Louisiana is without a doubt a must-see destination in the USA. It's of course less well-known than the American West, Florida, or New York, but it's a region that has plenty to offer! States in the American South feature highly authentic experiences as well as the chance to dive into U.S. history: bayous along the Mississippi, the birthplace of jazz, large plantations—in short, plenty to discover on a road trip!
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Days 1 to 5:
Our first days were dedicated to seeing the famous city of New Orleans! This charming city is a dream destination for tourists from around the world. It's best to plan for at least half a day in the French Quarter; check it out in the morning for a calmer ambience or in the evening if you want to see the nightlife scene. Take some time to admire the fantastic architecture in the “Vieux Carré,” especially along Bourbon Street and Royal Street. You can also spend the evening in a bar with live jazz music, a wonderful and unique experience!
The Saint Louis Cemetery warrants a quick visit. Another must-see neighborhood is the garden district with its beautiful opulent homes—they're absolutely superb!
On this day, we picked up our car and began our road trip through Louisiana! After an hour of driving, we arrived at the Whitney Plantation, which focuses on the lives of the slaves who were once held there. It was a very instructive and original visit. We continued with the Laura Plantation, where we went on a guided tour in French to explore the lives of the family and slaves who lived there. An eye-opener on a disgraceful time in American history! We then headed to the Oak Alley Plantation, certainly one of the most famous with its beautiful lane bordered by centuries-old oak trees.
For a total immersion experience, you can stay on this plantation in one of several charming little cottages. There's no restaurant on site for dinner, but the staff prepares everything in advance so that guests feel at home.
As soon as it opened at 9 am, we took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Oak Alley Plantation, including the beautiful house and surrounding estate. We continued with the Houmas Plantation, another must-see site, thanks especially to the tour featuring guides in period costumes. We continued to Baton Rouge, a city without much to see but which served as an excellent stopping point after visiting a few plantations.
We took the road toward Natchez, stopping briefly at St. Francisville along the way. The small town of Natchez is famous for its beautiful homes lining the Mississippi River, some of which have been perfectly preserved and restored. You absolutely can't miss the Longwood Mansion, where you can learn all about the riches (and ruin) or the families that owned plantations. We finished our tour with a visit to the Rosalie Mansion and Stanton Hall.
After 2.5 hours of driving, we arrived in Natchitoches. (Along the way, we stopped at the famous Frogmore plantation, which is still operational.) This adorable little village transported us to another era in U.S. history. Magnolia Plantation and Oakland Plantation, both located near the village, are absolutely worth a visit!
Upon leaving Natchitoches, don't miss the chance to check out Melrose Plantation, with one of the best informational tours in the region. We learned about the history of this plantation since its construction, all the way up to its very recent reception of several artists-in-residence. Next, we arrived in Lafayette, the perfect place to stay for two nights and use as a base for visiting the area. In the afternoon, we visited Vermilionville, a reconstituted Acadian village that allowed us to learn about their way of life.
The following morning, we checked out the region surrounding Lafayette. Don't miss the chance to take a boat trip across Lake Martin. During a two-hour excursion, you can discover the typical flora and fauna from the region, especially alligators. In the evening, check out a “Fais do-do” Cajun dance party to learn more about the culture!
We headed toward New Iberia, with plenty to see along the way; we came across the Shadows on the Teche plantation as well as Avery Island, where the Tabasco factory and Jungle Gardens are located. Our visit to the factory was very instructive and well-organized, while our trip to the gardens was a wonderful opportunity to explore in our car, stopping at different points of interest.
On this day, we explored the area surrounding Houma. If the weather prevents you from visiting Lake Martin, you can seize a second opportunity to discover the bayous by boat here!
We returned to New Orleans, said our last goodbyes, and then headed back to France.
And what about luxury experiences?
- There are plenty of charming places to stay along the way, but you won't find the same level of luxury hospitality that you might see in New Orleans, with its many luxury chains (such as the Ritz Carlton). For example, you can choose to sleep at certain plantations in very attractive accommodations.
- This itinerary is best for an independent road trip, as each of the stops are rather short.
About Florence Consul
Editor of Experiences Luxe since 2015, I love discovering new exclusive and authentic experiences all over the world. I left my home country (France) 6 years ago to become a global citizen, traveling 365 days out of the year. I am a foodie person and I make a point of tasting local specialities.