The best of the United States
This following route covers a few states including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nashville, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. This trip took us two and a half weeks and our goal was mainly to cover all the spots we were interested in including: Natchez, Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, Tallahassee and New Orleans. This following map (Google maps) will show you the main destinations and the overall route.
Natchez 2 nights
Memphis 2 nights
Nashville 2 nights
Atlanta 3 nights
Tallahassee 1 nights
New Orleans 3 night
Houston 1 night
Since we started this trip after I finished my semester abroad at Texas A&M University, we started off in College Station Texas. On our way to our first destination, Natchez, we stopped in Huntsville to take a look at the statue of Sam Houston. Since Sam Houston was one of the founding fathers of the state of Texas, I just had to go and see it. The statue can also be seen from the Interstate and has a little Visitor Center. It is a long drive to Natchez (about 6.5 hours), but Natchez is one hell of a beautiful city. Located at the Mississippi River you can still see the beauty and wealth of the south in almost every building. Since we love the history and the buildings from that time, we decided to stay at The Burn. The Burn was built in 1834 and is used as a Bed and Breakfast since 1978. Not only is the furniture in the guest room as well as the main house antic but you also get a free tour of the whole house if you stay for one or more nights. This is great, because the family, who lives is the main house, doesn’t offer tours for tourists, just for house guests. The staff is super friendly and was happy to answer all of our questions. We stayed in the Douglas Room which was perfect for two people and the breakfast was amazing. If you are staying in Natchez and want something unique I can totally recommend The Burn.
After leaving Natchez, we followed the Mississippi River upstream on our way to Memphis and had a brief stop in Vicksburg. This might be a small town, but once you step into the National Military Park you know it is a big part of the American History. You can take a round trip (by car) and check out the whole battle field. If you want to see history about the Civil War first hand, I can only recommend stopping there and take the round trip.
Since we didn’t arrive in Memphis until night time, we technically only had one day there. Our main goal was to visit Graceland. I might have to add: I’m not a huge Elvis Presley Fan, but if you are in Memphis, this is the place to go. Let’s face it: visiting Graceland is not cheap. Ticket prices start at $39 for just the audio-guided Mansion tour and will go up to $169 for the Ultimate VIP Tour. We decided to book the Experience Tour which is now $59 and includes the audio-guided Mansion tour, as well as access to the Presley Motors Automobile Museum, the Entertainer Career Museum and the Elvis Discovery Exhibits. If you are visiting during summer month (we were there in May), it will be super busy. When we arrived, they told us the waiting time was one hour, which wasn’t bad since we could take the self-guided tour through the automobile museum first. As soon as your tour is called, you need to step outside and line up again to catch a bus to drive about 100m to the Mansion. Our tour was scheduled for 11am and we weren’t able to catch a bus until 12.30. There is no possibility to walk up there, so waiting for that bus is the only option. I’m not sure why we had to wait that long (apparently they scheduled a lot of private tours in between, and they go first), but it was exhausting, since it was very hot and you had to wait outside. When we finally arrived at the Mansion, it didn’t matter how long we waited, because the house and also the audio-guided tour were perfect. If you are heading to Memphis and want to go to Graceland, make sure to buy your tickets online in advance and try to choose a less busy day. If you want to see something unique and also funny, check out the Peabody Hotel: at 11 a.m. or 5 p.m. you can see the famous duck march to and from the fountain. For over 90 years, there are ducks, which live on the roof of the hotel and spent their day swimming in the fountain located in the lobby of the hotel. They are trained to use the elevator to get from the roof to the fountain and back (of course with the help of a trainer).
If you need a restaurant tip in Memphis, check out the Kooky Cannuck (97 S 2nd St, Memphis), the food is great, the waiters are super nice and you can watch sports as a bonus 😉 .
Out next stop was Nashville and I was super excited on the one side and kind of worried on the other side: since I’m a huge Country Music fan and fan of the series “Nashville” I was afraid, that Nashville was not going to be the way I thought it would. But boy was I wrong: Nashville exceeded my expectations and I have to go back one day. We visited the Grand Ole Opry, The Bluebird Café, Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center and Downtown Nashville. Since I love the series “Nashville” I also wanted to take a look at iconic filming sites and so we went on a road trip and visited the house of Deacon Claybourne, the estate of Rayna Jaymes, the house of Juliette Barnes and some locations in Downtown. The best part: walking down the Broadway, stopping at bars and listening to live music. I can’t really describe the feeling I had, when walking into Tootsies Orchid Lounge, listening to the music, having drinks and some snacks. This music just makes me happy and sometimes hits me right in the fields – in a good way J If you want to read all the details, please check out my blog post about Nashville.
Leaving Nashville was hard, but I know I will be back one day. On our way to Atlanta we stopped in Lynchburg, Tennessee, to visit the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. Since Lynchburg is not on the way, you need to take a little detour, but it is well worth the extra drive. Even though we don’t even like Whiskey, this was one of the best tours we’ve ever done. When we visited Lynchburg the tour was free and we only had to wait 10 minutes to go on tour. The tour took us through the whole distillery as well as getting exclusive behind-the-scenes facts. The “ticket” of the tour even included a free Jack Daniel’s shot glass in the shop in downtown when spending $10. When looking up the website while writing this, I noticed, that the tours are not free of charge anymore, but the tour and the detour is also well worth the $14 for a ticket: https://www.jackdaniels.com/en-us/visit-distillery.
Atlanta might be my third favorite city in the USA (Miami and Dallas being number 1 and 2). I’ve been there two times already but wouldn’t mind going back tomorrow. Since I have multiple cool spots to share for Atlanta (including the Georgia Aquarium, the Coca-Cola World, the Philipps Arena and the College Football Hall of Fame as well as a designated Walking Dead filming locations tour), please check out the blog post “Atlanta at its best” for the details.
After leaving Atlanta we had a long way to go down to Tallahassee (about 5 hour drive). Tallahassee is a beautiful city and if you are there, make sure to check out the Capitol. We didn’t stay in Tallahassee to long but making our way down to the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. If you area as much into sunsets as I am, you might want to go there, take a blanket and food and sit down close to the lighthouse: the sunset is magical! Our next stop was Wakulla Springs State Park. It is best to go there as early as possible and hop on one of the first boats to see as many wild animals as possible. We managed to get the first one at 9.40 a.m. The boat trip takes about an hour and can only be recommended. We not only saw alligators, several birds and turtles but also saw manatees with their babies. This was the first time I had seen manatees in the wild, which was an epic moment.
We did make an overnight stop at Defuniak Springs on our way to New Orleans since it is a very long drive and we wanted to stop by some beaches on the way. If you have time, take a look at the USS Alabama Battleship in Mobile, Alabama. By nightfall we arrived in New Orleans. Since we had a hotel right in Downtown (Wyndham Garden Hotel Baronne) we were able to walk to most of the sites. We decided to do the tourist thing and buy tickets for a Hop-on-Hop-of Bus tour. The tour we did, not only offered the bus ride, but also a guided walking tour through the Garden District. The houses there are just beautiful and we passed by the house where they filmed “The curious case of Benjamin Button”, as well as the houses of Hollywood Actress Sandra Bullock and the home of the Manning Family, where famous Quarterback Payton Manning grew up. Another must-see is the Bourbon Street: even though it’s mainly touristic these days with a lot of bars and night clubs, you can also find restaurants with live-music. We also took a boat trip on a steam boat (Natchez) up and down the Mississippi River just when during the sunset. Since there is so much to see in New Orleans, I will also post a whole blog post about it sometime soon.
On our way back to Texas, we visited a few beautiful Ante bellum houses as well as several Plantations. One of them was the Evergreen Plantation in Edgar, which is featured as Calvin Candie’s (aka Leonardo DiCaprio) Candyland in the Hollywood Blockbuster “Django Unchained”. Due to bad luck is was raining so bad, that even after waiting for 1.5 hours, we were not able to actually go inside the plantation. If I will ever come back, this is my first stop along the way.
Our 2.5 week trip through the South of the US ended in Houston. We have been to a lot of places in the US, including all the breathtaking Nationalparks in the West, and big cities like New York City and Los Angeles, BUT the south is the real deal for me. We weren’t lucky with the weather most of the time (it rained A LOT), but we just arranged ourselves with that situation. I don’t know why, maybe because I studied in Texas and love old houses and plantations, but I fell in love with this area, the landscape, the food and the people – I can’t wait to go back one day.
If you have any questions or feedback please comment down below or contact me, I’m always looking forward to hearing other people’s experiences or answer questions. Make sure you check out the detailed blog posts as well, since this is just in general overview of the trip.