Hey Y’all! Welcome to Atlanta, Georgia! An important supply route during the Civil War, the spiritual centre of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and the hometown of some of hip-hop’s biggest stars, Atlanta is the perfect introduction to the fascinating Southern USA. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. Please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you’re going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We’ll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Following the formalities, maybe get the crew together and head out in search of some hot swings or fried chicken for a taste of Atlanta flavours. If you arrive with a few hours (or days) to spare before the meeting, why not check out the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site. Take some time and explore the house where the civil rights leader was born, the church where he honed his oratory prowess, and the memorial site where he is buried. Atlanta is also very proud of it’s connection to Coca-Cola – locals call have a tendency to call every kind of soft drink ‘coke’. Maybe tour the World of Coca-Cola for a lesson on the world’s most popular fizzy drink.
Mornin’ sunshine! Hit the road bright and early and make the five-hour journey to Savannah. In 1946, Lady Astor referred to Savannah as ‘a beautiful lady with a dirty face’, in reference to the crumbling, faded majesty of the city’s 18th- and 19th-century mansions. Due to plenty of restoration work, Savannah’s face may no longer be dirty, but she’s still a city of contradictions. Here, antebellum mansions, towering oak trees and colonial buildings coexist alongside dive bars, mingling university students and fabulous down-home cookin’. Maybe take a seat with a box of chocolates in Chippewa Square, which was used as a setting for the film Forrest Gump. History buffs might want to make their way to Fort Pulaski National Monument, which Union forces captured from the Confederates in 1862 after a long battle. In the evening, perhaps head out on a ghost tour of old Savannah, then maybe seek out spirits of a different kind at one of the many local haunts.
Leave Savannah in the rear view mirror and drive two hours to Charleston . On arrival, perhaps head out on foot to explore the cobblestone streets that hold a complicated and often violent history. These streets were made for strolling – be sure to stop and smell the honeysuckle bushes. Perhaps let your nose lead you to a diner for lunch, where you should consider ordering a plate of soft, buttery biscuits. In the afternoon, take a tour of one of the plantation homes around Charleston. Wander around the well-maintained gardens and learn about the dark history behind the opulent facade.
Today is as clear as a Georgia sky in the summer time, so set out whenever you like and explore at your own pace. There are plenty of optional activities on offer, so take your pick and dive on in. When exploring Charleston, the history of the city cannot be ignored. In 1860, over 50 percent of the population of South Carolina were enslaved Africans, and a fantastic place to honour the reality of this dark history is the Old Slave Mart Museum. Perhaps continue to the seaside stronghold of Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. In the evening, maybe take a stroll along the Pitt Street Bridge and watch the sun set over downtown Charleston.
Head into the Blue Ridge Mountains today with a five-hour drive to charming Asheville. Home to the country’s best breweries and some of North Carolina’s finest barbecue, Asheville also boasts an incredible folk music scene. Many breweries host live music throughout the summer months, and the arts scene in general is vibrant and accessible. In the late afternoon, take a stroll through the River Arts district, a truly amazing section of the town filled with art galleries and gorgeous street art on warehouses that line the river. As night falls, consider catching a show at the Altamont Theatre, a historic and intimate venue with incredible acoustics and eclectic programming.
Make the scenic drive to Nashville, arriving in the country music capital after 4–5 hours. On arrival you’ll be introduced to this famous country music town with an orientation tour. Get your bearings and then enjoy a free day to explore. Fans of classic country and blues may want to hit the Johnny Cash Museum, where the largest collection of artefacts and memorabilia related to the ‘Man in Black’ are on display. Nashville is also home to the Ryman Auditorium, a historic venue that is most famous as the home of country music program the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. When the sun goes down, maybe take your tappin’ toes to Honky Tonk Highway, a road packed with live music venues and bars playing country music and partying all day, every day.
Howdy! Start your day with a visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, which contains the golden Cadillac that once belonged to Elvis. The rest of the day is all yours. Maybe check out Music Row, an area ablaze with neon signs, where more than 50 record studios and around 200 music publishing houses line the streets. In the early evening, perhaps head to the Wildhorse Saloon to experience a real Nashville night. Every day and every evening, the Wildhorse puts on line dancing lessons and live music so newcomers and locals alike can thump the floorboards. There’s also classic country fare cookin’ in the kitchen – think fried pickles, wedge salads and brisket.
Hit the road again for the four-hour drive to Memphis, Tennessee. Time depending, the first stop on arrival will be Sun Studio, the self-identified ‘Birthplace of Rock ‘N’ Roll’. It’s a bold claim, but when artists like B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, Elvis Presley and more have laid tracks in your studio it doesn’t seem that far-fetched. Spend the rest of the day how you wish, soaking up the sights and sounds of Memphis. In the evening, consider heading down to check out bustling Beale Street, where traditional blues clubs and ritzier tourist traps rub shoulders. Ask your leader which bars are worth a look.
Exploding with kitschy glamour and over-the-top Southern charm, Graceland is a more than the former home of Elvis Presley and site of his tomb – it’s an ode to the gitzier elements of the Deep South. Spend the morning touring the impressive site, including the famous jungle room, his car and private plane collection, and much more. The rest of the day is all yours. Perhaps visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the former Lorraine Motel – where Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated – for a dose of history that is both confronting and inspirational. Following that sobering look at the recent past, perhaps enjoy a much lighter local attraction during the Peabody Hotel’s ‘march of the ducks’. These ducks live in the hotel and perform daily waddles from their rooftop palace to splash in the lobby fountain, as well as the reverse, at 11 am and 5 pm daily.
Travel along the famous Highway 61 to Vicksburg, Mississippi (around 4–5 hours). Stop at Clarksdale en route, where you have the option of seeing Blues Alley, Robert Johnson’s Crossroads and the Delta Blues Museum. Other possible stops, depending on group’s interests, are Cleveland (for the Grammy Museum), and Dockery Farms. Arrive in Vicksburg and spend the afternoon how you wish. Famous for the siege that occurred there during the Civil War, the city is full of historical attractions. Visiting the National Military Park is one option, as are the antebellum mansions, the Mississippi River Museum, the Riverfront Murals or the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, where the drink was first bottled.
Make tracks for the ‘Big Easy’, a four- or five-hour drive that might be broken up with a swamp or plantation tour along the way, time depending. After checking in to your hotel in New Orleans’ French Quarter, use your free time getting to know the eclectic city. With a mix of European, Creole and Cajun culture reflected in the city’s architecture, cuisine and music, New Orleans is the perfect place to end your Southern Comfort adventure. Maybe take a walk down rowdy Bourbon Street, or wander through the former plantation area of the Garden District. In the evening, join the rest of the group for a typical Cajun-style dinner and toast to the journey that was.
Grab one last biscuit with gravy, because your Southern Comfort adventure comes to an end today after breakfast. You’re free to depart at any time following check out, but why not spend a few days exploring this riotous city? We can help you with booking more accommodation, and our mates at Urban Adventures can hook you up with more authentic local experiences. Find out more at urbanadventures.com/destination/New-Orleans-tours.
Charleston - Boone Hall Plantation
Nashville - Country Music Hall of Fame
Memphis - Sun Studio
Memphis - Graceland Museum
New Orleans - Cajun dinner in the French Quarter