Help us plan a road trip through the southern US!
April 14, 2015 4:56 PM   Subscribe

Need help planning our road trip through the Southern United States!

My partner and I want to do a road trip through the American south for 7-10 days. The current (and very rough) plan is to fly into Austin, drive through Beaumont (where partner was born) and hit up New Orleans, Nashville, and Atlanta, then fly home. The drive looks something like this:

My question is two-fold:

1) We're looking to do this during the fall. (We're in SoCal and feel it would be nice to experience a proper season). Is there a month that would be best? I'm a bit worried about storms/hurricanes, but maybe that's unfounded?

2) Is this crazy? Too many cities in too few days? I'd be willing to leave off Atlanta, but I really would love to see New Orleans and Nashville.

Any other logistical tips are much appreciated! I'm sure we'll get to specific restaurant and things-to-do questions another time.

posted by too bad you're not me to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't pull up the map link right now, but I think that's my device's fault.

1. Memphis is superior to Nashville in every way. Don't forget to visit Memphis! Graceland! Birthplace of rock and roll!
2. Chattanooga is a nice visit, and is on the way to Atlanta. You might also consider swinging by Lynchburg if you're interested in the Jack Daniel distillery.
3. It will still be hot until probably October. September is hurricane season, but relatively few hurricanes get into the Gulf, and those that do typically give you plenty of time to adjust. Worst-case, you drive inland and miss out on New Orleans this time.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:08 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

(Link to map.)
posted by trip and a half at 5:22 PM on April 14, 2015

Oh I forgot the most important thing. If you fly in to Austin you can go to Schlitterbahn!!! (This may drive your scheduling choices, as they are weekend-only in September.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:27 PM on April 14, 2015

October is one of my favorite times of year in Tennessee. If I had to choose between Memphis and Nashville, I'd go to Nashville first, but it does depend on what you're interested in.
posted by primethyme at 5:51 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Make sure you price one-way rental cars when considering your options. Many companies will charge a significant one-way fee, so you want to check in advance. (It's also somewhat location-dependent -- if you're trying to go one-way from TX to GA, I'd also price out one-way from GA to TX, because the other direction may be cheaper.)
posted by pie ninja at 6:22 PM on April 14, 2015

That's plenty of time. I drive a similar distance (Oklahoma to Florida) twice a year. It's a bummer to do it in 2-3 days, but given at least 4 there is time to stop for decent meals and not drive a ridiculous amount of time each day.

If you do go to Memphis, stop for in Jackson, MS. There are a lot of really good restaurants downtown. I suggest taking back roads through Mississippi and Tennessee. The Interstates are just boooring. If you time it right (second half of October, IIRC), you'll get a glimpse of some fall color, which just makes it that much nicer.

That said, the drive itself is much more interesting north up I-49 from Baton Rouge through Texarkana, then up US71 to US270 to Hot Springs, AR and on east across Arkansas, crossing the Mississippi at Helena/Greenville It's slow going, though.

Another sort of detour I've done involves heading out east through Knoxville to Sevierville, TN from Nashville and then taking the US highway past Dollywood over to Cherokee, NC and on south into Georgia. The drive is nicer from Cleveland (just north of Chattanooga) towards Cherokee on US64, but again that is terribly slow going, even with me and my spirited driving through the twisties. Absolutely beautiful, though, especially that time of year.
posted by wierdo at 7:00 PM on April 14, 2015

Oh, one other thing: Consider ending your trip in Florida instead of Georgia. October is about the right time for the seasonal rental deals on one ways to Florida. Not only do they drop the one way fee or rate surcharge, but Avis tends to do $19.99/day for a full size.

Memail me if you have trouble finding good rates. I have lots of discount codes and coupons handy in the event that you miss the drive in window or don't want to take a day or so going all the way to Florida.
posted by wierdo at 7:09 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Although Birmingham has hit its stride recently, I'd go through Memphis instead. See this post for some good Memphis suggestions.

For Nashville, a couple of places that I'd recommend: Pinewood Social (coffee shop/bowling/bocce/dining on a bluff above the river), Frothy Monkey coffee shop, 12 South neighborhood.

Atlanta, walk the eastside Beltline from Piedmont Park, stop in Paris on Ponce to Krog Street Market.
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:19 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just got back from 4 days in Nashville.

One of the highlights of the trip was a walking tour with a guy named Bill Demain. Look him up under walkin Nashville.

Lunch at merchants was also pretty awesome..
posted by bricksNmortar at 7:39 PM on April 14, 2015

My wife and I did Nashville -> Panama City -> New Orleans -> Houston -> Austin -> Memphis -> Nashville a few years ago. We spent a week in Austin, but only a day or two at the other stops. I think 7-10 days is enough time for your trip, as long as you have a good idea of what you want to do/see in each city. October would probably have the best weather.
posted by bradf at 7:56 PM on April 14, 2015

Definitely check out Roadside America.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:14 PM on April 14, 2015

I'm from Arkansas. Just a reminder (as another now-a-coastal-Californian) that the south is hot and humid and buggy as all get out all the way up to early/mid-October some years. That's not a hard rule--weather's always a crap shoot--but one of the jokes growing up was that one was never sure if one would sweat or shiver when trick-or-treating. If you're not up for that very essential aspect of southern culture, plan accordingly and avoid early September when the humid mosquito extravaganza may still be in full swing. The middle of October through Halloween is my partner's favorite time of year for us to visit all my hometown friends and family (and he's a lifelong San Diegan). Assuming a wet year, you'll get a beautiful leaf show as you move east (especially through the Appalachians). Go much later than early November, though, and it might be cold, grey, and leafless except for the pines.

You'll likely not need to worry much about real severe weather. Tornadoes are more of a spring thing, but you may still get some enjoyable thunderstorms and rain. Hurricanes don't usually pop up that early, and, ditto, can't plan on 'em anyway. Slow your roll and enjoy the scenery.

As a final personal recommendation, do yourself a huge favor and consider getting off the interstate for some of those stretches. Interstates are boring as hell and you won't see anything. Look for interesting state highways, two-lanes that used to be the beaten path before freeways drained all the life out of them. You'll go through towns and regions that were once much more vibrant, but remain as reminders of what damage we've done to our culture by shunting everyone in a car at high speed down the straightest route possible (and all the "food" and Wal-Marts that spring up at exit ramps). There are travel guides galore featuring interesting non-Interstate routes.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:19 AM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sounds like October is the consensus, weather-wise. Thanks for all the great suggestions, everyone!
posted by too bad you're not me at 6:21 PM on April 15, 2015

« Older Garmin GPS Waypoint Drama   |   What are your favorite diet friendly sweet treats? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.