Day Trips: Avery Island, La.

Take a cool tour of a hot sauce factory

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Avery Island, the home of the only Tabasco Sauce manufacturing plant in the world, is not really an island. Rather, it is a salt dome a little higher than the surrounding Louisiana wetlands. Even if you are not a fan of a couple of drops of the red liquid heat to spice up your food, the self-guided tour of the red-brick Tabasco factory is interesting and informative.

The hot sauce legend began 150 years ago in 1868, when Edmund McIlhenny, a New Orleans banker, concocted a spicy brew for his friends. The company is now run by the fifth generation of McIlhennys.

Guests are welcome to visit the industrial compound that looks like a Southern plantation without a stately mansion. Under the shade of giant oaks draped in Spanish moss, the first stop should be for Cajun food in the cafeteria that includes a Bloody Mary bar. Then, it's off to the museum that tells the story of the family and their products.

With only three ingredients – peppers, vinegar, and salt – the sauce takes a five-year journey from seed to bottle. You can walk through the process in an hour or so on the tour. Hanging in the greenhouse are red sticks, used by field workers to identify the color of the peppers when they're at perfect ripeness. There's a lot you don't know about Tabasco Sauce until you visit.

Avery Island is roughly 32 miles south of I-10 in Lafayette, La. The self-guided tours are open from 9am to 4pm. For an additional fee, the beautiful Jungle Gardens are worth a side trip. For more information, go to

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Avery Island, Tabasco, manufacturing plant, Lafayette, Louisiana, Edmund McIlhenny, Jungle Gardens, Cajun food, self-guided tours

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