Lucie Loves... Travel // Our 17 night U.S. Road Trip Itinerary: Where to Eat, Drink, Sleep, and See in America's Deep South.
“Who fancies coming on a U.S. road trip around the Deep South?” asks one of best mates – buoyed by her newly single status.
“Ah! Go on then!” I reply, not really needing much persuasion to undertake another American road trip, since california was just sooo good. “I’ll come too!” Pipes up, my mate Sarah – another freelancer.
“Where do we start…? Atlanta? Nashville? New York? New Orleans? Miami?"
"Miami! Yes!" *dreams of cocktails on south beach*
Ok guys, I'll warn you now, this is a long read and probably best viewed on desktop! But I promise, if you're looking to head over to The States and visit the Deep South, you'll thank me for the tips and recommendations detailed below. Still reading? Grab a cuppa – or maybe even a Bourbon – a pen and paper, and then get yourselves comfy, as you escape with my friends and I to America's Deep South.
In this blog post I'll try and answer the following questions:
Q.How much to budget for a 17 night U.S. road trip? Q. How many U.S. States can you visit in 2 and a half weeks? Q. Which States should you visit? Q. Where to stay in the Deep South and not bust your budget? Q. Where to find the best traditional Deep South American cuisine? Q. Where's good for a night out in Miami, Nashville, Memphis, Clarksdale, New Orleans and Atlanta? Q. What are the must-see tourist attractions in the Deep South? Q. How far will we need to drive each day to get from place to place? Q. Where should I avoid in the Deep South? Q. What is the weather like in the Deep South?
If there's anything I've missed, drop me a message in the comments below and I'll try and help answer you separately.
Our 17-night u.s. deep south road trip Itinerary
Day 1 - Monday - London to miami
Day 2 - Tuesday - miami, FL
Day 3 - Wednesday - miami
Day 4 - Thursday - miami to bryson city (via atlanta)
Day 5 - friday - smoky mountains
Day 6 - saturday - smoky mountains to nashville
Day 7 - sunday - nashville
Day 8 - monday - nashville to memphis (via lynchburg)
Day 9 - tuesday - Memphis
Day 10 - wednesday - Memphis to greenville (via clarksdale)
Day 11 - thursday - greenville to new orleans
Day 12 - friday - new orleans
Day 13 - saturday - new orleans
Day 14 - monday - new orleans to montgomery
Day 15 - tuesday - montgomery to atlanta
Day 16 - wednesday - atlanta to miami
Day 17 - Thursday - Miami to London
7 states visited
(24 Apr to 10 May)
Florida > Georgia > North Carolina > Tennessee > Mississippi > Louisiana > Alabama > Georgia > Florida
How long we spent
in each location
2-nights Miami, 2-nights Smoky Mountains, 3-nights Nashville, 2-nights Memphis, 1-night Greenville (stopover), 3-nights New Orleans, 1-night Montgomery, 1-night Atlanta, 1-night Miami
Day-by-day deep south road trip itinerary
Below I've outlined our Deep South road trip with associated costs and bar recommendations. It's worth noting that we did this trip on a mid-high range budget, and I'm sure it could be done cheaper if you found less expensive accommodation (stayed in more hostels) or ate less expensive food. But, this being the trip of a lifetime, we didn't want to limit our options and so varied our stays between airbnbs, budget hotels, motels and some fancier hotels to book end the trip and guarantee a good night's rest.
See the bottom of this post for a breakdown of costs.
As my friend, Laura, is a logistical genius, she had created a spreadsheet for us to capture all of the details of our trip. This proved massively helpful for keeping track of booking details, hotel costs – who owed what – and gave us an idea of where we hadn't yet booked any accommodation (for the stop offs on long drives between some of the further apart destinations).
Day 1 – Monday // London to Miami
- Accommodation: The Hall South Beach - 3-nights – Total £361.93 / £120pp
- Flights: London Heathrow to Miami Airport - £463pp for a return flight
- Dinner: Yard Bird (Swine Burger + Salad, with a bottle of prosecco* to share!) - Total $142 for 3 people. Approx $32pp minus tip & Prosecco – a gift from Jan Rayner :-)
- Drinks: The Lost Weekend Bar – great for games of pool & cheap-ish Jack Daniel's & Cokes
- Sights: Kill Your Idol Drag Show
Day 2 - Tuesday // Miami
- Breakfast: Sunny's (Avocado on toast + a double shot latte) - $19.25pp
- Lunch: Taquiza (Pollo taco + Camaron taco + Bottled water) – $10.50pp (I need quite a few of these to fill me up - two wasn't enough!)
- Dinner: Grill Fish (A mix of starters to share: mussels, steak satay skewers, grilled shrimp, rocket & walnut salad, broccoli with garlic and bread & butter) - Total $65.65 for 3 people. Approx. $26 pp.
- Sights: Sunbathing on South Beach or SoBe as it's affectionately known
Day 3 - wednesday // Miami to bryson city (via atlanta)
- Accommodation: Lloyd's on the River, Bryson City – Total $72 for 1 room for 3-people for 1-night / $24pp (note: lots of mosquitoes in this area and wet weather — take bug spray, waterproofs and decent walking shoes!)
- Breakfast: The Raleigh Hotel (French Toast brioche + 2 x double shot latte double shot) - Total $98. Approx. $37pp (inc service + tax) - This place was recommended by a friend and is well worth a visit for a fancy breakfast!
- Travel: Internal flight from Miami International to Atlanta
- Car hire: Picked up Kia Sorento from Park & Fly
- Lunch: Taco Bell "OMG! I love your accents" (Protein burrito + Ice tea) - Total Approx. $8pp
Day 4 - thursday // bryson city to GREAT smoky mountains
- Accommodation: Sleep in the Clouds Airbnb, Sevierville (Beautiful log cabin with hot tub. What a view!) - Total £96 for 1-night for 3-people / £32pp.
- Breakfast: Everett Street Diner (Pancake combo + two poached eggs + bacon) - Total $12pp inc. tip
- Sights: The Great Smokies – Road to Nowhere (in the pouring rain), Clingman's Dome (in the fog – we couldn't see a thing! Check the weather forecast before we decide to visit – it's a long drive up these mountains!)
- Dinner: Walmart shop (BBQ food & prosecco to cook at our Airbnb, plus breakfast for the next morning of smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels) - Total $26pp
- Petrol: Topped up fuel at Cherokee, NC: 10.935 gallons (1/2 tank) - Total $25.28
Day 5 - friday // smoky mountains to nashville
- Accommodation: McGavock Manor, Boho Wonderland Airbnb, Nashville - Total £260 for 3-nights for 3-people / £87pp. (Note: these lovely ladies own three dogs – they're nice dogs, but they do like to bark when you first arrive – so not for the timid!)
- Lunch: DOSE coffee shop (flat white + turkey & brie sandwich) $16.65pp
- Sights: Fond Object Records (also sells vintage clothing), Vintage shops (Local Honey - which is also a hair salon, and Hip Zipper, Jack White of The White Stripe's Third Man Records and Safehouse Tattoo, Johnny Cash Museum.
- Dinner: Five Points Pizza (two slices of pizza + pint of Bold Rock cider) - Total approx. $18pp – delicious!
- Drinks: Duke's (Old Fashioned cocktail, and a Dickel bourbon – perfect dive bar drinks! Don't forget to tip after every drink, unless they keep your card behind the bar and you tip generously afterwards!) - Total approx. $18pp.
- Other bars we crawled: The 5 Spot, The Red Door Saloon, East Nashville (where we befriended a few local chaps called Leon, Jonathan and Chris the sword fighter, who had great things to say about Samuel Smith's oatmeal stout:
There is no beer on the planet that is not brewed by a monk in a monastery that is better than that!" ~ Leon "And that's the truth! Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout is the perfect beer."
- They also recommended we had ice-cream at Mike's 2nd Avenue, but we ran out of time! (Read as: were probably too hungover after ending the night with more games of pool at The Cobra).
Day 6 - sATURDAY // nashville
- Breakfast: What breakfast? A bourbon-laced hangover from hell had hit us hard.
- Lunch: Burgers at The Pharmacy (Mission City Burger + Chic milkshake) - Total approx. $20pp
- Sights: Johnny Cash Museum - Ticket $18.95pp (Tip: We managed to get free parking at Nissan Stadium, but do check incase you get clamped!) Another trip to Third Man Records, followed by a taxi back to our car – the hangover had worsened... and we were due a restorative nap!
- Dinner, Music & Drinks: Robert's Western World (Veggie burger + Two Angry Orchard ciders) - Total approx. $20pp. Next stop: more music, drinks and dancing with Texans at Layla's bar. You may think that Broadway isn't for you... but I swear no trip to Nashville is complete without it!
"I love you hair colour. What is that? Blorange?!"
Day 7 - SUNDAY // nashville
Brunch: Butcher & Bee (Green eggs Benedict & lamb + latte) - Total approx. $30pp
- Sights & Snacks: Wings mural street art, Two Old Hippies vintage shop, Five Daughters Bakery donuts,
- The Grand Ole Opry foyer, Cool Stuff Weird Things vintage shop
- Petrol: Topped up fuel - $30
- Dinner: Overdressed dinner Rudie's Seafood & Sausage - (Portobello mushroom) – Total approx. $15- $20pp **note: more or less everywhere in Nashville is shut on a Sunday! It was difficult to find somewhere decent to eat, and this was a 3 minute drive up the street from our airbnb.
Day 8 - MONDAY // nashville to memphis (via jack daniel's distillery, lynchburg)
- Accommodation: Magnuson Memphis Hotel (pool was closed due to low season, but went to the small indoor hotel gym instead) - Total £89.49 for 1 room for 3 people for 2-nights inc. continental breakfast / £29.83pp.
- 'Sights: The flight of Jack Daniel's Distillery Tour, Lynchburg, TN - $17pp - length: 1hr 30m minutes
- Lunch: Noon-time southern-style meal at Mary Bobo's house (Included in Taste of Lynchburg Tour - $75p/ length: 3hrs)
- Travel: Drove to Memphis • 200 miles of straight road - A long and tiring drive!
- Petrol: Topped up fuel $33.54
- Dinner: The Beauty Shop restaurant, Memphis (Shrimps + grilled avo, Beet + satsuma salad + glass of Malbec) - Total approx. $35pp. Thoughts: Cool restaurant – very photogenic, shit service, good food, but pricey bill.
Day 9 - TUESDAY // memphis
- Breakfast: Continental breakfast "bagels + cereal + coffee" (note: everything contained sugar... but it was free)
- Sights: Elvis Presley Graceland Tour – Elvis Experience + Planes ticket $65.50pp (note: parking at Graceland is $10), STAX Records
- Lunch: Gladys' Diner @ Graceland (Hotdog, banana and peanut butter milkshake + cookie) - Total approx. $15ppprite vending machine
- Dinner: Rendezvous BBQ (World-famous charbroiled pork ribs – 1 x large (9 ribs) + 1 x small (6 ribs), plus sides: beans & slaw + cider) - Total $70 for three - approx. $25pp inc tip
- Drinks: Rum Boogie Cafe (Maker's Mark & coke + rum cocktail) - Total $22.77 inc tip, B.B Kings (First cover of Purple Rain of the trip! Plus an incredible live medley of Beyonce mixed with Fresh Prince of Bel Air), more drinks at Rum Boogie, followed by dancing at Tap Room (another great live band!) and ended the night at Purple Haze Club.
Day 10 - WEDNESDAY // memphis to Greenville (Via Clarksdale)
- Accommodation: Day's Inn, Greenville - approx $ 20 per person
- Breakfast: Another Broken egg cafe (Hey Lucy! Omelette + side of bananas foster pancake, side of fruit, coffee, orange juice) – Total approx $26pp. Thoughts: lovely customer service, funny questions "How long do you think it'll be before marijuana is legalised in the U.K.?"
- Sights: Sun Records Studio Tour ticket $14pp, street art, MLK National Civil Rights Museum
- Travel: Drove to Clarksdale in the torrential rain
- Dinner: Morgan Freeman's Ground ZeroBlues Club - Heavy Sugar Band (Chilli cheese burger, green tomatoes, fries + cider + Sprite) - Total $67 for three people. Approx. $26pp. Thoughts: A real treat and well worth the drive! Don't forget to find a table with a good view of the stage, and to sign your names somewhere in/on/under the bar – if you can find a space! Note: Be careful at the petrol stations late at night, we were approached by a young guy asking us for some money, and felt a bit on edge, as three girls travelling alone at night.
Day 11 - THURSDAY // Greenville to new orleans
- Accommodation: The Quisby Hostel - Total £556.20 for a private room for 3-people for 3-nights / £185.40pp.
- Brunch: Shoney's, Greenville (All-You-Can-Eat pancakes + bacon + coffee) - Total approx. $12pp Thoughts: It's slim pickings around that area... fast food central! If you find somewhere that does a healthy option, please let me know!
- "You be careful now in New Orleans. It's Sin City!"
- Dinner: Mother's Restaurant (Jambalaya + mimosa cocktail) - Total approx. $16pp
- Drinks: Started off in LaFitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar, then wandered down to Bourbon Street and into Funky 544 and then went from bar to bar, wherever the music took us – you can't go wrong really, just be sure to check what size drink you're ordering at the bar, as I went for large and it cost $40 for three bourbon and cokes! Suffice to say, they were strong... so much so that I ended up losing my driving licence and room keys somewhere between Bourbon Street, the cab and our hostel lobby on the way home. Oops! Wild night.
"Y'all be careful now in New Orleans... It's Sin City!"
Day 12 - FRIDAY // new orleans
Brunch: Two Chicks (Grown up grilled cheese sandwich + coffee + green juice) - Total: $50 for three. Approx $16-26pp, depending on how much food your Bourbon Street hangover requires...
- Lunch: Ace Hotel (white fish tacos + summer punch cocktail) - Total approx. $30pp (Note: There's a minimum spend required to use the rooftop pool bar at the Ace Hotel New Orleans, if you're not a resident. Thoughts: Great spot, pricey food and drinks, and very aloof-hipster staff.
- Snacks: DROP Coffee (strawberry shortcake affogato) - Total $12
- Sights: The beautiful streets of New Orleans
- Drinks: Frenchmen Street and French Quarter - The Spotted Cat Music Club, Blue Nile, Cafe Negril, ended the night in B.B. Kings (listening to another superb cover of Prince's Purple Rain, whilst being cringingly whirled around the dance floor by a strapping American man. Oh my!
- Dinner: FLAMBO (Loaded fries) - Total approx $5-$11pp
- Other places we were recommended to see in New Orleans: NOMA, Ursuline Convent, Sculpture Garden, Japanese Artefacts, Lola's Spanish Restaurant pn Esplanade
Day 13 - sATURDAY // new orleans (New orleans jazz festival 2017)
- Breakfast: Continental breakfast at The Quisby
- Lunch & drinks: New Orleans Jazz Fest street food (Crawfish enchilada, $7 + wine $9 +strawberry lemonade $5, wine $9, Margarita cocktail $8)
- Sights: New Orleans Jazz Festival (Snoop Dogg, Stevie Wonder headliners)
- Dinner: Lola's (strawberry, almond, spinach salad with goats cheese, calamari, white fish & shrimp ceviche) - Total approx. $26pp
Day 14 - SUNDAY // new orleans to montgomery
- Accommodation: Motel 6, Montgomery - Total $56.97 (Note: Do not stay here! Our non-smoking room smelt strongly of cigarette smoke, the room was dirty and the beds were uncomfortable. Probably the worst night's sleep of the entire trip. Tip: pay an extra $10 and go to a Day's Inn instead if you need budget accommodation.Breakfast: Continental breakfast at The Quisby
- Lunch: Mandina's (chicken salad + pecan pie cheesecake) - Total approx $27pp
- Petrol: Topped up with $25 fuel
- Dinner: Dreamland Bar-B-Que (BBQ chopped pork sandwich with the works + slaw and a side of beans + Angry Orchard Cider) - Total approx. $17pp
Day 15 - MONDAY // montgomery to atlanta
- Accommodation: Day's Inn, Atlanta Airport - Total £64.96 for 3-people for 1-night / £21.65 pp.
- Breakfast: First Watch - Total approx. $15.03
- Shopping: The Merchant, Krog St, and Ponce City Market (an old Sears dept store in Atlanta), SEPHORA, ANTHROPOLOGIE
- Snacks: Jeni's splendid ice creams (ice cream cone) - Total approx. $8pp
- Dinner: Edgewood Ave Pizza (2 x medium pizzas and 2 x bourbon and cokes) Total approx. $28pp
- Drinks: Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium and JOYSTICK Bar
Day 16 - TUESDAY // atlanta to miami
Accommodation: Hilton Airport Hotel Miami - Total £104 for 1 room for 3 people for 1-night / £35pp.
- Lunch: Pizza Hut at Atlanta Airport - $25
- Dinner: SuViche
- Drinks: Wynwood Kitchen, Wood Tavern, The Corner
- Sights: Wynwood Walls
Day 17 - WEDNESDAY // Miami to London
- Sights: The poolside @ Hilton Miami Airport - wearing Hunkemöller black bikini
- Travel: Flight home from Miami International Airport to London Heathrow
cost breakdown for two week (17-night) US road trip
Flights – £463pp for a direct return flight with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow to Miami
Internal flights – approx. £100
Accommodation – approx. £600 - £1,200
Food & Drink – £800 (approx £45 per day)
Sightseeing - approx. £200
Car hire* – from £150 for a small vehicle or £450 for an SUV
Petrol - £100
Total – approx. £3,000pp
* Our car was a Kia Sorento SUV, which was a press loan from Kia Motors, therefore, car hire costs stated above are an estimate only. The Sorento was a beautiful drive. Despite being slightly nervous at first at it's large size, we quickly got used to the automatic transmission and felt incredibly safe (particular with the lane drifting sensors!) and comfortable, driving the long distances between each of the stopping points on our road trip. The Kia Sorento is also really economical on fuel - and alerts you on the dash as to when you are running low. It also has multiple USB charging ports, so that us three girls could top up the batteries on our iPhone between destinations.
On average the distance between each of the places we visited was approximately 3-5 hours. It helped that there were three of us and so we could split the driving between us all. It's advisable to ensure you top up with petrol whenever possible, on a road trip like this – and ensure that you always have bottled water in the car. Stop offs in places like Montgomery (you can do Birmingham, Al as an alternative) or Greenville, MS were only so that we could break up the driving.
My favourite place on the whole trip has to be New Orleans. I just has everything! Followed closely by Memphis and Nashville – both places that are steeped in music history and guaranteed great night out!
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OVER TO YOU
If there's anything I've missed from our travel plans that you have questions about, please get in touch.
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Photography © Lucie Kerley