This is precisely what comes to mind when most people think "plantation." A splendid white house, its porch lined with giant columns, approached by a magnificent drive lined with stately oak trees -- yep, it's all here. Consequently, this is the most famous plantation house in Louisiana -- and the location of several Hollywood movies. It's also the slickest operation, with an expensive lunch buffet (we say BYO picnic), hoop-skirted guides, and golf carts traversing the blacktopped property. It's an interesting contrast with Laura, and they are just a mile apart, so we highly recommend that you visit both.

The house was built in 1839 by Jacques Telesphore Roman III and was named Bon Séjour -- but if you walk out to the levee and look back at the 1/4-mile avenue of 300-year-old live oaks, you'll see why steamboat passengers quickly dubbed it "Oak Alley." To match the 28 trees, Roman planned his house with 28 fluted Doric columns. Oak Alley lay disintegrating until 1914, when the Hardins of New Orleans bought it. It passed to Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Stewart in 1925, whose loving restoration is responsible for its National Historic Landmark designation.

Little is known about the families who lived here, so tours focus on general plantation facts. Recent renovations have helped return the house to its 1830s roots, with accurately reproduced furnishings. The plantation hosts a bonfire party in December.

Overnight accommodations are available in five really nice century-old Creole cottages complete with sitting rooms, porches, and air-conditioning. Rates are $130 to $175 and include breakfast but not a tour. A few acres away is the Rene House, with four pretty bedrooms (each with private bathrooms) and a kitchen. The whole place goes for $410 a night, or rooms can be let individually. The overpriced restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch daily from 8:30am to 3pm.