Magnolias, Mountains & Mardi Gras
Begin your time in the Deep South in Atlanta, which has been named the 'next international city' and is a great place to begin your adventure. Move on to Montgomery, Alabama - one of the South's premiere history villages; the Civil Rights Movement gathered pace here under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. Mobile has lived under six different flags in its time and has a rich conglomerate of culture as a result. Your next port of call is New Orleans, or the 'Big Easy'. It has been said that no other American city can boast as much romance or intrigue as NOLA.
Memphis and Nashville have hosted some of the greatest musicians of all time, including Elvis, BB King and Johnny Cash; soak up the legacy left by these artists and many like them, as you wander the streets. To end your trip on a high, visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg before returning to Atlanta for your flight home.
- New Orleans
Arrive into Atlanta and after collecting your hire car transfer to hotel. Atlanta has been dubbed everything from the "capital of the new South" to "the next international city", and is a great place to stay for several days before you eventually move on to discover the other delights of Georgia and neighbouring Alabama. If you're not too tired this evening there's a chance to sample some of the cultural attractions as well as many fantastic bars and world class restaurants that this cosmopolitan city is now famous for.
You'll find Montgomery, Alabama, a bustling city of the New South with as much contradictory history as other fascinating southern locations. Visit the Alabama State Capitol where Jefferson Davis took the oath of office as President of the Confederacy and where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his stand at the end of the Selma-Montgomery March. Visit the Rosa Parks Library and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. Old Alabama Town is one of the South's premier history villages. With a population of 200,000 the State capital of Alabama is both impressive and rich in history . Discover where the Civil Rights Movement gathered pace under the leadership of Dr Martin Luther King and follow the history of this movement in key museums and landmarks in the area, such as The Rosa Parks Museum and The Civil Rights Memorial. Montgomery was also the first Confederate Capital and was where the first shot was ordered on Union troops thus starting the Civil War conflict. Take a tour of the State capitol where a bronze star marks the spot where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the confederacy in 1861.
Montgomery sits at the end of the Hank Williams Trail, a route through the famous singer's life located in central Alabama. At the Hank Williams Museum you can learn how his sound and style still influence country music. The steel guitar is integral to any good country song. Plan to spend your second day in Montgomery exploring the Alabama countryside on the Trail for a real down home look at the state. Famous for classic hits such as 'Hey Good Lookin' and Cold Cold Heart, when 29 year old Country Music Pioneer Hank Williams died suddenly of a heart attack in 1954, Montgomery was almost overwhelmed with mourners attending the funeral of one of Alabama's most famous native residents. Today he is suitably remembered in a Memorial that dominates the Oakwood Cemetery Annex near to downtown, as well as at The Hank Williams Museum on commerce Street. Here they still house the blue 1952 Cadillac in which he made his final journey. Montgomery also offers music lovers and night owls alike some great venues to visit – 1048 Jazz and Blues, Montgomery Brew Pub and The Olive Room among them. Downtown nightlife in the new 'Alley' where live music, bars and restaurants are clustered allow you to walk between venues and enjoy the atmosphere.
Mobile, originally the capital of the Louisiana Territory, held sway over an area that stretched from West Florida to Texas. Few cities boast such rich history. Remember when you talk to the locals the city's name is "Mo-beel" given the soft emphasis on the second syllable by its French founders. Having lived under six flags, culture, "cul-cha," as they call it here, is a rich conglomeration of influences. The city's main attraction is Bellingrath Gardens, one of the top public gardens in the United States. Fort Conde is also a must see. Other than that, just marvel at the sheer beauty of this place. One of the major attraction of Mobile is the food! Try the goodies of Tiny Diny, Pollman's Bake Shop Brownies, or Bailey's Restaurant. Treat yourself to the real deal barbeque at The Brick Pit and Creole soul food at Mary's Place. Wintzell's Oyster House has been serving them "fried, stewed or nude" since 1928. In between all that eating, travel out to Dauphin Island where you can consider a boat trip out into the ocean. Home to the original Mardi Gras since 1703, this colourful festival is still celebrated every year in Mobile two weeks before Lent. The Carnival Museum tells a fascinating story of the festival and it's history. With plenty of time still to explore, set about discovering 'Fort Conde' – a fascinating reconstruction of the city's 1724 French Fort, built to mark the nations bicentennial in 1976. Also take a tour of the nearby WWII battleship The USS Alabama and visit the not to be missed Museum of Mobile.
Mobile also offers various half and full day boat rips and cruises that will have you on the open water , from where you can take enjoy the different varieties of wild life that are to be found in the area. Hundreds of species of birds, fish, alligators and even the occasional bear and bald eagle can be seen in these waters so make sure you take a camera! For a slightly quieter day Garden enthusiasts will undoubtedly enjoy the colourful 65 acre Bellingrath Gardens, that boast a quarter of a million azaleas situated just 20 miles south of the city. Finally, not forgetting after the sun has gone down – like most of Alabama's bigger towns Mobile has a fantastic music scene with the city's 'Lo Da' Entertainment District offering over 20 different establishments with live music on different nights of the week.
Explore New Orleans including the US Mint Jazz Museum, Jackson Square, Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. No other city in America can boast such intrigue or romance. With another full day tomorrow, you'll have plenty of time to get to know the Big Easy and its many sights and – more importantly – sounds. You might choose to take a steamboat trip along the Mississippi or you might decide to sample the city's Creole cuisine; New Orleans is also famous for its food.
Drive across swampy Louisiana on Highway 61 which will then take you onto Natchez, a cotton centre and once the richest town in the US. Natchez is still dripping in antebellum finery; explore the many plantation houses and indulge in some of the best restaurants on this tour.
Nowhere else in America is there a more delightful blend of old and new. In Vicksburg you will find the past well preserved in Civil War battle scenes and charming antebellum mansions, in quaint tucked away stores and cozy antique shops. However, it's the time-capsule elegance of the old balanced with the modern convenience of the new that makes Vicksburg such a unique and wonderful place.
Here you can enjoy a comfortable stay in an antebellum bed and breakfast mansion or select more up-to-date accommodation. Take in some good ol' home cooking or enjoy haute cuisine. Perhaps take a Mississippi River boat cruise, visit a museum, or roll the dice in one of the city's many exciting riverside casinos. There's a whole host of friendly faces ready to welcome you to The River City.
Nestled in the heavily forested Zig Zag Mountains on the eastern flank of the Ouachitas, fifty miles south west of Little Rock lies the very appealing, historic spa town of Hot Springs. Its thermal waters have attracted visitors since Native Americans used the area as a neutral zone to settle disputes. In it's glittering hey day of the Twenties and Thirties, Hot Springs was THE place to see and be seen, with Movie stars, politicians, and aristocrats flocking here in droves.
Apart from its waters (where you can still indulge in an hour long bath), Hot Springs boasts a beautiful thoroughfare lined with small galleries, magnificent old buildings and various other forms of Americana. Nearby Hot Springs National Park is also worth a visit.
Join the 'Blues Highway', Highway 61, to Memphis, the place where blues came of age and where rock & roll was born. We recommend you park the car at your centrally-located hotel and walk over to Beale Street for a night of great music. Beale Street was a key arena in which bluesmen from BB King to Howlin' Wolf made their names. BB King's Blues Club is now one of Beale Street's best clubs. Spend 3 nights in Memphis. Tour Graceland and Sun Studios or visit the exceptional Rock 'n' Soul Museum in the new Gibson Guitar factory. Here you'll learn about the incredible contribution Memphis has made to blues, soul and gospel music. Drive out to the Full Gospel Tabernacle where Al Green is the resident preacher or explore the city's many musical sites. You might choose to visit the National Civil Rights Museum housed in the old Lorraine Motel, the place where Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated. It's one the most moving and insightful museums in the States.
From Memphis go east on the I-40 through Jackson across the Tennessee River to Nashville, 'Music City USA', home of country music and some of America's biggest recording companies. Nashville is the perfect place to visit on any trip featuring music. Nashville has been the Capital of Country Music since 1926. That's the year that the Carter family (as in June Carter Cash) produced the first recordings with a true country sound. The Grand Old Opry began as a barn dance in the studios of WSM Radio before taking up residence in Ryman Auditorium (a Nashville must-see) that is now known as the "Mother Church of Country Music." Other must sees include the Country Music Hall of Fame, historic RCA Studio B where great like Elvis and Chet Atkins recorded, and the Second Avenue Historic District. Tootsie's Lounge is the only honky tonk still open on Lower Broadway. Authentic Nashville sound can also still be heard in Printer's Alley.You'll find Music Row lined with recording studios and music producers just outside of downtown. Further out, Opryland is the new home to the Grand Old Opry, nestled in a massive resort complex.
Gatlinburg via Knoxville
En route from Nashville to The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, make an stop in Knoxville – Tennessee's third largest city. Home to a rich arts community, Knoxville is host to many festivals throughout the year. Its contributions to old-time, bluegrass and country music are numerous, from Flatt & Scruggs and Homer & Jethro to the Everly Brothers. For the past several years an award-winning listener-funded radio station, WDVX, has broadcast weekday lunchtime concerts of bluegrass music, old-time music and more from the Knoxville Visitor's Center on Gay Street, as well as streaming its music programming to the world over the Internet.
Continue your journey, as your next stop will the Great Smoky Mountains. The most visited national park in the U.S., The Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses some 800 square miles of protected forest along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. At the heart of it all is Gatlinburg, an ideal home base from which to explore the park's hundreds of hiking trails, go river rafting, fishing, horseback riding, wildlife viewing or embark on numerous other outdoor adventures. After climbing mountains, ride an elevator 342 feet to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle for stunning views of the Smokies and the surrounding area. Dolly Parton fans won't want to miss Dollywood, located in nearby Pigeon Forge. This large amusement park features rides and attractions inspired by the popular country singer's love of music, the Smoky Mountains and good old-fashioned southern hospitality.
Atlanta & Home
After a leisurely start today, continue back to Atlanta from the Mountains by late afternoon, in time to drop off your hire car and fly home.
- Return flights from London (please ask about other departure airports)
- 17 nights accommodation and room taxes
- Fully insured compact car hire (larger vehicles are available)
- A detailed day to day itinerary, driving instructions and maps
Daily departures throughout the year.