The complexities of plantation tourism cannot be denied; however, they attract thousands of visitors every year. From history lovers, engaged individuals looking for ideal wedding locations, or anyone who wants to enjoy the seemingly endless nature. Plantations are characterized by beautiful neoclassical mansions, eye-watering alleys, and they stand on acres of lush farmland.
Some famous Southern plantation houses have been featured in movies, and you cannot deny how incredible they look. The plantation system began in the early 17th century after the British were offered large tracts of land for making it to the US after a grueling journey. Most of the settlers inhabited the South, where they combined their vast properties with settlements which eventually became plantations.
The landowners turned to slavery as a source of manpower to maintain their plantations and therefore captured people from Africa and brought them in forced labor. Some plantations— especially the smaller ones have remained private residences while most of the others have become historical sites that tourists can visit.
For a long time, the plantation tour narratives have been all about the furnishings and historical architecture. However, plantations are putting that aside and confronting their dark history in an educational and respectful way. Most people are learning the essence of visiting these plantations to understand and reconcile with the dark side of American History. Whether you are planning a self-drive or a group tour, we have compiled a list of the best plantation tours in the United States. Read on to get an idea of what to expect from 20 of the best plantations in the US.
20. James Madison’s Montpelier - Orange County, Virginia
This historic home covers 2700 acres and is located in Orange County, Virginia. The plantation house was inhabited by James Montpelier, who was the fourth president of the United States, and his wife, Dolley. On this land, James Madison came up with his enduring legacy of a government by the people. The plantation features terrific views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and some vast horse pastures. The property also contains exhibits such as the 1910 Train Depot that looks at the African American struggle for civil rights. The plantation also gives its visitors a detailed account of the stories of enslaved people as told by their descendants.
19. Nottoway Plantation - Iberville Parish, Louisiana
Nottoway Plantation is the largest existing Antebellum Plantation in the South. The Nottoway Plantation covers approximately 31 acres. It features 40 rooms, including two fantastic honeymoon suites, a restaurant that serves Louisiana cuisine, and other fantastic amenities such as tennis courts, gyms, and a hair salon. In 2019, the Plantation was sold to Joseph Jaeger, who owns several New Orleans hotels. During a routine visit to the plantation, you will enjoy costumed tour guides around the mansion as you get a detailed history of the plantation and how it was constructed.
18. Houmas House Plantations - Burnside, Louisiana
One of my friends visited this plantation, and after seeing her photos and those posted on the Houmas House website, I felt obliged to go there myself. Houmas House has appeared in several movies, such as Hush Sweet Charlotte and several TV shows. The residence began as a modest two-story structure in 1774 before undergoing various renovations to its present state. The plantation contains some beautiful gardens that include a magnificent pond with a rare kind of Japanese lily. If you are a foodie, you are certainly not left out. The Houmas House contains three restaurants and is one of the best places to have dinner. If you are seeking an overnight stay, you have the option of booking one of their luxurious cottages as you reminisce on the whole plantation experience.
17. Pebble Hill Plantation - Thomasville, Georgia
If you fancy a trip to Thomasville in South West Georgia, you must visit Pebble Hill Plantation. The 3000-acre plantation has a beautiful house that boasts crystal porcelain furnishings and magnolia-filled grounds with the long leaf pines which are prominent in southwest Georgia. If you get a chance, you should definitely visit this beautiful place. The plantation also has a dog kennel, a historic cemetery, and brick horse stables which take you back to the sporting days of the early 1800s.
16. Destrehan Plantation - Destrehan, Louisiana
Destrehan was established in 1787 and is the oldest antebellum plantation home in the Lower Mississippi Valley. The mansion is built in typical French Colonial style with some elements of Greek Revival architecture. Destrehan Plantation is open seven days a week but remains closed during major holidays from 9 am to 4 pm. The plantation offers guided tours that explain how things were, including the culture, music, and the food.
15. Rose Hill Plantation - Bluffton, South Carolina
Rose Hill was an antebellum plantation home for Dr. John William and his wife. Although it is not clear who the plantation is named after, recent information has suggested that it was named after John Rose, the plantation owner, in the early 1800s. The main house has a Gothic Revival Design, although much of it was damaged by a fire in 1987. The plantation boasts of some majestic oak magnolia trees, exotic wildlife, and extremely lush natural beauty. Social amenities in the plantation include a swimming pool, a large playground, a tennis court, and a golf course.
14. Jarrell Hill Plantation - East Juliette, Georgia
If you want to see what a typical middle-class southern farm looks like, you need to visit this plantation. Jarrell Hill dates back to 1847 and was owned by one family for 147 years. The 600-acre plantation had a total of 42 slaves that worked in the vast cotton fields. The plantation allows you to visit various buildings, including a steam-driven sawmill, slave quarters, and cotton gin that will get you to imagine what life was like on the plantation. The plantation is open from Thursday to Saturday.
13. Linden Plantation - Natchez, Mississippi
Few plantations offer unadulterated beauty, quite like Linden Plantation. The plantation was built in the early 1800s, and it sits on ten acres of beautiful gardens that native animals and plants and beautiful rows of magnolia and Eastern red cedar trees. A tour through the whole plantation takes about one and a half hours, where you will see antique valuables belonging to the original Brabstorm family.
12. Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage - Nashville, Tennessee
The Hermitage is the former house of Andrew Jackson, who was the seventh president of the USA. A typical visit to the Hermitage will take you two and a half or three hours, depending on the highlights that suit your needs. A tour around the Hermitage entails a visit to Alfred’s cabin and a visit to the garden where you can see Rachael and Andrew Jackson’s final resting place. You can also visit the mansion, where you will be able to take in the view of the plantation from the stunning Hermitage balcony.
11. Evergreen Plantation - Wallace, Louisiana
The balance between Evergreen Plantation history and slavery is quite impressive. A guided tour will take you through the history of the daily which owned the plantation, which is the most intact plantation in the South. More than 400 individuals occupied the plantation throughout its history, and you can learn about the lives of the slaves who lived in the original 22 slave cabins.
10. Belle Meade Plantation - Belle Meade, Tennessee
A trip to the Belle Meade Plantation usually involves two tours where you hear the history of the plantation, based on real-life experiences from the Harding and Jackson families and the women and children who worked in the plantation. You can also explore the place through a unique guided segway tour through the arboretum and the fields. You can also enjoy a flurry of activities offered to immerse you in the history of Tennessee.
9. Sion Hill Plantation - Havre de Grace, Maryland
Sion Hill Plantation comprises apartments that are built on an old sugarcane plantation. The apartments experience the breeze of the Atlantic Ocean throughout the year, and the old mahogany trees in the expansive agricultural piece of land are breathtaking. Sion Hill’s construction began in 1785, although the progress was a bit slow. The unfinished house was later sold in 1799 to Minerva, who was supposed to marry Commodore John Rodgers. The history of the place is fascinating, and the views are worth the trip.
8. Laura Plantation - Vacherie, Louisiana
The construction of l'Habitation Duparc, which was later renamed Laura Plantation, began in 1804 and was completed in eleven months through the help of highly skilled slaves. The plantation is located some 600 feet north of the River Mississippi and was opened to the public in 1994. It was the first plantation in Louisiana to include the history of the slaves as part of its tour. Here, you will find compelling personal stories about the place passed through the generations. You will also get to see photographs with the faces of the real people who lived there.
7. Glenfield Plantation - Natchez, Mississippi
On 2nd January 1865, Glenfield Plantation was attacked by looters and union soldiers who were determined to take the home. However, the Cannon family fought back and saved their home from invasion. Quite fascinating, right? If you want to experience and discover more about the history of the place, you should definitely visit. The plantation offers Candlelight Ghost Tours at a discounted rate, and it also contains a restaurant with a 24-hour common area.
6. Boone Hall Plantation - Charleston County, South Carolina
This beautiful historic gem is located in Charleston County, South Carolina. It was built in 1681 and is one of the oldest and most photographed plantations in America. From the buildings to the colorful gardens, everything about Boone Hall is a reflection of the colonial style. The plantation offers daily historical talks as well as agricultural and horticultural demonstrations. The plantation has been used to film some Hollywood productions such as North and South, American Idol, and The Notebook.
5. Monmouth Plantation - Natchez, Mississippi
If you are seeking an authentic trip to the south, Monmouth Plantation is a perfect choice. The historic inn gardens in Monmouth were built in 1818 and have been marked as a National Historic Landmark. The plantation features the award-winning restaurant, “Restaurant 1818,” where you can enjoy some fine dining. The 26 gardens in the plantation are beautifully landscaped, and you should expect some gracious hospitality from their amazing staff.
4. Oakland Plantation - Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana
Oakland Plantation is one of the most aesthetically pleasing plantations that you will come across. The plantation began as a farming area back in 1785 and has housed eight generations of the French Creole family. The plantation contains sixty historic buildings set within a picturesque landscape. You can visit the Oakland Plantation, which is usually open for self-guided tours every from Wednesday to Sunday. Self-guided tours on the The Oakland main house happen on Saturdays and Sundays.
3. Magnolia Plantation - Charleston County, South Carolina
Magnolia Plantation’s history can be traced to the mid 18th century, although the plantation operations began in 1830. The plantation contains some surviving farming technology that includes cotton picker tractors, cotton gins that are steam and animal-powered, and 21 buildings that demonstrate more history about the site. The 21 buildings, which is unusually high for a plantation, consist of slave quarters, which had 70 cabins for a large number of slaves. There is a cellphone app that can assist you on a self-guided tour of the place. However, the main house is privately owned and therefore not open to the public.
2. Whitney Plantation - Wallace, Louisiana
From my several plantation visits, many plantations water down the history of enslaved people and what actually happened on their property. However, Whitney Plantation focuses on just that. You can take a self-guided tour using an app that will take you through the plantation, where you will get to see the museum, slave quarters, and several memorials. The plantation initially had 20 slaves, and Indigo was the main crop before they switched to sugarcane. The place is very well kept, and the staff are amazing.
1. Oak Alley Plantation - St. James Parish, Louisiana
This plantation derives its name from the great oak trees that line up the driveway as you approach it. Oak Plantation offers unforgettable memories for anyone who makes the trip to this magnificent piece of land. It is one of the most famous and recognizable plantations in the US. A typical tour will take you through the interior rooms of the plantation and an outdoor tour where you can soak in the clean air from century-old oak trees, which are so breathtaking to see. The plantation also has a restaurant, a gift shop, and ready-made sandwiches and snacks. Oak Alley Plantation is a must-visit for anyone looking to explore historic sites in Louisiana.
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Written by Liz Flynn
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