When it arrives in the hands of a visitor to St. Francisville. That's when.
Lush, rolling hills. Lazy bayous and the Mighty Mississippi. A picturesque historic district. Annual arts and cultural events that draw visitors from around the world. St. Francisville and the surrounding area have long appealed to guests near and far, and today, the region continues to lure travelers with its colorful mishmash of things to do.
“We’ve always done well with attracting both day trippers and overnighters,” says Laurie Walsh, director of the West Feliciana Parish Tourist Commission. “People light up when we say, ‘St. Francisville,’ because it has so much to offer.”
The area has earned a national reputation for its numerous historic plantations, as well as its association with American master John James Audubon, who painted 80 of his Birds of the Americas while living and working here. The region, situated on bluffs of the Mississippi River, is also known for its natural beauty and eco-tourism, including kayaking, hiking and biking. St. Francisville is home to haunted plantation, The Myrtles, which attracts as many as 65,000 visitors a year eager to experience a spirit sighting. Annual events like the Walker Percy Weekend, the Audubon Pilgrimage, the Angola Prison Rodeo, and the Yellow Leaf Arts Festival attract history buffs, literary types, rodeo fans and arts enthusiasts alike.
“As we bring people in for these big events, as well as everyday experiences, the parish and town benefit from every dollar spent,” says Walsh.“A conservative estimate of economic impact suggests a $10 return on each dollar spent in our community.”
A significant source of tourism income to the parish arrives by river. According to the West Feliciana Office for Economic Development, last year St. Francisville hosted approximately 120 vessel calls by riverboats operated by American Cruise Line and the American Queen Steamboat Company, which translates into an annual economic development impact of between $1 million and $1.5 million. The number of riverboat stops in the area is expected to increase in 2018 and beyond.
The Commission is also working to grow the business event market, Walsh adds.
“We’re a great place for small to medium size businesses who need a place to go for planning sessions or retreats,” she says.
Walsh adds that St. Francisville’s proximity to New Orleans helps it pick up international travelers who want to experience another side of Louisiana.
“New Orleans is a big gateway for us,” says Walsh. “Many visitors will want to rent a car and get out and explore the area. We’re in a great location to be able to absorb them. That’s a facet of tourism that we want to see grow.”
A diversity of lodging gives overnight travelers accommodation options that range from charming bed-and-breakfasts and historic plantation homes, to chain hotels, The Bluffs golf resort, a vintage RV court and cabin rentals.
Plenty of local shops and restaurants round out the experience,says Walsh.
“We really have a different story to tell in St. Francisville,” says Walsh. “Nowhere else can you get the kinds of rich, cultural experiences that you can find here.”
Spotted a riverboat visitor enjoying St. Francisville? Stop and say “hi!” Every visitor who leaves with a great impression makes West Feliciana a little stronger for us all, no matter where we call “home.”