Help me plan a great Atlanta - Arkansas roadtrip with my grandparents...
March 1, 2007 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Road trip! Atlanta to Arkansas in early April. My grandparents will be visiting from California and my husband and I are taking my them on what will most likely be their last trip back to the homes of their youth in Wesson, Arkansas (near El Dorado). With an 800-mile trip one way, we'll spend over a week on the trip, and will probably have to stop overnight somewhere on the way -- Jackson? Natchez? any suggestions for where to sleep or must-see stops on the way?

Important notes: Pappaw is 89, Mammaw is 76. He plays golf several times a week and they're both pretty healthy, but I'm assuming will need to rest up or stretch their legs every couple of hours. Our toddler will be 17 months old and although she's pretty mellow I know we'll need to get out and chase her around a bit to tire her out. Usually if we're in the south we hit up the nearest town courthouse square, which are a dime a dozen down here.

Given my grandfather's age, I think this will be his last trip "home," so we'd like to make it as fun and restful as possible. So overnight stays can be on the nicer end of the scale.

They love to travel, and used to take road trips all the time all over the U.S., but can't see to drive very well these days, so we'll do all the driving. I LOVE my grandparents and they have always been incredibly fun to visit. Mammaw's favorite saying is "It's 5 o-clock somewhere" (as she raises a drink).
posted by mdiskin to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
Sounds like it will be a lot of fun! Graceland and Memphis are the first things that come to mind; might be on a more northerly route than you're taking?
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:10 PM on March 1, 2007

Natchez will be a little out of the way, even when going to southern Arkansas. Even so, if you can hitch on to the Natchez Trace near Clinton, Miss. (more or less a Jackson suburb, but still with an authentic small town feel), that's a beautiful drive down. Vicksburg, however, will be on your way, and it has the Vicksburg National Military Park, which has never failed to impress me. Vicksburg's downtown has more vitality than it has in a while as well.

If they have a sense of humor, a stop at Vulcan Park in Birmingham would be pretty funny.

It all depends on what they're into. There's the Bear Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa, the Jimmie Rodgers Museum in Meridian, etc., etc. But there are more refined attractions galore. It's a vast expanse of land you're talking about, and it has everything from the tacky to the swanky--more tacky than swanky, sure, but ...

The best small-town square you could fine in a not-too-long drive off the Interstate, by the way, would be the one surrounding the Madison County Courthouse in Canton, Miss. There are some nice little eateries and boutiques and whatnot around as well. It's been fixed up nicely, thanks in part to being featured in several films, including O Brother Where Art Thou. And you can get a drink at 5 p.m. there, which you can't in most little towns with the charming little squre.
posted by raysmj at 1:10 PM on March 1, 2007

Graceland and Memphis will be at least three hours of the way from Jackson. You'd be just as close to New Orleans as well. Natchez would be two to two-and-half hours away on a vastly more pleasant and slower route (the Natchez Trace, a federal parkway through lushly forested--and live oak-laden toward its southern portion--territory with a 50 mph speed limit, as opposed to the 70 mph on occasionally manic and scenically monotonous Interstates).

All the other places I listed, including Vicksburg, will be on or just a few miles off your route.
posted by raysmj at 1:20 PM on March 1, 2007

Response by poster: sorry, I wrote Jackson but meant Vicksburg. I'll look into all these. Can anyone suggest specific Inns or B&Bs to stay at?
posted by mdiskin at 1:26 PM on March 1, 2007

If I were you, I'd take a right at Birmingham and head up 78, go through Tupelo and Memphis and Little Rock, then drop down to Wesson, instead of taking the more direct route. If Mammaw likes a drink, take her to Beale Street in Memphis--that was the highlight of my cross-country trip 15 years ago.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:48 PM on March 1, 2007

Beale Street is not the place to bring a child and elderly people, regardless of the need for or want of a drink--if you're just into the who-hoo of drinking in a historic place, the French Quarter is just as close. And neither place is likely to be as lively as you'd imagine when there aren't any events going on or it's a weekday, etc. (I'll reserve judgement on Beale, but based on a recent visit I'd say there are parts of Memphis--a city I really like--that are vastly more interesting.) Drinks are available throughout your route at most times of day, already. It's not a big Federal Dry Zone or something. Vicksburg has casinos, even.
posted by raysmj at 2:24 PM on March 1, 2007

mdiskin - if you have specific questions or ideas about Jackson, Miss., let me know - lived here all my life and can help you out with any aspect - lodging, food, fun, shopping, etc. Feel free to email me - in my profile.
posted by fijiwriter at 2:29 PM on March 1, 2007

Charlie Vergos's Rendezvous in Memphis.

posted by The Giant Squid at 2:31 PM on March 1, 2007

Gotta second Vulcan Park. Best Roman God of the Forge statue in the south. :) Actually, it really is. It's quite striking after its recent renovation. It's still the largest cast iron statue in the world.

And you know, you can get amazingly great BBQ in Birmingham not a stone's throw away from Vulcan Park. Jim and Nick's have one at Five Points South and there's Dreamland BBQ within a five minute drive of Vulcan Park as well.

Birmingham is a beautiful little city and it's a pretty straight arrow through as folks above have pointed out. And the things mentioned aren't very far off the beaten path.
posted by smallerdemon at 3:34 PM on March 1, 2007

Response by poster: Many thanks for the responses -- I'm checking them all out. We may take a different route out and back, enabling us to hit a couple of places (Natchez, Memphis) that may be off the direct route. With a toddler we'll need to stop every 2 hours to chase her around and tucker her out.
posted by mdiskin at 2:35 PM on March 3, 2007

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