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New Orleans has a unique history — a gumbo of nationalities settling a port city — but a snapshot of the antebellum South lies just upriver from the Big Easy in a region known as New Orleans Plantation Country.
There are numerous historic homes in the 120-mile corridor from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, including the St. Joseph working sugar plantation seen on the television series “Queen Sugar”; Oak Alley, with its widely photographed avenue of trees; and the unique steamboat gothic San Francisco Plantation.
During a day trip out of New Orleans to Baton Rouge, groups can easily visit a plantation or two, obtain a Louisiana culinary education and enjoy a swamp tour. For those who want to slowly enjoy the winding River Road between the two cities, accommodations vary, from plantation cottages to bed-and-breakfasts in historic Donaldsonville.
A great way to experience a little of everything the “River Parishes” have to offer is to visit a few plantations and stop at Spuddy’s Cajun Foods in Vacherie for a lesson in making andouille sausage, according to Buddy Boe, executive director of the River Parishes Tourist Commission. The sausage of French and German heritage is used in many Cajun and Creole dishes, but its Louisiana origin lies in St. John the Baptist Parish.
“The visit adds a different layer to a trip,” Boe said. “Andouilles are all flavored differently in the River Parishes, and Spuddy’s adds a culinary history lesson to the visual history of the plantations.”
Boe recommends two plantation visits and a food experience; the choice of plantations depends on the group’s interests. For those who relish architecture, gardening and pop culture, there are several plantations that showcase such beauty and that have been portrayed in films and on television. To learn about the experience of African-Americans, Laura and Whitney plantations provide a history of slavery, while Evergreen Plantation contains 22 former slave cabins.
On the ride back to New Orleans, Boe recommends visiting the historic Riverlands Christian Center, the first Catholic church built in Louisiana for African-Americans. Among its exhibits is “Soul River,” which showcases the impact that African-Americans have had on American music.
“Visitors get to see the next chapter of the African-American experience and how it affected our music and culture,” Boe said.
In addition to plantation visits, there are numerous ways to see the wetlands and bayous surrounding New Orleans. Cajun Pride Swamp Tours offers pontoon tours and is conveniently accessed off Interstate 10, while kayakers may prefer Wild Louisiana Tours.
A good stop for tour groups is at the Sorrento exit off I-10 in Ascension Parish, about halfway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Several historical Cajun homes have been brought together to form Cajun Village, which features accommodations, shops and eateries, notes Tracy Browning of the Ascension Parish Tourism Commission.
The village includes two resident alligators, kitchen and pottery stores selling Louisiana products and a coffee shop where “you can get coffee and beignets any time of the day,” Browning said.
Just down the road from Cajun Village lies the “Jewel of the River Road,” the lovingly restored Houmas House Plantation and Gardens. Visitors can tour the vast house and gardens and enjoy its several dining options. For those who wish to spend more than a day in Plantation Country, Houmas House offers luxury cottages and dinner at Latil’s Landing Restaurant inside the oldest section of the home.
The DetailsNew Orleans Plantation Countrywww.visitnopc.com