Mark Twain wrote that the waters of the Mississipi “had a new story to tell every day,” and a new River-centric museum outside Baton Rouge on the grounds of the Houmas House Plantation is set to stand at the center of such storytelling.
Since 2003, Louisiana real estate developer Kevin Kelly has owned Houmas House, a sprawling plantation in Darrow, Louisiana, established in the late 1700s just 16 miles from Baton Rouge and 50 miles from New Orleans. Kelly and his team have carefully curated a new centerpiece to a motorcoach tour there—a museum where memories of life along the Mississippi may be shared and new stories can be made.
With its main salon bedecked in the style of an 1800s steamboat ballroom, the museum will contain interactive, hands-on exhibits and multi-media displays set in grand spaces designed to accommodate sizable tour groups. Visitors will learn about commerce along the river, local folklore, steamboat travel and the Mississippi River’s role in the creation of Southern culture.
The $15 million museum and events venue includes a 28,000-square-foot museum, café, events stage and amphitheater for live music and special performances on the 38-acre plantation grounds. A wide pathway will lead from the museum to a 24-foot-high wheelchair-accessible pedestrian bridge spanning River Road, reaching atop a levee where streetlamps and benches offer visitors a place to relax and behold the wide waterway.
Houmas House offers plenty of parking for numerous large buses, and the grounds are large enough to accommodate large groups without seeming crowded. Guests will especially like the chance to visit the three restaurants and bar or browse the gift shop and bookstore, the 200-year old main house, acres of exquisite gardens, luxury cottages, courtyards, fountains and more. They may even recognize Houmas House as the filming location for the 2019 Academy Award-winner Green Book.
Make it a package
Along the almost 70-mile-long River Road between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, don’t miss these other stops perfect for bus tours and group excursions:
Oak Alley Plantation: A National Historic Landmark, this handsome plantation’s landscape reveals a quarter-mile alley of oak trees, lush gardens and lawns and a Greek revival mansion built in 1839. One of the most popular plantation stops along River Road, Oak Alley is lovely, but isn’t entirely wheelchair accessible or a fit for those with mobility challenges. However, bus parking is plentiful, and there is wheelchair access to the gift shop.
Laura Plantation is home to Louisiana’s Creole Heritage Site, an informative permanent exhibit dedicated to interpreting the experiences of the enslaved people who lived and worked on this once-sprawling sugarcane plantation. Just four miles from Oak Alley, it accommodates numerous large buses and private group tours may be arranged. Group tours receive a 25 percent discount on admission. Bilingual English and French tours are available. There are no elevators or ramps in the main house, but there are in the gift shop and restroom buildings.
Nottaway Plantation and Resort: This 1859 Greek and Italianate-style “White Castle” mansion is said to be the largest antebellum home still standing in the South. Private group tours are available, and grounds are fairly accessible. Nottaway offers overnight accommodations and self-paced audio tours and tours led by costumed guides.
River Road African American Museum: This small museum in Donaldsonville offers more than just the romanticized Gone with the Wind side of plantation life. Exhibits focus not only on stories of the enslaved peoples brought to this region, but also celebrate the world-changing contributions of African Americans to music, art, cuisine, architecture and more. Although this museum is small, it can accommodate fairly large groups of visitors and offers parking space for large busses.
The Great River Road Museum and Interpretive Center will be located at Houmas House Plantation & Gardens, 40136 Highway 942, Darrow, LA 70725. houmashouse.com