Baton Rouge Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) encompasses Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Point Coupee, St. Helena, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes and is currently the largest metro area in Louisiana, with a 2005 pre-Hurricane Katrina population estimate of 729,000 persons and a 2006 population estimate of 779,000. The Metro area population grew by approximately 74,000 persons or 9.7% from 2000 to 2006. It is a relatively young population with a median age of 33.7 years (national median age is 36.3 years).
Baton Rouge is steeped in a colorful blend of cultures and traditions, which infuses every facet of life. The area offers a tremendous diversity of activities. Tennis, golf, recreation centers, public swimming pools, numerous parks, movie theaters, bowling alleys, roller skating and ice skating are all available. In addition, the local parks and recreation commission offers recreational classes for children, adults and seniors, as well as horseback riding, archery, a BMX raceway, an in-line skating velodrome, a skateboarding facility and dog parks. Boating, fishing, hiking and bike riding are also popular activities. The East Baton Rouge Parish library system is a great local resource for books, movies, music and special programs. Located centrally are a main library and 12 other branches.
There's always something going on in Baton Rouge's thriving downtown area. Located on the eastern banks of the Mississippi River, downtown Baton Rouge is a hub of governmental and commercial activity. The state capitol, the governor's office and a variety of state agencies are headquartered downtown, as are many other businesses and professional offices.
The Baton Rouge River Center attracts thousands each year to conventions, tradeshows, live performances and other events. Educational opportunities abound with significant historic buildings, such as the Old State Capitol Building and the Old Governor's Mansion, and museums such as the Louisiana Art and Science Museum and the USS Kidd and Nautical Center. The Shaw Center for the Arts draws many people downtown for art exhibits, live performances and rooftop dining.
On the weekends, downtown Baton Rouge takes on a more relaxed atmosphere, with a Saturday farmers' market and arts market. The downtown area is also a prime location for a variety of festivals, parades and free outdoor concerts throughout the year. Downtown continues to be a hot spot for development, with plans in the works for transforming a number of older buildings into a mix of residential, retail and commercial space.