Day 1: New Orleans
Arrive in New Orleans and proceed to your hotel. “Let the good times roll” is a Louisiana way of life, one that New Orleans is determined to uphold. A place unlike any other, New Orleans’ mix of history, peoples and cultures make it perhaps the most unique city in America. The birthplace of jazz and the home of Mardi Gras, New Orleans is also the perfect place to begin your tour of the South.
Day 2: New Orleans
Known as the French Capital of Louisiana, New Orleans was established as a fortress by French settlers in the XVIII Century. Don’t miss out on a walking tour through Jackson Square, heart of the French quarter, which offers all kind of attractions, sights, restaurants and entertainment. Experience an intimate and subtle architecture, while learning about the history, the art, and the musical culture that is the City’s unique heritage.
Day 3: New Orleans - Natchez (180 m / 288 km)
Depart New Orleans for the Mississippi River Plantations along the Great River Road. Laura Plantation (1805), the finest remaining example of a Creole plantation in existence, is also the only plantation where the original slave cabins still stand. Oak Alley (1839), the Grand Dame of the River Road, is a classic Greek Revival style plantation of the South, surrounded by majestic columns and antebellum opulence. Your drive continues past the French Creole homes along the False River to the New Roads-St Francisville ferry, where you’ll cross the Mississippi River by boat. Visit St Francisville’s picturesque historic district before continuing north to Natchez, Mississippi. Located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi, Natchez was the center of the Mississippi Delta’s cotton region and one of the wealthiest cities in the United States before the Civil War. In the historic district above the river, more than a dozen antebellum homes and gardens are open to visitors, while down below on the banks of the Mississippi, a variety of evening entertainments can be found, including restaurants, saloons and a riverboat casino.
Day 4: Natchez - Memphis (325 m / 520 km)
Leave Natchez today on Highway 61, “The Blues Highway” that carried so many Delta musicians to Chicago and, from there, to the rest of the world. The heart of Delta Blues Country begins in Vicksburg, the site of the most important Civil War battle fought in the South. Continue through the cotton fields and small towns where blues greats Robert Johnson, BB King, Muddy Waters and many others played their music. In Clarksdale, the epicenter of the Blues, you can visit the Delta Blues Museum, stop by an authentic ‘juke joint’, and sample some of the best BBQ in the South. Arrive in Memphis, Tennessee, in the late afternoon or early evening. Tonight, head down to Beale Street to enjoy the music and nightlife that made Memphis famous, the perfect destination for your Blues Highway journey.
Day 5: Memphis
Memphis’ number one attraction is Graceland, where Elvis fans from around the world make the pilgrimage to the King’s former home and final resting place. The birthplace of Rock’n’Roll, the legendary Sun Studios, is a must-see for true fans, as is Staxville, home of soul music’s Stax Records. And if that’s still not enough, the Smithsonian Institue, America’s premier museum association, has opened the Rock’n’Soul Museum at the corner of Beale St and Highway 61. Memphis displays a serious side, too. In the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated, the National Civil Rights Museum tells the story of the struggle for racial equality in the United States.
Day 6: Memphis - Nashville (215 m / 344 km)
Tennesseans say that the drive from Memphis to Nashville is the most boring in Tennessee, so boring that their State Senator likes to make the trip at 90+ miles an hour. If you see a blue Mercedes in your rearview mirror and the driver is waving a pistol, please let the Senator pass! Fortunately, the time goes by quickly, and if you need a break from the highway, Casey Jones Village and Old Country Store in Jackson has good Southern cooking, an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor, and Tennessee-style shopping, whilst Country music fans can make a visit to Loretta Lynn’s ranch, near Hurricane Mills. Arrive in Nashville, “Music City, USA” and the capital of Tennessee. Take a stroll along Riverfront Park for great views of the city, then take a walk with the cowboys past Broadway’s collection of honky-tonk saloons and record stores. You’re in the “District”, where restaurants and nightspots offer up live entertainment, 7 days a week.
Day 7: Nashville
This morning, take a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame for an introduction to the music and the city, then visit Opryland, home of the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville’s premier Country Music venue and the world’s longest-running radio show. Take a paddleboat cruise on the General Jackson or catch a show at the Grand Ole Opry (tickets usually available, but reservations recommended).
Day 8: Nashville - Atlanta (250 m / 400 km)
Begin your trip today with a drive through Tennessee horse country on your way to Lynchburg, the home of Jack Daniels Distillery, a National Historic Landmark and a Tennessee institution. From Lynchburg, you can go to Chattanooga and ride a choo-choo at the Tennessee Valley Rail Museum. Take the steepest railway in the world to the top of Lookout Mountain, where views on a clear day extend to 100 mi (160 km). Or, travel to Atlanta via Huntsville, Alabama, and visit the US Space and Rocket Center, home of the world’s largest collection of spacecraft. Kids and adults can enjoy the space-themed amusement park rides simulating lift-off, weightlessness, or a trip to the moon. Continue on to Atlanta, the commercial capital of the “New South”, home to CNN and Coca-Cola, Gone With The Wind and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Day 9: Atlanta
Begin the day at “Sweet Auburn”, the historic center of the African-American community around Auburn Avenue, and visit the Martin Luther King, Jr National Historic Site. It was here that Dr King, like his father and grandfather before him, was pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, making Atlanta a center of the civil rights movement in America. At the Margaret Mitchell House, you can learn the story of the woman who wrote the world’s second best-selling book (after the Bible), Gone with the Wind. Lunch at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, an Atlanta institution, before touring CNN studios, the World of Coca-Cola museum, or both. End the day in nearby Underground Atlanta, once Atlanta’s train hub, and enjoy the shops, restaurants and saloons, or head uptown for an evening in Buckhead, Atlanta’s most fashionable and liveliest neighborhood.
Day 10: Atlanta - Montgomery (165 m / 264 km)
Today, follow the steps of Southern history, with a choice of drives to Montgomery. The first option takes you through Macon, home to 5,500 historic buildings and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (great Georgian musicians include Ray Charles, Little Richard, Otis Redding, and James Brown). The second option brings you through Birmingham, the scene of the most dramatic events of the Civil Rights era, and home to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, probably the best exhibition of the struggle for racial justice in the United States. It was in Montgomery, capital of Alabama and first capital of the Confederate States of America, that in 1955 a weary seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to give her seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus. Her arrest sparked a year-long bus boycott led by the young Martin Luther King, Jr, an event considered the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. The First White House of the Confederacy is here, as are the Hank Williams Museum and the F Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.
Day 11: Montgomery - New Orleans (310 m / 496 km)
Leave Montgomery after an early breakfast and you’ll be on the Gulf of Mexico’s white sand beaches for lunch. You can enjoy the sun and surf for the full afternoon and be back on Bourbon Street this evening.
Day 12: Departure
After breakfast, spend the day at leisure and head to the airport for departure.
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