This holiday is a fun blend of big cities, little cities, villages and towns. Everything about the Deep South is Southern; a culture that is undeniably American, but a blend of the world.
Revel in each destination's unique heritage, landscape, customs, music, food and in particular the Southern hospitality. You'll be hard pressed to pick a favourite.
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Welcome to the State Capital of Georgia! The impressive capitol dome presides over a contemporary city, rebuilt, reworked and virtually brand new.
Atlanta was originally founded as it was the end of the line of a state-sponsored railroad and eventually became the joining point of several railroads, spurring its rapid growth. During the Civil War, it served a strategically important role for the Confederacy and the city was almost entirely burned to the ground during General Sherman's March. Fortunately, the city rebounded dramatically in the post-war period and quickly became a national industrial center. Today it is the home of CNN, Coca Cola and Delta Airlines and UPS - to name a few.
Distance: 160 miles
Another must see attraction in Montgomery is the Alabama State Capitol, a National Historic Landmark. It was the place where Jefferson Davis took the oath of office as the President of the Confederate States of America. It is also the location where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his moving speech at the bottom of the steps, at the end of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights March. Old Alabama Town, one of the South’s premier history villages, is a collection of authentically restored 19th and 20th century buildings stretching along six blocks in the heart of historic Montgomery. Over 40 restored structures include an original 1850s townhouse, schoolhouse, a cotton gin, blacksmith shop, grist mill, tavern, log cabin, pole barn, a southern mansion, and more. Here, you can experience life in Montgomery during the infancy of the state’s history.
Distance: 171 miles
Remember when talking to locals that the city is called Mo-beel, given the soft emphasis on the second syllable by its French founders. And, having lived under six different national flags, culture is a rich conglomeration of influences reflected in colourful local restaurants like Tiny Diny, which has the tallest meringue, Pollman’s Bake Shop Brownies or Three Georges with hand made pralines and more. The West Indies Salad, white crab meat mixed with onion, vinegar and oil. Wintzell’s Oyster House has been serving them fried, stewed or nude since 1928.
Fort Conde, the original settlement in the Mobile area was built right on Mobile Bay. The Fort Conde Visitor Centre, located at the Fort, is the tourism bureau full of information about the city. One of the must see’s in Mobile is Bellingrath Gardens, where something is always blooming. The Museum of Mobile and the Mobile Museum of Art have very interesting collections. Both brought a number of blockbuster exhibitions, like A Day in Pompeii and Captive Passage, to the region. The USS Alabama is a decommissioned World War II era Battleship and also worth a visit.
Distance: 144 miles
Settled in 1718, it served as the commercial hub of the upper Caribbean while changing hands between the Spanish and the French until it was ultimately sold to the United States in 1803. You can learn the whole story at the Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum and research centre dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the Gulf South region.
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art at the University of New Orleans takes the story even further, illustrating it with great art and decorative items. At some point, you’ll want to retire to your accommodations, leaving the rest of your exploration until tomorrow. There’s music playing in the French Quarter every evening.
Also in the Garden District, Longue Vue House and Gardens was born of the aspirations of Edgar and Edith Stern, pillars of the New Orleans community. The Classic Revival house is three stories and a basement, unusual in New Orleans where most of the land is below sea level. You can tour the 20 main rooms, complete with original American and English antiques, European and Eastern European carpets, art collections, Chinese and other pieces of priceless pottery.
For music this evening, try the Maison Bourbon Jazz Club or the House of Blues. Also check to see if there are performances scheduled for Preservation Hall. You can also get messy at the Cafe Beignet, eating those wonderful just-made powdered sugar covered doughnuts. You can dine at Antoine’s, Brennan’s or the Cafe Du Monde. Magazine Street is a great place for shopping, including antiques.
Distance: 135 miles
A half-day Atchafalaya Experience is headed by the father and son team who also own the Bois des Chenes. The tour was honoured by Rand McNally Company with their Best of the Road Award. The Atchafalaya Swamp, America’s largest river swamp is Louisiana’s answer to the Grand Canyon. Protected as a National Wildlife area, the vistas are pristine. The trips are designed to enable visitors to get out into the wild portion of the Atchafalaya and explore six distinctly different areas. Not to worry, the boats are equipped with all the latest communications and safety features.
If you’re up for a drive, the Jean Lafitte Scenic Byway takes you through several authentic historic towns deep in the bayous and back ways. The Alexandre Mounton House and Lafayette Museum introduces you to the local history and culture in the home built by Jean Mouton, founder of Vermilionville. Leave yourself some time for nightlife in Lafayette, there’s usually music playing somewhere.
Distance: 146 miles
Likely the best place to gain an overview of Natchez and a context for everything else is the Natchez National Historical Park. The Park interprets two very different properties. Melrose, situated on 133 acres of live oak covered land, occupied by a prominent Southern family until 1866. Their story is somewhat of a tragedy so similar to the stories of so many wealthy Southern planter families during the Civil War.
The park also includes The William Johnson House which recently underwent three years of restoration. Mr. Johnson was emancipated by his master at age 11. He later became a formidable businessman and property owner in Natchez. At some point, he too owned slaves commensurate with his economic position. His diaries provide a fascinating account of the lives and times in the antebellum South.
Distance: 324 miles
From Graceland, there’s more than music on famed Beale Street. The historic district, which has recently remerged as a bustling entertainment centre, has an interesting history all its own. Serving as Union General Grant’s headquarters during the Civil War, Beale Street also witnessed the whiskey peddling of Machine Gun Kelly. The City of Memphis purchased nearly all of the properties along a three block area in the 1970s and the renaissance that you will witness today began. The Centre for Southern Folklore and Cafe on nearby Main Street is a microcosm of music lore with exhibits related to music in Memphis.
The Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange was created on the carefully restored Members Only trading floor to reflect its 1939 heyday. Here you’ll learn the story of cotton in the south, how it influenced society, the economy, the culture, and even the music. The Mississippi River Museum is in Mud Island River Park, located right off Front Street. Exhibits present the history of the origin of the Mississippi River, its first native inhabitants, the first European inhabitants and other local highlights. If you choose, you can also take the historic Main Street Trolley on a trip through historic downtown Memphis and the Riverfront Loop. This evening, a dinner cruise on Memphis Riverboats will let you enjoy the skyline of the city from the river.
If you’d like to learn more about the origins of music in Memphis, the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian, welcomes over 200,000 visitors a year. It’s interesting to learn the connections between the work songs, field hollers, blues, gospel, country fiddlers and the music of today. Sun Studio, where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and B.B. King recorded is the most famous recording studio in the world and considered the birthplace of Rock and Roll. Memphis’ newest museum devoted to music, Soulsville: Stax Museum of American Soul Music celebrates greats from the 1960s and 1970s, like Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MGs, Issac Hayes, Aretha Franklin, Earth, Wind and Fire and more. Stop at B. B. King’s Blues Club this evening to hear the real thing.
The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis was established in the motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was fatally shot. And last but not least, the Woodruff-Fontaine House on Millionaires Row shows how the other side lived during the prosperous period in Memphis after the Civil War.
Distance: 240 miles
The Birmingham Museum of Art is the largest municipal museum in the southeast. Its collection of 21,000 works includes the Charles W. Ireland Sculpture Garden and the Beeson Collection of Wedgwood, unique to this facility. Holdings also include a collection of Native American art that sprung originally from the Native American influences in the region.
Birmingham’s version of the Civil Rights story is told at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Different from a static museum, the Institute works at taking the lessons from the past to chart new directions for the future. A drive to Vulcan Park lets you view Birmingham and the greatest panorama of the Red Mountains. Back on the ground, the 67-acre Birmingham Botanical Gardens will give you a respite among the flowers if it’s a warm day.
Distance: 146 miles
The High Museum of Art was built with the support of the Coca-Cola Company whose resources have also enabled the facility to assemble a fantastic art collection. With light-filled contemporary galleries, the building is as spectacular as its contents. The museum is able to bring shows like the Louvre Atlanta, with hundreds of masterpieces from the famous Paris museum to be shown exclusively at this location.
The Atlanta History Centre is housed in a plantation home dating from 1845. Most of the exhibits are displayed in the adjacent 1928 Swan House Mansion. As they say, you’ll walk in wondering and walk out in wonder, having explored the history of the south.
There’s always something blooming at the beautiful conservatory of the Atlanta Botanical Garden which sits overlooking a placid lake. If there’s time, explore a bit of Buckhead. It’s virtually all new too, but has wonderful shopping, shady streets for walking and great places to relax.
Call the travel experts at Bon Voyage to discuss your dream Deep South Deluxe Tour.