The 5 Best Places to Stay in Charlottesville (+ another 5 Great Places To Stay Near Charlottesville, VA)

The 5 Best Places to Stay in Charlottesville (+ another 5 Great Places To Stay Near Charlottesville, VA)

Our kids’ sleep away camp does a week where you can have a family sleepover option with them. Being eating alive by mosquitoes in cabins with communal bathrooms and no WiFi?  That’s not our kind of family bonding. We’ll be nearby in Charlottesville Virginia!  Although a small town, Charlottesville, Virginia seems to draw us regularly to its environs. Visiting this cool university town where both my brother and his wife went to business school was no hardship.The university is, of course, Thomas Jefferson’s pet project, the University of Virginia (UVA).  We are always delighted to explore Charlottesville which shines as  a beacon of excellent hotels and great food options near where our kids go to camp in the back of beyond West Virginia.

Lodging in Charlottesville, VA

When you are looking for places to staying Charlottesville, you will have a choice of accommodation because this university town is very popular with visitors. We’ve chosen two bed and breakfasts in Charlottesville downtown and one luxury hotel/inn in the same area. We’ve also picked a couple of boutique hotels in Charlottesville near UVA.

200 South Street Inn

In our opinion, 200 South Street Inn is the best bed and breakfast in Charlottesville VA when you consider value and location.Set in two historic buildings, with the oldest building being the only building on the street when it was built for a son of Thomas Jefferson’s friends.

200 South Street Inn, a Charlottesville bed and breakfast downtown

200 South Street Inn, a Charlottesville bed and breakfast downtown

This Charlottesville bed and breakfast in downtown is a few minutes walk from the pedestrian mall area with its many shops, the Jefferson theatre and eating options. Every Saturday, the celebrated Charlottesville farmer’s market takes place pretty much across the street from this Inn.

Heading to Charlottesville, Virginia? Check out our curated selection of where to stay in charlottesville (as well as where to stay near Charlottesville) #Charlottesville #cville #Virginia #hotel #bedandbreakfast #boutiquehotel #luxuryhotel

Heading to Charlottesville, Virginia? Check out our curated selection of where to stay in charlottesville (as well as where to stay near Charlottesville)

The 200 South Street Inn is spread across two buildings with a parking lot in the back (very handy!)l, The rooms are furnished with antiques and the staff are friendly and helpful.  I’ve done a full review of the 200 South Street Inn as well.

Check out the reviews for 200 South Street Inn on TripAdvisor

For the latest rates for 200 South Street Inn, here are a selection of travel booking sites: booking.com Expedia  Hotels.com

 

The Inn at Court Square

There are lots of chain hotels in Charlottesville (Hyatt Place, Omni Charlottesville etc) but assuming you are looking for unique and charming, the boutique-style of the Inn at Court Square makes it one of the best hotels in Charlottesville, VA. Among the hotels in downtown Charlottesville, VA, the location is super-central.

The Stonewall Jackson statute in Jackson Square Charlottesville VA

The Stonewall Jackson statute in Jackson Square Charlottesville VA

The Inn at Court Square is spread out across two restored historic houses which face Stonewall Jackson square. The potential removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in this square is one of the causes that lead to the violent white national protests in Charlottesville in the summer 2017 .

The Inn at Court Square is beautifully styled as you would expect from the innkeeper and her family being interior designers. Between the two buildings, there are 6 guest rooms, 4 suites. and the family’s antique stores.

Check out the reviews for the Inn at Court Square on TripAdvisor

For the latest rates for the Inn at Court Square, here are a selection of travel booking sites: booking.com Expedia Hotels.com

The Inn at 400 West High

Continuing with the boutique luxury theme, the Inn at 400 West High is another bed and breakfast in Charlottesville, VA.  It is a mix and match of the previously mentioned places to stay in Charlottesville, VA. You get the elegance of The Inn at Court Square with the small bed and breakfast aspect of 200 South Street Inn.

 

This little gem can accommodate 2-4 people depending on which of the 5 rooms are available. Unlike other inns at Charlottesville, the style at this Inn is less antiques and more contemporaries. Some of the rooms have their own outside private sitting areas.

Check out the reviews for the Inn at 400 West High on TripAdvisor.

For the latest rates for at the Inn at 400 West High, here are a selection of travel booking sites: booking.com Expedia Hotels.com

Where to eat in downtown Charlottesville

Our casual choice for dining in downtown Charlottesville is South Street Brewery located conveniently next door to 200 South Street Inn.  With craft beer and locally-sourced food, this brewery is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week. The South Street Brewery menu is heavy on salads, pizzas and sandwiches.

The South Street Brewery is located very near 200 South Street Inn

The South Street Brewery is located very near 200 South Street Inn

Our fine dining option is C&O Restaurant which as been a fixture in downtown Charlottesville since the 1970’s. The restaurant is large but spread out over several dining spaces so you still get the intimacy of a smaller space.

Hotels in Charlottesville near UVA

Oakhurst Inn

The Oakhurst Inn is a boutique hotel located close to UVA perfect for book-lovers. Among the inns in Charlottesville, the Oakhurst Inn is unusual for having no hotel lobby. Instead there are 4 communal libraries filled with books, newspapers and other items. You can relax as if you were in the comfort of your own home, and catch up on your reading with a cup of coffee.

 

The guest rooms are as luxurious as you would expect for luxury hotels in Charlottesville VA – free valet parking, flat screen televisions, free fast WiFI and bathroom toiletries by Malin + Goetz. The suites have pull-out beds which would work for families with children.

The 27 rooms are individually furnished so you don’t get a cookie-cutter look. Although set in historic buildings, the style is clean and contemporary perfect for those people who like their Charlottesville lodging without the fuss of traditional decor.

Check out the reviews for Oakhurst Inn on TripAdvisor

For the latest rates for Oakhurst Inn, here are a selection of travel booking sites: booking.com Expedia Hotels.com

 

Dinsmore House Bed & Breakfast

Another one of the hotels near Charlottesville UVA, Dinsmore House was bult in 1822 by Thomas Jefferson’s master builder, James Dinsmore. A recent remodel of this Charlottesville bed and breakfast has left if feeling fresh and contemporary with a twist of traditional elegance. Thing four poster beds and clawfoot rugs – making it one of the best places to stay in Charlottesville VA.

Dinsmore House, a bed and breakfast in Charlottesville VA (image credit: Dinsmore House)

Dinsmore House, a bed and breakfast in Charlottesville VA (image credit: Dinsmore House)

There are 9 guest rooms at this inn in Charlottesville VA. If you are travelling with children, this Charlottesville lodging may not be your best bet because some of the rooms are able to accommodate only one other person on a fold-out sofa or futon.

This hotel in Charlottesville near UVA also is home to the Farm Bell Kitchen, a cafe that serves locally sourced food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Check out the reviews for Dinsmore House on TripAdvisor

For the latest rates for Dinsmore House, here are a selection of travel booking sites: booking.com Expedia Hotels.com

Where to Eat in Charlottesville near UVA

Carrying along with the theme of good eats, Bodos Bagels is a UVA tradition and serves up a good breakfast. It has 3 locations in Charlottesville and is open all day serving bagels, sandwiches and salads.

The Ivy Inn offers fine dining in Charlottesville near UVA.

The Ivy Inn offers fine dining in Charlottesville near UVA.

For a fancy dinner, we recommend the Ivy Inn where the drinks and food were superb which has (you guessed it) a locally sourced menu. We found the dinner crowd to be a mixed group – there was a large party who were there for a wedding weekend, people on date nights, etc. We were a little amused by the table of UVA students (clearly undergraduates) out for a nice meal – clearly they could afford much better grub for a Saturday night out than we could when we were college students!

Places To Stay near Charlottesville, VA

It’s great to realise that when you are looking for where to stay in Charlottesville, there are some great options just outside of the city. Not only are these places bigger, they offer a range of facilities varying from walking trails to full resort-style facilities.

The Clifton Inn

The Clifton Inn is a boutique hotel near Monticello VA with yet another Thomas Jefferson connection. The Clifton was originally built for Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha and her husband, who Jefferson wanted living near him. If you are looking for places to stay in Charlottesville VA without being in the city itself, the Clifton Inn is a good choice because it took us only 15 minutes to get into town.

The elegant entrance to the Clifton Inn, a bed and breakfast near Charlottesville VA

The elegant entrance to the Clifton Inn, a bed and breakfast near Charlottesville VA

The Clifton Inn is truly one of the best luxury hotels near Charlottesville, VA.  Set on 100 acres with beautifully landscaped grounds for you to explore including an infinity pool set in the woods, there are 20 guest rooms and suites some of whom accommodate children. You can read a full review of this Charlottesville resort here.

Check out the reviews for the Clifton on TripAdvisor

For the latest rates for the Clifton, here are a selection of travel booking sites: booking.com Expedia Hotels.com

Keswick Hall

Other hotels in Charlottesville VA near Monticello include Keswick Hall. A pre-eminent Charlottesville resort type, Keswick Hall  is a grand Southern resort along the lines of The Greenbrier in West Virginia or the Omni Homestead in Virginia.

 

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It’s currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment and will be open in 2019. It was recommended previously on this website for being one of the best hotels in North America with kids. When it re-opens, Keswick Hall will be even better than ever!

Check out the reviews for Keswick Hall on TripAdvisor

For the latest rates for Keswick Hall, here are a selection of travel booking sites: booking.com  Expedia hotels.com

The Boar’s Head Inn

The Boar’s Head Inn is another Charlottesville VA resort located. Presumably as soon as you leave the confines of the city, it’s easier to set up resort-style accommodation without space constraints. The Boar’s Head Inn and Resort is owned by the UVA Foundation.

 

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It’s a great day for a walk around the resort.

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This grand Charlottesville resort set on 573 acres and has 175 guest rooms. Of course, it has a Thomas Jefferson connection. It was originally the estate of Eliza Trist, a friend of Thomas Jefferon’s and whose grandchildren would eventually marry. The Boar’s Head Resort is another one of the Charlottesville resorts that is currently being renovated – but parts are still open during the renovation.

The Boar’s Head Inn has a sports club, a nationally-famed 18 hole golf course and spa facilities. Children under 12 are allowed to have mani-pedis only and under 16’s massages and facials are also allowed if they are accompanied by an adult.

Check out the reviews for The Boar’s Head Resort on TripAdvisor

For the latest rates for the Boars Head Inn and resort, here are a selection of travel booking sites: booking.com Expedia   hotels.com

The Iris Inn

The Iris Inn is a bed and breakfast near Charlottesville VA.. Unlike the other luxury hotels in/near Charlottesville, VA, the Iris Inn is a purpose-built facility overlooking the Shenandoah Valley in Waynseboro Virginia. In addition to being a bed and breakfast facility, the Iris Inn also has cabin rentals if you are looking for a self-catering experience.

Sunset over an Iris Inn Cabin (image credit: Iris Inn Jumping Rocks)

Sunset over an Iris Inn Cabin (image credit: Iris Inn Jumping Rocks)

Two of the cottages are pet-friendly. Children over the age of 10 can stay in either the main Inn or a cottage.

Check out the reviews for the Iris Inn on TripAdvisor

For the latest rates for the Iris Inn and cabins, here are a selection of travel booking sites: booking.com Expedia  hotels.com  

 

The Inn at Willow Grove

The Inn at Willow Grove is a boutique-style luxury hotel near Charlottesville, VA set up to look like a little self-contained village. Originally built in 1778 as a historic plantation, the Inn at Willow Grove has been given a total refurbishment to  create one of the best places to stay near Charlottesville.

The Inn at Willow Grove is located in Orange Virginia and conveniently close to Montpelier, James Madison’s home, and located about 31 miles (about 45 minutes) from Charlottesville itself. This inn is the furthest of our choices from Charlottesville but many people stay in Charlottesville and come to Montpelier.

The Inn at Willow Grove (Image credit: Inn at Willow Grove)

The Inn at Willow Grove (Image credit: Inn at Willow Grove)

The 25 rooms spread between cottages and suites of which 3  can accommodate family groups of up to 4 people.  Among the amenities is complimentary butler service. There’s a well-regarded restaurant/pub on site. The 3000 s.f. Mill House spa is located in a barn and oozes farmhouse chic.

Check out the reviews for the Inn at Willow Grove on TripAdvisor

For the latest rates for the Inn at Willow Grove, here are a selection of travel booking sites: booking.com Expedia hotels.com

 

Where To Eat Near Charlottesville

How good does your pizza have to be that it gets praised by both National Geographic and The Food Network? The family-owned business at Crozet Pizza has been run-in since the 1970’s with home made dough, a secret sauce recipe and other locally-sourced ingredients. It’s open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. The original location is in Crozet Pizza but there’s also Crozet Pizza being served at the Buddhist Biker Bar near UVA in Chartlottesville.

1771 restaurant is located at The Clifton, one of the best luxury hotels near Monticello, VA

1771 restaurant is located at The Clifton, one of the best luxury hotels near Monticello, VA

After a 2018 revamp, the Clifton Inn has emerged with a renewed focus on food. The chef at the 1799, the Clifton’s Restaurant is a one-Michelin starred chef from California. He oversees the preparation of a locally sourced menu of reinterpreted American classics. Meals are served either on a beautiful verandah or an elegant library room. The 1799 refers to the date the property was constructed for Thomas Jefferson’s daughter.

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When you are searching for where to stay in Charlottesville VA it’s definitely good to remember the city has lots of great options both for places to stay in Charlottesville itself as well as an assortment of fabulous places to stay nearby, both Bed and Breakfasts as well as resorts.

Where to stay in Charlottesville, VA and where to stay near Charlottesville VA #Charlottesville #cville #Virginia #hotel #bedandbreakfast #boutiquehotel #luxuryhotel

Where to stay in Charlottesville, VA and where to stay near Charlottesville VA

Charlottesville Virginia has plenty of offer because it is beautiful countryside with lots of history and natural attractions. Just a 2 hour drive from Washington, D.C. means it is also a great weekend escape from  the city. There is a reason that we have returned to this area time and time again (and not just for the UVA connection)).

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How Street Art in Houston is Jazzing Up Its Downtown (And 7 Top Houston Wall Murals Perfect for the ‘Gram)

How Street Art in Houston is Jazzing Up Its Downtown (And 7 Top Houston Wall Murals Perfect for the ‘Gram)

In addition to being known as the home of US space exploration and humidity that can add curl to an Afghan Hound’s fur, did you know there is a burgeoning street art scene in Houston? Downtown Houston has embraced graffiti and murals with a Texas-sized enthusiasm which provide unexpected pops of colour, big and small. It’s not just the street art lovers who flock to these Houston murals, Houston wall art has proved popular for the Instagram-loving crowd too. We love to check out the street art scene wherever we are in the world, and Houston’s wall murals are a delight.

How Street Art in Houston is Jazzing Up Its Downtown (And 7 Top Houston Wall Murals Perfect for the ‘Gram)

How Street Art in Houston is Jazzing Up Its Downtown (And 7 Top Houston Wall Murals Perfect for the ‘Gram)

Houston Wall Art For The ‘Gram

All this street art makes perfect Instagram feed material. Not only do you get instant backdrops for your selfie but you also let to drop in casually how cool and cultured you are at the same time. win/win.

The “Houston is Inspired” mural is one of the most Instagrammed spots in Houston. This first of the Houston wall murals was painted by Mario Figueroa Jr as part of the city’s business initiative to promote the local arts scene.

Mario Figueroa AKA Gonzo247 leads an artist collective, Aerosol Warfare which works to promote street art in the city such as, for example, liaising with businesses hiring street artists to add murals to their buildings. Houston graffiti is straddling the fine line between avant-garde and mainstream commercial success.

Businesses commission street art in Houston

Businesses are discovering the widespread attention they get with colorful wall murals

In fact, Gonzo 247 lead the team of 5 artists (including Mr. D mentioned below) that did the Guerrilla Gorilla artwork of giant gorillas around the city for the Houston Zoo in 2015.  Check out this cool photo gallery of artist Anat Ronen creating her gorilla wall from start to finish.

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Another graffiti wall in Houston is the “Greetings from Houston” wall mural which looks like a cool 1970’s style postcard with its bright colours and iconic Texas images (cactus, oil rig, etc). Created by local talent, Daniel Anguilu, this Houston mural is a perfect e-postcard to announce your stay in the Bayou City.

For a big city in a bigger state “Let’s Preservation The Creation Houston” mural is Houston-sized. About 60 feet tall and 180 feet wide covering 10,000 s.f. of wall, this mural by Mr. D is a riff on Michaelangelo’s famous ceiling at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.  Only this creator god is holding a spray paint can (and briefly a football in 2017 when Houston hosted Super Bowl 51).

In 2017, L.A. artist Russell Etchen created a faux rock facade called “About_Rocks” where the rocks had cartoon eyes.

If you want a whole host of backgrounds for your selfie, you should check out the Houston Graffiti Building. Here’s my son hamming it up in front of some angel wings which appeared on the Just Go Places Instagram.

Areas For Houston Graffiti and Murals

Houston is a sprawling city with heavy traffic congestion. You do need to plan where you want to go and what you want to see. Walking around the city like we did checking out the street art in Valencia Spain is not an option and the street art is not as concentrated in the urban sprawl as, for example, in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Market Square Park

The so-called graffiti park in Houston is Market Square Park, located in the Historic District of Downtown Houston.  Houston is so sprawling it actually has 10 different districts in its downtown area.

Houston Graffiti Building

When we went to the Houston Graffiti Building on a Saturday, there were a handful of photoshoots happening of Quinceanara girls and their entourages.

A photo shoot with a quinceanera in a blue dress at the Houston Graffiti building with a view of the skyscrapers of Downtown Houston

A quinceanara photo shoot at the Houston Graffiti building.

Quinceanara parties are birthday parties for girls turning 15 and are huge affairs in the Latin American communities of the USA. The fact that these dresses are gorgeous, the girls travel with entourages and have photo shoots should tell you something about what a big deal they are!

A colourful Houston wall mural in Downtown Houston

A colourful Houston wall mural in Downtown Houston

Lawndale Art Center

The Lawndale Art Center is a venue for local and regional art. It’s got a rotating mural on its facade. The current mural is an approximately 3000 s.f. trompe l’oeil by Francesca Fuchs of cathedral pillars.

Graffiti and Street Art Museum of Texas

When we visited, the opening of the Graffiti and Street Art Museum of Texas has been delayed thanks to the ravages of Hurricane Harvey. They do, however, suggest you check out their calendar for local events.

On the GSAM website you can also book  guided Houston murals tours led by a street artist. It’s a 90 minute tour available on Sundays which we would have taken if we had been in Houston on a Sunday. We learned so much from our guided street art tour of Shoreditch that I definitely would recommend a guided street art tour if you have the opportunity.

Stay Sorta Positive street mural in Downtown Houston

Stay Sorta Positive street mural in Houston

Houston Street Art Locations

Street art is ephemeral by its very nature and what you see today may not be there tomorrow. You’re best bet to find Houston street art locations is to visit the neighbourhoods famous for Houston graffiti, namely the Washington Avenue Arts District and Downtown Houston’s assorted districts.

Check out the Mini Murals Houston website for small-scale murals that pop up randomly on electrical boxes in Houston adding an unexpected pop of color and vibrancy to the city. We saw something similar on the electric boxes in Cork Ireland.  There’s a map on the site showing you location of these smaller pieces of Houston graffiti.

Flower-headed ballerinas, street art mural on a building in downtown Houston

The flower-headed ballerinas were one of my favourite works.

Wall murals tend to have more longevity. These Houston murals locations, moreover, have hit a degree of fame that they should stick around for the foreseeable future or alternatively, something else equally cool will have replaced the street art.

Houston Dreamers by Pink Lo Mein, Downtown Houston wall art

Houston Dreamers by Pink Lo Mein, Downtown Houston wall art

Here are some of the more famous Houston murals locations. I’ve tried to organise these Houston street art locations by zip code so that’s easier on your sat nav/GPS. Of course, you are driving there…it’s Houston.

  • Houston is Inspired – 907 Preston St, Houston TX 77002
  • Market Square Park – 301 Milam, Houston TX 77002
  • Lawndale Art Center 4912 Main Street, Houston TX 77002
  • Houston Graffiti Building – 1503 Chartres St,  Houston TX 77003
  • Let’s Preserve the Creation Mural – 2800 San Jacinto, Houston TX 77004
  • Greetings From Houston Mural – 3601 White Oak Drive, Houston TX 77007
  • Houston Zoo Mural – 2201 Washington Avenue, Houston 77007
Where to Find The Top Houston Wall Murals

Where to Find The Top Houston Wall Murals

Practicalities for Visiting Houston Wall Art

We stayed at the St. Regis Houston which is a great hotel but not that near downtown Houston. It was about a 40 minute drive to downtown.

We have friends who stayed at Hotel ZaZa which is in the Museum District and highly recommend it. I bet my kids thought if we stayed too close to all those museums, we’’d make them do nothing else. Anyway, the Hotel ZaZa is a pink giant block on the outside and theatrical glamour on the inside. Hotel Zaza Houston Museum District has gotten very good reviews on TripAdvisor as well.

We went to the original Ninfa’s (on 2704 Navigation Boulevard) which is famous for creating fajitas back in the 1970’s. My kids love their Mexican food and fajitas remain one of their favourite dishes of all time/cuisines. Of course, we had to do a pilgrimage to Ninfa’s and it was totally worth it! Check out the excellent reviews for Ninfa’s on Navigation on TripAdvisor.

For more photos of Houston wall art, check out my gallery on Smug Mug for more of my photos.

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The Three Best Plantation Homes in Louisiana To Visit With Kids

The Three Best Plantation Homes in Louisiana To Visit With Kids

With so many restored Louisiana plantation homes to visit, how do you narrow down your choice of Louisiana plantation homes when you are travelling with children in tow?  My husband and I would have loved to have seen as many plantation homes in Louisiana as we could have but we knew our children had a much more limited attention span. In the end, we chose three of the New Orleans plantation houses to visit based on their proximity to each other and the different perspectives on Southern plantation life they provided.

Oak Alley Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Oak Alley Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #OakAlleyPlantation

The top 3 Louisiana plantation homes to visit from New Orleans.

New Orleans Plantation Country

New Orleans plantation country has 10 major plantations to explore.

  • Destrehan Plantation and Ormond Plantation are the closest to New Orleans and the international airport.
  • Houmas Plantation and San Francisco Plantation focus on the grandeur of New Orleans plantation houses and the Antebellum lifestyle enjoyed by its owners.
  • Poche Plantation and Oak Alley Plantation offers a history of the families who lived there.
  • Laura Plantation focuses on the connection of the French Creoles with the region.
  • St Joseph’s Plantation is still a working sugarcane plantation.
  • Evergreen Plantation offers a bit of everything – a French Creole history, grand architecture, the stories of slave labour and a working sugarcane plantation.
  • Whitney Plantation tells the story of the slaves working on these sugarcane plantations.

Our Three Picks for Family-Friendly Plantation Homes in Louisiana

Our decision came down to convenience as well as having good historical learning exhibits. New Orleans plantation country extends all the way to Baton Rouge on the River Road but we stayed at the end closest to New Orleans.

The main house at Laura Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Laura Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #LauraPlantation

A map of the sugar plantations that lined the Missisippi River in their heyday.

Staying on site in a cottage at Oak Alley Plantation, we were also able to visit the nearby Whitney Plantation and the Laura Plantation. All three of these plantations lie in a convenient cluster near each other less than an hour away from Downton New Orleans.

Of these three New Orleans plantation houses, Oak Alley provides the  most amenities. For example, there are rental cottages located on the 25 acre property.  In addition, there is a large restaurant, separate cafe and a banqueting facility as well as the requisite gift shop.

New Orleans Plantations Tours I Missed

St. Joseph’s Plantation is located next door to the Oak Alley Plantation and I was gutted to have to drive by it without entering. I, however, know my children’s limits on museums and three museums in 2 days was plenty. I would have also liked to see Houmas Plantation to compare the Anglo-American sugar plantation lifestyle with that of the French Creoles.

The Grand Dame of the New Orleans Plantation Houses

We chose Oak Alley Plantation because it not only has family-friendly accommodation on site but is also beautiful. Small wonder it is the most photographed plantation home in Louisiana.

The Live Oaks at Oak Alley Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Oak Alley Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplanatations #OakAlleyPlantation

Oak Alley Plantation History

Oak Alley Plantations’s history is fairly abbreviated. The 28 Virginia live oaks that give the plantation its name are about 300 years old.  They had already been planted by a previous owner when Jacques Roman, the scion of a local rich family, bought the plantation. He had the grand plantation home built as a way to tempt his New Orleans socialite bride, Celina Roman, out to the countryside.

Fun Fact! The Roman family owned a whole host of  Louisiana plantations homes including one known as Le Petit Versailles (modelled after Versailles in France).

Built entirely by slaves with handmade bricks over the course of a mere 2.5 years in the 1840’s, the craftsmanship is extraordinary. The plantation house is built in a Greek revival style with 28 Tuscan columns meant to echo the 28 live oaks lining the driveway. The exterior walls are stucco made to look like marble.

Handmade bricks at Oak Alley Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Oak Alley Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #OakAlleyPlantation

A cutaway of the plaster wall at Oak Alley plantation shows the handmade bricks made by the enslaved workers.

The Romans lived for less than 10 years at Oak Plantation when Jacques Roman died. Celina did not have the skills to run a sugar plantation. By the time their son was old enough to take over the running of Oak Alley, the estate was heavily in debt and the estate was sold in 1866.

With the end of slavery, the economic model of sugar plantation was not viable and so the whole plantation eventually fell into ruins.

The current owner’s family, wealthy Texans, bought the house for $50,000 in 1925. They had to spend $60,000 though to renovate the plantation house and make it liveable.

Columned terrace at Oak Alley Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Oak Alley Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #OakAlleyPlantation

The beauty of the columned terrace.

With its obvious beauty, Oak Alley is a popular film venue. For example, it has appeared in Interview With A Vampire (1994) as the home of Louis (played by Brad Pitt). My kids were more impressed though that it was in the video for Beyonce’s song Deja Vu.

Oak Alley Plantation Tour

As of January 2018, the tours are no longer conducted by guides in period dress. The tours of the plantation house are run frequently throughout the day and last about 45 minutes.

TripAdvisor reviews seem to agree with me  that the house is amazing and the tours are OK.  You do get the feeling that you are being pushed through on the tour like you are on a factory processing line.

You get a brief history of the family, a look at the formal sitting room, the dining room and some bedrooms. You have great views over the plantation grounds from  the second floor terrace, including down that famous alley of live oaks.

terrace view at Oak Alley Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Oak Alley Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplanatations #OakAlleyPlantation

The view from the terrace down that famous alley of live oaks at Oak Alley Plantation.

Outside on the grounds, there are self-guided tours you can do. There is also an exhibit on slavery at Oak Alley for which you can listen to a separate tour guide discuss the life and duties of slaves on the plantation.

Sugar Kettle at Oak Alley Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Oak Alley Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #OakAlleyPlantation

Old Sugar Kettles now are part of the landscaping at Oak Alley Plantation.

When we listened to the talk on slavery at Oak Alley, we realised about 2/3 of the people in the group walked away from lack of interest. Many people are at Oak Alley because it is pretty and a brief glimpse into the lifestyle of rich planters in the Antebellum South.

The Whitney Plantation Tour

Whitney Plantation is the only plantation to focus on the plight of the Southern slaves. Unlike the other two New Orleans plantation tours we took, the plantation owners’ life and home was very much ancillary to the tour.

Whitney Plantation History

The Whitney Plantation was started in 1752 by a German family, the Haydels, who had come to Louisiana as indentured servants. They changed their name to sound more French to fit in with the locals. From indentured servants to rich plantation owners, they epitomised the American Dream long before that idea had even been conceptualised.

The Three Best Plantation Homes in Louisiana To Visit With Kids

The estate office for Whitney Plantation is a relatively subdued affair.

The house architecture is considered French Creole cottage. Although the house looks grand from the outside, the interior is remarkably humble in keeping with many French Creole Louisiana plantation homes. French Creoles did not entertain as lavishly as the Anglo-American plantation owners and saved their partying for Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

In 2014, the Whitney Plantation was opened as a museum to the history of plantation slavery.

Whitney Plantation Museum

The Whitney Plantation tour is long – about an hour and a half and is mostly outside. Our guide, Ali, was a dynamic personality and tried to engage with the kids. TripAdvisor reviews agree that the Whitney Plantation tour is excellent.

My 11 year old kids found the Whitney Plantation tour fascinating but also disturbing because it made a vague concept they had studied about in a textbook more real.

Travel Tip – On a hot sunny day like we had, we were grateful we had bottles of water with us because most of the tour is outside.

The lives of sugar plantation slaves was very harsh. Sugar was 3x more profitable to grow than cotton but also much more difficult to extract. There were plenty of opportunities for accidents from the cutting of the tall sugar canes to the boiling of the sugar cane in the sugar kettles. For example, if some of the hot sugar cane syrup fell on your skin while it was being ladled, it would stick like tar to the skin.

Sad Fact: The average life expectancy of a slave working on a sugar plantation was only 10 years.

In fact, it was cheaper to let the slaves die as they grew older and more infirm than to take care of them. The plantation owners referred to young enslaved women as breeders because they were required to provide more human stock to replenish and to enlarge the workforce.

A slave quote at Whitney Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Whitney Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #WhitneyPlantation

Slave women were also kept breeding in order to provide additional workers.

The Whitney Plantation has an indoor exhibit explaining slave trade throughout history around the world. Slavery, after all, has been around for millennia.

There is also Antioch Baptist Church which was built after the Civil War. This Baptist Church moved to the Whitney Plantation when the original congregation decided to build a new church after Hurricane Katrina.

Antioch Baptist Church at Whitney Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Whitney Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #WhitneyPlantation

The Antioch Baptist Church relocated to the Whitney Plantation.

The Antioch Church was built by skilled slave labour. Inside are some of the sculptures by Woodrow Nash of slave children taken from actual photographs of slave children. Their eyes are missing to symbolise their hopeless situation. The sculptures are very moving.

The Three Best Plantation Homes in Louisiana To Visit With Kids

Woodrow Nash sculptures of slave children in Antioch Baptist Church at Whitney Plantation.

The Whitney Plantation Tour takes you to see 3 memorials to slavery:

The Wall of Honor recording the name of slaves who were owned by the Haydel family.

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A mother is listed with her children under the age of 10.

The 18 Walls Monument which records the name of every enslaved  person in a plantation home in Louisiana from 1719-1820.

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A memorial with the name of every slave in a plantation home in Louisiana during the 99 years ending in 1820.

The Field of Angels lists the names of slave children who died at Whitney Plantation and its parish from 1823-1863. The average age of a child was three years old. Many of the youngest did not even have names.

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Mediums have reported spirits of children playing near this statue to dead slave children.

The Whitney Plantation Tour also encompasses several of the outbuildings, including the separate building which was the kitchen, and the slave jail.

Laura Plantation in Lousiana

We visited Laura Plantation because we wanted to learn more about French creole culture which existed until after the Civil War very much separate from the Anglo-American culture in Louisiana. Not surprising considering their origins, the French Creole looked down on Anglo-American culture.

Fun Fact! – Laura Locoul Gore (born in 1861) was the fourth generation to live at Laura Plantation but the first generation to speak English!

Laura Plantation History

The Laura Plantation was built in 1805 by slaves in the Creole style for Guillaume Duparc. The Big House is a riot of colors similar to the houses you see in the Caribbean.

The main house at Laura Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Laura Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #LauraPlantation

The Big House at Laura Plantation

The Laura Plantation’s history is remarkable because it thrived under the management of French women with backbones of steel. In its heyday, the Laura Plantation encompassed 12,000 acres, a sugar mill, 69 slave cabins housing 186 slaves, a slave hospital and communal kitchens.

This line of  matriarchy was started by a wayward son exiled to the New World. Guillaume Duparc was forced to flee his native Normandy when he got into a duel with his father’s best friend’s son. He joined the French forces who were helping the American side during the American Revolution.

Duparc knew George Washington and had friends in high places. To keep on his good side, Thomas Jefferson gave the Laura Plantation to Duparc when the USA acquired the area as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Guillaume Duparc died within a few years and the plantation was run by his wife, Nanette. They had two sons and a daughter. The sons didn’t amount to much and the daughter, Elizabeth, was forced to take over the plantation.

Shocking fact – When Nanette retired to another house on the estate she took 5 slaves with her. Three of these slaves were her grandchildren by her youngest son and a slave woman. She didn’t even set her enslaved grandchildren free.
The main house at Laura Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Laura Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #LauraPlantation

A genealogy of Nanette’s grandchildren who remained slaves.

Elizabeth split the estate in half to give to her two children. She was a tough old lady and thought her son was useless. She gave the better half (which included the sugar mill) to her equally-steely daughter. The son incurred debts trying to build his own sugar mill which eventually crippled his half of the plantation.

The son named his part of the inheritance the Laura Planation after his daughter, Laura Locoul Gore. Laura sold the plantation for $18,000 in 1891. Her only living descendent was a grandson who has since died of a drug overdose.

It’s not quite shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in 3 generations but close. If it weren’t for the fortitude of the women in this family, the men would have run the plantation into the ground much faster.

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Slave cabins at Laura Plantation.

Before Laura died in 1936, she wrote her memoirs, Memories of the Old Plantation Home which makes fascinating reading. Some of her attitudes seem patronising until I realised that would have been how they thought in that era. For their time period, she and her “weak” father were quite liberal which did not a good Southern plantation owner make.

Laura Plantation Tour

The Laura Plantation Tour starts in the Big House and also visits the slave quarters. It attempts to tell the story of both the slaveowning family as well as some of the enslaved family. Obviously, the family history is better known and documented whereas the enslaved peoples’ stories are pieced together from ancillary sources.

The Laura Plantation Tour itself is relatively short (about an hour) and most of it is indoors. TripAdvisor reviewers agree that the family story intertwined with the vagaries of American history is fascinating.

New Orleans Plantation Hotel

We wanted to stay in a New Orleans plantation hotel and the Oak Alley Plantation is one of two choices available in New Orleans plantation country. The other option in New Orleans plantation country would have been Houmas House Plantation which would have been another half-hour further on from Oak Alley Plantation.

Check out the very positive reviews on TripAdvisor for Oak Alley Plantation Restaurant & Inn!

If you are driving as far as Baton Rouge, you will also have the option of staying at Nottoway Plantation Resort and The Myrtles Plantation. Unless you have particularly brave children, I’d choose Nottoway Plantation Resort because The Myrtles Plantation is supposed to be one of the most haunted hotels in the USA.

The best part of staying at Oak Alley Plantation is having the house and gardens to yourself after the visitors have gone for the night and before they arrive in the morning. I was a little shocked that Oak Alley had lots of visitors from the very first tour which starts at 9 AM.

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A view of the Big House at Oak Alley Plantation from the formal gardens.

Staying at the New Orleans Plantation Hotel

They have different sized cottages which can accommodate up to six people. Our two bedroom cottage was charming. It had a traditional charm that was endearing and enough shiplap on the walls to make Joanna Gaines happy.

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One of the bedrooms at a traditional cottage at Oak Alley plantation.

Our cottage had a kitchen for which we were thankful after our fussy child threw a fit at the nearest restaurant at lunchtime. We bought frozen pizza and ice cream for the kids at the nearest supermarket, Piggly Wiggly, in Vacherie.

The beds were comfortable, the Wifi excellent and parking easy. What more could we want??

Meals at the New Orleans Plantation Hotel

If you stay at Oak Alley Planation, breakfast at the restaurant is included. We had a hearty breakfast that included a choice of omelettes, french toast or that old Southern favourite, grits.

Breakfast at Oak Alley Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Oak Alley Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #OakAlleyPlantation

French toast with Oak Alley cane syrup for breakfast at Oak Alley plantation.

My fussy daughter had pitched a fit at the lunch on offer at the nearest restaurant we were recommended. B&C Seafood Market & Cajun Restaurant is conveniently located between Laura Planation and Oak Alley Plantation.  We thought the food at B&C was good. There is a children’s menu with things like grilled cheese and lemonade. She, however, saw the alligator nuggets on offer and that was a bridge too far for her culinary sensibilities.

Travel Tip – There are fast food establishments, like McDonalds, Subway and Pizza Hut on Highway 3125 about 6 miles from Oak Alley Plantation.

We had stayed at this New Orleans plantation hotel on Valentine’s Night so there was a special dinner available in the banqueting hall. It was a price fixe with a fixed menu and needed to be scheduled ahead of time. There were no substitutions allowed so we wound up skipping a course which included mussels to which we are allergic.

Romantic dinner at Oak Alley Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Oak Alley Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #OakAlleyPlantation

A romantic dinner for two at the banqueting hall at Oak Alley Plantation.

Overall the meal was good and the wine pairings excellent. We did, however, feel like we were at a wedding just the way the tables were arranged with 16 couples facing the front of the banqueting hall. The head chef even came out to give a little speech. I think fine dining options in this part of the world are limited and the Oak Alley Valentine’s Dinner was the best local option for the night.

New Orleans Plantation Tours

We drove from New Orleans to see these three plantation homes in Louisiana.  The drive is really easy and straightforward.

Travel Tip – If you want to visit all three of these plantations, you should stay overnight in the area.

If you don’t have a car though, you have a choice of New Orleans plantation tours leaving from the city with different combinations depending on your interests.

Visiting Lousiana Plantation Homes With Kids

We are glad we visited all three of these New Orleans plantation houses. They offered very different aspects of the Louisiana plantation homes lifestyle.

We believe our kids enjoyed the visits to these plantation homes, too. Other than the Whitney Plantation tour, all the tours were short. None of the houses had major artwork or furniture that required detailed explanation which they would find tedious. We were whisked through the houses fairly quickly.

New Orleans Plantation Country with kids | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Oak Alley Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #OakAlleyPlantation

Visiting the New Orleans plantation countryside with kids

They were fascinated with some of the stories they heard. For example, one of the teenage daughters at the Laura Plantation went to a French doctor to be treated for pimples. The medicine he gave her contained arsenic which lead to her death. Yes, modern medicine is a wonderful thing and they take it for granted.

My kids were likewise shocked that enslaved children from the age of 10 were separated from their mothers and treated the same as adults who were made to work 16 hours a day. They are 11 years old and nowhere ready to be treated as adults, never mind leave the comforts of childhood behind them.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

– Edmund Burke

Kids may learn history in school but visiting a historical place really hammers home the point.

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The Best Tips and Ideas For Your Southern USA Road Trip

The Best Tips and Ideas For Your Southern USA Road Trip

Where do you start when planning a Deep South road trip itinerary? There’s so much to see and to do in the Southern States. That’s the problem I’ve been having because we are in the process of planning a Southern USA road trip. We have driven through some of the Southern USA like Florida and our recent Louisiana road trip post-Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Long before I met him, my husband did a Southern States road trip with his best friend. From what I gather, it involved a lot of beer and pizza. Our family-friendly Deep South USA would be quite different! I’ve reached out to some travel blogger friends for other (better?) ideas on Deep South tours.

Map of South East USA Southern USA Road Trip | #Deep South Tour | #TheSouth #SouthernUSA

Tips and Ideas for a Roadtrip of the Southern States in the USA

I’m sure all the fabulous and diverse things to do on a Deep South Tour is why Lonely Planet has chosen the American southern states as one of their top regions to visit in 2018.  Other regions on the Lonely Planet Top 10 regions list for 2108 are Alaska, the Slovenian Alps, Languedoc-Roussillon in France, Bahia in Brazil, Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic, the Kii Peninsula in Japan, the Aeolian Islands of the coast of Sicily, Northern Ireland and Lahaul and Spiti in India.

Ideas for A Southern USA Road Trip

Who better to ask for advice on creating a Deep South road trip itinerary than travel bloggers who have been there?  Below are the recommendations on places to visit on a Deep South tour and travel tips for a southern states road trip from 13 fellow travel bloggers.
Map of South East USA Southern USA Road Trip | #Deep South Tour | #TheSouth #SouthernUSA

Map South East USA

The Southastern USA on a Deep South Road Trip

 The southeastern USA has many great locations to make up a Deep South road trip itinerary to suit your interests. Whether your interest lies in history, food, music or simply beautiful beach resorts, the Deep South has so many options that you will be spoilt for choice. We can definitely vouch for the beauty of the Outer Banks with its wild horses and the fascinating Wright Brothers National Memorial where the Wright Brothers flew the first plane.

Birmingham, Alabama 

The Deep South is unlike any other part of the U.S. – and that’s exactly why we loved our Deep South road trip through it. One of our favorite stops along the way was Birmingham, Alabama, a surprisingly hip and hipster town that was the site of many important (and tragic) events in America’s past.
Street art in Birmingham Alabama | Southern USA Road Trip | #DeepSouth Tour | #TheSouth #SouthernUSA

Street art in Birmingham Alabama seen on a Southern USA road trip (photo credit: Jen Ambrose and Ryan Victor)

A Civil Rights Focus For a Southern USA Road Trip

Three things you will find in the Southern states of the USA — delicious southern cooking, destinations with a deep yet troubled history, and the birthplace of the many musical genres that have impacted American music.
One way to experience what makes the south unique is through a Civil Rights road trip.
On this Deep South Road Trip itinerary, start in Atlanta, the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and home to the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
From Atlanta, head down to Montgomery, Alabama and visit the Rosa Parks Museum and Freedom Rides Museum to learn about the monumental impact the bus boycott and Freedom Rides had on the Civil Rights movement in the U.S.
It is then a short one and one-half hour drive to Birmingham, Alabama, where you can learn about the civil rights struggle in Alabama at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, visit the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and sample from Birmingham’s burgeoning food scene.
Finish off your road trip in Memphis, tracing the arc of MLK, Jr.’s life from beginning to tragic end with a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, the site where he was assassinated.
Of course, the Memphis music scene is hopping with the blues clubs on famous Beale Street, Gibson guitar factory tours, Elvis’ Graceland, the Memphis Blues Hall of Fame, and historic STAX Museum of American Soul Music.
– by Tamara Gruber at We3Travel and 
Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta Georgia

Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta Georgia (Photo credit: Tamara Gruber)

Charleston, South Carolina 

– by Sierra Dehmler at www.passportvoyager.com and on social media at 

Georgian doors in Charleston South Carolina | Southern USA Road Trip | #DeepSouth Tour | #TheSouth #SouthernUSA

Charleston, South Carolina on a Deep South Road Trip (Photo credit: Sierra Dehmler)

Memphis, Tennessee 

The Southeastern United States

As someone who was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, the news that the Southeast had been chosen as one of the world’s emerging travel hotspots provoked one question from me: What took them so long?

In terms of natural beauty, the region has it in spades, from the mountains of Appalachia and national forests such as Chattahoochee and Pisgah to islands such as the Outer Banks (NC), Golden Isles (GA), and Hilton Head (SC).

If it’s culture you seek, the Southeast is the birthplace of the blues, country, jazz, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. There’s fantastic food, from the low country cuisine of the coastal regions to the soul food that traces its roots back to Africa.

If it’s hip cities you’re into, the region has more than its fair share, from Asheville and Charleston to Nashville and Mobile. And then there’s my hometown, Atlanta, which has grown from the city Sherman burned to a bustling metropolis rich with international flavor.

Whether you’re into Civil War history or the Civil Rights movement, the Southeast has a uniquely diverse array of offerings that will appeal to travelers of every style. So much so that, in recent years, a significant portion of our visitors seem inclined to stay!

– Bret Love & Mary Gabbett at Green Global Travel and on social media at 

Sunset in Outer Banks, North Carolina | Southern States Road Trip | #DeepSouth #OBX

Sunset in Outer Banks, North Carolina (Photo credit: Bret Love)

Visit Florida for Sun and Fun on your Deep South Road Trip

There’s so much more to Florida than the ever popular Orlando theme parks. We have been to some of the more popular places like the Palm Beaches, Orlando, Miami and Key West, including a beautiful road trip from Miami to Key West.

Gainesville, Florida

Gainesville is an awesome place to visit for its diversity. As a college town where the University of Florida is located, there are a ton of very unique bars, and many that are cheap as dirt (the benefits of a college town!) Some even let you bring your dogs, which is fun whether you have a pup or not – I mean, who doesn’t love having a beer and petting a cute dog at the same time?
There are some cool walks to do as well, on one of which you can spot gators. Just don’t get too close, and they won’t attack. I swear, they’re tame! (Don’t bring your dogs for that walk, though, as they do want to eat your dog, just not you!)
Gainesville is filled with surprises, and awesome places to eat. Ever tried a falafel burger? You got it. As it’s a bit of a trendy place, there are loads of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, as well as something for the meat eaters out there – rest assured.
Overall, Gainesville is incredibly diverse, plus it’s a small city so it’s easy to walk around even if you don’t have a car. I highly recommend visiting!
– by Danielle Ditzian from Like Riding a Bicycle  and on social media at 
Up close and personal with Alligators in Gainesville, Florida

Up close and personal with Alligators in Gainesville, Florida (Photo credit: Danielle Ditzian)

 

Southwest Florida

Beautiful Southwest Florida is as much a geographic region as it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Florida. Located in the sub-tropical southwest “paradise coast” of Florida, the region lies at the edge of the Florida Everglades giving visitors unparalleled nature and eco tourism opportunities.

The main cities of Naples, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, and Fort Myers all offer great shopping, dining, and cultural activities centered around the Arts, and are surrounded by the small, still quaint fishing towns that offer a glimpse into the slower pace of Floridays gone past.

Island towns like Sanibel and Captiva islands, Pine Island, and Matlacha, are easy day trips from wherever you stay and perfect for paddling the calm bays and backwaters, browsing art galleries and eating fresh shrimp tacos for lunch.

It’s just a short drive to Miami for those needing more action, and a fun 3-hour boat ride to check out Key West for the day. But the biggest draw for visitors to southwest Florida is some of the best beaches in the country, with Caribbean-style turquoise water, soft white sand, and some of the best shelling in the world.

– by Lori Sorrentino at www.Travlinmad.com and on social media at 
A live shell found on beach in Naples, Florida

A live shell found on the beach in Naples, Florida will go back to the sea.

Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida

My family loves visiting the islands of Sanibel and Captiva on the West coast of Florida. They offer some of the Sunshine State’s most sublime scenery. Miles of white sand beaches, acres of wildlife refuge, and a low-key vibe make this part of Florida a true island oasis.
Both Sanibel and Captiva have long been known as the best spots in the world to go shelling, but Sanibel in particular has a huge abundance of shells due to its unusual east-west orientation, allowing the shells to roll in and stay put. People come from far and wide to go shelling on Sanibel.
Sanibel is also the home to the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, offering a ton of wildlife spotting, making the island a nature-lovers paradise. There is town life as well, but for the really funky part of the islands, head over the bridge to Captiva, where swirls of bright colours great you with quirky stores and bungalow-style restaurants and cafes.
Captiva is fun and unique, with places like the wacky Bubble Room, which celebrates Christmas all-year round, and known for their delicious cakes. Sunset Beach cocktails can be had at famed Mucky Duck, a Captiva institution. Best of all, though, is just hanging at one of the islands’ many beautiful beaches, and feeling completely removed from the hustle and bustle.
– by Corey Cook at Fifi and Hop and on social media at
A Captiva Island Florida sunset

A Captiva Florida sunset (Photo credit: Corey Cook)

Everglades, Florida

One of the most famous ecosystems in the southeast US is the Florida Everglades, as it contains the largest subtropical wetland in the country. Over 1.5 million acres has been designated as Everglades National Park, and is home to more than 70 threatened or endangered species.
The Everglades has such a unique ecology that it’s also received several international recognitions,  including International Biosphere Reserve, Wetland of International Importance, and World  Heritage Site (this place is special, y’all!).
Since the Everglades is so shallow, with sawgrass marsh as its primary feature, motorboats can’t operate in most areas. So the most novel – and fun! – way to explore it is by airboat. Airboating is a great eco-friendly option, since there’s no submerged propeller to damage underwater plants and wildlife (that gets extra points from this sustainability-minded traveler). It’s also loud, windy, and fast!
To get a little taste of what the Everglades has to offer, I recommend a tour with Everglades the  River of Grass Adventures. Just an hour’s drive from Fort Lauderdale and a cost of $50 for a  one-hour tour, it’s easily accessible and well-priced. The guides are super knowledgeable on ecology of the area, and there’s a good chance you’ll have some close encounters with local wildlife. Fingers crossed for an alligator sighting!
 – by Mary Beth Charles at MBSees.com and on social media at 

American Alligator Swimming through the Everglades (Image credit: Mary Beth Charles)

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge – Georgia and Florida

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is as much fun to visit as it is to say (oh-kuh’-fuh-noh’-kee). Residing along the Georgia and Florida border in the Southeast United States, this renowned swamp covers 438,000 acres. The look and feel of this swamp is almost prehistoric, as alligators inhabit the waterways and Spanish moss hangs from the trees.

If you are a wildlife lover, be sure to bring your binoculars and camera. Besides the thousands of alligators in the swamp you might also see black bears, otters water moccasins and a whole host of interesting birds, including the osprey, sandhill crane and anhinga.

You can explore Okefenokee Swamp at your leisure from your car or the wilderness walkways, or take one of the many tours offered by the Park Service. You can even take a train tour aboard “The Lady Suwanee” along the Okefenokee Railroad.

I very highly recommend getting out of your car and taking the Adventure Walk to the Observation Tower. This boardwalk sits low – nearly on top of the swamp so wildlife viewing is fantastic. The Observation Tower is 90 feet high and allows wonderful panoramic views of the swamp.

– by Cherri Megasko at Bucket List Travel Club and on social media at 

Twin alligators at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on the Florida-Georgia border

Twin alligators at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on the Florida-Georgia border (Photo credit: Cherri Megasko)

Florida For a Southern States Road Trip

When you think of Florida, you probably think of Disney and gators, but there is so much more to it than that.  It’s home to the oldest city in the US (St Augustine), one of the least visited national parks in the country, natural springs with crystal clear water, and some of the best cave diving in the world.  And if none of that interests you, it’s got the Kennedy Space Center, beaches galore, some of the best state parks, and one of the most stylish cities in the country. 
I love visiting Florida, because just driving three hours can feel like an entirely new place.  There’s something for everyone whether you’re a city slicker or a beach bum, there’s a place for you. 
I love the colorful shops in Cocoa Beach, boating around Port Orange, relaxing at the Anastasia Island State Park, and exploring the springs. 
In Gainesville check out The Flying Biscuit for brunch and CYM for a delicious coffee. 
If you’re in St. Augustine, head to Kookaburra for a unique coffee experience and an awesome dinner at The Floridian after wandering the old city. 
Florida is an awesome place to visit because it is such a diverse state. 
 – by Megan Johnson at https://redaroundtheworld.com/ and on social media at 
Florida Lighthouse

Florida Lighthouse (Photo credit: Megan Johnson)

Louisiana and Texas for a Deep South USA Road Trip

We have just returned from a Louisiana road trip that started in with Mardi Gras in New Orleans and ended in Houston. I’ve not yet had time to write the articles for this Louisiana road trip which included visiting plantation country and cajun country. In the meantime, here are two other perspectives on visiting Louisiana and Texas.

New Orleans, Louisiana 

United States is a huge country with plenty of diversity, amongst which the southern states holds its own. The weather is warm, the food is spicy, the people are known for their “southern” hospitality and there are some unique rituals and festivals that are not observed anywhere else in the country.
New Orleans, the major city of Louisiana, stands out on its own because of the French colonialism hangover. The creole-cajun food where African (much like other southern states, Louisiana too had African slaves employed on plantations and cotton fields) and French traditions meet, the strains of Jazz music and the crowd puller Mardi Gras are all nods to its checkered past.
There are so many reasons to visit New Orleans, be it to witness the frenzy of Mardi Gras or the liveliness of New Orleans Jazz fest or to taste the amazing diversity in southern food.
However, the one thing that you should not miss is the French quarter neighborhood or Vieux Carre, the oldest district of the city and built by the French in 1718. The architecture is distinctly European with slatted windows, beautiful courtyards and fountains. It is a bustling neighborhood with bars, pubs, restaurants and local boutique shops. Bourbon street is the liveliest street which becomes the epicenter of drunken revelry during Mardi Gras while Canal street is where you get to see some of the best parades at that time.
French Quarter is home to the famous Jackson Square, formerly known as the Place d’Armes and later renamed after Andrew Jackson, the hero of the battle of New Orleans. Close by is the iconic Cafe du Monde serving beignets and coffee 24/7 (cash only please).
The French Quarter is a must visit if you are in NOLA and you can further enhance your experience by joining one of the many walking tours offered in the neighborhood.
– by Paroma Chakravarty at Year of the Monkey and on social media at
New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana (Photo credit: Paroma Chakravarty)

Austin, Texas 

Austin, the state capital of Texas, is a great place to visit and rightly deserves to be included in the Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions to visit in 2018.

Known predominantly for it’s eclectic music scene and the University of Texas at Austin, Austin also has enough parks and lakes to keep every outdoor enthusiast happy and are great for hiking, biking, swimming and kayaking.

It also has a blossoming food scene and currently serves up some of the best BBQ and Taco’s in the whole of the South! Add in an outdoor gallery and 2 annual music festivals, and you’ve got a city with something for everyone.

If you are planning a weekend in Austin, this guide has everything you need to know from things to do, where to stay and what to eat!

– by Vicki Garside at Make Time To See The World and on social media at 

Austin Texas (photo credit: Vicki Garside)

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The Cats That Usurped Hemingway’s Key West House

The Cats That Usurped Hemingway’s Key West House

I feel it is deeply unfair when a woman has an unabashed love of cats she’s known as a crazy cat lady.  When a man, however, is a cat lover no one comes up with such a pejorative nickname.  Relatives of mine (ahem! my brother) are crazy about their cats. He’s got three cats who are deeply loved and cosseted.  Does anyone accuse him of being a crazy cat person?  No.  So I shall do some finger-pointing and call out the American swashbuckling hero, general hard-drinking/hard-loving, larger-than-life novelist, Ernest Hemingway, as a crazy cat man.  Hemingway’s Key West house is now a visitor destination and home to a whole lot of cats.

visiting Hemingway's House in Key West Florida

Hemingway and His Cats

Hemingway’s Key West house is filled with cats.  You turn around, and there’s another cat that you are practically tripping over.  There are 50+ cats in residence in the house.  Some of them are descendants of Snow White, Hemingway’s polydactyl (six-toed) cat given to him by a sea captain as good luck.  Hemingway’s sons chose the name for this cat but subsequent cats were named after the author’s famous friends.

One cat just leads to another.

Ernest Hemingway

See?  This quote just proves that Hemingway was a crazy cat man.

Hemingway's Key West House

Kitty does not look amused.

Hemingway's Key West House

Here’s a cat on top of a mini version of Hemingway’s Key West house built as a cat house.

Hemingway liked cats because he admired their intelligence and independence.

A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.

No animal has more liberty than the cat.  The cat is the best anarchist.

Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway's Key West House

Just doing a perimeter check.

Hemingway's Key West House

Stop looking at my toes, people. Nothing to see here.

Hemingway's Key West House

Hemingway had curtains embroidered with cats. ‘Nuff said.

Hemingway and His Women

It seems Hemingway was more faithful to his cats than to the women in his life.  He was notorious for his messy love affairs. He had four wives and three kids.  Three of his wives became friendly with each other (probably bonding over what a pain he was).

Hemingway's Key West House

Hemingway’s bed. Bet this saw a lot of action.

When he ran off to Europe to be a war correspondent and took his mistress with him, his second wife tore down his boxing ring in the back garden and built a very expensive pool.  It was actually the only in-ground pool in the Florida Keys in the 1930’s.  The Florida Keys are islands made of solid coral and digging out the pool cost some serious labour and expense. The town of Key West would not allow the use of dynamite to create the pool so it was dug out by hand over the course of a year.

Hemingway's Key West House

A detail of the pool.

The Hemingway house is a popular wedding destination (because Hemingway himself was so good at marriage??).  It’s probably the same people who go on to play My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dione at the wedding reception.  Newsflash: it’s a song about love and loss inappropriate for the first few hours of wedded bliss.

Beyond just his love of cats and women, the man had a fascinating personal story.  He knew he had manic depression but in those days no one knew what to do with that sort of illness. His doctors told him to drink to get over his mood swings.  As everyone now knows, alcohol is a depressant and pretty much exactly what he shouldn’t have had.

visiting Hemingway's Key West Home

Hemingway’s Key West House

Hemingway’s Key West House was built by a local wealthy salvage merchant in the mid-19th century.  Key West during that time had a lot of money thanks to the salvage trade and all the ships that run aground along this treacherous stretch of ocean.  The merchant’s family all died thanks to yellow fever and the house was abandoned.

Hemingway's Key West House

A beautiful house from the outside as well.

Hemingway's Key West House

This water fountain is actually the urinal from the men’s room of a bar in Key West that Hemingway liked to frequent.

By the time, Hemingway’s rich second wife’s uncle bought it for the couple, the house was in a serious state of disrepair.  The Hemingways restored the house and what you visit now is very much how it would have looked when they were in residence.  After Hemingway’s death, his sons sold it to a local Key West resident who opened it up as a museum.

The property has a cat cemetery where the names of the cats that have lived on the estate are buried.

Hemingway's Key West House

A cat paying his respects to Willard Scott buried in the Pet Sematary.

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is today a National Historic Landmark.  You don’t need reservations to visit.  It is suggested you go early in the day as it is very popular and lines to enter can stretch down the street.  There are guides who will take you around the house and explain the history of the house and its inhabitants, including the cats.

I highly recommend visiting the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.  Although my children have not read Hemingway (yet), they loved seeing all the cats. It’s definitely one of the must-sees when visiting Key West even if you have only one day to spend there.

This post is linked with Travel Photo Thursday and The Weekly Postcard.

Travel Notes & Beyond
Everyday Drama on South Beach in Miami

Everyday Drama on South Beach in Miami

We heard the Lamborghini’s roar before we saw the car itself.  Not that the black and gold car was hard to spot even in the sea of expensive cars awash along the sidewalks of South Beach in Miami.  Everybody’s head turned and the cell phones came whipping out of pockets.  Even the vanity license plate was obnoxious – screaming look-at-me by spelling out the word “winning”.  The owner was just one of the many people out to see and be seen on a sunday afternoon on South Beach in Miami.

South Beach Lamborghini

So much money for such an ugly car

I wondered who could own such a distinctive car.  A quick search on Google, showed that the last time this license plate showed up in an article it belonged to a New York divorce lawyer who owned a Lamborghini.  The article makes him sound like a real class act (similar to Charlie Sheen who is famous for his “winning” twitter hashtag).  It must be a truth universally acknowledged that a man who uses the term ‘winning’ without irony must be an ass.

South Beach, the lower bit of Miami Beach has its fare share of brash behaviour masquerading as sophisticated, tanned and toned flesh being flaunted and cash of dubious origins being flashed.  Yet, it also has its quiet charm of Art Deco architecture and everyday people enjoying a weekend in the sunshine.

A gallery of photos of South Beach florida

We spent a sunday on South Beach before our flight from Miami to London.  After a nice lunch, we hung out on the beach while the children played.  When my son got bored, I joined him for a walk along Ocean Drive to spot expensive cars.

Miami beach florida

How cool is this retro life guard stand?

Our game was not as exciting as walking around Chelsea in London on a sunday afternoon. We found a lot of Chevrolet Camaros and Ford Mustangs.  You just knew the owners of these cars would be friends with The Flamingo Kid.  Surprisingly, there were also a lot of Chrysler PT Cruisers.  Clearly, this crowd liked its American cars.

Miami Beach car

If you can’t go flashy and trashy, then go old-school.

My favourite part though was the kaleidoscope of colours around me.  The pretty faded pastel colours of the buildings and signs was enchanting. South Beach is also great for people-watching.

It was a whole world that was a photographer’s delight – vendors selling assorted stuff, people out walking their dogs, the beach volleyball games being taken very seriously by their players, the sunbathers on the beach itself and the many people having a leisurely lunch in the outdoor cafes.

Miami Beach

Confident in hot pink on a rental city bicycle. You go girl!

Here are my photos of a sunday afternoon on South Beach.

miami beach restaurant

Why yes that is a red Ford Mustang in the background.

South Beach volleyball

Beach volleyball is taken seriously here.

Sunday Afternoon in Miami Beach

An art deco beauty

Miami Beach art deco

I remember Barbizon as a shady modelling school in New York when I was growing up.

Miami beach art deco

Lime green and pink against the dark green of the palm and the blue of the sky.

Miami Beach dogs

A wall isn’t going to get in the way of our saying hello.

Miami Beach cocktail

Mojitos, the drink to have.

Miami beach florida

If you aren’t having a cocktail, go healthy with a fresh coconut.

Miami Beach florida

What a lifestyle! Cycling to the beach in your flip-flops to play some volleyball.

I had all my Miami stereotypes confirmed in one Sunday afternoon on South Beach.  Our Cuban restaurant even had some Miami Sound Machine music playing as we sipped mojitos in the warm sunshine.

We keep saying we will spend more time in Miami one of these days. Usually we are passing through Miami on the way to or from somewhere.  From the little I saw of Miami, it’s a city worth exploring in more depth.

This post is linked up with Travel Photo Thursday.