Not only is floating on the American Queen Steamboat exciting, but so are the amazing stops! Recently, I took the Southern Sampler trip up and down the Mississippi River in exchange for covering this amazing journey for Senior News & Times of Illinois! Starting in New Orleans, we stopped in St. Francisville and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Natchez and Vicksburg, Mississippi and the Nottoway Plantation.
Read about all the wonderful tours! Talk about history and rolling on the river!
First Stop, St. Francisville, Louisiana
St. Francisville is famous in part because James Audubon arrived in St. Francisville in 1821. He came with his wife Lucy to Oakley plantation. They both tutored area plantation children to fund the publication of his now world famous book, Birds of America. This book was produced while he was in the West Feliciana area.
St. Francisville was our first shore excursion. While we stuck to the hop-on hop-off choices. Passengers could also pick premium excursions as well.
Riding on the bus is great, because these motorcoaches are state of the art! They also offers a lift for wheelchairs. To make the ride interesting, a local tour guide shared history as we drove to each hop on and hop off site.
St. Francisville has Spanish history. The area was under Spanish rule until the local Anglo settlers rebelled.
Myrtle’s Plantation is said to be one of the most haunted homes in the world. It was built in 1796 by General David Bradford. The mansion is surrounded by live oak trees. It features a 125-foot veranda with ornamental iron work.
General Bradford served with General Washington. However, when whiskey was taxed, he was part of the whiskey rebellion! He became known as “Whiskey Dave” and fled the US to Louisiana, a Spanish Colony to avoid imprisonment.
Over the years several deaths occurred in this lovely place. I won’t give away the stories. Come tour the mansion where they also have a bed and breakfast and hear all about it!
Grace Episcopal Church
One amazing story from St. Francisville stems from the Civil War at the Grace Episcopal Church. The church was organized in 1827 and completed in 1860 on Easter Sunday. On it’s 3rd anniversary, it suffered serious damage while being shelled by Federal gunboats. However on one day, the north and south were able to set aside their differences to ensure a dying man’s wishes were fulfilled. Union Commander John E. Hart had died and wished for a Masonic burial. A few local masons, dressed in their Confederate uniforms and led by Captain William W. Leake, laid to rest the federal officer in the churchyard cemetery.
Other Cool Stops in St. Francisville
The Old Market Hall built in 1819 was a fun stop to shop. Here I found some cool local jewelry.
Keith’s favorite find in town was the neat old truck outside of the District Mercantile store!
We loved the hot chocolate and cookie we got from the “very chill” Birdman Café . The little buildings behind them were once rented out and were used in the shooting of one of the Bonnie and Clyde movies.
Stop two, Natchez!
The next day, it was a bit cool and rainy when we left our lovely American Queen! However, that’s okay because Natchez, Mississippi is a beautiful river town! Founded in 1716, it is the oldest city on the Mississippi.
William Johnson House
The first stop was the William Johnson House. Johnson was known as the “Barber of Natchez”. Beginning his life as a slave, he gained his freedom at age eleven. As a freeman of color, Johnson kept diaries for decades. He gives rare insight into the life of a free man of color in Natchez. His home is a National Historic Site and is quite fascinating to tour.
Stanton Hall a block long mansion
Stanton Hall was built by Irish immigrant and cotton merchant Frederick Stanton. This lovely mansion takes up an entire block. No pictures are allowed inside, but my oh my words can’t describe how beautiful this mansion is!
We ate lunch at the wonderful Stanton Mansion Carriage House restaurant and had their praline BLT’s yum!
The side excursion was to Frogmore Plantation . After seeing a modern cotton gin, we arrived at the plantation. Here we heard the story of cotton and about slavery through the word of song in the lovely old 1800’s church.
After the presentation we toured the plantation buildings that the Tanner’s have preserved. The heart of this tour is the old time cotton gin onsite.
After the stop at Frogmore, part of the exclusive tour included a stop at Longwood Plantation. This is a haunting story of a Civil War mansion that was never finished.
Stop 3, Vicksburg!
As we exited the motorcoach we noticed the amazing murals along the floodwall painted by Robert Dafford. He painted 32 murals depicting the history of the town.
Church of the Holy Trinity
The Church of the Holy Trinity features 26 magnificent stained-glass windows. Six are Tiffany stained glass! There is also a window produced by artist Emil Freil of Jacoby studios of St. Louis, Missouri. The stained glass windows were added between 1880 and 1920. This was a favorite stop in Vicksburg!
Anchuca Plantation was used as a shelter for wounded during the Civil War. It is historic because it belonged to the former President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis’s brother Joseph Davis. Jefferson Davis came to Vicksburg after he was released from prison. He spoke to followers from the balcony of the home. Today the mansion is also a bed and breakfast filled with lovely antiques.
Walnut Hills Round Tables & Tea Room
While in Vicksburg we remembered dining at Walnut Hills Round Tables and Tea Room. We found our way to this remarkable place and dined on fried chicken, fried corn, glazed carrots and the best biscuits ever! Then we topped off the meal with their German Chocolate Cake.
The wonderful historic Old Depot Museum is a don’t miss. They had everything from the Confederacy, but some Union items too like sheet music from Mary Todd Lincoln a chair from General Grant!
Then, there is the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, which is the first place that Coca Cola was ever bottled! The Lower Mississippi Museum has a neat towboat we loved. The Depot museum is a great stop as well. Here you can see the Battle of Vicksburg reenacted in miniature.
4th Stop Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge has had many flags flying over it. The flags were, France, England, Spain, Louisiana, The Florida Republic, The Confederate States and the United States!
LSU Rural Life Museum
Showing what life was like at the turn of the century, the Rural Life Museum is run by the Louisiana State University. This stop was a treat filled with the largest collection of Louisiana vernacular architecture. Besides cool rural buildings, we saw wagons, buggies and a wonderful collection of equipment. Best of all, it is all local to Louisiana!
The USS KIDD
The USS KIDD Veterans floating museum was another great stop in Baton Rouge. This ship is historic because in 1945 on April 11th the KIDD was hit by a Kamikaze that killed 38 of her crew off of Okinawa. She is open to tour. This is an amazing opportunity and reminder of the War’s final campaign the Invasion of Japan.
The last of our excursions was the grandest. Nottoway Plantation was built by John Hampden Randolph a cotton planter turned sugar producer. This three level home has 64 rooms, 200 windows, 6 interior staircases, 22 column and all for John, his wife Emily and their 11 children!
Hop on and back on the American Queen!
The American Queen offered it all! Great on board things to do and great historic stops that kept us occupied and interested! All I can say is I loved every minute of this hosted journey. You will too if you book a trip as well!