Get Lost! Unforgettable Southern Road Trips
Civil Rights to Sandy Shores
Alabama is nicknamed the “Heart of Dixie.” From the Panhandle region, with its popular beaches, to the civil rights-steeped town of Montgomery, start you road trip in family-friendly Birmingham. Automobile purists will find themselves in heaven at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museumwhere 1,400 motorcycles complete the Guinness World Records largest collection. Take a self-guided tour of the Civil Rights Institute, and then get the best tour of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s home at the Parsonage Museum. For lunch head over to sample and tour the Avondale Brewing Companyand afterwards nosh at neighboring Post Office Pies or Saw’s Soul Kitchenfor some down-to-earth BBQ and soul food.
Next, head down Interstate 65 to Montgomery, stopping at Peach Parkfor their famous peach ice cream and locally-made edible souvenirs. In Montgomery, relive historic downtown at the Old Alabama Town, a fully restored 19th century village. The Montgomery Zooor the Hank Williams Museumwill tide you over until dinner at Central. Spend the night at Hampton Inn & Suites-Downtownto stay in a historic and comfortable building near all the attractions. Head out early in the morning for the longest part of your trip, but enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. Head towards Mobile and cut south along Mobile Bay to stop at the oh-so-perfect small town, Fairhope. Enjoy antebellum homes on streets lined with live oaks. Stretch your legs and stock up on countless author signed books at the best bookstore ever, Page & Palette. Then it is off to silky, white-sand beach time on the Gulf! Relax the rest of the day in Gulf Shoresand check out Lulu’sfor amazing food and specialized menus for guests with food-allergies. Top it off with a stunning sunset and your Alabama road trip is perfect.
Elvis to Dolly
Start this road trip in west Tennessee. Memphiswill get you started with the man blues clubs on Beale Street. However, Elvis Presley’s Gracelandis certainly a must. The new and improved museum complex offers collections for car fans and, of course, Elvis fans. The Lorraine Motel and Civil Rights Museumat the famedLorraine Motelit is a humbling and historic icon. Central BBQis next door and offers slow-smoked meat. Head out towards Nashville on Interstate 40, pit-stop just before Jackson at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Centerfor some interesting exhibits, clean bathrooms and a Tina Turner extravaganza - her childhood schoolhouse on display! Arrive in Nashville in time for some hot chicken at Prince’s the South’s best BBQ at Peg Leg Porkerand a good night's rest near Broadwayat the Hilton Nashville Downtown. Late night-owls can walk to all the Honky Tonks or if you're lucky enough, catch a concert or Preds hockey game at the Bridgestone Arena. Grab some Goo Goo clusters before heading out the next morning at the Goo Goo Shopand continue your way on the I-40 towards Knoxville. After a few hours, you will quickly come upon the Great Smoky Mountains and everything wonderful it offers. Pigeon Forge is home to Dollywood, The Old Milland hundreds of fun shows and activities. Spend the day driving through the Great Smoky National Parkmaking sure to check out Clingman’s Dome that borders North Carolina for great views. Cades Cove is an 11-mile loop that gives good taste of the 800-square-mile mountain park with historic buildings; it’s also perfect for hiking and biking. Spend your next day in Gatlinburgfor a complete mountain experience, just don’t miss out on the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster or Ole Smoky Moonshine; you’ll be sorry if you do.
Bourbon to Breathtaking Views
Down from Louisville on I 65 to Bardstown, Elizabethtown, Cave City to somewhere pretty
Let’s start out by saying that even though there is much to see and do in Kentucky that doesn’t involve bourbon, bourbon is king. Partake in the fine drink and food in Louisvilleat the rooftop 8up Elevated Drinkery and Kitchenlocated in downtown. Also in downtown take advantage of the countless distilleries and breweries on Main Street also known as Whiskey Row, you can even get a passport and collect stamps on the Urban Bourbon Trail. Dry out on Museum Row (also Main Street) and check out the Muhammad Ali Centerand the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. Stay the night at the 21C Museum,which also happens to be a fine place to lay your head. The next morning, head south on US 31E to a town that is all about bourbon. Charming and beautiful to experience, Bardstownis pint-sized and we have no idea how they fit in so many attractions. Save on gas and try to catch the 5 p.m. dinner on My Old Kentucky Dinner Train, it is a fun and unique experience. Get “soaked” touring Willett, Barton 1792, Maker’s Mark, Heaven Hill, Four Rosesand Jim Beamdistilleries. Even stay the night in Bourbon Manor Bed & Breakfastlocated over the Kentucky Bourbon Marketplace- a shrine for bourbon fans. The next day (sans bourbon) wind your way east to Red River Gorgeto experience the best of natural Kentucky. Enjoy natural bridge formations and the idyllic location for hiking, camping, rock climbing or spelunking.
Wine to Golden Isles
Skip the midnight train to Georgia, a car will be just fine. Starting in Dahlonega, enjoy this Napa-esque small town known for creating award winning wines and loaded with locally-owned restaurants for lunch. Going south on US-19 stop in Atlantaand “Walking Dead” fans should partake in the Walking Dead Big Zombie Toursby Atlanta Movie Tours, and see the on-site locations made famous by the TV series. Trust the Shakespeare Tavernto feed not only your belly, but your soul with smashing performances. The Atlanta History Centeroffers beautiful grounds and tours of an estate home that is too opulent to believe. Opt for a fine steak dinner at Bones Restaurantbefore getting some shut-eye at Urban Oasis Bed and Breakfast, it is a fun and refreshing spot in a great walkable neighborhood. In the morning, gas up and head straight down I-95 for the easternmost, point in Georgia, Savannah. Pit stop in Maconand walk around the Ocmulgee National Monumenta prehistoric American Indian site that dates back to 900 CE. Continue on to Savannahand we suggest soaking in the city’s historic streets with an Old Town Trolley Tour, hopping on and off, and discovering this charming city at your own speed.
With all its little treasures speckled everywhere, you can do no wrong when exploring the South by car; and if you see something unique, stop and ask questions. Southerners love to chat and tell you all they know about this and that. You may find that road trips are not so much about the road, but the memories you make when you take time to stop. Happy Travels!
Road Trip Bonus Stops
Ridgeland is charming and designed to delight. From exclusive boutiques to big-box favorites and everything in between, Ridgeland satisfies shopping desires on every level. Follow the Ridgeland Retail Trail and make sure you don’t miss a single shop! You will also want to explore the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile National Scenic Byway that connects Nashville and Mississippi and runs right through Ridgeland. Top off a weekend and visit the 20,000 sq. ft. Mississippi Crafts Center.
French Camp Academy, French Camp MS
French Camp Academy is respected nationwide as an interdenominational Christian boarding school with a rich history of helping young people. The town and school together form a thriving 900-acre community, 90 miles north of Jackson and 80 miles south of Tupelo. With a population of about 175, the town is home to FCA graduates, as well as current staff and students. The history and progress of FCA and the town of French Camp go hand-in-hand.
The Big Guy in Town
Vulcan is the world’s largest cast iron statue; made of 100,000 pounds of iron and 56 feet tall, he stands at the top of Red Mountain overlooking the city of Birmingham, Alabama. Vulcan is more than a statue — Vulcan Park and Museum features the best panoramic views of Birmingham and an interactive history museum. This unique park is perfect for visitors to enjoy.
Playing Above and Below Ground
Since the early 1800s, Cave City has hosted visitors to Mammoth Cave, the second-oldest tourist attraction in the United States. A World Heritage Site, and International Biosphere Reserve with 53,000 acres of natural preserve, it is the longest cave system in the world with over 4,000 miles of passages and 400 miles of mapped passageways. With eight caves to tour, each displays millions of years of unique art from Mother Nature’s limestone and water palette. Above ground, visitors can canoe the Green River, hike in the 53,000-acre Mammoth Cave National Park, bike the scenic byways of cave country or enjoy a leisure ride with an equestrian friend. A visit to Cave City is a must!
A Disaster Museum
In Marion, Arkansas, the Sultana explosion remains the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history, claiming 1,800 lives (more than the Titanic). This tragedy occurred during the last days of the Civil War and just two weeks after the assassination of Lincoln, so the disaster went unnoticed. The City of Marion opened the Sultana Disaster Museum in 2015 in a temporary location, since the Sultana remains are on private property. City officials are moving forward with plans to build a permanent facility. A visit will educate you on the many lives lost, and the tragic story.