What to expect on a tour of the USA's Deep South
The Deep South. What comes to mind when you think of USA’s southernmost states? Is it the distinctive southern drawl accent, or perhaps the reputation for its warm and friendly southern hospitality? Maybe you’ve been transported there from a literary perspective – ‘Gone with the Wind’, ‘Streetcar Named Desire’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ‘The Help’ (the list goes on) are all famously set in USA’s Southern States.
For most though, its music, and its deep-seated roots to some of the most influential music artists and genres worldwide, such as Memphis for its Rock n Roll and blues, and Nashville, famed for its country music. Without a doubt, music is the beating heart of the Deep South, but there is so much more to the Southern States than just music. Our Southern Sights and Sounds tour delves into just that. So, what can you expect from a tour of the USA’s Deep South?
A Deep South tour ensures an eclectic mix of experiences. It has powerful music, important history, authentic culture, diverse food, and wonderful people – but most importantly you’ll discover little things on this trip that instil an overwhelming perspective you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
Be moved by history
Your first stop on your Southern Sights and Sounds tour is Georgia’s capital Atlanta – a beautiful green city home to a diverse and thriving cultural scene and the centre of the USA's past and present civil rights movement. As you tour this cosmopolitan city, you’ll be surprised at how grand the houses (or should I say mansions) are. Discover influential historical sites including the Martin Luther King National Historic Site, which boasts a huge mural illustrating Martin Luther King's contributions and impact – this will undoubtedly leave a powerful impression on you. There'll be time to enjoy a stroll through the Centennial Olympic Park too - another part of history that's been left behind in Atlanta.
Chattanooga – a town in Tennessee with a name that rolls off the tongue and with the largest old-time railroad in the south. The incline railway which has just celebrated 125 years is one not to miss – the steep journey to the top will absolutely be worth it, with views of the town and the surroundings to take a quick photo of.
Whether you’re a fan of whiskey or not, the tour of the Jack Daniels Distillery provides a unique story of the founder. The history of Jasper Newton Daniel’s aka Jack’s, early life is somewhat unclear – including when he was born! But the success of Jack Daniels's whiskey-making journey has become an American and worldwide legend. As you’re guided through the distillery, learning about Jack, the distillery and how prohibition played a part in the whiskey's history, you're met big, impressive machines and quickly greeted with an amazing strong aroma of the signature charcoal-mellowed whisky as its being made – if you weren’t a fan before, you may be tempted to try again.
“A live concert to me is exciting because of all the electricity that is generated in the crowd and on stage. It’s my favorite part of the business - live concerts. – Elvis Presley 1973. ”
The Deep South is well known for its music - a large amount of which has been recorded in the RCA Studio B in Nashville, with around 45,000 songs recorded there. When you visit Studio B on the tour, you'll be retracing the footsteps of legendary musicians like Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, and Dolly Parton, among others. This promises to be a unique experience – one that will leave you buzzing with excitement as it was in this very place where their iconic songs were created.
From recorded music to live music - The Grand Ole Opry is America’s longest-running radio show, with weekly performances of country, folk and other similar music. Nashville is considered the country music capital of the world, making The Grand Ole Opry the mother church of country music. Its hosted performances from icons such as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and Elvis to contemporary musicians such as Carrie Underwood, Dustin Lynch, and Luke Combs. Finish your evening and your stay in Nashville, on a high, as you take a seat at the show - the atmosphere will no doubt be exhilarating and will exceed your expectations.
“Then I’m walking in Memphis, was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale – Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn. ”
Memphis is often associated with where Elvis is from, and whilst he did live there for most of his life, his birthplace was in fact Tupelo, Mississippi. You'll get to spend a bit of time exploring his small childhood home before heading to the birthplace of Rock'n'Roll - Memphis. On the day you arrive, discover the key sights on an included tour, making mental notes on what authentic music bars to come back to that evening, and the places you want to independently visit the next day during your afternoon of free time. As you wander past the illuminated signs of Beale Street, spot some big-name venues like BB Kings Blues Club and Honky Tonk, as well as the Memphis Music Hall of Fame Museum.
And of course, a trip to Memphis wouldn't be complete without a visit to Graceland – Elvis’s home. As you’re guided through room by room, listening to story after story of his life and career, soak up all of Elvis’s home, his memorabilia, and the Automobile Museum, where his grand aeroplanes are kept. Whether you are an Elvis fan or not, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and taken aback by your trip to Graceland and Elvis himself.
Check out our blog post Six of the best: Holidays for music lovers for more inspiration for music holidays.
Mardi Gras, Creole food, and swamps
New Orleans is soulful, lively, and has a joyful atmosphere that's infectious. When it's not throwing parties and hosting the famous Mardi Gras parade, the popular French Quarter has something going on everywhere you look. As you stroll down Bourbon Street in the heart of the Quarter, you’ll find musicians playing jazz on every corner enticing you to tap your feet to the tunes. Artists are lined up along the streets absorbed in their current masterpiece - their faces dusted with their medium of choice as their finished works are on hanging on display. Come evening, the bright neon lights illuminate the sky as you're entertained with yet more live music poured onto the street. Maybe this time you let your feet move and dance to the rhythm! After all the motto of New Orleans is 'laissez les bon temps rouler!' - 'Let the good times roll!' And after your three nights here you will certainly assent to that.
Swap the streets of people for a trip through swamps of alligators. Shielded from the sun under shade in your boat, explore the 100-year-old swamps in their original natural state, as you quietly and carefully glide by the alligators, snakes, and birds.
After your day of exploring or maybe dancing, you will no doubt build up an appetite, so why not take advantage of local authentic dishes? There's no better way to experience the diversity of cultures than from the food itself. The official food of the State of Louisiana is gumbo, with the cuisine of New Orleans heavily influenced by Creole cuisine and Cajun cuisine. To experience the unique differences between Cajun and Creole food, head to a restaurant in New Orleans. One key distinction is that Creole dishes usually contain tomato-based sauces, while traditional Cajun cuisine does not. But there's much more to the story, rooted in the history of the city. Then you have the muffuletta - a famous Italian sandwich invented in New Orleans with cured meats, cheese, olive dressing and fantastic bread – what’s not to love?
There's so much to do, hear and taste, so we've made sure you have enough free time to cram in as much as possible. An optional excursion to cruise, dine and enjoy a live jazz band aboard The Natchez Steamboat is highly recommended - what better way to soak in the culture and even more music, as its huge paddlewheel takes you along the Mississippi River.
Need more things to do in New Orleans? Check out our blog post 24 hours in New Orleans.
Don't just take our word for it, get a sneak peek of the Deep South and hear what our guests had to say about the tour here.
Joanne’s jam-packed travel journal includes trekking through jungles in Borneo, hiking in national parks in Canada, and learning the art of Byrek-making (a traditional spinach and cheese pie) in Albania. When she's not travelling, she’s busy blogging about motherhood, reading to her adorable twin girls and dreaming up new adventures to take them on.
Joanne Johnston | About the author
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