Travel Treasures
Nov/Dec 2008 Issue
Louisiana’s Laura Plantation restored as a star attraction

Laura Plantation
The plantation’s Big House was originally built in 1805. Laura Plantation photo
Despite fire and flood, Laura Plantation has been reborn, and the south Louisiana sugarcane farm is enjoying the sweet reward of success after four years of struggle.

Located in Vacherie on the Great River Road, Laura Plantation was honored as the Top Travel Attraction in Louisiana in 2007 by the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association because of the pure perseverance by the owners, staff and volunteers to restore the site and continue to provide outstanding tours.

Originally built in 1805, the plantation began offering tours in 1994 which garnered national acclaim. But in August 2004, disaster struck when an electrical fire destroyed about 80 percent of Laura’s manor house. Fortunately, firefighters saved more than 60 percent of the items in the house. And even though visitors were unable to tour inside the Big House, the attraction hosted more than 100,000 visitors over the ensuing 12 months.

The reason for the continued popularity was the 70-minute guided tour of the site, which features lovely gardens and 11 historic buildings, including slave cabins. The tour is based upon 5,000 pages of documents found in the French National Archives and upon Laura Locoul’s memoirs, all of which detailed personal accounts in the lives of this sugarcane farm’s owners, women, slaves and children.

During the restoration of the Big House, hurricanes Katrina and Rita swamped the area in 2005. Laura didn’t suffer any damage, but the economic impact was severe. Visitation dropped and some employees were laid off. Yet gradually, employees and restoration crews returned, some working for months as volunteers. When the work was completed in late 2006, Laura became a role model for the area’s recovering tourism sector.

Located at 2247 State Highway 18, Laura is open daily with six tours offered throughout the day. There are no self-guided tours. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children 6–17, and AAA discounts are offered. Call (888) 799-7690 for details, or visit the Web site

Creative choppers roll into the Clinton Presidential Center

Among the many amazing choppers on display in the show is “Bettie” by builder Rick Fairless.
Art doesn’t have to hang on a wall to be art. It can also roll, rev and rumble as a resplendent collection of motorcycles is proving at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark.

The Center is presenting “Art of the Chopper,” an exhibition of 30 extraordinary examples of custom motorcycles created by the pre-eminent artists of the genre. The collection, which celebrated its world premiere late last fall at the Center, will be on view until Feb. 8.

The “chopper” is a uniquely American icon, a creation that combines both mechanical engineering expertise and a creative expression of artistry. The motorcycles in the collection, which have such names as “Unicorn from Hell” and “Easyrider,” have been dazzling visitors with their sublimely curving frames, glittering chrome and intricately airbrushed designs.

The exhibit is based on–and inspired by–the best-selling books, “Art of the Chopper,” and “Art of the Chopper II,” by noted photographer Tom Zimberoff. The exhibit also includes an extensive photo gallery of Zimberoff’s black-and-white and color portraits and candid photographs. Through Zimberoff’s photographs of the artists and their choppers, visitors are offered a glimpse of the people who create these functioning works of art.

“The Clinton Library is dedicated to displaying, interpreting and promoting our American heritage,” said Terri Garner, director of the Clinton Library. “From politics to pop culture, we look to weave all aspects of our culture together to provide a complete look at the events, people and places that shape our American experience.”

The Center is located at 1200 President Clinton Ave. The exhibit is included with admission to the library, which is $7 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens, $3 for children 6–17 and free for children under 6. Hours are 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Saturday and 1–5 p.m. on Sunday. Call (501) 374-4242 for details, or visit

Hurricane-restored estate honors Jefferson Davis

Three years after Hurricane Katrina leveled the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Biloxi estate of the only president of the Confederate States of America is nearing complete restoration and is once again open to the public.

Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis, has served as a memorial to the Confederate soldier since 1903. But during the 2005 hurricane, five of seven buildings at the site were destroyed and the other two were severely damaged. Beauvoir House lost its front and side porches and two sections of roof.

What remained of the artifacts and collections were recovered and Beauvoir House and the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library building were stabilized. Then the long process began to restore Beauvoir as a shrine to Davis.

The house repairs were completed last June–just in time to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Davis’ birth. Also, two replica pavilions that replaced original ones demolished in the storm were opened in October 2008. The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library is expected to be completed sometime in 2010.

Two trailers on the site serve as temporary quarters for the gift shop and museum. Guided tours of the main house are offered every 15 minutes, and a short movie examines the history of Beauvoir.

Located at 2244 Beach Blvd., Beauvoir is open daily from 9 a.m. –5 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults and $5 for children. Call (228) 388-4400 for details, or visit online at


Art will abound throughout New Orleans this winter

Among the artworks on display will be Mississippi Bucket by Alexandre Arrechea. Courtesy of Alexandre Arrechea and Magnan Projects, New York
Your prospects for seeing remarkable contemporary art in New Orleans this winter are outstanding with the unveiling of the large-scale Prospect.1 exhibition.

Prospect.1 New Orleans is bringing art from all over the world to be displayed throughout the city in an exhibition hailed as the largest collection of international contemporary art ever organized in the United States. From Nov. 1–Jan. 18, 2009, the works of 81 local, national and international artists from more than 30 countries will be shown in museums, art centers, warehouses and public spaces throughout the city for a combined total of more than 100,000 square feet of exhibition space.

Exhibits will include works by artists who have selected unique locations and materials, like a mural to be painted inside an abandoned house in the Lower Ninth Ward and a wooden ark constructed from the shell of a destroyed house. There will be sculptures, drawings, paintings and more.

For more details and a complete listing of artists and participating venues, click on www.prospect or call (212) 680-5305.

Battlefield Park celebrating centennial with re-enactment

Re-enactors gathered around a campfire at the park. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo
One of America’s most intact Civil War battlefields will bristle with activity again this winter as re-enactors raise tents, tend fires and load their muskets to bring to life the Battle of Prairie Grove in northwest Arkansas.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park protects the battle site and interprets the violent conflict when Confederates clashed with the Union Army on Dec. 7, 1862, resulting in about 2,700 casualties in a single day. The park, located about 10 miles southwest of Fayetteville, hosts the battle re-enactment in even-numbered years with this year’s commemoration taking place Dec. 6–7.

Visitors will be able to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the Civil War all weekend. At 10 a.m. each day there will be guided tours through the Union, Confederate and civilian camps, and visitors can wander the grounds throughout the weekend to talk with authentically attired re-enactors. There also will be military drills and other living history programs.

A battle demonstration will take place at 1 p.m. each day near the historic Borden House, where most of the heaviest fighting took place in 1862. Also each day, Sutler’s Row will feature food concessions for sale, and the park’s visitor center will be open with exhibits and a film about the battle.

The only cost is a $4 fee for parking. The park is located at 506 E. Douglas just off U.S. Highway 62. For details, call (479) 846-2990 or click on

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