Can you help me plan a roadtrip from New Orleans through the US South
November 19, 2008 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Work is sending me to New Orleans in February. I've never been to the US South, and I'd like to extend my trip with a little road trip to get a sense of what makes the South unique and wonderful and especially photogenic. Can you help with suggestions?

I'll be in New Orleans Feb. 14, 15 and 16. I was thinking about renting a car for a week or so and driving around the South.

I have friends who live in Cincinnati, OH, so a route that took me past there would be nice but not 100% required.

I'm flying into and almost certainly out of New Orleans, so a route that was circular is probably best.

I'm mostly interested in Photography, so places that lend themselves to that would be best.

Any suggestions at all are very welcome.
posted by willnot to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Doh, you're missing Mardi Gras by a week. Even so, the areas in and around the French Quarter are one of the most picturesque places in the country, in my opinion.
posted by nitsuj at 8:51 AM on November 19, 2008

Best answer: My very first AskMeFi question was about You might find things to do on a Road Trip between Memphis and New Orleans so you might find that to be helpful. In addition, as I've mentioned in previous answers of this sort, I cannot recommend the book Road Trip USA highly enough. Pick a route that goes through the South (the entire book is available online for free) and enjoy. It has not steered me wrong and it really gets to many of the lesser seen, but equally as wonderful things that you don't hear about in the more well known guidebooks.

In my numerous Southern road trips, I've found that the cuisine (as it does in all other areas) plays a huge role in making the South what it is. Be sure to take advantage of the many different types of food you've never tried before. Just some marvelous stuff. Also, some of the best experiences I've ever had on my road trips is to simply pick a random exit off the highway (usually somewhere rural), take it, and just explore and experience the local scene. That's how you truly get a feel for an area (although it's best to have a very good map, or even better, GPS. You never know when you might drive into a nasty area.)

Good Luck, and feel free to mefi mail me if you want any specifics.
posted by Rewind at 8:59 AM on November 19, 2008

Bah - forgive the ridiculously formed sentences above. It pays to preview, and make liberal use of backspace.
posted by Rewind at 9:01 AM on November 19, 2008

Even though you'll miss Fat Tuesday, there are plenty of colorful Mardi Gras parades going on in the area throughout February. Here's a schedule.
posted by nitsuj at 9:06 AM on November 19, 2008

Best answer: the areas in and around the French Quarter are one of the most picturesque places in the country

Not during Mardi Gras they ain't!

That said, there's a few ways to do this and "the South" is a big and diverse place. All travel is going to need to be on back roads, definitely. You might consider starting in Cinci and heading into the appalachian country of KY and TN, then down into the center of GA and then west through the Black Belt of Alabama, hanging a left (South) along the AL/MS border area to the Gulf Coast and on into the Big Sleazy. That gives you the Hill territories, Cotton country, a taste of Eastern wiregrass (but not much), and the Gulf Coast.

Then for your way back, head West and Northwest over LA following the MS river/border up to the southern end of the Delta area then West to Texas where things just completely change and have their own little microcosms. You might then dump the car and fly out of Dallas.

I know that is extremely incomplete, but I was trying to give you a linear route that captures as much diversity as possible. The differences are not subtle and the differences between Atlanta and Dallas and everything in between are as divergent as Seattle is from Phoenix.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:07 AM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I could spend a week within 100 miles of New Orleans taking pictures, parts of rural Louisiana are absolutely beautiful. I'd head west to Creole/Cajun country, all of Acadiana, but I'm partial to the area.

Cincinnati is a little far to have to drive there and back, especially if you plan to stop a lot and take photos. I would maybe suggest flying into Cincinnati then driving back but veering east through maybe Kentucky, Tennessee, South and/or North Carolina, Georgia back through to New Orleans, but even that is pushing it.

If it were me, I'd visit my friends in Ohio some other time and drive from New Orleans to Jacksonville, FL, then up to South Carolina, back through to Atlanta, GA then Birmingham, AL to maybe Jackson, MS and then back to New Orleans. All the while consuming as much southern food as I could possibly eat.
posted by SoulOnIce at 9:08 AM on November 19, 2008

The best trip would be for you to change your ticket so that you're flying out of Cincinnati, since a week is a nice amount of time to make the drive up from NOLA while still being able to enjoy the sights.
posted by rhizome at 9:44 AM on November 19, 2008

Check out Alton Brown's Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run - covers some of the South, but mostly along Old Man River.

But, if you manage to add Jackson, Miss., to your travels, MeMail me - I'm a resident and can help.
posted by fijiwriter at 10:49 AM on November 19, 2008

Best answer: OK. Take it from me, since I once took a 15000 mile solo road trip around North America. I know what I am talking about.

Head up through Louisiana, catching at least one plantation home (maybe Nottaway) on your way past Baton Rouge. Drive up highway 61 to Natchez, making sure to pay attention as you drive through the downtown sections of towns like Woodville.

In Natchez you can catch the Natchez Trace, which heads northeast through Mississippi and Tennessee. This takes you past Tupelo, MS, where Elvis is from.

Or you could take historic Highway 61 up through the Mississippi Delta to Clarksdale, where the delta blues museum is, and Memphis, where Elvis lived.

The Natchez Trace goes almost all the way to Nashville, where you can take all your country music photos at places like the Grand Ole Opry and Gruhn's Guitars.

Corvettes come from Bowling Green, Kentucky, and just north of that is Mammoth Cave National Park, where you can get great photos underground as well as on the surface in the sparsely populated hills.

Fort Knox is near Louisville, Kentucky. Follow the Ohio River upstream to Cincinnati.

After visiting your friends, head east to Serpent Mound. Drive south to Portsmouth, Ohio, where murals on the levees give you a history of this part of the Appalachian foothills.

From here, take US-23 south east through the very poor and musically prolific eastern Kentucky, making sure to stop in Whitesburg at the Appalshop headquarters. Watch some of their films before your trip.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just south of Whitesburg inbetween Tennessee and North Carolina. You should take some photographs there and in surreal Gatlinburg.

From here, if you are pressed for time, you can head southwest back to New Orleans, making sure to stop at Rock City, the Talladega Scenic Drive, Maya Lin's Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, the Edmond Pettus Bridge, and the historic architecture and parks of Mobile.
posted by billtron at 12:17 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know if a week would be enough time, but here's a potential route that takes you through lots of awesome places:

Start in NOLA, head up the Mississippi coast--go through Bay St. Louis, MS, which is a delightful artsy little town, through Biloxi/Gulfport, maybe check out Fairhope, AL (another pretty and arty small town) then head north on 65. The area around Birmingham and Talladega National Forest is beautiful, definitly spend a little time there. Maybe swing over to Atlanta if you are so inclined. I think the Carolinas are beautiful, and the triangle area of NC is really neat, but I don't know if you'd have time to go that far east.

Go to Louisville, KY and visit the glass factory there, it's really cool. Get up to Cinncinnatti, grab your friends, and then take them to St. Louis, MO with you so that you can experience the City Musuem together. This you should *definitely* do--the City Museum is a delightful place that will make you feel like a kid again. Basically it's one big piece of art, and everything you see you want to climb on...which is cool because that's just what you're supposed to do! Seriously, the City Museum is worth a trip to St. Louis just for that. Also the bowling international hall of fame is in St. Louis. Then head back south, go through Memphis, and stay on 56 through the Mississippi Delta, which is historic and full of interesting cultural meaning, and through Jackson. Maybe branch off for an afternoon in Vicksburg if you're interested in Civil War history at all. That'll take you back down to New Orleans!

Have fun! I'm from the South and I love it. I hope you have a great time. I'm also from Texas, and there are many really neat places to visit in Texas, but the problem is that it takes so long to get to them--if you're wanting to see lots of different things, I'd skip Texas for this trip.

on preview--billtron's recommended route sounds amazing too. Hmmm, maybe there's a road trip in my future....
posted by aka burlap at 12:35 PM on November 19, 2008

Best answer: ... and if you find yourself in Montgomery, AL, you must visit Hank Williams' grave. If you follow billtron's route, you'll pass through Birmingham, where you should visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, then have lunch at Pete's Famous Hot Dogs downtown and walk a couple of blocks to get a shoe shine at Bon Ton Hatters.

Yes, the best reasons to come to my hometown are a hot dog, a shoe shine, and to revisit the horrors of the past. We suck.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:48 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oops. Re-reading your question I see that you want to spend a week. My trip might be a little too long for a week, but here's a map just so you can visualize it.
posted by billtron at 12:52 PM on November 19, 2008

Sadly, you'll be a bit early for Spring Pilgrimage in Natchez, but if you want to learn about the antebellum South and see some very photogenic old homes, I second billtron's recommendation of Natchez. My husband and I are history geeks and we really enjoyed doing the pilgrimage. Warning: if you're under 40, you'll be the youngest tourist in Natchez, most likely. We had a great time anyway.
posted by immlass at 2:00 PM on November 19, 2008

You won't be at a loss for things to do around New Orleans. I haven't been since Katrina hit but much of my family is from around that area so I used to take yearly visits with my folks. The culture and flavor of the city will stay with you. I don't know if the timing around Mardis Gras would make this impractical but if you can I'd highly recommend checking out the breathtaking St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. Don't feel obligated to go to the French Quarter, though- there's lots to see in the city besides. And for god's sake, eat as much and as wide a variety of food as you can down there.

I can't remember specifics to help you get there but I was always drawn to some of the really beautiful swamp scenes that you can see while getting around the area, especially between New Orleans and Covington. Perfect for photography.

And I could just be weird, but I always liked the insanely-long car ride over the Lake Pontchartrain bridge.
posted by kryptondog at 2:31 PM on November 19, 2008

Where you live, it maybe fall or winter weather. Nonetheless, I advise you to have some bug spray. For flying and crawling things that may be "on the road."
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:34 PM on November 19, 2008

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