Every globetrotter knows a bit about the American South. The music of Nashville; Mardi Gras in New Orleans; the Everglades of Florida. Yet, many travellers don’t have a full picture of what the region can offer. Luckily, Goway knows a thing or two about the South, and with our help, you can appreciate and experience the full breadth of its magic.
Start in the major cities, Atlanta, Miami, Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans, which are serviced by major airlines, but use them as your gateways to the landscapes, history, music, and culture of the South, as well as smaller centres such as Savannah, Asheville, and Louisville.
The landscapes can be breathtaking, from Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains to the swamps of the Louisiana Bayou. Follow scenic stretches of road, such as the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway, which links Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or the Natchez Trace Parkway, which evolved from an Indigenous trading route and now connects Natchez, Mississippi with Nashville, Tennessee. Goway’s Coasts & Mountains of the South allows you to experience this sort of scenic road trip for yourself.
The South is bursting with history and culture. History buffs will want to visit Jamestown, Virginia, where the first European settlers landed in America, or Yorktown, where the final battle of the Revolutionary War was fought. The Civil War looms large over the South, with major battlefield sites in Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Appomattox in Virginia, Shiloh in Tennessee, and Vicksburg in Mississippi. You can also trace the history of the Civil Rights movement and the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma, all within Alabama, as well as important sites in Jackson and Memphis. Goway’s Civil Rights History Trail and Civil War Battlegrounds offer in-depth tours of these key historical events.
Travellers looking for culinary delights will find them throughout the South. Culinary diversity is on full display as are regional favourites, such as shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, biscuits and gravy, and fried catfish. If you’re in Louisiana, you’ll quickly learn there’s a distinction between Cajun and Creole cooking as you enjoy highlights such as gumbo, jambalaya, and, of course, those sugar-drenched doughnuts called beignets.
Perhaps most of all, the South is a paradise for music lovers who want to delve into the history of music and visit popular musical attractions. Nashville is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, the world’s greatest country music venue. Meanwhile at the Bluebird Café famous musicians often drop in for impromptu gigs, but seating is limited, so you want to grab a ticket around 8am when they’re released to the public. Memphis boasts Beale Street, which played an important part in the history of the Blues, and Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. There’s also Sun Studio, where B.B. King, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis were among the high-profile recording stars. The French Quarter of New Orleans pulses with musical rhythms, but make sure you visit Frenchmen Street, adjacent to the Quarter, which sports an amazing block of small music venues and clubs.
You’re not limited to the big three. For instance, Clarksdale Mississippi is the heart of Delta Blues, with the Delta Blues Museum showcasing memorabilia from B.B. King and Muddy Waters. Goway’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, Bluegrass & Elvis and Bluegrass & Bourbon Trail are great options for travellers wanting to discover the South’s musical heritage.
If you want to see it all, Goway’s The American South offers a selection of the South’s intriguing history and culture all in a relaxing motorcoach drive. As you’ll quickly discover, there’s no shortage of magic to experience.
This article was originally published in Vol. 30 of Globetrotting Magazine.
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