The vibrant, colorful and culturally rich city of New Orleans is a favorite among many travelers visiting the southern United States of America. The music, the food, the mix of languages, dialects and influences from across Europe, Africa and the Americas all combine to create an intense fusion that’s loved by visitors.
The city has its diverse roots based in a history that is not nearly as vibrant as the culture is today. An important part of a visit to eclectic New Orleans is to experience that history firsthand because surrounding the city, you can find the darker legacies of slavery in the plantations.
Although today they are beautiful estates to look at, within the grounds you will be able to explore the darker side of New Orleans that is usually hidden beneath the surface. Visit the plantations, enjoy the outdoors and the grand architecture, but learn too about the past that built New Orleans into the diverse destination you find today.
Here are the best plantation tours from New Orleans.
1. New Orleans Oak Alley Plantation Half-Day Tour
Oak Alley is one of the most famous plantations found along the Mississippi River. The historic plantation dates back to 1839 when it was built by one of the South’s richest landowners to add to his sugar empire.
The plantation takes its name from the extravagant line of trees found along the grand entranceway to the main house. These elegant trees grow over the top of the path, providing shade in the fierce heat for the long walk into the estate.
The house has featured in several movies and in many ways is the quintessential southern plantation, an example of riches and opulence that few other plantations could outdo. On this half-day tour, learn about southern culture during the slave era, from knowledgeable guides who won’t sugarcoat the truth.
2. Oak Alley and Laura Plantation Combo
This long tour takes you not only to the aforementioned Oak Alley plantation but also to the Laura Plantation, giving you the chance to experience two of the South’s most intriguing estates in the same trip.
After exploring the oak-lined avenues and grand opulence of Oak Alley, you are transported to the Laura Plantation. The restored house is a wonderful example of early 19th-century architecture in the south. Inside, you will find some intriguing relics from daily life that bring the history into perspective.
The Laura Plantation was relatively unique for the times; for a large part of its slaving history, it was run by women. At the plantation, learn about this and more on this combo tour from New Orleans.
3. Half Day Laura Plantation Tour
If you have plenty of time during your stay in New Orleans and would rather take things slow, join this tour that just takes in the Laura Plantation, rather than rushing through Oak Alley beforehand.
This half day tour will see you visiting the famous Laura Plantation. Your local guides can tell you stories of the women who ran the estate, and unfortunate stories of the slaves who lived their lives here too.
4. New Orleans: Oak Alley Plantation and Airboat Swamp Combo
On this great day tour from New Orleans, travel first to the famous Oak Alley Plantation to learn more about life and slavery in the Mississippi during the 19th century. After you’ve had your fair share of history, this tour takes visitors out into the swamps to experience another side of Louisiana.
The state is famed for its wildlife and unique ecosystems. On this tour, you head out on an iconic local airboat through the dense swamps of the Mississippi. Chances are that you will get close enough to see alligators in the wild, as the local guides know the areas and these dangerous animals well.
5. From New Orleans: Whitney Plantation Tour
For anyone with an interest in learning more about slavery in Louisiana during the 19th century, a visit to the Whitney Plantation is a must. Although many of the other plantations in the area touch upon the issue of slavery and the history that allowed such fabulous wealth into the south, few go into as much detail as the Whitney Plantation.
The Whitney Plantation only opened in 2014, but already, due to its unique confrontation of the darker side of the region’s history, it has become a popular tourist attraction. Privately funded by a local who wanted others to learn more about the state’s darker history, this is an impressive example of the slavery era – but it may leave you shocked.
The Big House – the centerpiece of the estate – is one of the best-preserved plantation houses in the United States, so much so that you may recognize it from many Hollywood movies set in the era – Django Unchained being one.
6. Louisiana Plantation and Swamp Boat Bayou Full Day Tour Combo
This excellent tour takes visitors on a full-day trip through the best of Louisiana. Start the day by visiting a plantation; you can choose between either the Oak Alley Plantation or the Laura Plantation, making this a perfect opportunity to mix and match between estates and the swamplands for those spending several days in the region.
After exploring your plantation of choice, head out into the wilds of the bayou to search for alligators and wildlife. The local guides on this tour will be on hand ready with intriguing stories of the people who have called the swamps home through Louisiana’s history, giving this trip a unique angle.
7. Double Plantation Tour
This tour will pick you up in New Orleans and take you out to the Mississippi, where you have a choice of visiting two of the major plantations in the region.
The Double Plantation Tour takes a full day but gives you the choice of visiting two out of the Oak Alley, Laura, and Whitney Plantations.
8. New Orleans: Plantation and Swamp Tour
This unique tour takes visitors to the little known Destrehan Plantation. Not quite as famous as the likes of Oak Alley, this plantation still dates far back to the end of the 18th century. It’s one of the oldest surviving estates in Louisiana that few people travel to, despite its well-preserved nature and intriguing history.
After exploring the Destrehan Plantation, head out to a nearby wildlife reserve for a cruise through the swamps.
9. New Orleans: Plantation Brunch and Swamp Tour
This tour takes you to both Oak Alley and Laura Plantation, before providing travelers with the opportunity to indulge in a delicious brunch on the grand estates.
Try local Cajun delicacies, including crawfish and local meats, before heading into the swamps to find alligators.
10. New Orleans Garden District Walking Tour
In New Orleans itself, this walking tour takes you through the Garden District to explore the history of what was once part of a huge plantation.
Stroll past the huge, grand colonial mansions and marvel at the wealth of the plantation owners that turned this into one of the most lavish areas in Americas.
11. Guided Tour: Garden District and Lafayette Cemetery
This interesting guided tour will show you the history of the Garden District. Local guides will tell you the stories of the plantation owners that built the district, before showing you the Lafayette Cemetery, where many of the most famous local characters were laid to rest.
12. New Orleans: Destrehan Plantation and Swamp Combo
After exploring the history of the Destrehan Plantation, this tour takes you out into the swamps of Louisiana. Not only are you looking for wildlife and alligators, but this tour will also take you to Indian burial mounds and the ruins of Cajun villages for a unique, historical perspective on the region’s indigenous culture.
13. Oak Alley and Evergreen Plantation Tour
As well as visiting well-known Oak Alley, this day tour from New Orleans takes you out to the incredibly well preserved Evergreen Plantation too.
Explore the house and the history of the slave owners and slaves who lived and worked here.
14. Myrtles Plantation Tour
Visit Myrtles Plantation from New Orleans on this tour that takes you to the charming grounds of a historic estate. The plantation dates back to 1796 and has seen its fair share of history and strange events over the centuries.
The house is said to be one of the country’s most haunted destinations. With the help of a local guide, you can learn exactly why it’s supposed to be so spooky.
15. Whitney Plantation and St Joseph Plantation History Tour
Delve into the darker side of Louisiana history with a tour that first takes in the Whitney Plantation before moving onto the St Joseph Plantation.
This is where the iconic movie 12 Years a Slave was filmed. With knowledgeable guides, you will see first-hand the troubled past of the region.