Historic tracks lead us on a rail tour through the heartland of great American music – from Nashville, home of Country Music, to the Blues, Soul and Rock ‘n’ Roll of Memphis and the jazz of New Orleans.
For the February 24th 2019 departure a grandstand ticket for the New Orleans Mardi Gras (or ‘Fat Tuesday’) celebrations is included in the price. Mardi Gras is one of the biggest and most colourful celebrations in America, with a plethora of parades, jazz, and food to enliven anyone who visits. Taking place on what is otherwise known as ‘Shrove Tuesday’ in the Easter season, this is one of America’s oldest traditions, with the first one being held in 1699. Enjoy this incredible experience – it is certainly unforgettable.Book today
We fly from London Heathrow to Atlanta and transfer to our hotel, the Holiday Inn & Suites Atlanta Airport South, for an overnight stay.
A morning sightseeing tour explores this fascinating city. Entrance is also included to the Martin Luther King Center and Church which pays homage to the man himself as well as the civil rights movement which he was part of. The tour continues to Margaret Mitchell House, where the author wrote her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, 'Gone with the Wind'. Following free time for lunch, we transfer to Chattanooga. This evening, we check in to the Doubletree by Hilton Chattanooga Downtown.
Our coach takes us through Tennessee to Lynchburg, capital of Moore County. Moore County has been 'dry' since the days of prohibition, which makes its main attraction all the more extraordinary - it is the home of Jack Daniel's Distillery. After a tour of the distillery we continue to Nashville, staying for three nights at Gaylord Opryland Nashville. This evening, we visit the legendary Grand Ole Opry, one of the oldest and most iconic country music venues in the US. Founded as a radio station in 1925, today this classic music venue still hosts the same regular broadcast, now with a popular extended format, in addition to regular stage shows - the likes of which we are treated to tonight. Enjoy live music performed on 'country's most famous stage'.
Since the 1940s Nashville has been synonymous with country music, with its collection of recording studios on 'Music Row' and the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry for three decades. A morning guided tour introduces you to the sights before we visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, the world's largest music museum, for an amazing 'who's who' in the world of country music.
Day 5 is free to explore Nashville under your own steam. Named the capital of Tennessee in 1843, today the city is considered by many to be the true home of country music. Perhaps delve into the rich music scene of the city, enjoy traditional southern food in a typical American diner, or soak up some 200 years of history at one of Nashville's historic sites.
Our journey through Tennessee continues to Memphis, pausing en-route at Jackson, where you have free time for lunch and a spot of sightseeing - perhaps visit the Rock-a-Billy Hall of Fame. We then stop at the Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville, a series of museums dedicated to the history of the south, from its musical traditions to its infamous history of slave labour in the cotton fields.
We complete our journey to Memphis later this afternoon, where we check in to the Doubletree Downtown Memphis. The rest of your day is at leisure.
This morning we pay a visit to the fantastic Graceland, Elvis' 14 acre mansion, and view his preserved living quarters, private aircraft and car collections. This afternoon introduces the sights of Memphis' extraordinary musical history. We visit Sun Studio, which lays claim to being the birthplace of rock 'n' roll, with a roster featuring Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.
This morning we board Amtrak's City of New Orleans service, heading through Mississippi to Louisiana. It is claimed that the Blues spread along this route by rail. The pretty, floral towns of Brookhaven and McComb lead into the exotic Cajun swamps of the Louisiana Bayou. We take the train as far as Hammond, from where we transfer by coach to the Oak Alley Plantation, for a guided tour. This restored house stands as testament to both the grand lives of Louisiana land owners and the suffering of those enslaved here.
One of the many sugar plantations that once lined the Mississippi River, Oak Alley retains the grandeur of its heyday, aided by restorations taken out after 1925. Featuring typical Greek-revival architecture, the approach to this antebellum property is particularly impressive, shaded by a canopy of bowed oak trees, thought to be 300 years old. Our guided tour reveals the history of the magnificent house, sometimes referred to as the 'Grande Dame of the Great River Road', along with its splendid grounds. Later, we continue by coach to New Orleans, where we stay at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel.
This morning's guided tour provides an introduction to one of the best-known parts of the city: the renowned French Quarter. Also known as the 'Old Quarter', the layout of this portion of New Orleans is as intended by 18th century French colonists, and offers an excellent example of the wrought iron lamps and elaborate balconies synonymous with the city's architecture.
Following some free time to arrange lunch (perhaps sample some of the famous Creole cuisine), this afternoon we board a traditional paddle steamer, for a delightful sightseeing cruise along the Mississippi River. Our jazz cruise takes place on board an authentic steamboat, and offers a view of the 'Big Easy' that only a vantagepoint on the river can provide. During our time on board, we enjoy a live performance from the ship's jazz band, as a fabulous background to our historic cruise.
After disembarking, you are free to enjoy your evening at leisure; perhaps head to Bourbon Street for a nightcap in one of the bars on New Orleans' oldest street, or slip into a jazz bar for a night of live entertainment.
Your entire day is free to soak up the splendour of New Orleans. Roaring with life, the 'Big Easy' is known as the south's party city thanks to Mardi Gras, yet year-round there is a sense of spirited adventure and playfulness here. A wander through the colourful streets will offer an excellent introduction to the eclectic architecture stretching back centuries, whilst restaurants here offer a taste of hearty southern cuisine influenced by the various cultures that rub shoulders here - from spicy Creole cooking to the fried meats that are synonymous with the south.
On Day 11, departing from New Orleans, we board our Amtrak service to Houston. We begin Day 12 in Houston with a guided tour of the city's main landmarks, including the Allen's Landing and NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. On Day 13, we transfer to the airport for our return flight to London, arriving the following day.