Get an up-close and personal peek into the lives of Louisiana’s wealthy planters, circa 1834. Rosedown Plantation was built by the Turnbull family, whose entrepreneurship in the cotton business made patriarch Daniel Turnbull one of the wealthiest men in the nation. At this Louisiana State Historic Site, you’ll see many of the original furnishings and artifacts the Turnbulls collected during their travels throughout Europe, as well as 28 acres of formal gardens that you can walk through. After your guided tour, spend some time at Rosedown Plantation’s gift store, where you’ll find Louisiana souvenirs to take home.
Think all of south Louisiana is low-lying swampland? Think again. The 6,500 acres that comprise Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area contain hills, bluffs, ravines and remote waterways, showcasing some of the state’s most remarkable vistas. Horseback is popular within the park, as are hiking and biking on the numerous trails maintained within the park.
You certainly won’t see another plantation like this in Louisiana. Afton Villa Gardens, named for a gothic antebellum mansion destroyed by fire in 1963, cover the grounds on and around the ruins of historic buildings. The dramatic scenery of what’s known as the “ruins gardens” is just one of the charms of Afton Villa. The daffodil valley and family cemetery are worth visiting, as are the formal English garden and the oak tree-lined entryway to the site, which is filled with azaleas that are awe-inspiring during springtime blooming season.
4. Downtown St. Francisville
Any list of Louisiana’s most charming small towns absolutely must include St. Francisville, the seat of West Feliciana Parish. Downtown St. Francisville is easily walkable or bikeable, with most attractions, dining spots and accommodations on Commerce Street and Ferdinand Street. Start your journey at the West Feliciana Historical Society Museum, also the home of the Main Street and Tourist Commission offices, at 11575 Ferdinand Street. There, you’ll find info on local attractions as well as a history museum. Learn more about attractions in St. Francisville.
Just outside the gates to Louisiana State Penitentiary is Angola Museum, a facility dedicated to telling the story of prisoners and the history of incarceration in Louisiana. The museum gives visitors insight to the nation’s largest maximum security prison. At points sobering, and at other points inspiring, Angola Museum will change how you see life on the other side of the bars.
Billed as “America’s most haunted plantation” The Myrtles Plantation is a destination for ghost hunters and history enthusiasts alike. Join a guided group tour or private tour of the big house, and go on a self-guided tour of the plantation grounds. Evening mystery tours are offered on the weekends and are very popular; reserve your spot in advance. Overnight guests are welcome at The Myrtles’ bed-and-breakfast, which allows visitors to sleep in the elegant surroundings of the plantation gardens.
Locust Grove is a small cemetery with a big story to tell. Its interred occupants include the daughter of President Zachary Taylor, and the plots are located on the grounds of a former home whose history is tied into Civil War lore — Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ sister’s family once owned Locust Grove Plantation.
8. Biking Trails
West Feliciana Parish is filled with biking trails that will take you through the region’s gorgeous hill country, over the Mississippi River and into small, off-the-beaten-path towns and attractions. Check out the ambitious 30-mile St. Francisville to Morganza route, with stops at Mama’s Café in Morganza and a Mississippi River ferry; the Jackson to St. Francisville loop, that links two historic towns and takes riders past Centenary State Historic Site and The Republic of West Florida Museum; and The Hills of West Feliciana route, which goes past creeks and valleys, and offers easy access to The Myrtles, Butler Greenwood and Oakley House plantations. Learn more about Louisiana's biking routes in West Feliciana.
John James Audubon is one of the nation’s most revered naturalists, made famous for his paintings of wildlife during the early 1800s. In 1821 he arrived at Oakley House, a still-extant home that makes up part of Audubon’s namesake state historic site. Audubon completed 32 paintings of birds while at Oakley House, and today you can walk the same grounds that he did. Note that Oakley House, which is part of Audubon State Historic Site, is closed for repairs, though it’s slated to reopen in 2018.
A hidden gem of West Feliciana Parish, Imahara’s Botanical Garden is a privately owned complex of manmade ponds and a spectacular collection of rare plants. View varieties of azaleas, camellias, crape myrtles, holly proprietaries, palms, magnolias, oak and fruit trees. Take a stroll up the new, miniature Mount Fuji that overlooks the garden and nine reflecting pools. Plus, learn the story behind the Japanese Haiku carvings and the family's ties to this historic area. Guided or self-guided tour options available.
Want more trip ideas? Visit the West Feliciana Tourist Commission for activities, festival info and more.