A 21-Day Street-Journey Itinerary Across the Deep South

An old wooden building beside a river in the American South
Posted: 5/10/21 | Could 10th, 2021

If there’s one matter that I’ve realized in all my travels round America, it’s that the US is extra like a set of small international locations than one cohesive cultural unit. The life-style, language, and norms of every area differ vastly from each other. And even inside states, there are huge variations.

The area that shocked me essentially the most was “the South,” outlined because the states that have been a part of the Confederacy, from the Mason-Dixon line to the Mississippi River and right down to the Gulf of Mexico. (Texas was a part of the Confederacy, too, however it’s typically not thought of a part of the “Outdated South,” as a result of, effectively, it’s Texas and it’s its personal beast!)

Rising up as a northerner, I at all times type of appeared down on the area as “backwards,” however, via a couple of journeys across the space, I discovered that my perceptions in regards to the area have been fallacious.

I grew to like my time exploring that a part of the nation. Positive, the South has its issues, however it has much more range, historical past, and pure magnificence than my preconceived prejudices had allowed.

I don’t assume it must be missed.

And, since home journey is our greatest choice throughout these COVID instances, I believed I’d share my ideas for a tremendous street journey round “the Deep South.”

The South is so large you possibly can’t do it in simply three weeks, however you are able to do what, for the intents of this submit, I name the “Deep South”: Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee (which isn’t truly a part of the Deep South, however hey, it rounds out the route!).

This area has a ton of parks, lakes, rivers, historic websites, and locations to see. You’d want greater than three weeks to correctly see it however the route beneath offers you a correct overview:

Notice: There are lots of, many, many potential routes you possibly can take via this area. This three-week model is just a few highlights I like. Tailor any path to your wants as you please!

Days 1–3: New Orleans

A live band playing music outside in New Orleans
New Orleans is a novel mix of cultures (African, French, Caribbean, Latin, and so forth.), which has created some of the eclectic American cities. It’s full of tales of ghosts and vampires, wonderful structure, unimaginable meals, and a few of the finest music on the planet. Bourbon Road is at all times bursting with vacationers, Frenchmen Road is stuffed with jazz, and there are historic buildings to admire and entertaining excursions to take pleasure in. You’ll be able to simply spend a whole week right here and never get bored.

However we solely have a couple of days, so listed here are a couple of ideas that will help you get began:

  • Occasion on Bourbon Road – This in all probability goes with out saying, however do try Bourbon Road. Positive, it’s touristy, however it’s additionally thrilling and residential to plenty of buskers, reside music, and parades. It’s the beating coronary heart of the town.
  • Wander the Backyard District and French Quarter – These are two of the preferred and historic districts. Spend a while strolling round, taking within the mansions and previous French buildings (both self-guided or with Take Walks, which organizes enjoyable and insightful excursions round city).
  • Go to the Nationwide World Warfare II Museum – That is the most important museum devoted to the battle in america — and it’s probably the greatest museums on the planet. Its use of audio, video, artifacts, and private tales ties the historical past of the battle collectively in unimaginable element. Listening to firsthand accounts makes all of it really feel that rather more intimate and impactful.
  • Go on a voodoo or ghost tour – NOLA has one thing of a creepy previous, and one of the simplest ways to find out about it’s to take a voodoo or ghost tour. You’ll get to go to cemeteries, discover haunted buildings, and listen to all kinds of unsettling anecdotes and ghostly tales.
  • Hearken to reside music on Frenchmen Road – Soak up some reside music (any night time of the week) on this energetic road, the second hottest after Bourbon Road. It has plenty of locations to take heed to blues and jazz; my favourite is the Noticed Cat.

For extra matters to see and do in NOLA, try this detailed itinerary.

New Orleans can also be a tremendous foodie metropolis. A few of my favourite locations to indulge at are: Lily’s Café, Bearcat, Welt’s Deli, Killer PoBoys, Jewel of the South, Acme Oysters, and Willa Jean.


  • HI New Orleans – This is among the finest hostels on the planet and my favourite in New Orleans.
  • Auberge NOLA – This hostel hosts nightly events and occasions, so it’s tremendous straightforward to satisfy individuals.
  • India Home Backpackers Hostel – One other wild social gathering hostel, with a swimming pool and reside music venue.


Days 4–7: Mississippi & Alabama Gulf Coast

A massive aircraft carrier docked near Mobile, Alabama
Go away New Orleans, and head east to the Gulf shores of Mississippi and Alabama.

Begin with a go to to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. It’s a small city with attractive white-sand seashores and plenty of out of doors actions (comparable to fishing, stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, and kayaking). The downtown has plenty of little retailers and galleries as effectively.

Subsequent, head to Cell, Alabama. Go to Fort Condé (constructed by the French in 1723) and take a tour of the USS Alabama (a World Warfare II vessel docked in Battleship Memorial Park). Ensure to additionally go to the Carnival Museum (devoted to Mardi Gras) to study extra in regards to the parade and its cultural significance.

From right here, cruise towards Gulf Shores, Alabama, the place you’ll discover miles of seashores and lovely subtropical climate as you soak within the views of the Gulf of Mexico. There are additionally plenty of motels, resorts, and casinos should you really feel like splurging. It’s cheesy however enjoyable.

Close by, you’ll additionally discover Gulf State Park, which spans 6,500 acres and presents seashores, mountain climbing trails, fishing, golf, zip-lining, and sand dunes you possibly can climb (admission is $9 USD).

There aren’t any hostels on this area, so your finest guess is Airbnb or utilizing Reserving.com to discover a low-cost motel (or lodge should you really feel like splurging!)

Days 8–9: Birmingham

The skyline of Birmingham, Alabama at sunset
Swing north and, in your technique to Birmingham, cease in Montgomery to go to the Rosa Parks Library and Museum in addition to the Legacy Museum, each of which make clear the racial injustices of America’s previous and current.

Then spend two nights in Birmingham. It grew to prominence as an industrial hub, relying totally on nonunionized immigrant employees to undercut manufacturing within the northern US. Within the 1950s and ’60s, it turned a spotlight for the civil rights motion, and it was right here, in 1962, the place Dr. King wrote the well-known “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Listed below are few matters to see and do whereas in Birmingham:

  • Go to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute – Opened in 1992, this museum highlights the struggles of the civil rights motion within the 1950s and ’60s. It sheds essential mild on how the motion impacted the area and adjusted the course of your entire nation — and the world.
  • Discover the Pepper Place Saturday Market – This farmers’ market is a good place to choose up native meals and artisan souvenirs. There’s typically reside music, cooking demonstrations, and different actions right here in the course of the weekend.
  • Go to the Southern Museum of Flight – This aviation museum has over 100 airplanes, as effectively fashions, engines, art work, and pictures. The museum even has a Wright Flyer, one of many first planes developed by the Wright brothers, in addition to some experimental prototypes that by no means took off (pun meant). It’s a fantastic place to go to with children particularly.
  • Go mountain climbing or biking – Spanning over a thousand acres, Ruffner Mountain Reserve (a mountain vary as soon as mined for iron ore) has all kinds of brief hikes. Most are below two miles and vary in problem from straightforward to arduous. For those who’d somewhat mountain-bike, try Oak Mountain Park close by, which has 50 miles of biking trails.
  • See the Birmingham Botanical Gardens – For a spot to calm down and go for a stroll, head to the Botanical Gardens. It has over 12,000 vegetation, 25 completely different gardens, dozens of sculptures, and several other miles of strolling paths. Better of all, it’s free!

For an inventory of different essential civil rights websites within the area, try the Civil Rights Path. It’s a complete database of such websites across the complete nation and has tons of useful info and sources.

There aren’t any hostels in Birmingham, so use Airbnb or Reserving.com to seek out your least expensive choices.

Days 10–12: Nashville

The bright lights of downtown Nashville, Tennessee at night
Persevering with north, our subsequent cease is Nashville. Situated simply three hours from Birmingham, it boasts a world-class music scene, loads of unimaginable eating places you possibly can indulge at, quite a few cocktail bars, plenty of parks, and loads of historical past.

Listed below are some matters to see and do in Nashville:

  • Go to the Tennessee State Museum – Opened in 2018, this museum goes into in-depth (although typically one-sided) element in regards to the state’s historical past. It has exhibitions on First Peoples, pure historical past, the American Revolution, and the Civil Warfare.
  • Hearken to music on the Grand Ole Opry – Opened in 1925, that is essentially the most well-known nation music venue on the planet. Common reside performances, TV broadcasts, and radio exhibits are held right here. Tickets for reside performances begin at $45 USD per particular person.
  • Go to the Nation Music Corridor of Fame and Museum – With over 2.5 million gadgets (together with data, devices, images, and so forth.), the de facto house of this model of American music is among the largest museums wherever devoted to the style.
  • See the Parthenon – Inbuilt 1897, this can be a full-scale reproduction of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. It was constructed to rejoice the town’s hundredth anniversary and was chosen as a result of Nashville known as “the Athens of the South” (resulting from its deal with increased schooling).
  • Hearken to music on Broadway – For those who’re nonetheless craving reside music, head to Broadway, the town’s principal thoroughfare, the place you’ll discover all types of bars and reside music venues. Better of all, there’s often no cowl, so you possibly can bar-hop and actually take pleasure in as a lot music as you need.


  • Music Metropolis Hostel – A social backpacker hostel with plenty of enjoyable out of doors frequent areas (together with a patio and BBQ).
  • Downtown Metropolis Hostel – Comfortable, clear, and with plenty of frequent area. The social ambiance makes it straightforward to satisfy different vacationers.


Day 13: Franklin

The charming downtown of Franklin, TN at sunset
Because it’s positioned simply 25 minutes outdoors of Nashville, most individuals assume Franklin is simply one other suburb. It’s not — removed from it, in reality! Franklin is bursting with small-town appeal and scrumptious foods and drinks (it’s the place I found my favourite Bourbon, HC Clark). The town is stuffed with historical past (there was a significant Civil Warfare battle right here), a historic principal road, and a few actually scrumptious bars and eating places.

To be truthful, I didn’t count on a lot once I first visited, however Franklin actually overdelivered. For those who’re a foodie or a fan of reside music, a cease here’s a should!

Listed below are a couple of matters to see and do when you’re right here:

  • Attend the Pilgrimage Music Competition – This large annual competition brings many world-class musicians to Franklin. It combines big-name bands with small-town appeal. Don’t miss it!
  • Discover the Grasp & Makers Path – This vacationer path takes you to the area’s breweries, wineries, and distilleries. You’ll get to pattern the most effective Franklin has to supply whereas studying a bit about how every drink is made.
  • Be taught in regards to the Civil Warfare – The Battle of Franklin was fought right here in 1864. Go to the Civil Warfare Museum to study extra (you possibly can even nonetheless go to an previous constructing with authentic Civil Warfare bullet holes!).

Since Franklin is sort of small, Airbnb is the best choice right here.

Days 14–16: Memphis

The large Memphis sign in Memphis, TN
Right this moment, we head to Memphis, which is simply three hours away. Memphis is one other historic metropolis. It was a significant cease on the Mississippi cotton-trade route and is now the house of blues music, unimaginable BBQ, and plenty of historical past. Go away early although, so alongside the best way, you possibly can cease on the Civil Warfare memorial for the Battle of Shiloh, in addition to reduce via small-town Tennessee.

Listed below are a couple of matters to see and do when you’re right here:

  • Go to the Nationwide Civil Rights Museum – Housed within the former motel the place Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, this museum explores the civil rights motion from the 17th century to at this time, its struggles, and the influence it’s had on the nation. It’s highly effective and poignant and probably the greatest museums within the nation. Don’t miss it!
  • Tour Solar Studios – That is the studio the place Elvis received his begin. You’ll be able to take a tour and study in regards to the King’s origins and the way his humble roots finally led to over a billion data bought. Many different well-known musicians additionally recorded right here, comparable to Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Money, and Carl Perkins.
  • Wander Beale Road – Referred to as “America’s Most Iconic Road,” Beale Road is the place you’ll discover Memphis’s finest reside music. There are quite a few bars internet hosting reside performances, in addition to buskers on the road.
  • Go to the Rock ’n’ Soul Museum – Situated on iconic Beale Road, this museum highlights the pioneers and contributions of blues, rock, and soul musicians from the 1930s to the 1970s. There are costumes and recordings from a few of the most well-known soul musicians, interactive media, and exhibitions on well-known performers from Memphis.
  • See Graceland – Graceland, the house of Elvis Presley, is positioned a couple of hours south (on the best way to Oxford, your subsequent vacation spot). Even should you’re not a diehard Elvis fan, it’s price a go to to see simply how impactful his life and music has been. You’ll see all types of look-alikes and followers whereas additionally studying about his life and contributions to the music trade.

Memphis can also be one other superior foodie metropolis (see a sample right here?). A few of my favourite locations to eat are: Gus’s World Well-known Fried Rooster, Central BBQ, Loflin Yard, Bounty on Broad, and the Rendezvous (a scrumptious BBQ place).


  • Hostel Memphis – With free breakfast, a shared kitchen, and loads of frequent area, this hostel has the whole lot you’ll want!


Day 17: Oxford

The old university in Oxford, Mississippi with a statue in the foreground
Oxford, Mississippi, is positioned simply over an hour from Memphis and makes for a pleasing place to spend a day having fun with small-town life. It boasts the College of Mississippi (some of the lovely campuses within the nation) and was the house of Nobel laureate William Faulkner, some of the essential authors of the 20th century (he wrote The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying).

The city is actually small, although, and there are solely a few matters to do right here:

  • Go to the historic downtown – Downtown you’ll discover a charming market sq. surrounded by plenty of eating places, artwork galleries, and native retailers. It’s a pleasant place to walk. For a chew to eat, head to Metropolis Grocery, a fine-dining Southern restaurant in a historic two-story brick constructing.
  • Tour Rowan Oak – This was the house of William Faulkner from 1930 to 1962. Inbuilt 1844, at this time it’s owned by the college. Lots of the timber on the property predate the Civil Warfare. Inside there’s a small museum the place you possibly can find out about Faulkner and his contributions to American literature. Every day excursions can be found for $5 USD.
  • Discover Ole Miss – Inbuilt 1848, Ole Miss (the College of Mississippi) is constantly ranked as some of the lovely college campuses within the nation. Lots of the buildings are constructed from crimson brick, and the primary corridor (the Lyceum, used as a hospital in the course of the Civil Warfare) boasts a set of Roman-style pillars.

Since Oxford is sort of small, Airbnb is the best choice right here.

Day 18: Vicksburg

A Civil War memorial in Vicksburg, Mississippi
Vicksburg is positioned simply over three hours from Oxford and makes for a soothing day journey. In the course of the Civil Warfare, Normal Grant oversaw the siege of Vicksburg for 47 days. His victory gave Union forces management over the Mississippi River. It’s thought of some of the essential battles of the Civil Warfare.

Like Oxford, there’s not a lot to do within the city, and you actually don’t want a lot time right here.

  • Take a historic strolling tour – There are 35 markers round city that spotlight essential occasions and buildings, illuminating Vicksburg’s turbulent legacy. You’ll be able to obtain a free self-guided map from Go to Vicksburg with a number of routes to select from, in addition to info on all of the sights.
  • Go to Vicksburg Nationwide Army Park – This park marks the place the precise siege of Vicksburg befell between March 29 and July 4, 1863. The battle claimed over 3,000 lives and, together with Gettysburg, marked the turning level of the battle in favor of the Union. Within the park, you’ll discover monuments (over 1,300), trenches, cannon batteries, antebellum houses, and an previous gunboat. Admission is $10 USD per particular person or $20 USD per car.
  • Tour antebellum houses – To get a glimpse at life earlier than (and through) the battle, go to a few of Vicksburg’s historic antebellum houses (massive, elegant mansions constructed earlier than the Civil Warfare), a few of which date again to the 1790s. Some you possibly can solely view from the surface, whereas others provide excursions. For those who’re seeking to splurge, some have even been transformed to guesthouses the place you possibly can keep in a single day (they aren’t low-cost although). For an antebellum tour, try Vicksburg Outdated City Excursions.

Vicksburg can also be tremendous small, so use Airbnb.

Days 19–20: Natchez

One of the many old plantation homes in Natchez, Mississippi
Comply with the attractive Natchez Hint Freeway alongside the Mississippi River to Natchez itself. Established by French colonists in 1716, Natchez, Mississippi, was a defensible strategic location, which ensured its place as a pivotal middle for commerce. It later turned a vacation vacation spot for rich slaveholders.

This city options numerous antebellum houses. For the reason that metropolis surrendered rapidly in the course of the Civil Warfare, they weren’t torched or ransacked, which has stored them intact for guests to take pleasure in at this time. Seeing them was one of many highlights of my time within the South. There are over 20 houses open for visits and excursions. Of those I visited, my favorites have been these:

  • Longwood – This house had essentially the most spectacular structure (it’s designed in an octagon).
  • Rosalie – I discovered this house to have essentially the most lovely inside.
  • Stanton Corridor – This had the prettiest grounds.

Natchez is dear, so that you’ll wish to evaluate your lodge choices on Reserving.com with any appropriate Airbnb choices you discover.

Day 21: Return to New Orleans

It’s time to drive again to NOLA. It’s a brief drive (slightly below three hours) so make sure you cease alongside the best way anytime you see one thing that piques your curiosity!

***Whereas it could typically be difficult and sobering coming nose to nose with the legacy of America’s previous, exploring the South is a should for anybody seeking to study extra about our numerous nation and the occasions which have formed it.

From distinct meals to distinctive music to wealthy historical past, a street journey across the Southern US has one thing to supply everybody. It’s some of the underrated areas of the nation.

E-book Your Journey to the USA: Logistical Ideas and Tips

E-book Your Flight
Discover a low-cost flight by utilizing Skyscanner or Momondo. They’re my two favourite serps, as a result of they search web sites and airways across the globe so that you at all times know no stone is being left unturned.

E-book Your Lodging
You’ll be able to ebook your hostel with Hostelworld. If you wish to keep elsewhere, use Reserving.com because it constantly returns the most cost effective charges for guesthouses and motels.

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will defend you towards sickness, damage, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes fallacious. I by no means go on a visit with out it, as I’ve had to make use of it many instances previously. I’ve been utilizing World Nomads for ten years. My favourite corporations that supply the most effective service and worth are:

Searching for the most effective corporations to save cash with?
Take a look at my useful resource web page for the most effective corporations to make use of once you journey! I checklist all those I take advantage of — and I believe they may aid you too!

Want an inexpensive RV on your street journey?
RVshare allows you to lease RVs from personal people throughout the nation, saving you tons of cash within the course of. It’s like Airbnb for RVs, making roads journeys enjoyable and inexpensive!

Need Extra Data on Touring america?
Make sure you go to our strong vacation spot information to the US for much more recommendations on the best way to plan your go to!

Photograph credit: 7 – Adam Jones, 8 – Ken Lund, 9 – Pierre Metivier

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