Wondering whether to go inside Oak Alley Plantation and do the tour? Here’s what to expect from inside Oak Alley, and what you’ll see when you get there.
The incredible Oak Alley Plantation is in Louisiana – I visited as part of my three-month tour of the USA, where I spent a whole month in the state. Oak Alley offers tours around the grounds, and I’d definitely recommend you visit if ever you’re in the area. Let me show you what to expect from inside Oak Alley, and the Oak Alley Plantation Tour.
The Oak Alley Plantation about an hour’s drive from New Orleans, it’s where Beyonce filmed her Deja Vu video, and, most famously, it was once known as The Bon Séjour Plantation and was home to Valcour Aime, aka the ‘King of Sugar’.
He was a ridiculously wealthy ‘slave owner, sugar planter, philanthropist, and pioneer in the large-scale refining of sugar’ (#Wikipedia).
Now the Oak Alley Plantation is a Natural Historic Landmark and one of the best looking plantations in Plantation Country, as the area is known, thanks to the alley of oak trees leading up to the front door.
Thanks to its beautiful grounds it’s a favourite spot for weddings, but as you walk around you have to remember that Oak Alley was a place where they trapped and kept slaves. Personally, I would not want to get married there.
“Some slaves had been included in the sale when JT Roman purchased the plantation in 1836, others he brought with him from his mother’s plantation, and about 15 were purchased and brought to the plantation between 1836 and 1844. In all, those enslaved at Oak Alley numbered, on average, between 110-120 people.– Oak Alley Plantation
Inside Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana
Seeing as Cailin (TravelYourself) and I were in the area we went along to check it out, and to stay over in one of the little cottages out the front. Oak Alley has so much scary history, I totally freaked myself out before bed, even though not a single thing actually gave me reason to.
My mind is way too over active.
Oak Alley photography
Thanks to us actually staying in the grounds, in our cottage, we were allowed to roam the around as we liked before the tourists rocked up at 9am. I’d definitely recommend doing this if you’re into your photography as you’ve got no chance of a person-free shot later in the day.
This place gets busy.
The Oak Alley tour
We joined the Oak Alley Plantation tour ($20) to learn more about the mansion and grounds.
One of the lessons that sticks out most in my mind is that in those days they’d give you a pineapple to welcome you when you arrived, and then when they wanted you to go, they’d leave another one on your bed. So now I do that with all my guests too.
I don’t have guests.
We were taken round the bedrooms, the lounges, hallways and eating areas. Another one of my favourite things was the fly swatter you see above the table there – some poor guy would be on the end of the rope you see in the corner of the room, pulling it back and forth so the rich folk didn’t get any flies in their soup.
There’s a little mint julep booth on site so you can drink them as you walk around the house and the slave workhouses and gardens outside. This felt kind of wrong, given the dark, dark history, but I guess it’s all in keeping with the traditions of the time.
I loved the way the tour guides were dressed up to show off what people would’ve been wearing back then.
There was also an extensive exhibition outside, showing visitors the conditions the slaves had to endure.
“Today, the history of Oak Alley’s enslaved men, women and children take the shape of a permanent exhibit. Located on the historic grounds, almost exactly where the original community stood, 6 reconstructed cabins give insight into their lives and habits. 4 of the Cabins depict a type of dwelling–a field slave’s quarters, a house slave’s quarters, a sick house and a post-emancipation residence. 2 have been converted to exhibit spaces, inviting visitors to understand slave life on a more personal level. Displays here focus on religion, punishment, how slaves at Oak Alley were clothed, and the work that consumed their daily lives.”– Oak Alley Plantation
That oh so American proposal at Oak Alley
We were lucky enough to be there on a day when one staff member was elaborately asking another staff member to prom. I honestly got so excited to be a part of it. Well, to watch it.
We were with him on the outside of the balcony doors and she was inside with a group – as she came out he had a card held up saying ‘Will you go to prom with me?’, or similar, and she was crying as she came through and he held up the roses. She said yes. So cute. So American.
All played out over the balcony that looks out onto the incredible drive. Why didn’t I get that when I was 17?
Sleeping inside Oak Alley
Apart from freaking myself out about what may or may not have happened in my room thanks to the days when treating people worse than dogs based on the colour of their skin was normal, I really enjoyed staying over at Oak Alley.
We had a room each, a big kitchen and a nice lounge.
We spent the evening chilling in our lounge watching some super American film, possibly Mean Girls, and eating the bowl of true Louisiana-style chicken gumbo followed up by bread pudding that they’d left for us. It was delicious.
Stay over at Oak Alley Plantation and you get to enjoy breakfast at the restaurant too. I had some Étouffée, another one of Louisiana’s traditional dishes you need to try if you visit.
If you don’t want to stay over, make sure to visit the restaurant for lunch instead. Rude not to when it’s there. And don’t leave without checking out the little shop either.
How to get to Oak Alley Plantation
We were on a week-long tour of Louisiana after I’d spent three weeks enjoying all the food experiences in New Orleans, and all the cheap things to do in NOLA too, checking out a few spots, so we drove there in our hire car. It’s only an hour from New Orleans.
Alternatively there are loads of tours from New Orleans that’ll take you right there. Or, you can get a steam boat, or even cycle, all the way from New Orleans to just outside the plantation.
Need some accommodation in New Orleans?
Check out my reviews of the top hostels I stayed in, in NOLA.
Exploring Plantation Country
There are so many plantations in the area but Oak Alley is probably the most famous, thanks to how grand it is and its use in popular culture.
We went to two other plantations in the area – the Houma Plantation (above) and the Nottoway Plantation (below). We didn’t take tours in either, but had a little look around the grounds.
Depending on your interest in slave history and / or horticulture, you could spend a week going round all the plantations in the area and staying at them. I think two nights would be perfect though.
Getting to stay inside Oak Alley Plantation was one of the highlights of my Louisiana trip, along with experiencing the St Augustine’s Church on a Sunday in New Orleans that is. I’d also recommend going to visit the Bayou Rum Distillery too – some great rum to enjoy there!
I stayed at the Oak Alley Plantation thanks to the New Orleans CVB & Louisiana Office of Tourism. All thoughts and experiences my own, obviously.