If you’re looking for somewhere to visit in America when you planning a road trip, it might be worth a trip to the Deep South. It’s a place with a difficult history of segregation and violence but it’s also full of culture. There are several beautiful plantation homes to visit, each one in a unique yet recognizable style. No longer a symbol of oppression, these homes are often beautifully preserved and open to the public, so that you can admire the distinctly American architecture. We’ve got some top recommendations in our Top 10
Evergreen Plantion, Louisiana
Wander the beautiful grounds of the most intact plantation complex in the entire South. Evergreen Plantation has an astonishing 37 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, including 22 slave cabins in their original, double row configuration. In fact, Evergreen Plantation joins Mount Vernon and Gettysburg for having achieved the nation’s highest historic designation, and has been granted its exceptional landmark status for the plantation’s agricultural acreage.
The Evergreen Plantation tours include the main house as well as the complex’s remarkably preserved slave quarters and other dependencies. Dating back to 1790, the “Big House” began its existence as a raised Creole house, and was remodeled to its present form in 1832. The 90-minute tour emphasizes the plantation’s dependence on slave labor, as well as the labor of freed African-Americans later in its history that was necessary to operate such a multifaceted enterprise. With so many of its structures still intact, Evergreen Plantation offers visitors an outstanding representation of the plantation culture in Louisiana.
Step back in time to the antebellum South with a visit to Mobile, Alabama’s most popular attractions – the Historic Oakleigh House Museum!
A beautiful example of a pre-Civil War, southern home, the Historic Oakleigh House Museum in the Oakleigh Historic Complex is considered one of the rarest examples of Greek revival architecture in the United States.
Remarkably well preserved, much of the credit for its current state of repair falls to the families who have lived here and carefully adapted and preserved the home through the intervening decades.
Oakleigh is further unique in that it is one of the largest T-shaped homes in the state of Alabama, designed for cross-ventilation to help mitigate the region’s notorious subtropical humidity.
Beyond the architecture and grounds, one of the draws to Historic Oakleigh House is its vast collection of decorative and fine art, one of the largest in the South. The Oakleigh House collection contains over 1,000 artifacts hailing from between 1830-1900, including the Conning silver collection, Haviland Limoge china, and artworks by Sully, Heutis, and West.
Also on the Oakleigh Historic Complex are three other buildings of import: the Union Barracks, the Cox-Deasy Cottage, and the Minnie Mitchell Archives.
Tours of the Oakleigh Historic Complex are just as unique and fascinating as the home, itself. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy one during your vacation!
Step into the lost world of Laura Locoul Gore and her Créole family. Explore the museum. Tour the Big House. Walk the grounds. Stand in an authentic 1840s slave cabin. At Laura Plantation, you will enjoy a cultural tour experience unlike any other in the United States
Here, you will find the difference that exemplifies Creole Louisiana. Explore the rigors of 200 years of daily life, along with the sobering experience of slavery as it happened at one historic farm on the banks of the Mississippi River in the middle of New Orleans Plantation Country.
The house, surrounded by a high fence, served not only as office headquarters for business but as the site for all manner of social entertainment. The whole of the plantation was painted in a color code of ochre, red, green, mauve and gray, the same colors found on the manor house.
Approx. 400 ft. behind the house was a road, going south, perpendicular to the river, lined on both sides with slave cabins, facing the road and stretching a distance of 3.5 miles. This was always referred to as the “back” of the plantation, where enslaved laborers resided, distant from the area nearer the river, called the “front” and separated from the front by a high fence and muddy swale than ran parallel to the river. Each slave cabin held two families and each had a chicken house and/or pigpen and vegetable garden just outside the cabin.
The Wormsloe Historic Site was once the colonial estate of carpenter Noble Jones, who came to Georgia with James Oglethorpe in 1733. This former plantation is the site of the oldest standing structure in Savannah – the ruins of Jones’ tabby house, which was built in 1745. The land stayed with Jones, who took several roles in the colony and fought against the Spanish, until he died and continued with his descendants until the state acquired it in 1973.
This historic site is so beautiful that you’ll barely get through the gates before you have to stop and take a picture. Upon entering you’ll see two rows lined with huge live oaks with sweeping branches that create a spectacular mile-long archway over the road you’ll soon drive on!
A small fee will get you into this majestic estate, where you’ll find several photos stops and activities. Inside the museum, you can learn about the beginnings of Georgia and watch a 13-minute film about its founding by General Oglethorpe. It’s here that you’ll grab a map and choose whether or not you want to follow a costumed guide on the nature trails. There’s even a colonial life area on one of the trails, where demonstrators will dress like colonials and show what life was like back then during special events and other programs.
Several paths lead out to the waters of the Isle of Hope, where there are breaks in the trees and even docks to venture out on to get a great view. Jones’ 500-acre plantation was strategically located on the Skidaway Narrows to defend against Spanish ships. Any vessel that wanted to access Savannah from the southeast had to pass the watch station on Pigeon Island and Jones’ tabby house.
Whitney Plantation tells the story of slavery. The lives of the Haydel family at Habitation Haydel, as Whitney Plantation was originally known, are intertwined with the lives of the slaves they owned.
Whitney Plantation is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, on the historic River Road in St. John the Baptist Parish, less than an hour from New Orleans. Today, Whitney Plantation is the only plantation museum in Louisiana dedicated to understanding the facts of slavery. As a Site of Memory, with the focus on the lives of the slaves and their legacies, visitors can experience the world of an 1830’s sugar plantation through the eyes of the enslaved people who lived and worked here. During the 90-minute walking tour, visitors will gain a unique perspective on the lives of the enslaved people on a Louisiana sugar plantation, learning their stories through the real oral histories recorded by the Federal Writers’ Project during the Depression.
On the National Register of Historic Places, the site includes the last surviving example of a true French Creole Barn, what is believed to be the oldest detached kitchen in Louisiana, and the Big House, considered the earliest and best preserved raised Creole cottage in Louisiana, all built by slaves. With the original structures nestled in a working sugar cane field, visitors are sure to marvel at the authentic representation presented at Whitney.
Through these restored buildings, museum exhibits, memorial artwork and thousands of first-person slave narratives, Whitney Plantation gives a voice and respect to the slaves, who lived, worked, and died here.
Oak Alley Plantation
Perhaps the most photographed plantation in Louisiana, this home was built in 1839 and was originally named Bon Séjour (pleasant sojourn). But steamboat passengers traveling on the nearby Mississippi River had a different view of the property. Marveling at the quarter-mile avenue of 28 giant, live oaks leading up to the house, they dubbed it “Oak Alley.” From the moment you gaze up the tree-lined drive to the splendid Greek Revival style mansion, it is evident that Oak Alley Plantation is an extraordinary place. Step inside to gracious interiors that echo the romance of another era, where gleaming hardwood floors and shimmering chandeliers reflect both streams of sunlight, and the venerable history of this magnificent home. Oak Alley Plantation’s restaurant is housed in a 19th century cottage on the grounds, and offers a delicious menu of traditional Cajun and Creole dishes. Take advantage of Oak Alley Plantation’s location in the heart of New Orleans Plantation Country by making your stay here. The Bed & Breakfast cottages near the mansion offer the best of both worlds … a century-old, quiet setting equipped with modern comforts. Indeed, guests delight in taking leisurely strolls on the lush grounds or on the levee where they can watch the mighty Mississippi River roll by. And of course, Oak Alley Plantation weddings offer a fairy tale setting, and the home serves as an ideal venue for group functions and special events. You may have glimpsed this fabled plantation on screen, as it has appeared in several popular movies and television shows. The magnificence and allure of Oak Alley Plantation regularly draws celebrities and other VIPs who come to tour the plantation firsthand. And, there have even been some ghostly sightings by guides and staff members, as well as guests. So you never know who or what you might see at Oak Alley Plantation during your visit! Nowhere else in the South will you find a more spectacular setting. Bring your camera, and experience a bygone era at Oak Alley Plantation … the “Grande Dame” of the Great Louisiana River Road.
San Francisco Plantation
With its mélange of architectural designs, this ornate mansion offers a remarkable variation on the plantation styles commonly found along the Great River Road. From certain angles, San Francisco Plantation has been thought to resemble a variety of different structures, ranging from a Mississippi riverboat to a giant layer cake.
Built in 1854 by a wealthy sugar planter, this vividly-colored house is a spectacular creation of great ambition and unique inspiration. Nestled under centuries-old live oaks, San Francisco Plantation is furnished and decorated like no other plantation in the South. The home features world-renowned, hand-painted ceilings, faux marbre and faux bois throughout, and one of the finest antique collections in the country. Tour guides in period dress lead visitors through San Francisco Plantation’s 14 rooms filled with authentic furniture reflecting the plantation’s glorious heyday during the late 1850s, the time just prior to the War Between the States.
The grounds of San Francisco Plantation feature some historic outbuildings, such as an 1840s slave cabin, and a school house dating back to the 1830s. And in addition to its annual “Frisco Fest” Spring Garden & Craft Festival, this beautiful property can play host to a variety of private, special events. Wedding ceremonies and receptions, group dinners and other socials are regularly held at San Francisco Plantation, either on the verdant grounds under its majestic oaks, or inside the historic and spacious Sugar Mill Pavilion.
Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974, this opulent, colorful plantation is so distinctive that it inspired novelist Frances Parkinson Keyes to write “Steamboat Gothic,” a story about a family she imagined living there. Offering a unique blend of history and romance, make sure your trip to New Orleans Plantation Country includes a stop at San Francisco Plantation.
Located just 30 minutes from Downtown New Orleans and 10 minutes away from the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, no trip to this area would be complete without a visit to Destrehan Plantation. Established in 1787, Destrehan Plantation is the oldest documented plantation home in the Lower Mississippi Valley.
Costumed historical interpreters share the stories of the Destrehan family and the enslaved. who lived on the plantation. Destrehan Plantation’s history is associated with many notable people and events. Visitors can gaze upon an original document signed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The “Jefferson Document,” dated 1804, assigned the plantation owner, Jean Noel Destrehan, and a handful of other men to the Orleans Territorial Council. This council’s main purpose eased the cultural transition of the Orleans Territory into American representative democracy. In 1811 one of the largest slave revolts, known as the German coast Uprising, passed through the land. One of the three tribunals for this revolt was held on the gallery of Destrehan Plantation. During the Civil War, the Union Army seized the plantation and established the Rost Home Colony. This Freeman’s Bureau taught newly freed enslaved various trades so they could transition into a self-sufficient life. Guests can view the 1811 Slave REvolt Exhibit and the Rost Home Colony Exhibit in the Miller-Haydel Museum.
The plantation offers a period craft demonstration daily. Demonstrations include:
- Bousillage construction
- Indigo Dyeing
- African-American herbal remedies
- Historical carpentry, art and history of the tignon
- 18th and 19th Century Fashion
- Quilting and weaving.
Destrehan Plantation also hosts some of the areas most popular events like the Annual Fall Festival, which draws artists and craft vendors throughout the country. The event also offers delicious Creole and Cajun food, antiques, live music and special activities for the children.
Belle Meade Plantation
The rich story of Belle Meade comes alive as our period-dressed guides lead guests through the mansion and tell the exceptional and intimate stories of the various people that created Belle Meade Plantation. Throughout the 45-minute guided tour of the Greek-Revival Mansion, a century of the plantation’s history is told through the stories of the Harding-Jackson Family. Another perspective is offered in our Journey to Jubilee tour, an experience in which you will uncover the stories of those skilled laborers who contributed so much to the preeminence and renown of this estate. Additionally, explore and enjoy the rich history and nature of Belle Meade on a Guided Segway tour of our property. From the complimentary wine tastings to the newly refurbished ice cream and fudge shop, Belle Meade provides many activities for the entire family.
Come to Belle Meade Plantation to experience everything that is beautiful about the South. Guests are warmly invited to delve into the rich history of this lovely home and estate by taking part in a diverse list of both enjoyable and educational activities. This site is dedicated to the preservation of Tennessee’s Victorian architecture, history, and equestrian legacy. Visitors can enjoy tours, educational outreach programs, shopping, dining, wine tastings, weddings and other happenings knowing that their patronage supports the educational mission of Belle Meade Plantation.
Experience the history, beauty, enchantment and alluring fragrance of America’s last large-scale romantic-style garden where nature controls the garden’s design. Established in the 1670s, Magnolia is the ancestral home of the Drayton family. As the oldest plantation site on the Ashley River, Magnolia has earned the distinction as the oldest public garden in the United States. The Rev. John Grimké Drayton expanded the gardens in 1840s, opening them three decades later to steamboat passengers. As a result, Magnolia also enjoys being Charleston’s first tourist destination. Today, Magnolia carries on that tradition with 60 acres of gardens that bloom year-round. Renowned internationally, Magnolia’s historic camellia collection blooms in the winter and vibrant azaleas splash color in the spring. Open 365 days a year 8 am to 5:30 pm; call for Nov.-Feb. hours. Tour a pre-Revolutionary War plantation house. See local plants and fauna on a nature boat and nature train tours. Learn about the African-American contributions to Magnolia and Lowcountry South Carolina on an award-winning “Slavery to Freedom” cabin tour.
From Slavery to Freedom Tour: The Magnolia Cabin Project Tour is a 45 minute experience that discusses Magnolia’s unique street of slave cabins which were occupied well into the 20th century. These cabins have been carefully preserved and restored to document the full arc of African-American life at Magnolia Plantation. Each cabin reflects a different period of the African-American experience at Magnolia – from slavery to reconstruction and on through the 1920s and the Civil Rights era providing an extraordinary perspective.
A shuttle is provided to take visitors to the cabins and allow them to explore.
Even if you don’t partake in any of the additional tours and attractions, it wouldn’t be difficult to spend an entire day walking around the grounds and discovering everything that is included for free with admission. Whether you want to learn more about the history of early American plantations or you just want to see the beautiful gardens and the wildlife that lives in the area, this is an excellent opportunity to explore a visually stunning and historic estate.
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