Few places are as iconic, raw and authentic as the American South. It’s a place known for its culture, art, food and music—from the home of honkytonk and country of Nashville to the rock ‘n’ roll of Memphis, and blues, soul and jazz of New Orleans. The sometimes-sweltering heat doesn’t stop the sweet, juicy, spicy meats from being smoked, barbecued or fried; think panfried chicken, gumbo and pulled pork, served with biscuits and gravy. Underpinning the seminal culture of the South is its unescapable history in places long, rich and vibrant, filled with music and and life; in others, haunting and bloody. The South isn’t for the faint-hearted, instead reaching its arms out to the adventurous, spirited, bold and broken hearted.
Nashville, Tennessee is built on the winding Cumberland River, which is more than 1,000 kilometres long. While it has a modern feel with a few high-rises, downtown on Music Row and Broadway are a completely different story.
Nashville is the USA’s honky-tonk country music capital and Broadway is the heart. It’s an assault on the senses with flashing neon signs in all directions and music spilling onto the streets from bars and restaurants. On Music Row are famous radio stations, record label offices and recording studios including the historic RCA Studio B where legends such as Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton recorded hits.
A must-do for country music lovers while in Nashville is the Country Music Hall of Fame. The museum’s main exhibition, Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music, takes visitors through the history and sounds of country’s music’s roots and traditions and tells the stories of its greats. It does this through artefacts, photos, text panels, sound, vintage videos and touchscreens.
To see a live show visit the Grand Ole Opry, arguably the world’s most famous country music stage, which was founded in 1925. The Opry holds such significance in Nashville it’s included on the city line signs on all major roadways; it’s one of the most coveted gigs for a country musician.
Of course, to get the authentic feeling of a travel destination is to try the local food and in Nashville its hot chicken, meat and three, fried pickles and cornbread.
Memphis is another music capital in the South – the very birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis moved to Memphis at age 13 with his family and built his empire here. Visitors can tour his 13.8-acre estate Graceland—the second-most visited house in the United States after the White House. Graceland is where Elvis raised his family, spent holidays and enjoyed hobbies like horseback riding. It’s also his final resting place where visitors can go and pay their respects at Elvis’ grave.
Another iconic site of rock ‘n’ roll is Sun Studios where the first ever rock ‘n’ roll single was recorded. Stand where greats such as Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Charlie Feathers, Carl Perkins, Ray Harris and Jerry Lee Lewis once stood, recording what would later be iconic anthems.
Memphis is a historically significant location in the Civil Rights Movement. On 4 April 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the second floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis when a sniper’s bullet struck him in the neck. King died in hospital an hour later at the age of 39. The Lorraine Motel today is the National Civil Rights Museum, a place where visitors can learn the stories of hatred and hope in the Civil Rights movement.
Experience the South in a different way by adding a Lower Mississippi River cruise to the end of your journey, departing New Orleans. Pass by century old oak trees, Civil War historic sites, vast plantations, and small river-side towns, each with their own story to tell.
*Please note: This is an extension option. Talk to your consultant for more information.
New Orleans, or The Big Easy, is a cosmopolitan city with French, Spanish and Creole influences, reflected in its lively streets full of music, colour and different architectural styles.
The food in New Orleans is as distinct as the accent of its locals. Try dishes you can find in few other places with their own Southern style: spicy fried chicken, turtle soup, gumbo, crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, muffaletta, beignets, po-boys and more.
The oldest and most famous neighbourhood in New Orleans is the French Quarter, home to the neon debauchery of Bourbon Street where boozy jazz and blues bars, galleries, shops and music clubs lure travellers in and whittle away their time.
The French Quarter is widely regarded as the birthplace of jazz. New Orleans jazz is distinctive from big-band swing and tempo-driven styles. Instead, it has an infectious swinging, stomping, syncopated beat that’s made for dancing.
And in New Orleans, jazz is about celebrating life—even in death. Dating back to the 19th century, jazz funerals are an African American tradition. A typical jazz funeral begins at a church or funeral home and leads the way to the cemetery. Mourners are joined by a brass band that plays sad music that slowly becomes celebratory, with everyone in attendance dancing and singing.