Road-tripping through the South

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Exploring the South for music, history, and throwback fun

I've road-tripped high and low in my home state of Colorado. We've towed our family pop-up camper to national parks in Utah and Wyoming. I grew up in New Hampshire, so I have fond memories of traipsing around New England in the back of the old Country Squire station wagon.


But what I haven't done is explore by car much of the southern United States. Tennessee is one state I've never set foot in (I've ticked off 43 of the 50), and it's been, gulp, 21 years since I danced in a field at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (back then, it was just called “Jazz Fest”). I'd say I'm due for a music-, history-, and chicken-fried-steak-filled road trip, don't you think? Turn on my road trip tunes and let's go!


If I had my druthers, I'd execute a trip that's heavy on touristy landmarks, Southern heritage, locals' favorite restaurants, conveniently located hotels, and plenty of time that allows me – and my companion/driver husband – to linger in spots that beguile us. Here's my general plan for a road trip from Nashville to New Orleans.


We fly to Nashville and pick up our cute, red convertible. Over the course of at least two days, we check out the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry, Music Row, and Centennial Park (with its full-sized replica of Athens' Parthenon). My husband and I love country swing dancing, but we don't know many line-dance steps, so we head over to the Wildhorse Saloon for dance lessons and barbecue. I love the idea of hitting some of the clubs on Lower Broadway for more country music (and cold beer).

Viewfinder Tip: Check local listings for live music in Nashville and Memphis. Big-name artists often play in small, intimate clubs.

In Memphis, Graceland is high on our list. But I also want to check out Sun Studio (where Elvis recorded his first songs) and stroll Beale Street for its blues clubs.


Heading south into Mississippi, we take Highway 61, which parallels the Mississippi River (and also is known as the Great River Road Scenic Byway or “Blues Alley”). En route to Natchez, we might stop at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale or Vicksburg National Military Park. I'm keen on channeling my inner Scarlett O'Hara and touring as many historic antebellum homes as we can fit in a day.


When I last visited New Orleans, I was a recent college graduate, and my long weekend was a whirlwind of music, Hurricane rum cocktails, and late nights on Bourbon Street. Frankly, if my husband and I are on this dream road trip by ourselves, without our 11- and 13-year-old kids, I'd say “heck, yeah” to another such decadent weekend in the Crescent City.


Bring on beignets at Cafe Du Monde, multi-course meals at Galatoire’s and Brennan's, and dancing into the wee hours in the French Quarter. I'd like to see and experience it all in New Orleans: po'boys, plantation homes, the Voodoo Museum, above-ground cemeteries, streetcars, and riverfront bike trails.


We may as well go big before we go home, right? After all, I want to return to Colorado with plenty of great memories of our road trip from Nashville to New Orleans.


Listen to my road trip themed playlist on Spotify.

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Kara Williams

Longtime freelance travel writer Kara Williams concluded her tenure as an Expedia Viewfinder blogger at the end of 2015. Kara covers destinations for family vacations, wellness trips, romantic escapes, and girlfriend getaways not only for her own blog The Vacation Gals (which she co-owns with travel writers Beth Blair and Jennifer Miner), but also such publications as Luxury Las Vegas, Ski Canada, Ocean Home, Interval World, American Eagle Latitudes and Outdoor adventures, national parks, luxury hotels, and spas are her other favorite beats. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), she makes her home in the Colorado Rockies with her husband and two children. Learn more about Kara and her work at

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