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The 5 Best New Orleans Plantation Tours

Note: Some tour providers on this list may have limited or ceased operations due to COVID-19. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.

Known for its Creole cuisine, Mardi Gras festivities and iconic architecture, New Orleans has something to offer every traveler, especially history buffs. Visitors with an interest in the area’s agricultural and social history will want to book a plantation tour. Many plantations are located within an hour’s drive of the French Quarter, making for an easy daytrip from the city. Organized tours, some of which also stop at nearby swamps, offer a glimpse into how the area’s wealthy families lived on these grand antebellum properties centuries ago. Many tours will also provide important context about the enslaved people who were forced to work on these plantations. Although the stunning mansions are the main draw, exhibits and first-person accounts depicting the brutal conditions enslaved workers had to endure help to provide a more complete picture of plantation life, and are an important component of these tours. Analyzing both traveler opinion and expert sentiment, U.S. News identified five of the top plantation tours in New Orleans.

Gray Line – Whitney Plantation Tour

Opened to the public in 2014, Whitney Plantation offers a distinct look at the enslaved people who lived and worked at the site more than 200 years ago. This Gray Line tour, which lasts a little more than 4 1/2 hours, allows history lovers to access museum exhibits, artwork and recorded first-person slave narratives. Reviewers say this tour is particularly powerful and important and describe it as a must-do activity. From April to June, the tour departs Thursday through Monday at noon and 1 p.m.; from July to October, tours depart at noon and 1 p.m. Wednesday through Monday. Ticket prices start at $70 for adults and $35 for children ages 6 to 12. Gray Line offers other plantation tours, ghost tours, swamp tours and more.

Cajun Encounters – Oak Alley & Laura Plantation Combo Tour

While Cajun Encounters also hosts tours of the popular Whitney Plantation, its daytrip to Oak Alley and Laura plantations warrants consideration. Oak Alley enchants visitors with its tunnel of live oak trees leading up to the “Big House.” Laura Plantation, which was once run by a French Creole family, gives tourists a glimpse into the lives of the Louisiana elite and the enslaved African Americans who worked there more than 200 years ago. Reviewers seem to agree this tour, which lasts seven hours, is well worth the high cost: Tickets start at around $95 per adult and $70 per child ages 12 and younger. The tour offers pickup daily beginning at 9:30 a.m. Cajun Encounters also offers city tours and swamp tours in New Orleans.

Beyond the Bayou – Paddle and Plantation Tour

This nine-hour combo tour from Beyond the Bayou appeals to history buffs and active types. The experience starts with a two-hour kayak tour through the Maurepas Wildlife Management Area, which features Spanish moss-draped cypress trees, birds, alligators, turtles, deer and other wildlife. After working up an appetite on the water, you’ll stop at a Cajun restaurant for lunch before continuing on to the Whitney Plantation for a 90-minute audio tour. Multiple travelers say this tour is enjoyable and praise Whitney Plantation for highlighting the perspectives of the site’s enslaved workers. Reviewers also appreciate that the tour is capped at six participants, allowing for an intimate experience. Tours depart at 9:30 a.m. Thursday through Monday and tickets start at $175 per person. Note that lunch is not covered by the ticket price, but round-trip transportation from New Orleans is included. Beyond the Bayou offers additional kayak and boat tours, as well as multiday tours of Cajun country.

Cajun Pride Swamp Tours – Combination Tours

Cajun Pride offers travelers the chance to spend time at a historic plantation with a bonus of seeing the notorious wildlife that inhabit Louisiana swamps. These swamp tours take place on a private section of the Manchac Swamp where you’re more likely to see alligators, birds and other critters basking in their home territory. Once the swamp tour concludes, you’ll board a bus to Oak Valley Plantation for a leisurely visit and a guided tour. Travelers favorably review this company overall, although some say the plantation portion of the trip was rushed or disorganized. The company offers pickup times starting at 10:30 a.m. daily and the entire trip can last about seven hours. Tickets start at $105 for adults and $60 for kids ages 4 to 12. Cajun Pride also offers swamp-only and plantation-only tours.

Tours by Isabelle – San Francisco & Houmas House Plantations Tour with Lunch

Consider booking this daylong tour to explore the historic San Francisco Plantation, which features steamboat Gothic-style architecture. You’ll also stop at the Houmas House Plantation, where you’ll nosh on a gourmet lunch followed by a guided tour of the plantation to view antiques and peer at famous Louisiana artwork. This tour earns high marks overall, with visitors calling it interesting and a great way to learn the area’s history. Reviewers also appreciate that groups are small, allowing for plenty of interaction with the guide. Tickets start at about $170 for adults, $85 for children 6 to 11 and $25 for children 5 and younger; lunch is included in your ticket price. Tours generally depart at 8:30 a.m. daily, provided the six-person minimum is met, and return by 4 p.m. Tours by Isabelle also offers city tours, swamp tours and guided tours of other plantations in the area.

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