Visiting travel writers documenting St. John, River Region

Published 12:08 am Saturday, June 16, 2018

LAPLACE — With more than 15 years of traveling and several trips to New Orleans under her belt, freelance journalist Heather Greenwood Davis of Toronto, Canada, thought she had experienced Louisiana.

A recent visit to the River Parishes gave Davis a new perspective.

Davis, a contributing writer for National Geographic Traveler and founder of, spent her three-day trip following African American history at Whitney Plantation in Wallace and Historic Riverlands Church in Reserve.

She went kayaking at Wild Louisiana, visited Cajun Pride Swamp Tours and stopped for food at Mabile’s Restaurant in LaPlace before enjoying her first snowball at Guidry’s Goodies in Reserve.

Tour stops also included Oak Alley, Laura Plantation, Destrehan Plantation and Houmas House.

According to Jo Banner, director of communications for River Parishes Tourist Commission, Davis was the first of several travel journalists visiting St. John the Baptist Parish in June.

Increased focus on press tours is part of the Tourist Commission’s strategy to promote the diversity of New Orleans Plantation Country, she said.

Davis is publishing stories highlighting locally owned and operated attractions beginning this month on her travel blog.

Founded in 2011, the site tracks her global travel experiences with her husband and teenage sons.

Banner said there’s a chance National Geographic Traveler will pick up her stories soon after. The Tourist Commission is meeting next week with editor-in-chief George Stone, who has expressed interest in featuring Historic Riverlands in the publication.

Backroad Planet writer Howard Blount recently visited the historic church, and travel writers Tim Wassberg, Debi Lander, Karon Warren, Chrissy Taylor and Kay and David Scott are slated to arrive in the River Parishes next week.

The Tourist Commission scouts out journalists during tourism conventions held around the country and beyond.

Davis said sightseeing in the River Parishes felt authentic, built on culture and not on entertainment value.

“I think New Orleans has a lot to offer, but it’s one of those places that has been seen and done many times,” Davis said.

“I think the difference is New Orleans feels a little glossier, and this just felt real. The conversations we had in the car with locals between stops was, to me, as valuable as the time spent visiting the tourist spots.”

Davis said she was particularly impressed by Whitney Plantation’s representation of slave history.

The Civil Rights trail extending across the U.S. South has brought a lot of attention to the River Parishes recently, Banner said.

However, she said the Tourist Commission has a goal to show New Orleans Plantation Country isn’t limited to its namesake.

A 2018-19 media plan discussed at Thursday’s Tourist Commission meeting emphasizes digital marketing through video packages and online versions of print publications.

Cory Cart of Hub Destination in New Orleans is creating videos for attractions. He hopes to highlight outdoor recreation, considering it one of the most under looked aspects of the River Parishes.