You should arrive at the airport for your flight to Atlanta and on arrival you will be met and transferred to the hotel.
We enjoy a a visit to the Center for Civil and Human rights. This afternoon we transfer to the charming small town of Chattanooga for one night stay at the three-star superior Choo Choo Hotel, aptly converted from the original railway station.
Experience a ride on the ‘world’s steepest passenger railway’ to the top of Lookout Mountain just outside town experiencing tremendous views, on a clear day across a staggering seven states! Driving deeper into Tennessee to Lynchburg, this quintessential little town is a true slice of unspoilt ‘50s America, with its red-brick courthouse, general store and one traffic light! It’s a great place to just browse the shops and get a bite to eat before we visit Lynchburg’s claim to fame: the Jack Daniel Distillery. Obviously it’s where Jack Daniel’s whisky is made, since 1884 and a tour is a great experience. Interestingly, the county is ‘dry’ and locals are not allowed to consume the product they are most famous for! Continuing across Tennessee’s rolling green hills we soon arrive at ‘Music City USA’, Nashville, staying two nights at the three-star superior Hyatt Place Opryland, with continental breakfast. This evening you have the opportunity to enjoy dinner and a show on board the General Jackson Steamboat – one of the largest steamboats ever built.
In downtown Nashville we visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. A huge museum of all things ‘Country & Western’, it has floors of fascinating exhibits from the earliest days of country music to the megastars of today. There are films and videos of music’s greatest, with their life-stories and costumes. The famed Music Row is close by, lined with studios and record company offices, where we visit the legendary RCA Studio B, where Elvis recorded many of his greatest hits, followed by a ‘who’s who’ of recording superstars such as Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. Lower Broadway is Nashville’s nightlife centre, with stupendous live music in famous honky-tonk bars like Robert’s Western World and The Stage on Broadway and many more. There’s a fantastic atmosphere along the entire street and an evening here is a real ‘must’! Tonight you have the chance to see a country music show at the Grand Ole Opry.
Today we say goodbye to Nashville and head to the far west of Tennessee and the city of Memphis and America’s artery, the Mississippi. From its earliest beginnings as a small French garrison, Memphis grew into a magnet for freed slaves after the Civil War and as a cotton trading centre. More infamously, in 1968 Martin Luther King visited to help in a sanitation workers strike and was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, now converted into the Civil Rights Museum. This afternoon we have a guided tour around the birthplace of Rock n’ Roll – the legendary Sun Studio, where Elvis recorded his first hit. This insignificant, yet iconic 1950s building, was the starting point for Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison amongst others and is a designated National Historic Landmark. You can still see Jerry Lee’s piano and Elvis’ microphone! We stay in Memphis for two nights at the three-star superior DoubleTree by Hilton, right in the centre of downtown Memphis.
Today we visit one of America’s biggest tourist attractions, Elvis’ Graceland. The ‘King’ bought the Graceland mansion for $100,000 in 1957 when he was just 22 and it was his main home until his death. From the time it opened to the public in 1982, Graceland has expanded to include Elvis’ private airplanes and his extensive car collection. One of the most iconic houses in America, Graceland’s Meditation Garden is also Elvis’ final resting place. This evening is at leisure to sample the music scene at Memphis’ famous Beale Street.
An early departure this morning as we catch the renowned ‘City of New Orleans’ Amtrak train service to New Orleans, a real little piece of America. The double-decker, classic silver coloured train carriages, so typical of the US, feature comfortable reclining armchairs with plenty of legroom, as well as a panoramic glass observation deck and dining car. Our journey takes us through vast forests, farms and the small ‘southern’ towns lining the eastern bank of the Mississippi like pearls on a necklace. Nearing New Orleans, excitement mounts and we cross Lake Pontchartrain, bizarrely it appears like the train is actually travelling over the water itself. We stay three nights at the three-star superior Courtyard by Marriott Downtown, perfectly located in the very heart of the French Quarter.
This morning we have a walking tour of New Orleans’ famous French Quarter with an expert local guide. We see the charming art galleries and antique shops along Royal Street, the white stucco St Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square, full of artists, musicians and fortune tellers, and walk up the iconic Bourbon Street, centre of the city’s nightlife. The afternoon is free for you to explore this charming city at your leisure. In the evening why not step out and try New Orleans’ famed Cajun cuisine – there’s loads of fantastic restaurants.
A free day to relax in the ‘Big Easy’ and explore further afield. Alternatively, you may choose to visit some of the most fascinating Antebellum Plantations outside New Orleans combined with a fascinating boat tour of the nearby Louisiana swamps, known for their alligators, snapping turtles, experiencing close-up fauna including moss-draped cypresses in the native bayous of South Louisiana. Oak Alley Plantation is a National Historic Landmark and is considered to be the Deep South’s most spectacular mansion. Dating from 1839 with two rows of mighty oaks leading down towards the Mississippi River, the house has been fully restored to its magnificent 19th century opulence and grandeur.
We leave New Orleans this morning heading ever westwards along Louisiana’s Cajun country towards Texas. As we enter the outskirts of Houston, our first stop is at the world-famous NASA Johnson Space Centre, still a working NASA base from where the international space station is controlled. We visit ‘Mission Control’, now restored to its 1965 look with all the original equipment and furniture – a unique experience. We also see a full-size Saturn V rocket which famously has no on-board computer, they were just too big at the time, plus the huge indoor training facility for the astronauts of the International Space Station. Tonight we stay at the nearby three-star superior Hilton NASA Clear Lake.
We continue further into the south Texas plains arriving in San Antonio this afternoon. Originally settled by the Spanish who built a mission station here, the Alamo, whose name was destined to be one of the most evocative words in American history. It was here in 1836 that a seriously outnumbered group of settlers, including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, were besieged by the Mexican army for nearly two weeks before they were overrun. Tonight we stay at the three-star Menger Hotel in San Antonia, including complimentary breakfast, just round the corner from the Alamo and within easy walking distance to the charming Riverwalk area with its many bars and restaurants, ideal for trying out the region’s famed Tex-Mex cuisine.
We say goodbye to friendly San Antonio and travel north to Dallas, where we explore the historical Stockyard District before visiting the infamous Dealey Plaza, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. The floor in the Texas Book Depository from where the fatal shots were fired has been converted into the excellent 6th Floor Museum dedicated to explaining the background and the events of that fateful day on the 22nd November in 1963. We stay overnight in the three-star superior Courtyard by Marriott Downtown in the centre of Fort Worth, with plenty of restaurants nearby.
Today take your homeward flight to the UK via Atlanta.
You arrive home this morning after a really memorable tour.