America, the land of the free. With so much to see and do, every state is different in it's own sense, it can get a bit mind boggling with what there is to offer.
We recently did a road trip, starting in New Orleans and finishing in Chicago. Travelling over 1500km over 3 weeks, this was just the trip for us.
New Orleans, Louisiana. The Big Easy, it is just that. Stay in the French Quarter (or close by) because that is where everything is. Bourbon Street, or the less touristy Frenchman Street, are all within walking distance for your fix of live music and cheap drinks. Cafe du Mond is the place to get the famous French Beignets. No trip to New Orleans is complete without a swamp tour to catch a glimpse of the aligators in their natural habitat (this can be booked the night before and there are plenty of companies offering trips starting from around $70 USD, add $20 for a hotel pickup and it is too easy).
Jackson, Mississippi. This can be seen in a day. We stayed one night and were happy seeing the old State Capitol building where we were greeted by the very friendly lady behind the counter. This gave us a good insight into civil war and the deep history of the South. For a good feed in an authentic American diner, check out Brent's Drug store in the Fondren neighbourhood (http://www.brentsdrugs.com/)
Memphis, Tennessee. Now this is a gem. First stop, Graceland! All things Elvis, including his home, multiple museums and even his aeroplanes (https://www.graceland.com/). Sun studios where greats such as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis 'The King' Presley all recorded and got a start in their career (https://www.sunstudio.com/). Check out The Peabody ducks at the Peabody Hotel (center city), they have been coming into the hotel to find the fountain since 1940 at 11am and 5pm every day - and what's better, it is free to view, just walk into the foyer! (http://www.peabodymemphis.com/ducks-en.html), We went to a College Football match, how amazing! Make sure you turn up 3 hours early with a couple of drinks to the tailgate party - they do it well!
The Museum of Civil Rights is worth investing a few hours, a great museum depicting a terrible history, but well spaced out and even has a restored room and balcony where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. Other points of interest in Memphis are the Gibson Guitar Factory, and of course, the legendary Beale Street where you can soak in some more great live music in every bar along the street.
On our way out, we went to Reverend Greens full Gospel Service. If you are in town on a Sunday, it is such a good morning, with everything you imagine in a gospel service, and of course, all your sins from the night before on Beale Street will be forgiven. Tour groups welcome. (Full Gospel Tebernacle is the Church, Google it for updated times of service) Finally, do yourself a favour and listen to Marc Cohns song to get into the mood - he even mentions Rev Green so you know it is good! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KK5YGWS5H84)
Nashville, Tennessey. Ye haw, get yourself straight to the main strip (top end of the Nashville Boulevard). Tin roof, Tootsies, Robert's Western World were some of the many Honky Tonks we visited. The Bluebird cafe is where all the unknowns go to get famous, just a short taxi out of town. With live music everywhere this is an amazing part of the world. We went to the Country music hall of fame which is well worth a visit which gives you a great insight into what makes this part of the world tick. No visit to Nashville is complete without a visit to the Grand Ole Opry - with daily tours and multiple shows each week, book early as these sell out and are well worth the trip (http://www.opry.com/)
Louisville, Kentucky. Another unexpected gem. They have regular race meets at the legendary Churchill Downs where the Kentucky Derby is held. We paid a $3 admission fee and were treated to 8 races on a Thursday evening, we even left $1.50 up!.
There are a heap of museums next to each other on Main Street, we went to the Louisville Slugger Museum, and Muhammad Ali Center, both not to be missed. The Slugger came with a tour of the factory so you can see how baseball bats are made, and they give you a miniature bat as a souvenir. Finish your visit with a trip to the batting cages where you can pay $2 for 10 balls. Batter up!
The Muhammad Ali Center is an amazing tribute to the greatest of all time. Finish your visit with a drive out to Cave Hill Cemetery to pay tributes to multiple famous people, including the man mentioned above, Muhammad Ali, and Colonel Harland Sanders (the founder of KFC!)
Indianapolis, Indiana. Worth a look in town and a walk along the canals but we were there for the race course. See (http://oetravelblogs.com/travel-blogs/indy-racing-experience-review) for more information.
Chicago. This was our last stop. We dropped off the car after being advised that Chicago drivers are a bit psycho compared to the country folk. Expensive place for accommodation centrally but a great city to explore. Jump on one of the Architecture Foundation boat tours who will float you down the river for 90 mins and talk about the different buildings which make up the amazing sky line. (https://www.architecture.org/experience-caf/tours/).
Time your trip in with a Chicago Cubs game and get to Wrigley field - just don't secure an 'obstructed view' seat, or else you may have a large pole in front of you!
We hired the hop on/off bikes (Divvy bikes) and found a cupcake ATM which were amazing (get to 50 Walton Street East), went up the John Hancock tower to get a birds eye view 94 floors up (http://www.360chicago.com/) and finished off with a walk along the lake via Millennium park - make sure you don't miss the giant found mirror the locals call 'the bean'.
Throughout our trip, we tried to get off the 'tourist' track and experienced some events the locals like (like a drive-in movie). It was an amazing part of the country, and totally different to anything we had seen on the East and West Coasts. We learnt a lot about the history of the Southern States, experienced some amazing live music, and met some great locals who were genuinely interested in our travels and made us feel so welcome. Totally recommended!
5/5 (unless you are on a diet, it is hard to eat healthy with so much fried chicken and catfish everywhere)