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Chicago to New Orleans

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Please would you look over this itinerary and give me some feedback? There are two possibilities for the timing of this three week trip - March/April or July. I'm just at the beginning of planning.

A couple of useful bits of info - I will be going with my husband, we're both early thirties. We've travelled in the states before, but not this part. Budget - no hostels, but cheap and cheerful is fine, with one or two "splash out" places (4 or 5 stars). Interests are good food and wine, stunning views (happy to undertake moderately difficult hikes to achieve this) - so national park recommendations would be great! - also soaking up local culture which on this trip I think means music! Planning to hire a car for this trip, as we both like driving and longish distances are not a problem.

Day 1 - Arrive Chicago
Day 5 - Drive to Mammoth Cave National Park
Day 8 - Drive to Nashville
Day 12 - Drive to Memphis
Day 16 - Drive to New Orleans
Day 21 - Fly home

Main points I'd appreciate help on:

Is the above feasible time-wise? I had thought of extending the trip to Austin but I don't think it's doable?
March/April or July a better bet?
Did I miss anything glaring out? What other national parks/areas of natural beauty should we see?
Is North to South the best way to go? Any reason why I should "flip"?

Thanks everyone!

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