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6 weeks to do Knoxville-San Francisco

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Hi,
Im going to be in Tennessee to study for a few weks in June so have decided to try and see a bit of the USA afterwards! I have around 6 weeks free in which I need to get from Knoxville to San Francisco and would like to visit New Orleans, but other than that im pretty flexible. I plan to travel by Greyhound/Amtrak and will be travelling alone.

I was wondering if anyone has any advice about which places to visit and stay and tips for travelling alone? All tips will be much appreciated, this is my first trip alone so I need as much help as I can get!
Thanks!

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    If you are traveling Amtrack/Greyhound there goes 3 week of your 6 week trip. It might(and I stress might) be all right for going from one city to the other, but not several cities and trying to sightsee along the way too.

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    Amtrak covers some parts of the country well (the Northeast in particular), but it is not at all common to travel that way in many other parts, especially the Southeast. I grew up in Knoxville and have no idea if we even have an Amtrak station, much less where it is. This isn't to say you can't do what you want to, but you'll probably be using Greyhound more than you might expect. And as spirobulldog mentioned, traveling either way will take you much longer than traveling by car or plane.

    Either way, traveling via public transport is a lot easier to do if you're mainly visiting cities. Is that your main interest, other than New Orleans? Or were you hoping to do some national parks or other more "rural" sightseeing? Are you most interested in music (what kind?), history, architecture...? As you know, the US is huge and has plenty for everyone, but it's hard to give you advice when we knew very little about you.

    For the long legs of your trip, you might look into inexpensive airlines like Southwest, Frontier or AirTran. They're the closest thing we have to Ryanair or EasyJet. Sometimes they're not any cheaper than the other airlines, but you can find good deals.

    Will you have a car in Knoxville? I assume you're studying at UT - if you're staying on or near campus and in walking distance to Cumberland Avenue, you can get around fairly well by walking, but if you want to go anywhere out of town (the Smokies, for example), that will be more difficult without a vehicle.

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    Hi thanks for replying so fast! I am indeed studying at UT and am staying on campus, but i wont have a car for any part of my trip as due to my age its really hard to hire a car, this is why i need to use public transport!I dont think i will have much free time while i am at UT so would like to make a bit of time to see some of tennessee especially memphis as well.
    I mainly want to visit major cities especially ones with a big music scene, and i love museums especially if they are free.

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    Carry Pepper spray - and keep your valuables in a money belt under your shirt/sweater. If you can ride Amtrak - I like that better as you can get up and stretch your legs, have better wc's, even a dining car if you want to get a snack, and generally - better traveling atmosphere than on a bus.

    But do check out Southwest - as they have direct flights from SD to Nashville? - among other routes, and if you check frequently - they have sales from time to tim

    And you can probably stay in hostels fairly inexpensively - but again, pay particular care to your valuables.

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    If music is your thing, I'd add Nashville as well as Memphis and New Orleans to your list. It's known as the home of country music, and things like the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry are absolutely worth a visit. However, there's a very lively music scene with lots of genres represented (not just country), especially rock and folk/Americana. It's an easy addition to the trip from Knoxville to Memphis.

    In both Nashville and Memphis (and in other medium-sized cities as well), you'll want to stay downtown - the downtown area in both is fairly central to most tourist attractions, and for the ones which are outside downtown (Graceland, the Opry house), you're more likely to be able to find transport to them from downtown. The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is excellent, if that area of US history interests you.

    From New Orleans you could really go anywhere, especially if a couple of flights are in your budget. (If you can't fly, it's a long journey from New Orleans to other large cities, so make sure to account for that in your planning.) You could fly to DC or somewhere in the Northeast, where you'll be better able to move around by train and public transport, then catch another flight out to California. In DC, all the Smithsonian museums are free - they're great museums and cover a lot of different topics. Chicago is really great to visit too - their Midway airport is a hub for Southwest airlines, so you might be able to get inexpensive flights into and out of there, plus they do have train service and great public transport within the city.

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    Hi boofoof,

    Train travel in the US is not easy or frequent (or for many places, including surprisingly large locales, it's non-existent) like in Europe, but if you've the right personality and can roll with the punches, you might enjoy taking the train as I do (many of my friends wouldn't take the train if you paid them) but you need to realize there are certain constraints. Bus travel can work, but sometimes these unreserved buses get overbooked (it's never happened to me, but at busy travel times of the year, I've seen people unable to get on a bus and having to wait many hours for the next one) on a given day and urban traffic/construction can cause unexpected delays that have you miss a tight connection.

    First obstacle is that there are no trains that pass through Knoxville, so you'd have to first GET to a city served by Amtrak to begin your journey. Looking at Greyhound schedules, I think it's Atlanta (better than Memphis) you'll want to be headed toward first, which appears to take about 4.5 hours (and a direct Greyhound bus--no connections) to get to from Knoxville. Since there's only ONE TRAIN DAILY that passes through Atlanta, you'd have to overnight in Atlanta (or perhaps spend a few more days if the city interests you). There's the Crescent train from Atlanta (which you have to get up bright & early for; note, the train from Atlanta is not near the downtown, so you have to allot some time to get to it) to New Orleans, which would allow you to explore that city.

    Now, from New Orleans, you could hop on the "City of New Orleans" Amtrak train to Memphis. After enjoying that ciy, then continue up to Chicago by this same train if that interests you (perhaps stopping in St. Louis on the way if that appeals?). After a few days in Chicago, you could potentially catch the "California Zephyr" train toward San Francisco. I'd recommend a sleeper car for the New Orleans-Chicago train and definitely the Chicago-SF train if you have the cash. Expect trains to be a few hours late and be pleasantly surprised if they're on-time. Don't expect gourmet cuisine. Some scenery is beautiful, but expect some to be uneventful also.

    Check out greyhound.com and amtrak.com to start getting a sense of what you'd have to do.

    Have a great trip, whatever you opt to do. DANIEL

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