tour of the 900-acre Magnolia Mound, a circa-1791 plantation house that through tours and educational offerings depicts the way of life enjoyed and influenced by southern Louisiana's earliest settlers.

Although places of historic significance abound in Baton Rouge, residents also know how to kick back and have fun. Newcomers are likely to become fans of the renowned Louisiana State University (LSU), which calls Baton Rouge home. The riverfront casino is also a hot spot for revelers, as is the annual “Wearin’ of the Green” St. Patrick’s Day parade and music festival. Local historic district Spanish Town also hosts an epic Mardi Gras parade that rivals those held in New Orleans, but without the hassle of a drive! And “swamp tours,” which promise sightings of alligators, wading birds and moss-covered cypress trees, is the best way to get acquainted with the city’s unique landscape and wildlife.