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pete71 Jan 11th, 2016 07:41 PM

Dec/Jan road trip deep south, 7-10 days
Hi all. Aussie family of 5 (kids 14,11,7) coming from a week in Orlando Disneyworld. Flying out to Hawaii early Jan but have approx 7-10 days after Christmas to tour in the region.
Figured south is easiest to access from orlando. We are happy to drive and would like to see some fun, less touristy but real Southern experiences after being all disney-ed out. We like fun, music, good food and generally having fun and meeting people on the road.

My proposed itenerary was
fly from Orlando-atlanta then
hire car in Atlanta and drive to Smoky mountains NP. We saw Yosemite a few years ago same time of year and loved it. Drive through to Gatlinburg for perhaps New years and one other night (is it as kitchscy a place as the internet says it is? thats ok, we have kids:).
Perhaps do Dollywood for a day nearby , then
drive to Nashville for 2-3 nights then
drive to Memphis for 2-3 more nights, then fly out to Hawaii

Questions i have are:

1) are we staying long enough in GBurg, Nashville and Memphis? Are these the best places to go in this area. given we only have a week /10 days and want to cover most of it by car not going in and out of airports etc?
2) any other fun/quirky/historical towns worth visiting along the way for a diversion? Is it worth pushing to see Asheville/Birmingham, more time in Atlanta etc?
3) I know its winter then but its the only time we can take this long a vacation. How much will winter affect us on this route?
4) where is best place to be (or not be) on New Years?
5) Is Memphis a good place to fly out of the US from to Hawaii?

Thanks for any advice and feedback . We are open to suggestions !

Gretchen Jan 12th, 2016 02:44 AM

IMO, Atlanta would be a waste of time. You could easily drive from Orlando and see a lovely part of the south.
Go to Charleston for a few days.
Drive up to Asheville.
Asheville to Nashville. Could take a dip into the Great Smoky Mountain Park.
I have been surprised that Memphis has good connections to Australia and maybe Hawaii (as I seem to recall a long ago post).
I guess if your kids and you like music so much, Nashville and Memphis can take up that many days. I think there are other things to enjoy in the South also that you could see, particularly with children.
St. Augustine could be a half day on the way to Charleston. There are islands outside of Charleston with wonderful wildlife. Beaufort, Edisto Savannah on the way to Charleston are interesting little touches of the old South.
If there are NASCAR fans, you could drive to Charlotte and see the NASCAR garages just north in Mooresville.
From Charleston you could drive to Winston Salem and see Old Salem, a restored 18th century Moravian community. Then on to Asheville, etc.
If you are looking for an alternative airport to fly out of, Charlotte is the country's 5th busiest with excellent connections to anywhere.

Finally, I guess this is NEXT year!!

Ackislander Jan 12th, 2016 03:07 AM

I agree with Gretchen, particularly as she has given you a range of choices.

Orlando-Charleston-Asheville-GSMNP-Nashville-Memphis is a good route.

Charleston and Nashville have history, Asheville has become an artsy hipster center, Nashville and Memphis have music.

All these places are connected by interstate highways but all have parallel slower routes that you can and should take to see more of the south AND to get something decent to eat.

In particular, taking the US highway rather than the interstate through the Smokies is recommended. Yes, Gatlinburg has all the tat you could possibly want, but, weather and road conditions permitting, you should take some of the scenic drives in the park.

Two things to look for beyond burgers: cafeterias and meat-and-threes and both offer great value for money.

In this part of the south, cafeterias are a way of life. Cafeterias are usually located just outside the city center. You take a tray, stand in a line, and tell the servers what you want, chosen from regional favorites (that you may never have heard of). At the end of the line, you pay and someone takes your tray to an available table. You help yourself to drinks and perhaps dessert.

Meat-and-threes are cafes or restaurants that offer table service. They will have burgers and BLT's but especially at lunch will give you a choice of several meats, three vegetables, and bread for a fixed price, usually a great bargain. You will find these in towns off the interstate highway. Ask at a gas station or best ask a policeman or sheriff's deputy.

Sassafrass Jan 12th, 2016 02:08 PM

Charleston, SC is a great and fun, old Southern city as is Savanah,GA. I would choose both over Atlanta. If you can rent it, watch the movie, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." The setting is Savanah, and it is filled with quirky Southern characters. This is the American South at its best. Charleston has absolutely fabulous food, beautiful architecture representative of the South, horse and carriage rides, music, etc.

Have Barbeque in different places. In SC, it is a tangy vinegar (sometimes mustard) based sauce.
If you get to Memphis, it is sweet, tomato/ketchup based.

St Augustine, Florida is a great town to spend a day. The history of the fort is interesting and worth a tour.

Personally, IMHO, spending time in some of the places that are really the American South would be a much better experience than Dollywood, a made up place.

Asheville is a haven for fine artisans, with wonderful galleries and guilds, and the landscape is pretty. There are often great bluegrass music events. If you go there, do tour the Vanderbuilt house and mill. It is 100% worth it!

Nashville is good if you like country music and want to attend an event of some kind.

Memphis, of course, home of Elvis Presley and lots of pop music, so lots of history.

pete71 Jan 12th, 2016 03:57 PM

Thanks everyone for all the replies -definitely got me thinking! we are happy to take diversions and go off the interstate if it gets us to see the real south as you all suggest.


1) approx drive time and things to see on way from orlando to savannah/charleston? seems like a long drive out of orlando to anywhere else?
2) the route orlando-savannah-charleston-smokey/nashville-memphis-still doable in 7-10 days? bit more driving than my original plan! ackislander this seems like a fun route though!
3) the historical sites mentioned above sound awesome (to us as mum and dad). trying to keep 3 kids in mind( various ages 7,11,14) stil quirky and fun enough to keep them /some of them entertained and amused?

and yes gretchen i should have specified this is in 12 months time! us aussies plan a long way ahead, especially with our crappy exchange rate need to save up some $$:(

Thanks again!

jent103 Jan 13th, 2016 08:41 AM

<i>1) approx drive time and things to see on way from orlando to savannah/charleston? seems like a long drive out of orlando to anywhere else?</i>

It is. :) Google Maps will give you a better idea than I could if you go to Savannah/Charleston, but if you were to stick with your original plan, I'd fly Orlando to Knoxville (the Knoxville airport has relatively easy access to the Smokies), rent a car there and skip Atlanta altogether.

<i>2) the route orlando-savannah-charleston-smokey/nashville-memphis-still doable in 7-10 days? bit more driving than my original plan! ackislander this seems like a fun route though!</i>

I would say no on the timeline, although all those places are certainly worth visiting, so it's a matter of what interests you. Charleston to East Tennessee is about an 8-hour drive if I recall correctly (not including the extra time required with small kids), so that eats up one full day. You could pick one of Savannah or Charleston and narrow it down that way, but either is out of your way compared to the original plan.

<i>3) the historical sites mentioned above sound awesome (to us as mum and dad). trying to keep 3 kids in mind( various ages 7,11,14) stil quirky and fun enough to keep them /some of them entertained and amused?</i>

I love Asheville, I really do, but I think it depends on your kids. The main attractions for me are food (and breweries, if you're into that) and the nature around the area (plus the Biltmore). I don't know of many kid-focused things to do (though someone may certainly correct me). Gatlinburg, on the other hand - which is ABSOLUTELY as kitschy as you've read - has tons of things meant to attract children. So it's a matter of knowing your kids, I think. My nephew is 7 and he'd be bored in Asheville, but he'd love the aquarium in Gatlinburg, for example. But a 14-year-old and 11-year-old would have their own opinions, so maybe involve them and see what they'd rather see.

If you decide to add Charleston, there's the boat ride to Fort Sumter and carriage rides around downtown and that kind of thing - I wouldn't worry about the kids there.

I think your original timelines on Nashville and Memphis are about right - I'd say probably 5 days total for both. Nashville always has a huge event downtown on New Year's Eve with local bands and a guitar drop. It's a madhouse and you may not want the kids in such a huge crowd close to midnight, but the bands start playing pretty early (6:30-7pm or so) so you could go down for a little while and then go somewhere calmer for midnight if you wanted.

pete71 Jan 13th, 2016 04:05 PM

Thanks jent103, much appreciated

As you say, kids are a bit of a wildcard. I can probably guarantee one of my kids will like a place and the others wont rate it, then reverse scenario on the next town. I guess the bigger the place (ie Disneyworld which we go to prior the road trip) , the more chances they will all find something to like in its offerings. Hence with a family theres a bit of "safety" in a larger destination to appeal more widely.

In that aspect Gatlinburg seems to offer this - Kitchscy but probably still a laugh and fun. Asheville perhaps a bit more grown up and not as much for kids to grab on to?

Whats Savannah like? Is it worth doing it over Charleston or vice versa? Or are both different enough and close enough to justify seeing both with a family?

We had thought on our timeline of either being in Nashville or Gatlinburg for new years eve, sounds like either will have enough to keep us happy?

Any side diversions off the interstate worth seeing on this route? quirkier the better i say!

Thanks again

Gretchen Jan 13th, 2016 04:48 PM

Charleston has more. It has the Aquarium and the other carriage rides. AND great food.
As with trips to Europe with our kids, or anywhere, it isn't just about "them", it IS about us all having a good trip.
Your kids are not "that" young--they are at least tweens, and the 7 year old is trying to keep up, if he/she is anything like american kids.
How about a challenge--you've decided to come to America. Let 'em learn.

Sassafrass Jan 13th, 2016 06:49 PM

Aside from being beautiful, Charleston is a city of such history. It is not always pleasant to think about slavery in the US, but the role slavery played in the cultural and historic development (and vulnerability) of the South cannot be overestimated. The plantation way of life and Charleston, was a great part of that. Understanding it and the affect to this day on lives and culture in America is a worthwhile history lesson. You could visit a plantation and see the slave trade market. IMHO, your kids are old enough to comprehend that and get an idea of the formation of Southern culture.

Savanah is a great example of the quintessential City of the old South.

Good luck with your decision.

pete71 Jan 13th, 2016 11:28 PM

Thanks guys, this is the sort of background and encouragement we needed
We want to travel to the US partly because we already like the US and some of the similarities and same culture, but also to see what the differences in culture, history etc are, and yes to learn. and yes the 7yo will think hes as old as the others!
We stretched the kids a bit last time by doing San Francisco and Yosemite after LA/Disneyland. It was originally the "Mum and Dad" part of the trip we were most looking forward to personally, but we all loved both those parts.
I am thinking Savannah and Charleston and the whole road trip in general will be enjoyable, learning experiences

For christmas eve/day and new years eve we could be in any of the road trip places but most likely would be christmas in charleston and new years in either nashville or gatlinburg - sound the best places to be for those two ?

We found Christmas Day in LA a bit of a dead day last trip, so would like a good authentic experience .

Any other places to stop/see on the drive from Charleston-Asheville (assuming we stay there a night before taking on GSMNP and Gatlinburg)?

Thanks again

Sassafrass Jan 14th, 2016 12:39 AM

Asheville will be much, much more interesting to the kids than you might think if you don't know more about it.

It was the home of the Vanderbuilts, one of the richest most influential families in American? If you go to Asheville, do not miss touring their home, the Builtmore house, set in the Vanderbuilt estate, and the weaving mill.

While there were other beautiful homes, this house had many firsts. The first indoor swimming pool, a free standing stair way, a bowling alley. The estate was entirely self sufficient, complete with a dairy. They grew sheep for wool, hired spinners and weavers, bought the best looms available at the time, and made high quality cloth to sell.

Ms Edith Vanderbuilt was an amazing and kind woman who felt she had been given a lot and should help others with her money. The vanderbuilts established many schools for local people and industries to give local people jobs, even creating a village for workers to have comfortable homes. They took care of the poor and children.

They donated the land to establish the first national forest for preservation of land, trees and animals.

The craft schools they established has led to the area being renown, not just for simple country crafts, but some of the finest crafts (jewelry, ceramics, sculpture, weaving, etc.) in the whole US.
Also, while there, stop by the New Morning gallery. It is a wow gallery! Even the kids will be impressed. It is in the village established by the Vanderbuilts. There is another big crafts place outside of town, but sorry, I don't remember the name.

In the US there are hotels considered to be the Gand Old Hotels of America. One is in Asheville and well worth seeing. I can't remember the name, will look it up. If it is in your budget, have a meal there.

I would plan at least 1 whole day in Savanah, 2 whole days in Charleston if you visit a plantation one day and 1 or 2 whole days in Asheville. You will not be sorry to see these three places.

Sassafrass Jan 14th, 2016 12:44 AM

The hotel is the Grove Park Inn, now owned by Omni. The front facade is made of stone and is most unusual, worth a short stop and at least a peek inside.

pete71 Jan 14th, 2016 02:04 AM

Thanks for the extra info, yes was thinking of the Vamderbuilt estate. Us Aussies love our shopping so seeing there are outlet stores in Asheville made the wife happy too!

Gretchen Jan 14th, 2016 03:06 AM

The craft place is the Southern Highlands Craft Shop on the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside of Asheville--DEFINITELY worth a visit.

Sassafrass Jan 14th, 2016 08:15 AM

Talk about shopping. Forget the outlets and go to the Southern Highlands craft shop and New Morning Gallery. Thanks Gretchen.
If the wife really wants to hit the outlets too, you need to allow a couple of days, at least 1&1/2 minimum for Asheville, and that is going at a very fast pace.

jent103 Jan 18th, 2016 01:20 PM

<i>In that aspect Gatlinburg seems to offer this - Kitchscy but probably still a laugh and fun. Asheville perhaps a bit more grown up and not as much for kids to grab on to?</i>

That would be my assessment, yep. The level of kitsch in Gatlinburg cannot be overestimated, but if the kids need to be "entertained" in order to be happy it's a safer bet. But if the kids will be pretty pleasant in Asheville without a bunch of activities, the grownups would enjoy it more, and depending on your kids they might too.

There are outlet malls in lots of places - I wouldn't let their presence be the deciding factor. (Pigeon Forge, near Gatlinburg, has a massive number, and there's an outlet mall or two around Nashville as well.) But that craft shop in NC is indeed great.


Gardyloo Jan 18th, 2016 02:42 PM

Coming late to this thread but had a question/idea.

What about heading north through Savannah and Charleston, then east to Asheville, then up the Blue Ridge, ending up in Washington DC? You could still visit Great Smoky Mts. NP, but then instead of heading west, stay in the hills (assuming the driving is decent) to, say, Charlottesville. Visit Monticello and the gorgeous UVA campus, then it's not a long drive into DC. Next January things in DC will be buzzing with the impending inauguration of President ____, and I could imagine your kids (and their parents) would get a kick out of the Smithsonian, the monuments...

Just a thought.

Sassafrass Jan 18th, 2016 03:49 PM

I missed that they were going to fly out from Memphis.

Love Gordyloos's plan! So much to see in DC.

I think we were all looking at their original desire for stuff like Dollywood, Nashville and Memphis.

If they do DC, then they could put most of their time there, easily three full days, if not more. Lots of interest for the kids too.

Several choices for airports too, even Baltimore, which is close and an easy airport to get into and out of. Even though it is in Baltimore, it might be better than Dulles, depending on how they are getting there, costs, time and flights.

Gretchen Jan 18th, 2016 04:26 PM

Washington DC is and should be the tourist AND resident mecca of the USA. It is SO overlooked, and like every other capital in the world, should be highly regarded.
There are endless things to do--especially for the age of these children--AND they are not only educational, they are historic.
Think HARD about this idea. It is the absolute best.

Sassafrass Jan 21st, 2016 06:25 PM

I so agree with you. From dozens of unique, fabulous museums to excellent theater, all kinds of sports and physical activities, variety of outstanding music events, plus all the historic places, any family could spend a week filled everyday with exciting things.

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