We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Deep South USA - help needed

Rugby, United...
Level Contributor
170 posts
108 reviews
Save Topic
Deep South USA - help needed

We will be visiting the American Deep South from June 19th through to July 4th 2014 and would appreciate your advice and opinions on our holiday plans for this area.

What we do know for sure is that we will be flying into Atlanta on Thursday 19th June landing at around 7pm so by the time we get through immigration and collect the rental car it is likely to be 9/10pm, therefore straight to a hotel and bed! We then have 15 full days and nights before returning back to Atlanta for a 10pm flight home to the UK on Friday 4th July. My plan so far is as follows: -

Day 1 – Fly to Atlanta

ATLANTA

Day 2 – Coca Cola World, Zoo, Aquarium, Centennial Park

ATLANTA

Day 3 – Martin Luther King Historic Site, Civil War Museum

ATLANTA

Day 4 – Drive via Birmingham to Tupelo

TUPELO

Day 5 – Visit Elvis Presley sites in Tupelo before heading to Memphis. Possible visit to Graceland’s

MEMPHIS

Day 6 – Civil Rights Museum, Rock & Soul Museum, Paddle steamer on Mississippi River?

MEMPHIS

Day 7 – Graceland’s

MEMPHIS

Day 8 – Drive down alongside Mississippi River, visit a plantation

NEW ORLEANS

Day 9 – City Tour, Swamp Tour

NEW ORLEANS

Day 10 – Drive along Coast

PENSACOLA/PANAMA CITY BEACH AREA

Day 11 – Beach Area and activities

PENSACOLA/PANAMA CITY BEACH AREA

Day 12 – Gulf world marine park, Gator country alligator park, boat trip out to see dolphins?

PENSACOLA/PANAMA CITY BEACH AREA

Day 13 – ??

TALLAHASSEE?

Day 14 – Apalachicola National Forest

TALLAHASSEE?

Day 15 – ???

????

Day 16 – ???

PLANE FLYING HOME 

As you can see I have a spare night/day which I could add another night to any of the above places or somewhere else if you think it is worth staying there. What would you recommend we do – extend our stay somewhere, if so where or is there somewhere else we should be looking at staying?

Basically we love to see the USA but this area does not have any National Parks so are there any State parks or places worth visiting? We’re also interested in the American Civil War. Are there any specific places we should visit? We would like to visit an authentic plantation, which/where would you suggest?

We have an Elvis fan with us hence the visit to Tupelo and Memphis. We’re currently not sure if we need to spend a night in Tupelo or if we’ll see everything that there is to see there and be able to get to Memphis in the same day, having already driven from Atlanta?

We also want to spend a couple of days along the Gulf Coast and thought that Pensacola/Panama City area seems to be the best location. Ideally we would like to stay in a hotel that is directly on the beach so I think location will probably come down to hotel location rather than best location but I would appreciate any suggestions on location or hotel. Which area would be best to try and stay near? What should we try to see and do whilst we’re in this area?

I will post some of these questions on the more local forums but wanted to get an overall opinion from fellow trip advisors on the Deep South area to know if I’m planning a decent trip or if I am overlooking somewhere of interest. We’re open to all and any suggestions as we like to see and do a variety of different things when we’re on holiday.

Any suggestions and opinions are greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time.

Marina, California
Destination Expert
for Tucson
Level Contributor
6,054 posts
98 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Deep South USA - help needed

Your Day 8 will be long with the plantation stop. You'll also have to buzz by Vicksburg and Natchez, both of which are interesting and worth a stop. You'll also be passing St. Francisville, which is another nice town. If you can move things around, I would suggest taking at least two days for that drive.

What exactly is your interest in Tallahassee? Did you just pick it off the map? It's a decent town with a nice Downtown area, but I wouldn't encourage international tourists to visit there, especially in lieu of Mobile or, as above, other places that could visit with those days. Once you get a little north of the coast in Florida, it really goes downhill. Nothing but heat, bugs and pine trees.

If you look at the top-right of this page, you'll find the "Top Questions" section and one titled "Suggestions for a 'Deep South' roadtrip". That may give you some ideas.

In response to your questions though:

- For the Civil War, Vicksburg would be a must. I'm always curious why Brits tend to be so interested in the Civil War but not the Revolutionary War or War of 1812.

- I would not try the drive from Atlanta to Memphis if I wanted to see Tupelo. The drive alone will take you 6-7 hours without stops, so that would be a very long day. Then again, you may not like to switch hotels, so it may be worth it to get into Memphis late instead of staying in Tupelo.

- For Pensacola versus Panama City, Pensacola Beach is outside the city by several miles and is more of a small town. So there are fewer restaurants and other services available. The hotels also tend to be relatively pricey; at least $150 per night for an oceanfront room. You could stay across the street though and save quite a bit. The actual city of Pensacola is really pleasant though: very historic, good restaurants, etc. But, IIRC, it's about 20 minutes from Downtown to the beach. Panama City Beach is extremely tacky. One of two "redneck rivieras" in the US. If you're just going for the beach though, it's not a bad option, because the beach is fairly nice and there is a lot of competition from hotels so, especially in the summer, it can be really cheap. Years ago, we got a suite (two bedrooms and a living area) that had a back door opening to the beach for something like $70 per night. But it was during seaweed season, which I think you're missing. I wouldn't expect that now necessarily, but it's still a lot cheaper than Pensacola Beach. I've had some very good food there as well. Destin is another option, but I can't stand it there because it's so developed with condos, and the traffic has been really bad every time I've driven through. Panama City Beach is getting that way, but it's not nearly as bad. I've had some really good in PCB in the past also.

Hope that provides some insight and help. Good luck in your planning.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
28,536 posts
419 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Deep South USA - help needed

Great plans but I would change it up a bit-

You will want to head to Natchez, MS for plantations after Memphis. Melrose is beautiful.

Instead of spending time in Tallahassee (just the capital of Florida and home to several large universities- it has no other appeal to me) I would drive across Florida and spend at least a day or two in the beautiful old southern city of Savannah. You can see the old homes, spanish moss, riverfront, Tybee Island, and enjoy great food. It is a very walking friendly city. It is just 4 hours to the Atlanta airport from Savannah. When I think of deep south then Savannah is one of the first places that comes to mind.

Good luck and let us know if you have other questions.

PS. In Tupelo stay at the BW Plus- super nice and close to restaurants.

Ohio
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
8,330 posts
237 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Deep South USA - help needed

Perdido Key might be an alternative to Pensecola Beach? Small, nearby and lovely little spot we thought.

There's a national park on PB. An old fort out on the tip. Better one is at the Blue Angels Naval base (open and free to the public) along with a museum- lots of history.

I, too, like the idea of Savannah over Tallahassee if you can swing it.

Something I want to point out (ignore if it already has been) but-- I cannot deal with heat and this trip is going to be non-stop hot and humid. Now, some people like that-- I just cannot take it physically. I am presuming you are aware of this? but thought I'd at least put it out there.

Chula Vista...
Level Contributor
2,617 posts
104 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Deep South USA - help needed

Hi,

I also like the idea of spending a little time around Mobile, Alabama. There's:

Bellingrath Gardens

http://www.bellingrath.org/

USS Alabama

http://www.ussalabama.com/

Dauphin Island

http://dauphinislandtourism.com/

Fort Gaines (Where ADM Farragut uttered, "Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead" as he sailed passed the Confederate fort to fight the Battle of Mobile Bay.)

exploresouthernhistory.com/fortgainesal.html

Gulf Shores

http://www.gulfshores.com/

And, like the others, Savannah over Tallahassee is a must.

http://visitsavannah.com/

Enjoy your trip.

Zed

Rugby, United...
Level Contributor
170 posts
108 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Deep South USA - help needed

Thanks for your responses they are very interesting.

To be honest I wasn't that interested in Tallahassee, especially when I looked at the attractions and couldn't find much to take our fancy. I had thought about Savannah before but thought it might be too far and stretching ourselves a bit too much but hey it wouldn't be one of our holidays to America if we didn't overdo it and try to see everything in one trip!!

Would it therefore make sense to leave Pensacola/Panama City area and drive across to Savannah for the last 3 nights, giving ourselves a full day and a good half day on the last day rather than stay in Tallahassee?

Thanks for all the links to places around Mobile, I didn't realise it had all those places to see.

I need to look into the trip from Memphis to New Orleans. I had planned to drive the road that follows the Mississippi river but hadn't registered how far it actually is. Might have to have an early start and a late arrival that day!

Still plenty of planning to do before we start booking.

Thanks again for your ideas and suggestions they are really helpful and are already changing my plans!

Any more suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
28,536 posts
419 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Deep South USA - help needed

Hwy 61 runs along the MS River near Vicksburg and Natchez but in most places you cannot see the river because the road sits up so high. You can get a great look at the river in both Vicksburg and Natchez.

I like your idea of heading straight to Savannah after Pensacola/Panama City. The absolute best beach imo is near Destin in the Seaside/Seagrove Beach area. Not a lot of hotels just houses and condos and not as crowded in summer months. Many folks from all over the south head to Panama City and Destin for summer vacation.

In Mobile Bellingrath gardens is lovely in the spring when the flowers are in bloom but not so much to look at imo in the summer months.

Cleveland
Level Contributor
10,853 posts
30 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Deep South USA - help needed

Read through relevant trip reports in the sticky thread at the top of this forum.

Post 22 may give you some ideas for certain destinations, such as Vicksburg, Memphis and New Orleans. Post 14 also covers several of your destinations, including Atlanta.

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g1-i12567-k6822250…

You've probably noticed that the top attraction in Pensacola is the National Naval Aviation Museum, effectively the U.S. Navy's national aviation museum.

tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g34550-Activitie…

My hunch is that you could enjoyably cut a day out of Atlanta and add it elsewhere. E.g., compare the Atlanta zoo with the one in Memphis, which often is highly placed in national rankings. E.g., here's one ranking.

americanlivewire.com/best-zoos-in-america/

However, when it comes to zoos, I would advise travelers to research attractions at zoos carefully, and to read TA reviews. E.g., Disney World certainly should be included in the above rankings. The Memphis Zoo definitely is much larger than the one in Atlanta. Both zoos have giant pandas.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memphis_Zoo

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoo_Atlanta

The Atlanta aquarium is top notch, but many persons consider Coca Cola World to be a waste of time.

Do consider Vicksburg, which has one of the nation's best Civil War battlefield parks, featuring the U.S.S. Cairo, the best surviving "ironclad" exhibit. It's a charming city which also is an excellent place to explore the importance of the Mississippi River both in American history (many northern states in the Midwest were certainly motivated in the Civil War by a desire to prevent a separate nation from controlling New Orleans and the lower Mississippi) and to the present U.S. economy. Vicksburg has a well-reviewed Mississippi River museum.

Good planning!

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
28,536 posts
419 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Deep South USA - help needed

Agree about Vicksburg. The U.S.S. Cairo exhibit and museum along with the national battlefield are some of the best in the country. It ranks right up there with the Gettysburg national battlefield. Also do not miss the murals along the MS River that tell the story of the city of Vicksburg. If you stop there eat at Rusty's on the River for some delicious southern food.

The Cyclorama at the Atlanta zoo is a great place to visit and see the story of the Atlanta campaign in the Civil War but the Atlanta History center and Tullie Smith house are much better. The Aquarium is a must see imo. Some people love the Coke museum and others find no interest in it.

You mentioned a paddle steamer trip. This is best done out of New Orleans. They have a dinner cruise and other short excursions.

http://www.creolequeen.com/

http://www.steamboatnatchez.com/

Let us know if you have other questions!!

Cleveland
Level Contributor
10,853 posts
30 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Deep South USA - help needed

PeachBelle,

Have you ever visited this attraction in Columbus, GA?

…wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Civil_War_Naval…

I had never heard of it, but stumbled across a mention of it while reading reviews of the U.S.S. Cairo Museum in Vicksburg while watching the Oklahoma/Alabama game (reading reviews is a great activity IMO during football games).

The review said this museum was better than the U.S.S. Cairo Museum.

Doing some research, it doesn't sound as if the remains of the C.S.S. Jackson are as complete as those of the U.S.S. Cairo.

Albuquerque, New...
Level Contributor
1,092 posts
159 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Deep South USA - help needed

There are many national parks, national monuments, national battlefields, national historic sites, etc. along or near the places you are going. Check www.nps.gov and you can search by state to locate them.