Help me leave New Orleans before I even get there
August 25, 2012 12:58 PM   Subscribe

I would like to take a two day trip less than 4 hours from New Orleans on public transportation. Where should I go?

I have just very excitedly booked a two week trip to New Orleans with a friend and as befits someone who is on a flight booking high, I am researching the trip seven months in advance.

Thankfully there is no shortage of info about the city itself for me to gorge on, but since my friend is leaving after ten days, and I figure that is plenty time to experience the city (feel free to tell me off on this point), I would like to go... elsewhere for the final couple of days before returning for the flight home to Ireland.

Unfortunately, due to my shameful lack of a full driving licence I will be unable to rent a car like a normal person. On the upside, I am familiar with Greyhound and Amtrak and the like from previous trips to the States and have no hesitation in using them. I just can't decide where to go.

To help narrow things down, I am a big history nut, so anywhere with a meaty museum or two, or interesting historical background (civil war, slavery, civil rights related - whatever really) would be great. I do plan on taking in a day trip to a couple of Antebellum plantations earlier in the trip (unless there's one that's accessible and worth an overnight stay?). I have been to the US a few times before but not to the South, so expect me to be charmed by seemingly uninteresting small Southern towns. The accents alone will probably be enough to be honest. I am a bit of a foodie and so have that weird fascination with going completely out of my way to try the "best" examples of local food, so feel free to send me on a wild goose chase if the goose is especially tasty. I like independent bookshops, quirky antique shops and markets. And anything really weird. I know that's not very specific.

If it makes a difference (for safety or whatever) I am a 31 year old female, alone for this portion of my trip. I'll be travelling in March 2013.

Thanking y'all (see I'm practising) in advance!
posted by unbearablylight to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (13 answers total)
Best answer: You could take Amtrak up to Memphis and visit the National Civil Rights Museum (housed at the Lorraine Motel, where MLK, Jr. Was assassinated). The Stax Museum in Memphis is also very good if you are at all interested in music. Amd of course, we have Graceland. Plenty of good food, too.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:24 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The problem in your planning may be the public transportation part. Amtrak/Greyhound are pretty slow - so four hours doesn't get you far. For example - For Amtrak, there's no stops in southern Alabama. You'd have to go further...and New Orleans to Birmingham is going to take 7'sh hours on Amtrak. Grey Hound is 8 hours. (just randomly choosing Birmingham as an example).

If you go smaller town - it is likely you'll need a car to get around once in the town.
posted by quodlibet at 1:24 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: The problem is with your four-hour time limit. Within four hours of New Orleans are ... Baton Rouge (boring), Jackson (boring), Biloxi, Mississippi (casinos! beaches! but not a whole lot for a history buff) ... and everything else is farther away.

The interesting big cities are all much farther away: Dallas is an eight-hour trip by car; Austin is eight and a half hours. Atlanta is seven and a half hours. Nashville is eight and a half hours. The South is big, and the distance between major cities is ... distant.

But you say you're all about weird and wacky places. So go to Vicksburg for some obvious must-do US history sightseeing -- Greyhound has a stop in Vicksburg. You could also hop over to Hattiesburg and visit the African American Military History Museum. Basically, though, with that time frame you're limited to places in Louisiana and Mississippi. Here is a decent resource on Southern historic sites in Mississippi; the same site does a rundown of historic sites in Louisiana.
posted by brina at 1:35 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: Doh! I totally forgot Jefferson Davis's mansion is in Biloxi. There's definitely stuff to see there.
posted by brina at 1:37 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: Hey, actually, Biloxi has some kind of cool history (lighthouse! hurricanes!) AND if you want to spend a day on it, you can take the ferry out the Ship Island. It has a fort and the beaches are way nicer than the ones right on the coast.
posted by itsamermaid at 1:41 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: Gah I totally missed the 4 hours part. That rules out Memphis, though I still think you should come visit!
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:44 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: I know most of these places are outside your time radius, but FYI, Megabus now serves Atlanta, Houston, Montgomery, and Mobile from New Orleans. If you buy a ticket at least a few months in advance, there's a strong chance you can get it for $1.
posted by threeants at 1:47 PM on August 25, 2012

Response by poster: Fantastic, thanks all. Ugh I want to go to all of the places.

Hmm maybe I'll expand my search to somewhere within a short flight. DiscourseMaker you've given me Memphis feelings, dammit! The four hour thing I set because I have a 15 hour journey home a couple of days later and all that time with only myself and the back of a seat for company scares me. Three hour journeys are considered long distance in Ireland!

Again, thanks - I'll come back for the best-answering shortly!
posted by unbearablylight at 2:20 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: It appears you can take a Greyhound from New Orleans to Natchez, MS. (Warning: music!) It says it takes 4h 15m. Natchez is gorgeous and once you're in the downtown/central area*, you can walk pretty much everywhere, IIRC. History, Southern-ness, and quirk all over the place. It also has plantations. You will be fine alone there.

*I don't know where the bus stop is, but it's a touristy town so I'm sure there's a way of getting downtown from it.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:22 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: darn, Destination Unk beat me to it... Natchez. There's a bus from NO, change in Baton Rouge. I've always wanted to see this town, it sounds fabulous.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:27 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, wow. Natchez sounds like exactly what I'm looking for. I do hope they play that music from loudspeakers all around town, DestinationUnknown. Otherwise I will be disappointed. Thanks!

Ok I need to get googling, I only have seven months to organise this trip down to the second.
posted by unbearablylight at 2:39 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lafayette is worth checking out and is fairly close (bus and Amtrak available from NO). It's the creative nerve center for Southwestern Louisiana, with awesome food, music and culture. 2 days there would be perfect and I would recommend staying at the Blue Moon Saloon, which has the advantage of being centrally located (for no car) is the house attached to an amazing music venue/bar.

As an aside, I would offer the general advice that paying attention to personal safety is an important piece of having a great experience in Louisiana. You may want to plan your going-out-of-town travel for daylight hours, and budget extra money for cabs so that when your gut tells you to take a cab, you don't talk yourself out of it for lack of funds.
posted by artdesk at 2:47 PM on August 25, 2012

Best answer: I live in Memphis and love it and always promote it, but I've been to Natchez and I vote for them. The history in that small downtown area is amazing. Send the night in one of the antebellum B&B's. If you do come to Memphis, let us know and we can plan a meetup!
posted by raisingsand at 4:15 PM on August 25, 2012

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