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10 Southern Road Trip Ideas for History Buffs and Daredevils

Posted by Pekin Insurance on Oct 17, 2016

Renowned for its hospitality and proud of its rich history, the American South cooks up fascinating and delicious southern road trip ideas for your next vacation.

Blessed with a diverse cuisine, an eclectic music scene, and temperate weather, the South offers something for everyone. From the fun to the food to the wildlife, these Southern road trip ideas will have you coming back for more. So get some gas in your tank and have fun deciding where to begin!

1. Anthony Chapel in Garvan Woodland Gardens, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

How long to stay: 1 day

Regardless of spiritual beliefs, the majestic views at Anthony Chapel are inspiring to all travelers. Located in the Garvan Woodland Gardens at the University of Arkansas, this six-story-high chapel is constructed of pine beams and glass windows that stretch from the floor to the ceiling to let in the light and the surrounding views. With skylights flooding the open chapel and its flagstone flooring, this is one of the most impressive structures for a wedding, concert, or other event.

2. French Quarter Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana

How long to stay: All weekend

There are many reasons to visit New Orleans, and one of them is to attend the free French Quarter Festival, a three-day music fest in the spring. Throughout the weekend, more than three dozen stages line the French Quarter of New Orleans to celebrate all things jazz while honoring the vibrant Louisiana culture and New Orleans heritage.

The sweet melody of traditional and contemporary jazz, New Orleans funk, Cajun, blues, and swing permeates the outdoor festival. But there’s more than just the music to sample during this weekend. Come for the sounds, but stay for the food! Try all of the New Orleans delicacies like po' boys, crawfish, and beignets during what’s considered to be the “world’s largest jazz brunch.”

3. Rowan Oak, Oxford, Mississippi

How long to stay: One day

Literary fans should schedule time during their southern road trip for a stop at Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner. While it’s best known as the place where he penned A Fable on the plaster walls of his study, visitors will appreciate the architecture and groundskeeping.

Tours don’t begin until 1:00 p.m., but guests are allowed to arrive early and wander the grounds. Serious fans of Faulkner’s work may consider visiting his grave afterward in St. Peter’s Cemetery. There, you will find coins and whiskey left at his gravesite.


4. U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama

How long to stay: Three days

Did you have hopes of traveling to outer space when you grew up? It’s never too late to make that dream a reality. Aspiring astronauts from ages 9 to 99 (or more!) can attend a day or overnight camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

Build and launch model rockets, sleep in the bunks, and manage crises in simulated intergalactic assignments. If you travel to Huntsville via RV, you're welcome to stay onsite. If you prefer your lodging offsite, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center has partnered with local hotels for exclusive rates for astronauts-in-training.

5. National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee

How long to stay: Two days

Housed in the Lorraine Motel—where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was fatally shot—is the National Civil Rights Museum. It’s here that you can witness an American story unfold. Learn about slavery in America from 1619-1861, and then take in the exhibits that showcase the Civil Rights movements, such as student sit-ins, freedom rides, and justice marches.

The tour continues across the street at the Legacy Building, so set aside at least three hours of your day to truly immerse yourself in the experience. And Memphis offers much more in the way of barbecue and, of course, the blues, so be sure to book a hotel room near the famous Beale Street.

photo courtesy of World of Coca Cola

6. World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta, Georgia

How long to stay: One day

If you maneuver the many-lane highways of the Atlanta region, be sure to find your way into the city for a trip to the World of Coca-Cola. This interactive museum is fun and informative. The tour starts with a brief history of cola (along with its many medicinal uses) and the formation of the company, before leading you through brand styles and ad campaigns throughout the years.

Don't miss the 4-D ride, but if you have any physical limitations, make sure to sit in a stationary seat as you do get jostled a bit. Then head to the Tasting Room where you can sample more than 100 Coca-Cola products from all over the globe. Once you’re finished sipping, be sure to grab your free factory-bottled cola to bring home with you before finding your way out of their expansive gift shop.


7. Miami Culinary Tours: Little Havana Excursion, Miami, Florida

How long to stay: Two days

Get out of the car and stretch your legs as you embrace the Cuban food and culture in Miami. This two-and-a-half-hour walking tour through Little Havana takes you to sample food at local restaurants. You’ll need the exercise after enjoying traditional Cuban delicacies like empanadas, fried plantains, and Cuban pastries. Don’t forget to try the Cuban coffee and make friends with the locals. Play dominoes and check out the local artists and cigar rollers before you leave. 

8. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

How long to stay: Three days

Make sure to bring your favorite designated driver along for this road trip to Kentucky. In 1999, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association created its own Bourbon Trail, which stops at nine distilleries throughout the state to promote the rich history of the state’s signature spirit. Bulleit, Evan Williams, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve, and Town Branch distilleries all open their doors for visitors to sample their bourbons.

9. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina

How long to stay: Two days

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, the oldest public garden in America, is a must-stop location on your tour through the Southern states. Visitors can enjoy a boat, house, or botanical garden tour. Be prepared to spend the entire day here as walking through the gardens and encountering flowers of all breeds and colors can drain your camera batteries and keep you busy. There’s also a small petting zoo on the property for guests of all ages to enjoy. Keep an eye out for the gators in the Audubon Swamp garden, as well and remember—they are not a part of the petting zoo!

10. Kill Devil Hills, Outer Banks, North Carolina

How long to stay: Three days

For those who need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the hectic everyday life and are looking for Southern road trip ideas, a windows-down drive to the Outer Banks is a must-do. Mind the curvy roads, which make you feel as if you’re boating in versus driving, as the waves crash around the road you drive on. Your destination is Kill Devil Hills, the sand-covered area where the Wright brothers launched the first manned aircraft in 1903.

The Visitor’s Center, located on Big Kill Devil Hill—one of the highest peaks in the Outer Banks—houses a replica plane for travelers to check out. After you visit these locations, enjoy a beach weekend in the area before the long drive home.

The South is generous with its food, festivities, and charms. These states will treat you right and leave you feeling happy. Make sure to pull off of the road and enjoy your hard-earned vacation time.

If you're planning a road trip this year, consider some auto insurance enhancements that will protect you from coast to coast.

Have you stayed anywhere else in the South? Don’t forget to share your favorite Southern road trip ideas with the rest of us. Leave your suggestions in the comments!


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