Open roads, a killer playlist, hours to kill chatting in a car as well as bars, food and iconic places to stop at along the way: yes, a road trip is one of the very best ways to travel. GLAMOUR ventured to the Deep South to experience the music and the culture in just eight days. Here’s exactly how to do it:
Touching down, check into Stonehurst Place – a Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop-approved B&B set in a quaint, leafy suburb of the city. A haven of Southern Hospitality, the family-owned property is exactly where you want to lay your head after you disembark a long-haul.
Plush, comfortable and welcoming – the suites boast large four-poster beds, showers to fit six (literally) and the breakfast the next morning makes typical B&B’s cornflakes and a fry-up look positively lazy. Housekeeper husband and wife duo, John and Grace, whip up the likes of cheesy egg soufflé with apple glazed sausage, sautéed fried potatoes and fresh home baked muffins.
If you chose to explore Atlanta the next day, the B&B is situated close to the Botanical Gardens, Piedmont Park and the High Museum of Art.
Atlanta to Nashville: 3 hours 40 minutes
Famed as “Music City”, it’s the place to let loose at Honky Tonks and dance the night away in some of the best live music venues in the world (don’t miss a show at the legendary Grand Ole Opry, the open mic night at The Bluebird Cafe or the traditional live band at Robert’s Western World).
Stay at The Aertson. A new boutique hotel by Kimpton, it has an excellent bar attached where the cocktails are served strong and a rooftop pool fit for curing any hangover the next day. Modern and comfortable, it’s located in midtown and within a short Uber ride of most attractions.
The Country Music Hall of Fame is certainly worth a visit while you’re in the city. You’ll learn all about the history of the music and see the likes of Shania Twain and Taylor Swift’s music video outfits. Taking a tour of the Ryman Auditorium should also be high on your bucket list. Known as “The Mother Church of Country Music”, it’s where Johnny Cash first met June Carter and the genre ultimately placed its name on the world stage. It hosted concerts of everybody from Hank Williams to Dolly Parton and Louis Armstrong.
When it comes to food, Loveless Cafe is unbeatable. A Nashville institution famed for their pillowy southern biscuits and moreish sausage gravy, make sure you arrive hungry. If you want to tick-off the South’s famous Meat & 3 meal, head to Arnold’s Country Kitchen and for some of Nashville’s best fried chicken, queue up at Prince’s Hot Chicken – it’s worth the wait.
Nashville to Memphis: 3 hours 10 minutes
If you want a real taste of old-school Memphis, book to stay downtown at The Peabody. A city classic, it looks a bit like it could be the set of a Julia Robert’s mid-90s classic rom-com (think My Best Friend’s Wedding) and it’s full of Southern charm. Each morning, the duck master (yes you read that right) brings the hotel’s ducks down from where they live on top of the hotel to complete the Peabody’s famous duck march to the in-lobby fountain.
Situated within walking distance of Beale Street, make sure to see the incredible live music at B.B. King’s before heading over to Central BBQ to devour the insanely delicious Tennessee ribs (opt for both wet and dry ribs so you can try both the city’s specialities).
Now, obviously you can’t miss Graceland when you’re in Memphis. Make sure you book a tour that includes both the house (Elvis’s interior taste will leave you speechless) and the planes. Sun Studios where the Million Dollar Quartet performed, Stax Museum of American Soul Music where Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Ike and Tina Turner recorded as well as the incredibly moving National Civil Rights Museum are all musts.
Memphis to Clarksdale: 1 hour 30 minutes
Clarksdales is a sleepy, Southern town on the Mississippi Delta that’s known as the birthplace of Blues. Stop for the night at Shack Up Inn which is made up of a cluster of shotgun cabins that looks straight out of a film set. Live music is featured most evenings in the inn’s epic bar which is like a shrine to Blues. Mississippi number plates, old diner signs, a token 1950s aeroplane and posters of the area’s most famous singers make it one of the coolest venues on Highway 61.
The next day stop by “The Crossroads”, where legend says that musician Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil for the ability to play the guitar, before stopping in the town for breakfast at Our Grandma’s House of Pancakes. Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Arts is a great Blues shop to pick up souvenirs.
Clarksdale to Natchez: 3 hours and 50 minutes
Natchez is known for its incredible Antebellum Houses and Monmouth Historic Inn is definitely where to experience this history. Built in 1818, the grand hotel is beautifully preserved and looks reminiscent of that incredible mansion in Sweet Home Alabama. Expect four poster beds, bellboys, trees full of Spanish moss and lofty balconies complete with white rocking chairs.
For dinner head to Magnolia Grill (ask to be sat on the patio) which overlooks the Mississippi river before heading along to Under The Hill Saloon for a night cap. It’s the oldest bar on the Delta and where Jerry Lee Lewis use to regularly play.
Natchez to New Orleans: 2 hours 50 minutes
Head through Louisiana to New Orleans and check into The Pontchartrain. One of the city’s most storied hotels (Tennessee Williams lived here while writing parts of A Streetcar Named Desire), its recent facelift pays tribute to old school NOLA with an art-deco flare. Situated in the Garden District, the area boasts Magazine Street (independent stores galore) as well as celebrated restaurants like Pêche and La Petite Grocery.
When it comes to The Big Easy there really are certain things you cannot miss. Enjoying the NOLA tradition of Friday lunch at Galatoire’s in definitely one of them. Dress up and enjoy insanely delicious baked oysters in this century-old institution. You’ll be joined by locals who have been frequenting this spot for years. For brunch, you can’t miss Commander’s Palace’s Saturday jazz brunch. Known to be the number one restaurant in the city, the French-Creole restaurant is the place to try the likes of gin fizzes, turtle soup and gumbo all while a live band serenades you.
For raw, authentic live jazz, Vaughan’s Lounge in the Bywater District is excellent as is almost anywhere on Frenchman Street in the French Quarter. Always end your night by eating beignets at the legendary Cafe Du Monde. Most people don’t realise it’s open 24 hours.
If you want to experience something uniquely Louisianan, book a swamp tour with Cajun Encounters. You’ll be taken out on a boat by a brilliantly informed guide and you’ll spend a morning searching out alligators, raccoons and wild boar. If graveyard tours are your thing – after all New Orleans is famous for them – book the Saint Louis Cemetery tour with Two Chicks Walking Tours. You’ll be guided around the above-ground vaults and see the spot where Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, is buried.
If you can extend your trip just a little, add a few days on to the New Orleans segment. It’s a city bursting with things to do.
We flew to Atlanta and out of New Orleans with British Airways. We hired our car from Hertz. Seven days car hire of a Nissan Versa (or similar) from Atlanta International Airport to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport costs from £395 with Hertz.co.uk. (Price correct as of 30.10.17 and based on 6 – 13 May, 2018) The Hertz USA Road Trip Planner allows you to browse 25 inspiring routes; giving you insider guides, downloadable maps, fun and quirky pit-stops, iconic landmarks, historical locations, hidden gems and much more. Find out more about Hertz and the USA Road Trip Planner at hertz.co.uk/p/american-road-trip-planner. We also used a TomTom Satellite Navigation system which was totally invaluable for allocating time and understanding distances between destinations.