The Great Dame of the River Road, visiting Oak Alley Plantation is like stepping into another world. Filled with intrigue and mystery. From the road, it will take your breath away. Walking inside will have you in disbelief you could ever stand in some places as grand as it is. It is this reason I had to visit, not once but twice!
Like with most of my adventures, I find myself starting out in a major tourist destination but quickly getting right out of town. My recent trip to New Orleans found me doing just the same and Oak Alley Plantation was first on my list.
Oak Alley Plantation
This is one of the most photographed plantations in all of Louisiana and for good reason. From the exterior design to stunning Oaks trees lining the front. The house represented all that it meant to live in a wealthy plantation in the south. You might recognize it for its stints on movies like Primary Colors and Interview with the Vampire.
The home was built between 1837-1839. The house was for Jacques and Celina Roman. Celina liked to entertain and wanted a home that would impress her guests. As the big house on a sugar plantation, it has one of the most stunning views ever created. Unfortunately, the family liked to live outside their means and their debts caught up to them. The family owned it until 1866 when it was sold at auction. The place went into disrepair. That was until 1920 when Andrew and Josephine Steward, two wealthy cattle ranchers purchased the property. They restored the property to its original state. In 1972 Josephine left the property into a foundation that continues to run the plantation. She wanted to ensure that the plantation would remain open to the public for years to come.
Oak Alley Grounds
Driving up the first thing you will notice is the 300-year oak trees. These were planted before the house was built but still manage to frame the house perfectly. The trees have a lifespan of up to 600 years, so they will be around for many years to come. One thing you’ll notice about the trees is the lack of Spanish Moss. You’ll find the moss adorning all the other oaks in the area, but for some reason, they don’t like these trees. During the filming of Interview with the Vampire, it had to be added on by the set designers.
The gardens were brought to life by Josephine during the restoration on the house. She subscribed to every home and garden magazine she could get her hands on to help get ideas for its design. It paid off because they are amazing.
In addition to the landscaping, the grounds also hold a few different exhibits. First is a slavery exhibit. The house was built with the help of many of the slaves and they worked the land. They have a series of buildings that depicted their lives. The buildings are not original to plantation but do a good job showing what the living conditions were like. Made in the same manner they were original. The plantation held over 100 salves on site and they have records of each one on display.
Sugarcane was the original crop grown on the ground here; they have an old sugar shake. Inside you can learn more about the sugar industry. Right next door is a Civil War camp set up.
The House Tour
The house is adorned with Greek-style columns outside and huge balcony circling the exterior of the house. The house and lifestyle is something straight out of Gone with Wind or North and South. While there are many plantations on the river road, only a few to feature this grand of a design.
Inside your tour guides are dressed in Annabella costumes. They will take you on an adventure through the house explaining how each room was used. They focus more on the lifestyle of the residents that lived here, rather than the nature of their business. My favorite rooms were the dining room and the bedrooms. For me, the most exciting part was getting to go outside on the balcony to look at ‘Oak Alley’ from above. Living there would have been something. The tour takes about an hour and includes both floors of the mansion.
Hollywoods Love Affair
After just a little bit of time there and you’ll understand why this is such a sought-after filming location. The attention to detail and historical accuracy make it a movie producers dream. Some of the films shot here include Midnight Bayou, Hush Hush Sweet Charlot, Night Rider, Days of Our Lives, Long Hot Summer, Primary Colors and Interview with a Vampire.
Tips for Visiting Oak Alley Plantation
Arrive early. This is one of the most popular plantations on the river road. The tour buses drop off people in the masses, meaning you may have to wait a while to get into the home tour.
The first tour of the day is the best and easiest to get into. Plus you won’t have to deal with the Louisana heat! If you really want a more relaxing visit, think about spending the night at their bed-and-breakfast. This way you’ll get the opportunity to be on the grounds for sunrise and sunset!
Spend some time enjoying the grounds. They draw people from all different cultures. Which makes for some entering reactions to things you might think as common. One visitor just couldn’t get over the size of the squirrels. It really makes me wonder where she’s from.
If you decide to go with an organized tour through New Orleans, their fees usually cover the transportation and ticket costs of the plantations. You can also drive directly to the plantations and make your own tour. I’ve done the trip both ways. I found that by going with a tour group, we were able to get in the house quicker. But in the end, I prefer to drive, just because you’ll get a little more time at each destination. It also gives you the chance to see the backroads of Lousiana.
I had so much fun getting to visit this plantation on a girls getaway that I decided to make a return trip out there with my husband the following year. There is just so much to see do and photograph, you will have a great time!
*Thank you to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau for providing us with admission to the plantation. As always, my opinions are my own.
Plan Your Trip: Oak Alley Plantation
Location: Vacherie Louisiana
November – February: 9am – 4:30 Monday-Friday & 9am – 5pm on Saturday/Sunday
March – October: 9am – 5pm daily
Cost: $22 Adults, $8 Youth 13-18, $5 Children 6-12, and 5 and under are Free
Recommended Reads: Vestiges of Grandeur: Plantations of Louisiana’s River Road
Other Reads: Houmas House | A Haunting Tale