Louisiana Great River Road
Paralleling the mighty Mississippi, the Louisiana Great River Road spans hundreds of miles, countless historic milestones and centuries of history. On the river’s west bank, the byway runs from the Louisiana/Arkansas state line to the town of Venice on the Gulf of Mexico. The east bank route begins at the Louisiana/Mississippi state line and ends at the little village of Pointe a la Hache. Plantation homes, museums, ancient oaks, elegant restaurants and seafood joints – you’ll see it all on this byway, along with view after view of the Mississippi River. Here is a sample of what you’ll find:
This segment of River Road is a picturesque drive through cotton, soybean, corn and rice fields. In the small town of Tallulah, visit the Hermione House; built in 1955, the home is now a museum featuring Civil War artifacts and an exhibit on Madam C.J. Walker, the daughter of slaves who became the country’s first female millionaire. At the foot of the bridge leading to Mississippi is Grant’s Park, which marks the site where Gen. Ulysses S. Grant tried to divert the course of the Mississippi River. If you’re hungry, drop by LouAnn’s, a favorite family restaurant that serves up fried chicken, po-boys and steaks.
Vidalia/Ferriday/Natchez, Miss. Area
In east central Louisiana, the towns of Vidalia and Ferriday sit just across the Mississippi River from Natchez, Miss. Take a stroll down Vidalia’s Riverwalk, a short, paved walkway with benches, ideal for viewing the river. Right outside Vidalia is Frogmore Cotton Plantation and Gins, a working cotton plantation with buildings dating from 1790. Tours here give an accurate depiction of all facets of plantation life, including slavery and sharecropping. Frogmore also has a modern, computerized cotton gin.
Nearby Ferriday provides a good reminder of Louisiana’s musical history. The town is the birthplace of Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley, and the Delta Music Museum in Ferriday celebrates their music along that of other Louisiana greats, including Fats Domino and Irma Thomas.
St. Francisville/New Roads Area
Both St. Francisville and New Roads are known for their well-preserved historic structures, including plantation homes, Creole cottages and Victorian mansions. Moss-draped oak trees, beautiful gardens and Southern hospitality complete the picture. In New Roads, relax with a bowl of crawfish étouffée or seafood gumbo at a restaurant overlooking False River. Across the Mississippi, St. Francisville provides lots of bed-and-breakfast inns, some of which are housed in plantation homes. If you want a more outdoorsy experience, try nearby Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge, where you can paddle a canoe, bird-watch or take spectacular pictures.
Baton Rouge Metropolitan Area
Louisiana’s capital city, Baton Rouge boasts such diverse attractions as water parks, art museums and Louisiana State University, home of the Fighting Tigers. Visit one of River Road’s gracious plantation homes, tour the Old Governor’s Mansion (built in 1929 by legendary Gov. Huey P. Long) and try dancing the two-step at Boutin’s Cajun Music and Dining. The LSU Rural Life Museum’s many buildings give visitors a chance to experience what life was like in 19th-century Louisiana, and the museum’s Windrush Gardens are filled with colorful azaleas, camellias and other local plants.
New Orleans Metropolitan Area
New Orleans is often called the “Big Easy” because of its laidback way of life. You’ll find restaurants ranging from white-cloth grand dames to po-boy shops, along with historic architecture, live music and lots of unique stores (don’t miss Magazine Street). Ride the streetcar Uptown to ogle the mansions on St. Charles Avenue, then head back to Canal Street and take in the French Quarter’s antique shops and funky bars. Don’t miss a visit to Café du Monde, where visitors and locals alike sip coffee-with-chicory, feast on beignets and watch the world go by.
Venture across the 26-mile Lake Pontchartrain Causeway to visit more rural St. Tammany Parish, or head down south toward the Gulf of Mexico for some fishing and wildlife-viewing. Whether you start or end your trip in the greater New Orleans area, you are sure to get a memorable sampling of what Louisiana’s Great River Road Byway has to offer.