How to Tour Louisiana's River Road Plantations

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In the decades prior to the Civil War, the Mississippi River served as a super-highway for the planters of southern Louisiana, providing transport for goods, services and visitors. Still, a network of roads snaked along the landward side behind the plantations. This route is now generally known as the River Road, and if you stay on or near it you can see many of the remaining plantation houses quite easily. This will cover plantations between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

  • Start in New Orleans and proceed up to the town of Destrehan and Destrehan plantation. The Creole-style house was built between 1787 and 1790, and is open daily from 9am to 4pm. Admission is charged. Craft and cooking demonstrations are regularly given on site. The plantation was used as a location in the filming of "Interview with the Vampire."

  • Get back on the road and head next to Garyville, home of San Francisco Plantation. This is not a typical white-columned mansion. The style's been best-described as "Steamboat Gothic," and indeed even inspired a novel of that title. The house is open from April to October at 9:30am, with the last tour starting at 4:40pm, and from November to March from 9am, with the last tour starting at 4pm. Admission is charged.

  • Proceed next to Burnside, and from there to Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow. The house is in the Greek Revival style, surrounded by a gallery of columns and topped by a belvedere. If the house looks vaguely familiar to you, that may be because the Bette Davis movie "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte" was filmed here. There are extensive gardens on the property as well as a restaurant and café. The house is open on Monday and Tuesday from 9am to 5pm and Wednesday to Sunday from 9am until 8pm. Night tours are given from Wednesday through Sunday. It's closed January 1 and December 25. Admission is charged.

  • Drive straight to Baton Rouge, and on the west side right before the Mississippi River look for Magnolia Mound Plantation. This Creole-style house and its attendant outbuildings are outfitted to represent the 1800 to 1820s period. The house is open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm, with the last tour starting at 3pm. Admission is charged.

  • Backtrack and cross the river, then turn south and pass through Plaquemine. Seven miles south of Plaquemine, you'll see Nottoway. With 64 rooms spread over 53,000 square feet, Nottoway is the largest plantation house in Louisiana. It's open as a wedding venue and as a bed and breakfast. There's also a restaurant on the premises. the house is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission is charged.

  • Continue down to Donaldsonville and then North Vacherie, where you'll find Oak Alley Plantation. Oak Alley is the archetypical antebellum Southern mansion. From the Mississippi River two rows of live oaks--28 total--stretch up to the house, which is surrounded in turn by 28 columns. The house has appeared in numerous movies. There's a restaurant on the premises as well as bed-and-breakfast cottages. Like many Louisiana plantations, Oak Alley can be rented for weddings. The grounds open at 9am, while guided tours of the house are given Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Admission is charged.

  • Finish by going back through North Vacherie and then Vacherie itself to Laura: A Creole Plantation. Consisting of several houses, outbuildings and slave cabins, the guided tour at Laura presents the story of seven generations of owners and is tied to numerous family documents, as well as the memoirs of owner Laura Locoul Gore. The plantation was run for four generations by women, and so that interesting situation is examined on the tour. The overall intent is to present plantation life from all possible perspectives. Tours are given daily at 10am, 11:15am, 12:30pm, 1:45pm, 3pm and 4pm. Admission is charged.

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