AAA Travel Tips / New Orleans: Off the Beaten Path

New Orleans: Off the Beaten Path

By AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
May 29, 2018
Listening to jazz in the French Quarter, dining on delicious Cajun and Creole cuisine, visiting historic sites—it’s easy to find fun things to do during your New Orleans vacation. However, if you’d like to take a break from the bustle of downtown, head west of the city and take in the beautiful scenery and history of the homes along Plantation Alley. Whether you’re interested in architecture, antiques or the history of the South and slavery in the years before and after the Civil War, you’ll find it all here. You won’t be able to tour them all in a day—there are plantations on both sides of the river and most are miles apart—so plan ahead by choosing two or three that best suit your interests. If you’re not driving, local tour operators offer a variety of packages.
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Destrehan Plantation
13034 River Rd.
(985) 764-8785
Destrehan Plantation, built in 1787, is one of the oldest plantations in the valley and one of the closest to the city. Costumed interpreters lead tours of the beautifully restored Greek Revival plantation house that sits amid 200-year-old live oaks. Tours include the Jefferson Room, which houses a document signed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and access to the 1811 Slave Revolt exhibit. Visitors can take a self-guiding tour of the grounds and participate in period demonstrations.
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Evergreen Plantation
4677 SR 18
(985) 497-3837
At the end of a long oak alley dripping with Spanish moss is the main house at Evergreen Plantation, one of eight Greek Revival homes on River Road. A working sugar cane plantation to this day, it has 37 buildings (including 22 slave cabins) that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site is featured on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail and was a filming location for the 2012 film “Django Unchained.”
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Houmas House Plantation and Gardens
40136 River Rd.
(225) 473-9380
The Houmas House Plantation and Gardens is a AAA GEM attraction where you can enjoy tours of the home and gardens, casual or fine dining and a relaxing stay at the Inn at Houmas House, a AAA Three Diamond property. Costumed guides conduct tours of the restored mansion, which is filled with early 19th-century antiques. Originally built in the Classical Revival style, the main house underwent numerous style alterations by its owners over the years. The decision was made by the current owner to retain the best features of the various periods.
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Laura: A Creole Plantation
2247 SR 18
(225) 265-7690
This AAA GEM attraction is a must-see for those seeking insight into the lives of the slaves who lived and worked on the plantations. Self-guiding tours are available for the newly opened exhibit, “From the Big House to Quarters: Slavery on Laura Plantation.” The site also offers a lesson in Creole history, featuring a tour based on Laura Locoul Gore’s “Memories of the Old Plantation Home.” The grounds feature authentic slave cabins as well as 12 buildings on the National Historic Register, including barns and overseers’ cottages.
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Nottoway Plantation
31025 SR 1
(225) 545-2730
Nottoway Plantation & Resort, a AAA GEM attraction as well as a AAA Four Diamond resort, is one of the grandest plantation homes, reputedly the South’s largest existing antebellum mansion. When completed in 1859, it was said to be the largest house in Louisiana at 53,000 square feet, with luxurious features such as gas lamps, indoor bathrooms with hot and cold running water, and an innovative servant call system using silver bells. Completely restored and furnished in period, Nottoway now offers a variety of accommodations for overnight stays. The AAA Three Diamond Mansion Restaurant serves Creole-inspired Louisiana cuisine.
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Oak Alley Plantation
3645 SR 18
(225) 265-2151
Named for the oak trees leading to the entrance, this AAA GEM attraction offers tours and exhibits offering insight into its history and operation as a sugar cane plantation, as well as the lives of the slaves who lived and labored here. Costumed guides lead tours of the Greek Revival mansion, whose interior has been restored and decorated with period furniture. The AAA Three Diamond Oak Alley Inn offers cottages for overnight stays, and its AAA Two Diamond restaurant, located in a 19th-century cottage, offers Cajun and Creole fare for breakfast and lunch.
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St. Joseph Plantation
3535 SR 18
(225) 265-4078
A working sugar plantation to this day, St. Joseph is owned and maintained by relatives of Joseph Waguespack, who purchased it in a post-Civil War sheriff’s sale. Most tours are guided by family members. The grounds feature slave cabins, a schoolhouse and a replica of a detached kitchen. The plantation has been used as a location in films including “Twelve Years a Slave” and TV productions including Oprah Winfrey’s “Queen Sugar.”
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San Francisco Plantation
2646 River Rd.
(985) 535-2341
The unique Steamboat Gothic mansion at San Francisco Plantation is a National Historic Landmark, featuring ceiling murals and a large collection of period antiques in its authentically restored interior. Guides in costume lead tours of the plantation house and outbuildings including an 1830s slave cabin and an 1840s schoolhouse.
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Whitney Plantation
5099 SR 18
(225) 265-3300
Whitney Plantation is the only plantation museum in Louisiana to focus on slavery, featuring artworks, exhibits, first-person narratives and restored buildings. The grounds include what is reputedly the oldest detached kitchen in Louisiana, slave cabins and a church. Exhibits include the Field of Angels, in memory of the 2,200 slave children who died in St. John the Baptist Parish. Throughout the plantation are 40 statues of slave children by artist Woodrow Nash. Whitney Plantation is only accessible through a guided tour, and advance ticket purchase is recommended.
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