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Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center 10503 North Oak Hills Parkway, Baton Rouge. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9-5; Sunday from 12-5. Cost is $1.50 for full-time students; $2.00 regular price.

Step into a nature reserve right off the bustling Bluebonnet Road, not far from the very suburban Mall of Louisiana! Tread quietly along the trails and you can spot turtles, frogs, herons, songbirds, colorful spiders, maybe even a raccoon or two. There are benches to sit on along the way. Take your journal, sketchpad, or camera, for you’re sure to feel inspired! You can bring your dog on special “Dog Days”: Call (225) 757-8905 for more information.

The Botanic Gardens at Independence Park 7950 Independence Blvd., Baton Rouge. Open everyday, 7am to sundown. FREE!

Experience some beauty in the middle of your day by getting away from campus and strolling through the Botanic Gardens amidst roses, Louisiana irises, and many other local flora. Take a picnic lunch and one of your course texts for quiet study. If apartment living leaves you longing to get some dirt under you nails, look into volunteering opportunities: Call (225) 928-2270.

BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo 3601 Thomas Rd., Baton Rouge (near the airport). Open weekdays from 9:30am-5pm; weekends 9:30am-6 pm. Regular cost is $6.00.

Lions, and tigers, and bears, and otters, and flamingos, oh my! Take some friends to the zoo and remind yourselves of the wondrous diversity of species that exists in the wider world! It’s also another venue that offers a lot of great volunteering opportunities.

Highland Road Park Observatory 13800 Highland Rd., Baton Rouge. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11am until 3pm; Fridays and Saturdays are open too and feature special programs. FREE!

See the stars! Make your Friday night special by going to the observatory for a lecture followed by night sky viewing with high-powered telescopes. Every other Saturday the observatory sponsors noontime solar viewing.

Hilltop Arboretum 11855 Highland Road. Open 7 days a week during daylight hours. FREE!

Retreat from the hectic pace of grad school life by visiting this beautiful natural refuge. Stroll the pathways among splendid native trees and other plants. The paths wind beside ravens, a bamboo grove, and a grassy meadow.

City Community Park Just a little ways off campus and you’re in this spacious community green space! Take your dog to the dog park, walk or jog the trails, fish in the lakes, have a picnic, play tennis or basketball. Golf at the Historic City Park Golf Course; fees run from $6-$10, depending on time of day and week. The Baton Rouge Gallery is located on park grounds too, and it is FREE!

Alligator Bayou 35019 Alligator Bayou Rd, Prairieville, LA. Call for prices and for reservations (required): (225) 677-8297.

Drive just fifteen minutes outside of Baton Rouge and take an eco-swamp tour on Alligator Bayou. You’ll learn about the rich ecological diversity of the 17,000 acre Spanish Lake Basin. You’ll likely to see alligators, turtles, egrets, herons, hawks, cormorants, nutria, and majestic cypress trees. On land, visit the alligator snapping turtle pond and a habitat of rescued bobcats. Take a look inside the Cajun Heritage Museum, and even stay overnight in one of the Cajun cottages!

Louisiana Earth Day A one-day yearly event held every April in downtown Baton Rouge. FREE attendance. (Keep your eye on the Website for the upcoming April 2009 schedule.)

Coming in April 2009 will be the 20th annual Louisiana Earth Day celebration, one of the largest environmental festivals in the country. It offers a variety of enjoyable activities and exhibits with the focus on preserving and appreciating the earth and its flora and fauna. The day kicks off with the All-Species Parade which showcases paraders dressed as native Louisiana plants and animals. Great Louisiana musicians play their tunes on multiple stages from beginning to end of the celebration!

Blue Bayou Water Park & Dixie Landin’ Amusement Park 18142 Perkins Rd E., Baton Rouge. Cost: $34.95 includes admission to both parks; $12.95 after 6pm to Dixie Landin’ only.

Get totally away from research paper stress and be a kid again for the day! Have wild fun on the exciting water slides of Blue Bayou Water Park, and then dry off while playing games and eating tasty fair food at Dixie Landin’. Dixie Landin’ also has the Ragin’ Cajun roller coaster (which features a drop from 14 stories high) plus more than a dozen other rides for you to experience. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

The Mississippi River While you're downtown taking in the Red Stick Farmers Market, the LSU Museum of Art, and the Old State Capitol, make sure you walk on over and take a good look at the majestic Mississippi River! Take in the vast expanse of sky, bridge, boats, glistening water, and breath in that ole fresh Mississippi River air!