New Orleans, a city like no other in the world! New Orleans is full of life with its fabulous food scene, great music venues, amazing architecture, and festivals galore. I guess that is why New Orleans continually makes the list of best places to visit in the U.S.A.
After doing all of the things you must do in New Orleans, then be sure that you take some time to explore the area surrounding the Big Easy by visiting some of the New Orleans plantations.
The New Orleans that appears before you today is not the New Orleans that has always existed. Back when sugar cane was king in this area, New Orleans was actually very different.
Originally home to more millionaires than any other city in the United States, New Orleans was the place to be if you were involved in the sugar cane industry.
A short drive from New Orleans is River Road, where the plantation owners chose to call home. River Road is where visitors will find the majority of the New Orleans plantations.
Each plantation offers its own snapshot into the agrarian history of its home, allowing visitors to have a unique experience at each plantation. It is interesting to note that these homes were not dependent on cotton as most people associate plantation life with, no they were sugar barons, making their money off of sugar cane production.
In our opinion, visiting the New Orleans plantations carries mixed emotions.
On one hand, the architecture lovers in us love touring these majestic homes.
On the other hand, we are well aware of the sobering history of the brutality and dehumanization that was slavery in America. With that, we tackle this blog post humbly and honorable in respect to the American people that were so horribly treated during this era.
While this is not a bright spot in American history, it is actually one of the darkest in our opinion; it is part of the history of the United States.
We have toured several of the plantations around New Orleans and felt that each told their story honestly and honorable based on the historical documentation associated with their home.
Honestly, even if you only have 2 days in New Orleans, you might still add this onto your list of things to do.
*This post contains affiliate links. By purchasing through these links, we get a small commission at no additional cost to you. That Texas Couple is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Planning Your Visit to the New Orleans Plantations
While planning your visit to the New Orleans plantations, you can choose to self-drive, or arrange a guided tour.
If you are choosing to create your own self-driving tour, be sure to check the opening days and times of each plantation that you would like to visit. We have found that you can do 2-3 plantations in one day, depending on the distance between the plantations you choose.
We found that we spent about 2-3 hours at each plantation by the time we participated in their guided tour and then spent some time taking photographs and exploring the grounds on our own. The exception to this was our overnight stay at Houmas House, which I highly recommend.
Keep in mind that the majority of the plantations give tours on the hour, so factor that into your time as well. If you arrive at 11:05, then you might be waiting until 12:00 or even 1:00 for the next tour.
During the peak season, you may want to call the plantation and see if they take reservations or will add your name to the tour list if there is a certain time that you need. If the tours fill up, and you are not on the list, you will have to wait for the next one.
Of course, if you are choosing to take a guided tour, then the tour operator will take care of all of this for you. You just need to show up, sit back, and relax. Here are some of the tours we recommend:
New Orleans Plantations to Visit
Oak Alley Plantation
Probably one of the best known New Orleans plantations is Oak Alley Plantation. Located about one hour outside of New Orleans, Oak Alley is known for its beautiful tree lined entry way that is made up of 28 towering oak trees that canopy over the walkway inviting you to come into the majestic home.
It was interesting to find out that these oak trees were actually here before the present house was even built! I had no idea as they look like they were planted to perfectly frame this beautiful home.
A visit to Oak Alley is truly a unique experience. We strolled through the perfectly manicured gardens around the home before joining our tour group to explore the interior.
Inside the home, you are greeted with a square style floor plan that is centered around a central hall. The furnishing throughout the home are antique and show what life would have been like for the wealthy plantation owners.
The Greek Revival style mansion was originally completed in 1839 and has undergone a couple of renovations since that time.
After touring the home, we enjoyed a nice mint julep under the shade of the beautiful oak trees before seeing the slave exhibit.
The beautiful home and the all of the grounds that you have toured would not be here today with the slave labor that constructed them. The slavery exhibit at Oak Alley is a self-guided exhibit that tells the story of the men, women, and children who were enslaved here at Oak Alley.
The most notable of these enslaved people were Antoine, the gardener. Antoine was a fabulous gardener and expert crafter of pecan trees. Antoine is given credit for grafting the “paper shell pecan” tree, a tree that produces a pecan with a shell that you can crack with your bare hands.
I have to be honest, the slave exhibit at every plantation we have ever visited has made me cry, and Oak Alley is no exception. I was glad to see that a portion of the slave exhibit was dedicated to life after emancipation.
Overall, Oak Alley was an incredible experience that Marty and I both thoroughly enjoyed. The grounds and home are beautiful, so if you are into photography like us, then you should allow about 3-4 hours for your visit to Oak Alley.
At the time of publishing this article, Oak Alley Plantation is open daily 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Guided tours of the plantation home begin at 9:30 am and end at 5:00 pm with groups of 40 of less.
Please visit Oak Alley’s website to ensure that this information is still accurate and to check admission prices.
If you would like to book a guided tour to Oak Alley Plantation, then consider this tour that includes Oak Alley and Laura Plantation, or this tour that includes Oak Alley Plantation and a swamp boat tour!
Houmas House Plantation and Gardens
One of our favorite New Orleans Plantations that we have visited is Houmas House Plantation and Gardens. Currently known as Houmas House, the plantation was actually Burnside Plantation which was established in the late 1700s.
The plantation once spanned over 12,000 acres with 35 of those acres fronting the Mississippi River, most of which was used for sugar cane farming.
Today, you no longer have the view of the flowing Mississippi as 20-foot tall dikes have been built to control flooding from the river. Despite that, Houmas House is still breathtaking.
Nicknamed the “Sugar Palace”, Houmas House was once the largest sugar cane producer in the country! Take note though, the house you see before you today has not always been the home on the property.
When you take a tour they will tell you all of the history and you will get to see the original house as well.
The exterior of the home and grounds is like any other we have ever seen. There are incredible fountains, statues, and even a Monet inspired bridge and garden. The home itself is made up of beautiful grand columns and gorgeous fully restored Belvedere.
You will also notice the twin garcionierre houses framing the big house on either side. their unique hexagon shape grabbed my attention immediately. I just loved them!
Inside, Houmas House will delight you with beautiful murals, an incredible staircase, and countless antiques. One antique particularly caught our attention, a gorgeous French mantle clock that has been traced back to Napolean and Marie Antoinette!
A highlight of the tour for many visitors is a visit the Betty Davis room. This is the room that Betty Davis slept in during the filming of Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte.
Do not leave Houmas House without taking time to tour the gardens . Modern-day Houmas House sits on 38 acres with a large portion of that perfectly manicured and awaiting visitors. There are little surprises everywhere and the gardens change with the seasons.
Look for the graceful swans swimming in the pond before taking note of the 500+-year-old oak tree, the Burnside Oak.
Once you’re tour is complete, you are likely going to be hungry, so have a pre-meal cocktail inside one of the garcionierre houses that is now the Duck Bar. After your cocktail, indulge in some food at the plantation.
They have Latil’s Landing Restuarant, The Carriage House Restaurant, and Cafe Burnside that offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner in both elegant and casual atmospheres.
If you really want an amazing experience, then stay in the Houmas House Inn. This fabulous inn in actually made up of several cottages on the property. The cottages were built by the current owner, Kevin Kelly, to replicate the structure of old plantation life.
Surrounded by beautiful oak trees, each with their own porch and rocking chair, these cottages won’t disappoint. Marty and I had the please of staying at Houmas House Inn and had an unforgettable experience. You can read all about our great experience and see some of Marty’s fabulous pictures here.
At the time of publishing, Houmas House offers guided mansion tours from 9:30 am until 7:00 pm. Be sure and check Houma’s House website for current hours, ticket prices, and to make reservations at their restaurant.
Honestly, a visit to Houmas House has to be on your New Orleans plantations list! It is fabulous!! Consider this tour if you would like to go with a tour group instead of on your own.
Evergreen Plantation is said to be the most intact of all of the Louisiana Plantation, containing 37 building, 22 of which are the original slave cabins.
Not only is Evergreen Plantation on the National Registry of Historic Places, but it has also earned itself the highest historical designation possible, being granted landmark status along with Gettysburg and Mount Vernon. That alone should have it on your list of New Orleans plantations to visit.
After paying for you tour inside of the little house on the edge of the property, be sure and explore the small museum located in the same building to learn some of the history of the home and plantation.
Once your guide is ready, you will follow them through a beautiful tree-lined drive up toward the main house. Upon arrival at the main house, you might notice some slave cabins right behind the main house, these were used to film the movie Roots and are not the original cabins.
The property includes the big house, two pigeonniers, two garconieries, a kitchen, a guesthouse, and a privy. The beautiful main house has undergone some transformations since it was originally built as a Creole farmhouse in 1790.
The Greek Revival style that you see before you today is not original. There are pictures of the original house in the little museum where you buy your tour tickets.
There is no photography allowed inside of Evergreen Plantation so you just have to take a tour to see the beautiful antiques of the home.
After touring the main house, you are taken to the slave quarters that still sit in their original location. The towering oaks covered in Spanish moss seem to put a protective canopy over these historic structures.
Of course, the cabins have had to undergo maintenance and repair, but overall the owners have worked hard to preserve their integrity and originality.
Even though there were not many documents regarding the daily lives of the slave on Evergreen Plantation, there is definitive evidence that there were slave families here. I felt a quiet somberness while visiting this area.
A heavy sadness fell over me as my heart broke for the men, women, and children who suffered this horrible atrocity. At one point I had to remove myself from the group to try and take a moment to process all of the heavy emotions I was feeling.
Please read more about our experience at Evergreen Plantation here.
The tour of Evergreen Plantation lasted about 1.5 hours. At the time of publication, Evergreen Plantation is open Monday-Saturday with tours at 9:30 am, 11:15 am, 1:00 pm and 2:45 pm, so plan accordingly.
Be sure and check their website for updated times and prices.
Since Destrehan Plantation is the oldest documented plantation home in the lower Mississippi Valley, we had to add it to our list of New Orleans Plantations to visit. Established in 1787 and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, Destrehan is a unique type of plantation home.
This gorgeous Antebellum Home contains so much history, making it a great tour. While touring the home, visitors are treated to numerous historical artifacts including an original document signed by President Thomas Jefferson.
Home to one of the most prestigious sugar barons of this time, Jean-Noel Destrehan, the plantation house is full of historic antiques belonging to the family.
The guides do an excellent job of telling visitors about the history of the home and plantation owners as well as the lives of the 210 slaves that lived on this property.
This history lesson included the Slave Revolt of 1811, one of the largest slave revolts in U.S. history. During the Civil War, the Union Army seized the plantation and turned it into a colony where newly freed slaves could come and learn trades.
Throughout the property, visitors are treated to other buildings including a school, slave cabins, and a museum. Destrehan also has live demonstrations including history and talks about the slave revolt, 17th and 18th century fashion, and bousillage.
Tours are offered seven days a week from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and take approximately 45 minutes. Please check their website for up to date times and ticket prices.
Final Thoughts on Visiting the New Orleans Plantations
Marty and I are true history lovers and we strongly believe that you have to learn about the history of an area to truly understand the culture.
Although these are the only New Orleans Plantations we have visited thus far, we have several more on our list that we plan to include on future trips to New Orleans.
We feel that each of the plantations we visited did an excellent job of balancing the history of their home with the tragic history and their association with American slavery, educating future generations so that we never fall into a horrible history like that again.
Read More About New Orleans With These Posts
Like this post? Please Pin It or share to your favorite social media!
About the Author
Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. While she is a professional educator by day, her passion for travel has her jet-setting all over the world during her free time.
Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blog, That Texas Couple. Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region. She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.