Planning an Oak Ally Plantation Tour in 2023?
A visit to Oak Alley Plantation is truly a bucket list item for those who want to experience an iconic Southern plantation in the Deep South.
What makes this stately Greek Revival mansion so unique and photographable is the quarter-mile-long tunnel of live oak limbs that provides a view that is unforgettable for both its grandeur and beauty.
Whether you’re sightseeing in your own car, or need to find an Oak Alley Plantation Tour from New Orleans, I have you covered in this post.
Come along as I tell you everything you need to know about taking an Oak Alley Plantation Tour in Vacherie, Louisiana.
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Table of Contents
What Makes An Oak Alley Plantation Tour So Special?
You can truly experience a bygone era and learn about American history when you take an Oak Alley Plantation Tour in Louisiana.
Built in 1839, Oak Alley is the most photographed plantation ever—and you will see the reason why the minute you drive up the lane.
There are giant live oaks throughout the property, but the most impressive (and photographed) vista is the twenty-eight oaks that line the 800-foot “alley” (or allée) to the Mississippi River.
Words cannot adequately describe the impressive trees that, even in the 18th and 19th centuries, were regarded as a display of affluence and “established” wealth.
The trees served another purpose as well. The tunnel formed by their sweeping branches helped direct cooling breezes from the Mississippi River toward the plantation house to reduce the intense heat of Louisiana’s summers.
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Oak Alley Plantation House History
The Bon Séjour plantation, as Oak Alley was originally named, was first purchased by the French Creole Valcour Aime in 1830 to grow sugarcane. Aime, known as the “King of Sugar,” was one of the wealthiest men in the South.
In 1836, Aime exchanged this piece of property with his brother-in-law JT Roman, who wanted to build an impressive house for his bride.
The elegant Greek Revival mansion was not completed until 1839. Bricks were made on-site, but slate for the roof, glass for the window and marble had to be shipped in by steamboat.
It was an extremely laborious and time-consuming endeavor, accomplished entirely with slave labor. You can learn about that part of the plantation’s history during an Oak Alley Plantation tour.
The overall architecture of the house mimics details of an ancient Greek temple, although it is obvious that New Orleans’ weather also influenced its construction.
Sixteen-inch thick brick walls lathed with plaster helped to keep the hot sultry air of summer out and the cool air within.
The palatial home’s most distinguishing architectural feature is a colonnade of 28 colossal Doric columns. (Which, by the way, matches the number of oak trees that line the alley).
Iconic photos of the plantation illustrate the grand columns, but seeing the massive size up close reveals what a marvel each one is.
The house itself is set back from the great columns to create a double gallery. The galleries are wide enough that the hot rays of the sun and even lashing rains would not be a problem.
Doors and windows could therefore be left open for ventilation.
Horticulture at Oak Alley Plantation In Louisiana
Strangely enough, one of the most important historic events to occur at Oak Alley Plantation was in the category of horticulture.
In the winter of 1846-47, a slave gardener at Oak Alley named Antoine, successfully grafted pecan trees. His work resulted in the first named variety, Centennial, and the first commercial pecan orchard at nearby Anita Plantation.
Sadly, although strict instructions were left in Jacques’ will to never remove the trees, the wish was disregarded and no originals remain.
The 1,360-acre plantation survived the Civil War without great physical damage, but did not fare so well afterward. With the economic changes and dislocations, farming was no longer viable. The property sold at auction in 1866 for $32,800.
Successive owners could not afford the cost of upkeep, and by the 1920s the buildings had fallen into disrepair.
In 1925, Scottish cotton broker Andrew Stewart purchased the property as a gift for his wife Josephine. She would go on to oversee the restoration and hired architect Richard Koch to restore and modernize the house, adding indoor plumbing and electricity.
The Stewarts used the plantation as a cattle ranch until the 1960s and upon Josephine’s death in 1972, the home was transferred to the Oak Alley Foundation to be opened to the public.
As a side note, all of the clocks in the mansion are stopped at 7:30, marking the death of Mrs. Stewart, who was the longest resident of Oak Alley.
The main house is fully restored, and the Foundation continues to do restoration work on the slave quarters, the historic gardens, and other buildings.
Other exhibits include a working blacksmith shop, a reconstruction of a Civil War era officers field tent, and an exhibit on sugarcane that includes a short film.
Nature’s Blessing: The Trees At Oak Alley
Most documentation about the massive trees at Oak Alley in Louisiana says they were planted in the early 1700s by an unknown French settler, who eventually left the site. (Although some recent research shows that mature live oaks were moved and planted there in the 1800s).
Live oaks (and all oaks) are known for their strength and resiliency, and it’s interesting to note that every one of the original trees planted at Oak Alley still stands.
Unlike other earthly inhabitants, the great oaks seemingly grow more spectacular with age, their intertwining limbs joining to create a scenic walkway that is part enchanted forest overhead—and part gnarled, knobby bark and roots, below.
For more than two centuries now the mighty trees have provided shelter to the house along the Mississippi, enduring the effects of hurricanes, floods, droughts and war.
Trunks that measure 29 feet around bear the scars of their age, but the evergreen canopy above reveals no trace of the passage of time.
The trees now rise to a height of 60 to 80 feet with spreads as much as 130 feet. Their carefully planned north-south alignment produces a dramatic side-lighting effect both early and late in the day.
This vivid interplay between shadow and light is as much a work of art as the mammoth, yet graceful, limbs that hang as silent witness to centuries of Louisiana history.
Highlights Of An Oak Alley Plantation Tour
Oak Alley Mansion Tour
The Mansion Tour is great for getting additional information from period-dressed guides who point out original pieces and artifacts, and tell fascinating stories about the home and its history. Tours are given on the hour and half hour, generally lasting 35 to 40 minutes. (See below for pricing).
The Alley Of Oaks
The Alley of Oaks is what Oak Alley Plantation is known for, and you don’t want to miss walking the length of this beautiful tunnel created by Mother Nature. At the end of the Alley is a road, and on the other side of the road is a levee. Beyond that levee rolls the great Mississippi River.
The course of the river has changed, but there was a time when the plantation house could be seen from the river.
The Slave Quarters
Just as important to the story of Oak Alley as the main house is the slave quarters. These are not original, but the reconstructed buildings show the approximate size and type of dwelling the enslaved people at Oak Alley lived in.
It is believed there were 20 cabins with 40 living spaces with each space holding one family of from two to five people.
Don’t Miss The Gardens At Oak Alley Plantation
The entire property is like a giant garden to me, but there are two distinct gardens as well, each representing different periods in Oak Alley Plantation’s Louisiana history.
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The West Garden is inspired by the Antebellum period and the East Garden represents the Stewart’s contribution to the property.
Other Exhibits at Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana
There is a Civil War Interpretive Exhibit and Blacksmith Shop that allows visitors to take a step back in time and see what life was like in the early days of Oak Alley Plantation.
Oak Alley Plantation Tour Tickets
The general ticket prices include access to the historic site and ALL exhibits including the “Big House.”
PLEASE NOTE: For the Historic Site with “Big House” Exhibit, tickets are based on capacity and are therefore limited.
You can schedule your visit time and purchase your Oak Alley Plantation Tour Tickets Here.
Advanced reservations are encouraged to secure your ticket for the “Big House” exhibit before they sell out. To tour Oak Alley Plantation without “Big House” Exhibit, there is no maximum limit.
Visitors may arrive as early as 8:30 am to purchase admissions but all admissions must be purchased by 4 pm on the day of the visit.
Please allow a minimum of 1 hour drive if coming from New Orleans or Baton Rouge. The Oak Alley Plantation website provides maps and directions from both cities.
Oak Alley does not require proof of vaccination or negative PCR test to visit at this time.
Pets are not permitted.
Oak Alley Plantation Tour With Transportation From New Orleans
Because it lies roughly an hour’s drive to the west of New Orleans, Oak Alley Plantation makes a perfect day trip tour from the Big Easy.
There are a number of Oak Alley Plantation Tours that leave from New Orleans, including touring a second plantation the same day or touring Oak Alley and taking a swamp tour as well.
other popular New Orleans Plantation Tours
Where To Eat at Oak Alley Plantation
If you want to eat on the grounds of Oak Alley, you’re in luck! They have a restaurant that is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for breakfast and lunch.
It’s housed in a 19th century cottage located on the grounds of the plantation. They serve a wonderful selection of traditional Cajun and Creole dishes.
I highly recommend that you try a Mint Julep! They are available at the Plantation Café that also offers sandwiches, wraps, snacks, ice cream, coffee and drinks from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Stay At Oak Alley Plantation
Unknown to me when I visited Oak Alley, the plantation has several cottages — both modern and historic — where you can spend the night. (A return trip to Louisiana is absolutely on my bucket list now).
I did spend the night in a cabin at the nearby Nottoway Plantation and it was one of the most memorable stays in my traveling career.
There are currently 9 guest cottages at Oak Alley, a couple of which are 100+ year-old plantation cottages.
Prices for 2 persons currently range from $165/night to $275/night depending on which cottage you rent and all stays include a full country breakfast served at the restaurant.
The cottage prices do not include a Tour ticket which will need to be purchased separately if you want to do the guided Big House tour.
If you want to experience a plantation stay, you can also book accommodations at the Houmas House Plantation.
You can also find a number of hotels close to Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie.
Tips For Your Oak Alley Plantation Tour
- Arrive Early: Not only can you beat the crowds and the heat by arriving early, but the light in the morning and the evening are great for picture-taking.
- Wear comfortable shoes. If you want to see everything, there is a good bit of walking.
- Bring Water. I do this no matter where I go, but especially in the hot, humid South! Stay hydrated.
- Allow at least two hours to see the property. You don’t want to be in a hurry.
- Guide books are available in the gift shop and are great for finding things you may otherwise miss.
Insiders Tip: Click here if you’re looking for other things to do in the New Orleans area, like a luxury bus tour of the city.
Where Is Oak Alley Plantation Located?
Oak Alley is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River in St. James Parish, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
3645 Highway 18 (Great River Road) Vacherie, LA 70090
Oak Alley Plantation hours of Operation
- Open Daily: 8:30 am-5:00 pm – All exhibits close at 5pm
- Guided “Big House” tours are offered daily from 9:00 am-4:30pm. Times are assigned when tickets are purchased.
- Visit Duration: Minimum 2 hours
- Closed: New Year’s Day, Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day
What Movies Were Filmed At Oak Alley Plantation?
The iconic façade of Oak Alley has made a popular setting for movies over the years. A few motion pictures that were filmed there include “Interview with a Vampire” and “Primary Colors.” Soap opera lovers will recognize it as the wedding site of Bo and Hope on “Days of our Lives.”
Other Plantations Near Oak Alley in Louisiana
A sugarcane plantation built in 1805, 12 standing buildings on the National Register.
Houmas House Plantation
An 1840 Greek Revival mansion, surrounded by colorful and romantic gardens.
San Francisco Plantation
A galleried house in the Creole open suite-style, old Live Oaks and fine antiques.
Whitney and St. Joseph Plantation Tour
Louisiana Sugar Cane Plantations small group tour. Take a walk through time as you enjoy a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the many interesting people who called these plantations “Home.”
The oldest documented plantation home in the lower Mississippi Valley.
Steeped in history with ties to Christopher Columbus, early colonization, and the Louisiana Purchase.