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Fly into ATL, but want to visit Birmingham & Memphis & Mtns!

East Sussex
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Fly into ATL, but want to visit Birmingham & Memphis & Mtns!

Hello there

We are a family of four, my husband and I and our two older teenage boys who have just this morning booked flights into your beloved country!!! SO EXCITED!!.

We are flying into Atlanta, as prices are SO high for the summer but we really want to make the most of our visit...maybe staying in the Blue Ridge Mountain area....and at some point "doing" memphis, nashville...and i'd love to visit Birmingham Alabama....but fear we will be forever in our car!

Our interests are....Hiking, Birdwatching, Music, History, Scenery, and FOOD!!

I will post this in the Georgia and Alabama forums too and hope that people will be able to find the time to help us.

We have visited the US before, Florida, California, Nevada and Utah, but never this region...we kept the best for last??!

Our trip runs from the 24th August until the 3rd Sept and we return from ATL too.

Here's hoping you can help.

best wishes, Claire x

Birmingham, Alabama
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1. Re: Fly into ATL, but want to visit Birmingham & Memphis & Mtns!

It would definitely be a lot of driving to do all three of those cities. Nashville is about a four hour drive from Atlanta; Memphis is another three hours west of there; back to Birmingham from Memphis is about four hours. Then you would be 2 to 2.5 hours back to Atlanta. Depending on how many days you want to spend outside of north Georgia and the mountains, you could do them all. If you want to do just one, Birmingham is the closest. Another option might be Chattanooga in southeastern Tennessee.

If you decide to visit Birmingham, post back and we will help you out.

East Sussex
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2. Re: Fly into ATL, but want to visit Birmingham & Memphis & Mtns!

Thanks so much for your advice. I'll be sure to post back once we have our plans a little more together.

xx

Helena, Alabama
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3. Re: Fly into ATL, but want to visit Birmingham & Memphis & Mtns!

Claire,

First of all, welcome to the American Deep South! We certainly hope you will have a wonderful visit and will be glad to help you any way we can.

Atlanta is a great location to start and end a trip for the south as it is a hub of motorways in all directions.

You helpfully mentioned you are interested in “Hiking, Birdwatching, Music, History, Scenery, and FOOD!!”, if you could narrow down those topics we can certainly help you better, i.e.:

Hiking - long or short distances? Overnight backpacking or day hikes? Mountainous terrain or flatter trails? Any physical limitations?

Birdwatching – waterfowl, any particular environment/habitat?

Music – Country, Blues, Jazz, etc.? Any particular artist(s)?

History – American history, military history, industrial archeology, archeticture? Any particular subject or time period? Museums, historic ruins/sites, etc.?

, Scenery – mountains, pine prairies, broad lakes, narrow gorges, urban skylines, rivers?

and FOOD!! – Ah, the favorite subject of Southerners! Seafood, bar-b-que, fine dining, etc.?

You mentioned an ambitious schedule, just for comparison, the drive from Atlanta to Memphis is similar to the drive from Eastbourne to Carlisle, over 6 ½ hours of just driving time. If you have a strong interest in Memphis itself (Elvis, the Mississippi River, Blues music, etc.) then there are definitely reasons to go that far west, I just want to be sure you are using your time wisely. Based on your interests above, I might suggest a loop around north Georgia, western North Carolina, eastern and central Tennessee (Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Chattanooga, and Nashville), and back down through northern and central Alabama (Huntsville and Birmingham).

The dates you mentioned are after schools start in the United States so you are fortunately coming after the peak tourist season. Please be aware that late August/ early September is still Summer season with high temperatures often near 37C with high humidity, plan outdoor activities accordingly.

Best wishes and we look forward to helping you, please feel free to message me directly as well.

East Sussex
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4. Re: Fly into ATL, but want to visit Birmingham & Memphis & Mtns!

My goodness thank you Civilenntiger, that was such a great reply....must have taken I while and I really appreciate the time you took to help.

You really did raised some questions within our family...and I have some confessions to make...please don't laugh!...

When I say we are "into" music...I mean we most types of genre's...from the Foo Fighters, to Johnny Cash, to Green Day, to Glenn Campbell.....varied! However our youngest son who will be 16, is into music in a MAJOR way...but more your Paramore...who I believe are from Franklin...I believe.

We all love the way music moves communities together, we love people watching, but to say we were avid fans of Elvis etc would be an overstatement. Therefore Memphis and Nashville were on our itinerary simply to visit and soak up the vibe....

When I say hiking...I mean day hikes as opposed to night, any terrain as we have decent walking boots and kit and do alot of this at home in the uk...albeit in the rain normally!!

Birdwatching..now that's a biggie in our household. My eldest son is at University reading Conservation with a minor in Ornithology....we are all keen twitchers...we are not fussy as to what habitat we are observing...we like wetland birds as much as forest dwellers....

History...well I have to confess I am the least "clued up" in the family on the Civil Rights movement and American History, although I adore reading about these times...however, my two sons have both studied American History in particular between 1850- present day as part of their GCSE's here...as has my husband to an even higher level...and I have been recommended Birmingham as the city to find the most interesting Civil Rights museums and institutes??

Scenery....anything goes...All of it and everything..your country is filled to the brim with treasures to the eye!

AND FOOD!!!! Close to our hearts big time...Southern food, eating with the locals, BBQ...my tummy is growling!! Not so much into fine dining. To give you a scenario...our most memorable meal of our fortnight trip to Southern Florida last year...involved stopping at a Diner in Bowling green, we ate fried grouper sandwiches at the counter, drank fresh orange juice from jars, watched the Sherriff bring his granddaughter in for a milkshake and talk with the proprietor at length about nothing much at all....loved it!! In fact it wasn't just our favorite dining experience...it was our favorite day hands down....

I hope that clarifies some of our ideas....we are just off to the book shop now to get some guides to the south in hard copy....

Thanks so much again for your help.

Claire

Birmingham, Alabama
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5. Re: Fly into ATL, but want to visit Birmingham & Memphis & Mtns!

To touch on a couple of your last items:

Hiking - in Birmingham, we have a couple of great places for day hikes - Oak Mountain State Park and Ruffner Mountain Nature Center. Ruffner Mtn. is close to downtown and actually covers more area that New York's Central Park.

History - great Civil Rights Institute; 16th Street Baptist Church and numerous parks around the downtown area with statues and other items related to the history of Birmingham.

Food - Great BBQ restaurants - Full Moon is my favorite. Other good ones are Moe's Original BBQ, Jim 'n NIcks and Golden Rule. We have great places for southern cooking - Nikki's West is probably the most popular "meat and three" place around. It is a cafeteria where you go through the line and point out the items you want - typically a meat and three vegetables. Lots and lots of other places. Birmingham is chock full of great places to eat, from home cooking and BBQ to the finest fine dining you will find anywhere. We have several chefs and restaurants that are nominated for James Beard Foundation awards every year.

After you have perused the travel books, let us know more about what you want to do and where you want to go.

Helena, Alabama
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6. Re: Fly into ATL, but want to visit Birmingham & Memphis & Mtns!

Claire, just a thought for a draft touring plan for your family:

Aug 24 – Arrive in Atlanta; drive to northeast Georgia mountains; check into northeast Georgia area hotel

Aug 25 – Atlanta to Great Smokey Mountains National Park (Bryson City, NC); high, wilderness mountain; Fontana Dam; hiking on numerous trails, consider (mild) white water rafting trip from the Nantahala Outdoor Center; dinner @ NOC; hotel Bryson City, NC

Aug 26 – Bryson City, NC to Gatlinburg, TN via US 441 through Great Smokey Mountains National Park; stunning scenery, famous Appalachian Trail and many other trails; historic sites; camping/picnicking; waterfalls; one of America’s most popular national parks; Hotel Gatlinburg, TN

Aug 27 - Drive from Gatlinburg, TN to Chattanooga, TN ( hours). Visit Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park near Fort Oglethorpe, GA, site of one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War. Visit Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga and “See Seven States” from the rocky bluff. Visit any of the many Chattanooga attractions – favorites on our family include: Incline Railway, Tennessee Aquarium, strolling and dining downtown; the Chattanooga Choo-Choo hotel complex; and the Chattanooga Lookouts minor league baseball team. Hotel in Chattanooga, TN

Aug 28 - Finish touring Chatanooga. Drive Chattanooga to Nashville. Tour Nashville; Grand Ole Opry; Country Music Hall of Fame; Hermitage (home of President Andrew Jackson – pre-Civil War plantation home); Ryman Auditorium; Belle Meade Plantation; Live music at numerous venues; Hotel in Nashville, TN

Aug 29 – Continue to tour Nashville; Grand Ole Opry; Country Music Hall of Fame; Hermitage (home of President Andrew Jackson – pre-Civil War plantation home); Ryman Auditorium; Belle Meade Plantation; Live music at numerous venues; Hotel in Nashville, TN.

Aug 30 – Drive Nashville to Birmingham via Huntsville, AL. Bird watching along the North Alabama Birding Trail (Tennessee River wetlands); US Space and Rocket Center (Huntsville); Hotel in Birmingham, AL

Sept 1 – Civil Rights Institute and Civil Rights Trail; Vulcan Park and Museum; Ruffner Mountain; Moss Rock Preserve; Railroad Park; Birmingham Botanical Gardens; Sloss Furnaces; Birmingham Barons minor league baseball. Drive Birmingham to Atlanta (2 ½ hours); Hotel in Atlanta

Sept 2 – tour Atlanta; World of Coca-Cola Museum; Martin Luther King Historic Site; Georgia Aquarium; Centennial Park; Atlanta Braves major league baseball; Hotel in Atlanta

Sept 3 – Fly home

Based on what you told us you would like to do, hopefully this will at least give you an idea of what is available in this region. Google searches will tell you much more about each of the topics in mentioned above. Tripadvisor is very popular in the US, look to their reviews for more travelers' thoughts. The magazine Southern Living is THE best loved and most popular periodical about the South, check out their website: http://www.southernliving.com/

Best wishes with your planning, let us know when you have more questions!

-Jason

London
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7. Re: Fly into ATL, but want to visit Birmingham & Memphis & Mtns!

Hi there - you are lucky. We did a similar trip last year and we can't wait to go back and see the things we missed, plus some of the same again!

You already have loads of great suggestions but I thought you might just like to hear some of our experiences in case it helps.

We certainly found that doing our research first helped, and with maps, this forum and some guidebooks we put together a sort of circular trip (clockwise) that meant we didn't spend too long in the car in any one go.

We flew to Atlanta - a huge airport that takes ages to get through. Depending on the time you arrive you might want to stay in Atlanta overnight. There are a number of hotels very near the airport. There is also quite a lot to see in Atlanta itself - Margaret Mitchell's house, Martin Luther King's birthplace, Stone Mountain.

We then drove south to Montgomery, Alabama which is a wonderful little town with loads of history. The state capitol building is beautiful and is important to the history of the Civil War. Across the road is the preserved 'first White House' of the Confederacy. Montgomery is also the place of the famous bus boycott that kick started the civil rights movement and visiting Martin Luther King's home and his church is a great experience. There is also the Rosa Parks museum, the Hank Williams museum and 'Alabama Old Town'. A very friendly old-style tour bus goes around the town's main sites, leaving from the Tourist Centre, which is located in the old train station. You can hop on and off or just enjoy the guided tour. A couple of good hotels are near the tourist centre, plus The Alley which is where there are some restaurants and bars. We even went to the baseball game ('Montogmery Biscuits') which was a great experience that your family might enjoy.

Next we headed up to Tupelo to visit the Elvis Presley birthplace where we stayed overnight. I think that drive (from Montgomery) was quite a long one - several hours, but not too bad with stops. Tupelo is also a nice town where there are a couple of good hotels a restaurants.

Then we went to Memphis (only a couple of hours from Tupelo) where there was enough to keep us occupied for a few days, then Nashville and then Chattanooga and finally back to Atlanta.

You've already know the lowdown on those places so I won't say much, except to agree completely that Belle Meade is a great day out, as is the Jack Daniels Distillary (about 75 miles out of Nashville by the historical town of Lynchburg). If you go there don't miss Lynchburg because it's so pretty and there are some great little BBQ restaurants - you come out of the JD carpark and the town itself is just a short way up the road down a left turn. It's like stepping back in time.

Certainly, as the other member has said, Chattanooga is a fantastic place - loads to see and do.

Enjoy the trip. The main thing you'll find is that the people are just so very friendly and warm and welcoming. Everyone talks, wherever you go and that it what made the south so special to us.

London
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8. Re: Fly into ATL, but want to visit Birmingham & Memphis & Mtns!

Oops - just to add a few more notes! I re-read your post and saw that you are interested in the Civil Rights movement: Montgomery would definately be interesting to you for the reasons I put in my other post, as well as being the places where the famous marches ended and where Martin Luther King organised much of the movement, including the bus boycott from his little church (opposite the State Capitol on Dexter Ave). You can even see the bus stop where Roas Parks got on her bus, just by the building where she worked.

Memphis of course, is home to the Civil Right Museum, housed in the Lorraine Motel, where Dr King was assassinated. With Atlanta on your trail you'll get quite a full experience if that's what you want.

Also, although you're not Elvis fans, the Sun Studio in Memphis is a great visit for music history and definately Beale St for the vibe!

East Sussex
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9. Re: Fly into ATL, but want to visit Birmingham & Memphis & Mtns!

Jason and Liffey...you are just too kind! I am blown away by the time you have taken to think up and write down your ideas and experiences. I have only just woken up and taken a peek....I will absorb when I return from work, but I just wanted you to know how much my family and I appreciate your time.

Bless you and thank you so much xx

Tyler, Texas
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10. Re: Fly into ATL, but want to visit Birmingham & Memphis & Mtns!

Please look at Callaway Gardens between Atl and Montgomery

http://www.callawaygardens.com/ near Pine Mountain Ga