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I'm the the very early stages of our trip to some of the south southeastern states.l would have liked to leave Australia on the 1st of May for a month's holiday starting with the main cities firsh New Orleans.l have read that the weather is a bit better in April.
Thinking we will arrive in New Orleans 23rd of April for 4 or 5 nights
Memphis 4 or 5 " "
Nashville 4 or 5 " "
Would like to go to Kentucky and Georgia.
We like music r&r ,county jazz etc
Would like to learn about the history of this region.
Food and drinks,who doesn't.
People watching,and listening to the locals talk about their area country.
Happy to do day trips .
Question now
Could we do this trip without hiring a car(or part).
Safest areas to stay.
Accommodation so we can walk most places.
Places that you have been to.Any recommendations much appreciated.

Posted by
8832 posts

Here is a google map of the places you mention or allude to

Rail service in the US is not conducive to efficient city to city service ( such as found in much of Europe) for your general itinerary. The practical alternative is to fly or drive.

Of you 'wish list' I have been only to New Orleans. The tourist heart is the French Quarter so find a hotel in/near there to facilitate being able to walk around .

I am sure others more familiar with the SE corner of the country will offer better and more detailed advice and guidance.

Posted by
11292 posts

"Could we do this trip without hiring a car(or part).
Accommodation so we can walk most places."

You're thinking of Europe, or the few places in the US where this applies (say, New York or Philadelphia or San Francisco). It will also work in New Orleans, and Atlanta and Savannah in Georgia. But many US cities have poor mass transit, and the attractions are spread out, so a car is useful/necessary even for visitors. Furthermore, for getting between places, unless you like long and possibly very unpleasant bus rides, you will need a car. There is almost no train service in this part of the country. Flights can also help, but you will often need to make connections, probably in Atlanta as many cities do not have nonstop connections. There's an old joke that if you die in the South, whether you're going to heaven or to hell, you have to change in Atlanta; if you try to fly from, say, New Orleans to Louisville, KY, you'll see it's not just a joke.

You may get some ideas from this website of trip reports. Two friends took a road trip each year (until, alas, one of them died of cancer), and only patronized local, non-chain businesses.

Posted by
276 posts

You could take Highway 61 New Orleans to Memphis.

Blues and bluegrass heavy history and sound on that road trip. From Memphis head to Nashville about 4 hour drive. From there you could head north to Kentucky. What do you want to see in Kentucky? After Nashville/Kentucky you could head east about a 4 hour drive from Nashville to Ashville to see The Biltmore and the town. It's an artsy town, pretty, a little pricey then drive southwest on the The Blue Ridge Parkway. You'll only get about 3 hours on the Parkway but it's real pretty. From the end of the Parkway it's about 4 hours to Atlanta, GA.

Between Memphis and Nashville there's concerts, music festivals with big name artists, Elvis of course and hole in the wall joints with talented folks hoping to make it big. All the music and southern charm you'd hope for. You'll also get a nice taste of southern gospel, great stuff. The local churches often have cheap concerts with well known gospel groups. Ask a local they'll know.

There are Riverboat cruises that will take you from New Orleans to Memphis and then road trip from there. The riverboat cruises are about 9 days and have themed cruises such as civil war and music. The cruise includes excursions (no extra costs), meals etc. it's a fun time but you'll most likely be with tourists instead of locals.

Have fun planning your trip.

Posted by
5746 posts

Well, if you're a fan of American music, you're picking pretty some good locations. New Orleans (jazz, cajun), Memphis & Nashville (country). Kentucky? Well, they like their bluegrass music but I'm not sure you will find a similar concentration - if others know of good places for music there (I don't). Georgia? Same thing - there's good music anyplace you want to go nationwide, but finding something special (worth traveling all the way from Australia for) I dunno.

OP, you should mention if you have been to the USA before. It's NOT like Europe - at least in terms of getting around. With just a few exceptions, the US is lacking in good public transit options. For the parts of the country you're contemplating, you are going to need a car - unless you are OK with being limited to just the central tourist sections of those major cities you specified (New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville). You will not find train or bus travel a good option.

Posted by
5630 posts

I live in Southeast (coastal) Georgia and have been all over the places that you mentioned.

I have never been a big fan of Memphis, not sure why you wish to visit. Nashville is great if you like Country music, but not sure five days is good.

Kentucky is horse country as well as with Tennessee good bourbon whiskey country. Not entirely sure outside of Louisville.

Blue Grass is huge in the mountains of North Georgia. Dahlonega, Georgia was the center of the first gold rush in the USA. Helen, Georgia in the mountains is a replica of an alpine village. There are Blue Grass festivals from time to time. In the North Carolina mountains, you can go to Cherokee, where some Cherokee Indians still live. Also, the Biltmore Mansion near Asheville, NC.

Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina are great places to visit. Both have been mentioned in the top five most attractive cities in the USA. Probably, San Francisco is number 1.

For food, Southerners like fried chicken, fried fish and here on coastal Georgia fantastic shrimp. It is way better than the shrimp (prawns) from Australia. Also, pork barbecue is huge as well as cole slaw, fried okra, turnip greens and black eyed peas.
Don't forget pecan pie with vanilla ice cream.

You probably need to rent a car if you are going outside major cities. Bus transport is not advisable.

We like our tea cold with ice and many Southerners like it with sugar already mixed in the iced tea. I don't like the calories, so I don't do sweet tea.

If you are going to New Orleans, Louisiana, has the best food in the USA. Cajun food is fantastic. Gumbo is great. Any type of seafood. They even eat alligator. It is ok, but not that great.

Being able to walk to places in big cities in the USA can be a problem, since in many major US cities the inner cities are not that safe. It depends on the city. New Orleans does have hotels close to Bourbon Street, but you need to be careful and ask the locals for advise on what is safe to walk at nights. Nashville is not so bad, but downtown Atlanta, depending on where you stay can be a problem.

Posted by
3789 posts

<> yes
As mentioned, train travel is not the greatest connector travel in the US. The bus system isn't all that great either - for long distances. However, here are the main AMTRAK (train) routes and there is a PDF route map. Sadly, from Memphis, not so easy to get to Nashville or Kentucky. The City of New Orleans route actually exists so would be your starter (let's all sing along now....Riding on the City of New Orleans...Changes cars in Memphis Tennessee....)
Here is the Greyhound Bus link:
Megabus is an alternative:

Posted by
16883 posts

In 2019, New Orleans Jazz Fest runs Friday-Sunday, April 26-28 and the following weekend May 2 or 3 (?) to May 5. It's well worth attending but accommodation can also get booked up. Be prepared for both warm weather and thunderstorms, as I understand both are common, hence the prominent fashion statement of sundresses with mud-proof rubber boots.

Posted by
70 posts

WOW,thank you all so much.l can't believe how much information you all offered me.l will read them properly and look at maps etc.l will have many more questions I'm sure. Enjoy your day.😊

Posted by
15037 posts

People who've gone to countries that drive on the "wrong" side have said it isn't very difficult to adjust. Remember that in the US, all the rental cars are automatics and there are almost no roundabouts (which confuse drivers no end). The trip you are planning begs for a car. With one, you can stop in small towns and chat with local folks. Instead of 4-5 days in Memphis and Nashville, you could drive to the Great Smoky Mountains - should be wonderful in the spring. I spent 3-4 days exploring southern Louisiana by car, round-trip from NOLA to Lafayette. See the alligators in the bayous, listen to live Cajun and Zydeco music, dance the two-step, and enjoy the food. Visit a couple of the old plantations - some stately homes have been restored and you can also see the slave quarters. In Lafayette, visit Vermilionville, a recreation of an Acadian village, watch folks making handicrafts and talk with them.

Posted by
1277 posts

Patty, lovely architecture is available for viewing in all of those towns and cities. I have ridden megabus in the Midwest, and it's ok. Atlanta put in some lite rail transportation when it hosted the Olympics, I used it a few yrs after that, I assume its still functioning.

My favorite sight in New Orleans are the very unique above ground cemeteries. As you look at the distances involved and yr comfort in driving, actually the suggestion of a river cruise might be a great one, with days added at beginng and end
Chani, tragically, our civil engineers have discovered round abouts and are starting to use them.

Posted by
70 posts

Have read some amazing suggestions. Have realized car is a must.
How many days would you spend in each of the locations.
New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville and Georgia, still not sure on Kentucky one person suggested Texas. Our plan is to stay in one place for a fews days and do some day trips or tour.have 30 days,maybe someone can suggest an itinerary for us .Would be much appreciated. Have tried to book a few hotels in NOLA,don't laugh i was trying to find the place called NOLA then the penny droped😂
The dates i selected 23rd- 28th of April 2019
the sites all say one night you have selected is unavailable, would anyone no what date
it might be.Again thank you all for you time and
knowledge. Enjoy your day.

Posted by
16941 posts

You can probably get along just fine without a car in New Orleans. You'll be there at the start of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at Fairgrounds Race Course beginning April 26.

There are no direct flights to Memphis, but it is a 8+ hour daily train on the Amtrak "City of New Orleans". But there are several daily non-stops on Southwest Air to Nashville. They are a budget airline and price flights one-way, and also give you 2 free checked bags. So it might be easiest to fly there from New Orleans and rent a car.

Posted by
445 posts

In Atlanta, you will need a car. Sites are too spread out for transit. You will need a car for the rest of georgia as well.

Posted by
533 posts

Public transportation in New Orleans is excellent and inexpensive. (They really want to dissuade people from driving drunk, it seems.) Choose a hotel along the St. Charles streetcar line, for example, and enjoy frequent convenient service to the French Quarter, with connections to just about anywhere else you want to go.

We were in New Orleans for the second weekend of Jazz Fest this year (not to attend the festival, our dates just worked out that way). The hotels that weren't sold out were 50-100% more expensive than usual, with stringent deposit and cancellation policies. Our flight out of town at the end of the weekend was also much more expensive than usual (although if we'd been able to stay until Tuesday instead of Monday, fares would have been back to normal). The city itself was pleasant enough to visit, though - probably because everyone else was at Jazz Fest.

Do consider Amtrak for one or more legs of your journey - it's a great way to see the country. As others have noted, the network is pretty sparse, but there is daily service between New Orleans and Memphis, and also between New Orleans and Atlanta. And if you know the words to "City of New Orleans" (the song's popularity in the early 70s, incidentally, helped persuade Amtrak to keep running the train), it's interesting to note that while the present-day route is almost the same as the song describes, the schedule is completely different.

Posted by
3239 posts

April is definitely a good month to make this trip. You will have to rent a car-public transportation is mostly non-existent. I strongly suggest you make Charleston, SC a top priority. Although I grew up in Georgia, I think Atlanta and Savannah are skippable, in deference to Charleston. Charleston has the best food(seafood) of anywhere I have ever been (I have intentionally avoided traveling to New Orleans, which is supposed to have fantastic food-I have better sense than to give my reasons on this forum.). Charleston is definitely one of the best places to learn the history of the region. You can fly to Charleston, through Atlanta, of course. Charleston has a review of music associated with Charleston called Sound of Charleston-we really enjoyed the one at Christmas. Asheville/Blue Ridge Parkway are beautiful.

Posted by
3651 posts

Two thoughts come to mind for your consideration. Some may want to run me out of the state for saying this, but I'd definitely skip (a polite way of saying "avoid") Atlanta unless you simply change planes there. It is a huge, frantic, sprawling metropolis and the traffic is horrible. Yes there are some things worth seeing if one is already there, but I would not make a special trip to see any of them. The second thought involves the "Natchez Trace". It runs from Nashville to Natchez Mississippi and is a lovely drive. Google it and see what you think.

Posted by
2536 posts

Try and go to Nashville over a weekend. It is extreme quiet during the week. When Friday night comes round, the place is packed with people, music, and fun through Sunday.