Help me get the most out of my Southern US road trip.
January 22, 2009 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I have a follow-up to this Southern US road trip question. My route is firmed up, and I'd like recommendations for anything to see or skip between hotel stops.

I'm going to be covering a ton of ground and moving pretty fast. I'm sure that isn't the best way to see the Southern United States, but it is what it is given my time. This will all be happening in early February.

I fly into New Orleans on a Saturday, and will have a night and part of a morning there. I will be returning the following weekend, so I don't need to see everything on this partial day.

Sunday - I've already booked a 1 PM swamp tour to the North East of New Orleans in Slidell. After than I was planning to stop at Bay St. Louis, MS based on aka burlap's recommendation from my previous question. I like arty towns, so that sounded right up my alley. From there, it's on to Pensacola, FL, which is where I'm sleeping Sunday night. Is there anything between Bay St. Louis and Pensacola that I should be sure to see? Or anything in Pensacola that I should be sure to do?

Monday - this is a MONSTER driving day. I need to get to Jacksonville, FL. I was thinking about stopping in Tallahassee for lunch and maybe taking a hike in Apalachicola National Forrest to stretch my legs. Any other recommendations?

Tuesday - I'll be traveling to/staying in Savannah, GA on Tuesday. I was thinking about driving north passed Savannah to check out Hilton Head and then dropping back down to the hotel. Does that make sense? I'm very excited about seeing Savannah. It looks really interesting. Is there anything I should be sure not to miss?

Wednesday - I'll be traveling to/staying in Atlanta, GA. What should I not miss between Savannah and Atlanta? What should I do in Atlanta. I have a friend who mentioned a tour of Coke. Worth it? Or would something else be better?

Thursday - I'll be traveling to/staying in Birmingham, AL. Again, based on the recommendation from the previous thread, I think I'll be spending a lot of time in the Talladega National Forrest. Is there anything in particular I should be sure to see/do?

Friday - I'll be driving back down to New Orleans. Anything between Birmingham and New Orleans that I shouldn't miss?

Saturday/Sunday/Monday - I'm on a company sponsored weekend in New Orleans. Much of my time will be spoken for, but I may have time for one or two major outings. What shouldn't be missed?

posted by willnot to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you like "arty towns" then you should stop by Seaside, FL on your way to Jacksonville. It is where "The Truman Show" was filmed and it launched the new urbanism movement.

I would recommend extra time in Savannah over visiting the World of Coke museum. Oakland Cemetery or Piedmont Park might be better choices in Atlanta if you're looking for photogenic locations.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 11:14 AM on January 22, 2009

Best answer: The most direct route between Savannah and Atlanta is i-16 to Macon and then 75 north to Atlanta. It's direct but ugly and boring. If you have the time, get off the beaten path and take some smaller highways and see some of the towns and houses that are so beautiful and have such history. Stop for lunch and talk to folks. Buy some hot boiled peanuts. The weather will be cold so you won't see the dogwoods or azaleas but the back roads of Georgia have fascinating things along them. With a little research, you can backtrack Sherman's march and see all kinds of historical stuff. Coke is ok, kind of touristy. I think your time would be better spent at the aquarium or just touring the countryside. Enjoy your visit and welcome to the South!!
posted by pearlybob at 11:17 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Unless you are really into shopping or golf, skip Hilton Head. If you really want to see more of the SC coast, go to Beaufort, it's an actual town, not a resort.

This thread still keeps me occupied when I visit Atlanta.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:18 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Since you'll be in Jacksonville, FL, you'll be a short drive away from St. Augustine, which is a neat little town (and the oldest city in the US). Oh, and somewhere between those two cities there are a few places you can drive your car on the beach. This is lots of fun in a rental, just don't get stuck (driving is legal, but you get a ticket if they have to tow you out).

There used to be this really cool wine bar in Jacksonville, somewhere near downtown/historic district, I think it was called The Cellar or The Wine Cave or something like that. If it's still there, it's worth checking out for a relaxing buzz with hor dourves. There's also a nice little theater done up in art deco that also has tables between the seats, and you can order burgers/beer.

posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:19 AM on January 22, 2009

Best answer: Skip Hilton Head and stay in Savannah. There's tons of historic stuff downtown or if you head out to Tybee Island, go to Fort Pulaski, which is really amazing, especially as you drive down Victory Drive, with all its trees and Spanish Moss.

Check out Lady and Sons for a meal, if you can, for some basic, artery clogging Southern food. Explore River Street and walk around downtown, visiting the various shops and squares.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:23 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Totally agree. Hilton Head is all golf and hotels. Nothing really interesting. Stay in Savannah or go to Beaufort if you have to do SC. I'd stay in Savannah. Go out to Tybee and the fort out there. I can't remember the name (been there 200 times!!) but it is really interesting.
posted by pearlybob at 11:26 AM on January 22, 2009

Go to Sno-Bliz in New Orleans. Seriously. It's not just a sno-cone. Get the Sno-Bliz flavor if you know what's good for you. Then bring me one.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:48 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Talladega National Forest is a little bit of a drive from Birmingham, just so you know. Stop on 20, from Atlanta on the drive to Birmingham. If you are into this stuff, the speedway is interesting. In Birmingham, maybe head over to Vulcan Park and Museum? Its about 10 aces of urban green space, with great panoramic views of Birmingham atop world's largest cast iron statue. Also the Civil Rights Institute is fabulous, is you have the time. Get BBQ somewhere in town: I recommend dreamland, full moon, golden rule, jim n' nicks, moe's...
posted by quodlibet at 12:16 PM on January 22, 2009

Best answer: We also don't call them sno-cones. They're snowballs.

In New Orleans, you should make it a point to check out Mother's on Poydras St. It's great for lunch or dinner (not so much if you're vegetarian, though). If you let me know where you're staying, I can give you some other places you should check out if you have the time.
posted by Night_owl at 12:20 PM on January 22, 2009

Best answer: If you're doing lunch in Tallahassee, I'd recommend The Main Ingredient. I miss that place a lot.

Wakulla Springs and St. Marks are pretty cool... I'd check out Wakulla if I had to pick one.
posted by Ultra Laser at 12:55 PM on January 22, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers so far. It's all incredibly helpful.

Night_owl - When I fly into New Orleans that first night, I'm at La Quinta Inn & Suites near the Airport. When I drive back in the following weekend, I'm at JW Marriott Hotel on Canal St.

fiercecupcake - you had me all jazzed for a sno-coneball, but on that link it looks like they're only open in summer months.

I'll mark a bunch of best answers in a day or two after I've had a chance to carefully go through it all.

Thanks again.
posted by willnot at 1:28 PM on January 22, 2009

The Crab Shack is near Savannah, and worth the stop if you like that sort of thing.

Haven't been to the new Coke museum, but the old one was a total waste of time. This one might be better, but probably not. It is just a museum full of commercials. I'd skip it. The aquarium and CNN are in the same area, and either would be a better way to spend your tourist nickel. Avoid Underground Atlanta at all costs -- it is just a shitty shopping mall that they try to sucker tourists into going to.
posted by spilon at 1:35 PM on January 22, 2009

Many people in Atlanta do take folks to the World of Coke museum or the aquarium. It sounds cheesy, but is fun if you don't have time for much else.
posted by Pants! at 1:52 PM on January 22, 2009

The Crab Shack is also near Fort Pulaski, so you can enjoy two birds with one stone.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:53 PM on January 22, 2009

Take a little detour off I-75 between Macon and Atlanta - stop in Juliette and eat some fried green tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.
posted by candyland at 2:35 PM on January 22, 2009

Since you'll be in Jacksonville, FL, you'll be a short drive away from St. Augustine, which is a neat little town (and the oldest city in the US).

Eh? It's awfully touristy.
posted by goethean at 2:37 PM on January 22, 2009

I would recommend the Chowhound boards for food recommendations for NOLA. Lots of locals there and they really have the city's number, especially on what's good post-Katrina (not everything has rebuilt, and some places have rebuilt with new management, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse). I was in NOLA for a week last summer and every meal was great, thanks to the 'Hounds.
posted by pineapple at 3:47 PM on January 22, 2009

Gawd, please don't go to World of Coke. Try the aquarium or the High Museum. Or spend some time in Piedmont Park. And EAT. There's good food 'round these parts.

Hit the Majestic (a diner on Ponce de Leon), Trader Vic's at night if you want some strong tiki drinks, the Clermont Lounge on Ponce if you want to discover where strippers go to retire, in the morning eat at Ria's Bluebird on Memorial, check out Little 5 Points and/or East Atlanta for some lower-brow entertainment (not seedy, though), Virginia Highlands for the Audi set's evening out... there's so much else...
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 3:55 PM on January 22, 2009

Last time we went to Atlanta, we bought so much wonderful food and spices and teas and bread at the Dekalb Farmer's Market that we had to buy extra luggage to get it all home. I am not kidding. And we had to shuffle the items around at the airport so as not to exceed weight restrictions. So, yeah, go there.
posted by MrMoonPie at 4:52 PM on January 22, 2009

Best answer: I write regularly about Atlanta as a destination for various magazines. The New World of Coke is fun if you're a kid or REALLY into Coke and its related soft drinks. If you aren't, skip it, especially since tix aren't cheap. The Georgia Aquarium is just across the lawn and much more fun. Be sure to get there early and once inside go straight to the rear (to the right of the cafeteria) for the Ocean Voyager exhibit -- it's much more enjoyable to go through the acrylic tunnel when you aren't crowded by hordes of people and strollers. The beluga exhibit is lovely. The Georgia-based exhibits (the freshwater ones) are okay, and just so you know, the sea lions and penguins are closed at the moment as that area upstairs gets redesigned. Skip the 3-D "Deepo" movie (a Nemo ripoff) and the Titanic exhibit -- there's a larger traveling titanic show that is much better, if you're in a city where you can visit it.

Check out for cheap/free things to do (or just discounts on bigger events).

There's a huge King Tut exhibit going on right now! (

Decatur offers a really cute town square, lots of great bars and restaurants, and the DeKalb Farmers Market (a mile or two east of the square on Ponce de Leon). Try the Brick Store Pub for a beer list a yard long and some good eats (standard pub fare; the beer is the draw).

An amazing place to eat is The Original El Taco in the Virginia-Highlands neighborhood: excellent food, a huge salsa bar, and just go ahead and spring for the higher-end margaritas. They spin a roulette wheel every half hour or more and if your number rolls up you get free food/drinks. Very casual, always packed. If I weren't pregnant I'd be drinking a margarita there every weekend. The executive chef is Shaun Doty, who's something of an Atlanta food wunderkind.

I also like Murphy's and La Tavola in VA-HI -- always reliably good food, and Murphy's has a nice brunch on the weekend. Nothing jaw-dropping, just good. Shaun's in Inman Park (Doty again) is fun, especially if you sit at the communal table in the middle of the room. If you go, be sure to order the chicken liver toasts. The Majestic is just across Ponce -- it's a visual experience with crappy food. I'm over it, but it was fun when I used to go.

In South Buckhead, I love Holeman and Finch. Tasty, tasty food, and they do pig like no one's business. There's an H&F bakery that rocks nearby. If you're here on the weekend, head over to the farmer's market at St Philip's cathedral (H&F sells baked goods there, too).

In Midtown, one block south of the Fox Theater, Dogwood has really good southern food in surprisingly large portions. See a movie at the Fox if you can, and sing along to the organ. It's fun and...sweet to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" with a few thousand other people. Plus the inside is very Casbah.

The Flying Biscuit has several locations for breakfast. The biscuits are amazing but everything else (oatmeal pancakes, black bean cakes) is outdated hippie crap. I can't believe they haven't updated their menu. Ria's Bluebird (near Oakland Cemetery) has excellent pancakes and a fried sweet potato cake that is addictive.

Krispy Kreme on Ponce in Midtown is a great place to watch the doughnuts come off the line. Wait til you see the "Hot Donuts Now" aka the HDN sign light up. Get your diabetic on.

The Winecoff is a great historic hotel with a tragic past. Lots of hotels have great deals now, so check around.
posted by mdiskin at 7:59 PM on January 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

I've always like the Buford Highway Farmers Market better than the Dekalb Farmers Market.

If you're looking for somewhere to eat in Atlanta, try this list.

If you want to stop in Macon, here's a list of sights. The only thing I find really interesting are the ceremonial mounds built by Native Americans at the Ocmulgee National Monument.
posted by PueExMachina at 8:43 PM on January 23, 2009

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