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Three weeks in the deep south, Help please

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Hi all

My partner and I have booked return flights from London to Atlanta on the 25th August returning on 15th Sept. It's now time to start working on an itinary. We both have a love of anything musical, I would love to see and experience a big football game. Would there be any rodeos or country fairs at this time of year?

As an overview we have hired a car and plan to start in the Smokey Mountains, moving on south through Nashville, Memphis, Clarksdale, Natchez, Layfyete Baton Rouge and New Orleans, we are then thinking about a few days relaxing on the coast I've read some nice things about Orange Beach, Port St Joe or Apalachicola.

Is this a bit ambitious? do people think this itinary is achievable considering the distances involved? And how many nights do you think each place requires to see the main sights.

Any advice on things to do and see and places to eat and stay would be greatfully received, we haven't booked any accomodation, would we need to pre book in the larger towns? Will there be plenty of reasonably priced motels on our route? What can we expect from the weather? Hot and humid I know but how hot and humid and is it hurricane season on the coast.

I thank you in advance for any information provided and look forward to starting to build an itinary for the holiday of a lifetime.



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    If you could arrange the schedule to be in West Point Mississippi on 1 September you can hear any type of music you like. http://www.westpointms.org/
    If there is a hurricane threatening, just stay inland.
    Sounds like you can do this in 20 days if you don't spend too much time in one place.

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    Stone House in Natchez would be good for you.
    Stay there and listen to his music as well.

    Realize that you are going to absolutely roast in the south at that time of year.

    Nashville. Eat at The Loveless Cafe and Las Paletas(popsicle-really good)

    Memphis- Blues City Cafe is my favorite, Rendevous is good, Sunday Brunch at The Peabody. Do see the Ducks at The peabody.

    Natchez--Mammy's Cupboard for lunch

    New Orleans--Cafe Du Monde and Commanders Palace

    Layfayette-Prejeans is good

    I would see the Plantation Homes in Natchez and on the River Road just outside of New Orleans

    I'm sure there will be a lot of college football by that time. Who do you want to see? Alabama or LSU would be excellent to see, but tickets would have to be bought from a scalper.

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    The weather will range from hot to very hot (can be 100 and over) and humid - althouhg nights in the mountains will be cooler.

    Yes, it is hurricane season. Watch the weather every day. If you see one coming get away from the coast and still be prepared - even in inland areas you can lose power for days at a time.

    Can't help with more specifics - since I hate heat and country music.

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    Something fun, free, and different is to watch a Blue Angels practice session in Pensacola Florida.


    Here are some August rodeos:

    August 2-3, 2012
    Thursday & Friday 7:00pm
    BB SB BR CR TR CBR CBA $200 ADM $50 EF
    Call In: 865-933-8588 Mon, Jul 30, 6pm-10pm EST
    NCA/SRA Spur'n S Rodeo Co

    August 10-11, 2012
    Friday & Saturday 8:00pm
    Call In: 864-650-4374 Mon, Aug 6, 7pm-10pm
    Location: off Hwy 64, 221 Old Kinser Rd
    32nd Annual Taylors Ruritan Rodeo
    SRA/SPRA Outlaw Rodeo Co

    August 17-18, 2012
    Friday & Saturday 8:00pm
    Call In: 704-658-8786 Mon, Aug 14, 6pm-10pm EST
    Location: Danville-Pittsylvania Co Fairgrounds, 2400 Cavalier Rd, Ringgold VA
    SRA Jason Roberts Rodeo Co

    August 31-September 1, 2012
    Friday & Saturday 8:00pm
    Call In: 865-556-9154 Mon, Aug 27, 6pm-10pm EST
    Location: Rhea Co Fairgrounds, Hwy 27
    SRA/SPRA Hedrick Rodeo Co

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    If you're coming from London, don't be surprised if you have trouble understanding some of the local accents in the south (as they may have of you too).

    The south is beautiful and is rich in history and lovely architecture. The heat and humidity will slow you down for anything outdoors.

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    As a Florida native, I'm not too sure about the more northern things. But I do have a few pieces regarding distance. My friend and I drove from Oklahoma to Florida and it took us 4 days. From Tennessee to Louisiana is roughly the same distance. Stay as much as you can on the main highway and buy a US roadmap with all the states (a road atlas). The smaller highways are very scenic, however it might take you twice as long to get somewhere. As far as hotels, I would preplan a route then find acceptable lodging along those routes. Some places can be roach motels, so it's good to look up a places reputation before you stay anywhere. a website like tripadvisor.com. Like, I had a back up Days Inn on our route in case we got tired, and within 10 miles of each other were two of them, one had horrible roach related reviews, and the other got a much better rating for like the same price. Also, in the south there are A TON of bugs. If you are allergic to wasps or Mosquitos or ants etc I would bring back up medication for it.

    As far as places to go in north Florida, St. Augustine is known for its historical Spanish fort and quaint shopping areas. Good places to go for beaches, Pensacola is wonderful and closer to your other destinations. I second the Blue Angels performance. I've grown up seeing them perform at air shows and they are truely amazing. Also on the Atlantic coast is Amelia island which is wonderful and a great way to experience that island lifestyle without having to go to the Florida keys. Oh and in the mid northern part of the state is the Florida State Caverns. My mom and I have been there. If you are into seeing some really cool caves, Mammoth Caves is in Kentucky.

    Oh and my mom just reminded me about Dollyworld in Tennessee, which is all about Dolly Parton.

    It is not going to be football season until later, but we are in full swing major league baseball right now. If you are planning on tickets for that buy them early and in advance as they sell quickly. Also, even though it's a little more money, seats closer to the ground are much better in a baseball stadium, it's hard to see from the cheap seats unless you have binoculars.

    If you are in a major city, don't roll down your windows for people. I don't know how it is in your major cities, but we have a lot of panhandlers. One time in Orlando this guy was high on crack and banged on our window asking for money. XD

    Lastly, if you really want to ride roller coasters, there is Busch Gardens in Tampa FL and Willaimsburg VA.

    Hope this helps!

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    I think you have a great plan for a trip.

    Yes, you will steam, but all my British friends love coming to America in the summer to warm up!

    Between Clarksdale and Natchez, be sure to at least drive through Greenville, MS. The Delta is extremely interesting, and I assume you are driving Highway 61.

    I strongly disagree with the poster above who suggests sticking to the main (presumably interstate) highways. They are fine for getting around cities, but the only things worth seeing are on the older, non-motorway routes.

    How much would I see of England if I left Heathrow for Glasgow via the M25, the M1, and the M74? Get the most detailed roadmaps you can find, and use them to travel on the older US highways. Avoid the Ntchez Trace Parkway. Tedious.

    Stay away from the interstate junctions where the same two or three fast food places are ubiquitous in favor of small town cafes and restaurants. Yes, you are taking a chance, but the food can be brilliant. Mississippi, for example, is famous for bait shop cafes, small shops the size of a Spar but entirely local, which sell bread and tinned food, worms and minnows and fishhooks for sportsmen, and have tables and counters where you can have home cooked food with the locals: barbeque of some sort or fried catfish and hushpuppies or "meat and three", a serving of some sort of meat, and there is usually a choice, with three vegetable you choose from a long list, cornbread, dessert, and sweetened iced tea.

    I have lived in South and North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Mississippi, and Tennessee, and my grandmother lived an hour south of the Smokies, so I would be happy to help with anything you might want to ask. But I think you have the right idea.

    Have a wonderful time!

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    Hi All

    Thank you all so much for the information and suggestions so far.

    To fuller, I can't see from the link what is on in Westpoint on those dates.

    Spiro, some of those eateries look amazing we've definitely started a database of food related stops and my mouth is watering already. It does sound like we're going to get very hot but we will be as prepared as possible.

    Only one of the rodeos is within our dates but that might work as we have thought about a detor to the Jack Danials distillery, what do people think? Is it worth the detor.


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    Sorry pressed the publish button by mistake.

    Akislander, thanks for the help it looks like you've lived in most of the places we intend to travel to so hopefully can be a big help to us. We intend to use non interstate highways a lot and the tip about the local places to eat will be very helpful.

    Does anyone know when the NFL season start I thought it was late August and when do N.O. Play at the super dome

    Does anyone have any views about the places on the coast I mentioned in the original post. I know nothing about that part of the coast but didn't want to drive any further south.

    Thanks again


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    Gulf Coast: It's about an hour drive from N.O. to the Mississippi border and the beginning of the affectionately nicknamed "Redneck Riviera". The coastline of the small towns here - like Waveland, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Biloxi - were devastated by Katrina but retain their small-town charm. Great fried shrimp in pretty much every restaurant you stop in and plenty of places for beignets and coffee. If you're in the area, stop into Bank House Coffee on Jeff Davis Ave in Long Beach - smells and tastes like it should be in a far more urbane place, but is so relaxed in that southern way that you won't want to leave. :)

    You can also visit the home of Jefferson Davis, the once-president of the Confederacy. Despite being right on the coast, the house and grounds were largely untouched by Katrina.

    Ocean Springs, MS, has an artsy vibe (in a small town way!).

    Oh, and I almost forgot to follow up about the Redneck Riviera! There are a number of casinos here like the Beau Rivage. They serve up a decent buffet, and have musicians and other shows that come through.

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    There could well be a NFL preseason game in NOLA or Nashville, or Tampa or Miami. The Panthers play Tampa the first part of September in Tampa. and tickets for those are easy to obtain on the street.

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    Major college football teams on your route are:

    Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN
    Ole Miss in Oxford, MS
    Mississippi State in Starksville, MS
    LSU in Baton Rouge, LA
    Florida State in Tallahassee, FL

    College football games are on Saturdays, Sept 1, 8 and 15.
    You can check their schedules on a google search rather than my going into the complex detail here.

    Ticket availability will widely vary. All of these schools have national profile programs and any game at any stadium will be a spectacle.

    When you target a date and place, quite possible you can buy game tickets over the internet from the school. If you can't be so precise, often nearby hotels are expert in assisting purchasing game tickets.

    I agree with all above that you have chosen a great route and should have a fun vacation.

    I will add that the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville is a personal favorite music venue. Schedules and ticket sales are on their web site. I have attended many times and enjoyed every show. Hope you can fit into your Nashville visit.

    If you are in Nashville on a Saturday night, the Grand Ole Opry is another country music destination. Likewise, tickets can be purchased on the internet. Every Grand Ole Opry is a great show.

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    Looks like LSU have a home game in Baton Rough which might tie in with my timings, tickets not on sale yet so will keep an eye on websites.

    Bluebird cafe and the Grand Old Oprey ore on the list both look great on there websites as does the loveless cafe

    The redneck riviera sounds nice and lively what about places farther east like port st joes and st George's island are they a bit more laid back?

    Does anyone know if I can purchase a pre paid data micro sim for an iPad, and if so where would be the best place to buy from.


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    Sounds like a great, but busy trip. Welcome to our country.
    While traveling from Smokies to Nashville, you might like to drop down on I-75 and take in the Ocoee River (site of white water events during the Atlanta Olympics...brought that part to TN). The river is east of Cleveland, TN (as you get closer to Chattanooga). In Chattanooga, there are several lovely things to see and do: Hunter Museum of American Art, the glass bridge and outdoor sculpture which leads to our world class aquarium. We have a terrific walking bridge (Walnut Street Bridge)which takes you across the river to Coolidge Park and our wonderful carousel and its hand carved animals. (We have one of the few carving schools for carousels in the United States.) Then there's the Incline Railroad (well worth the ride) up Lookout Mtn. with beautiful views at Point Park. We are crawling with Civil War history and Chicamauga Battlefield, nearby, is a wonderful side trip.
    Also, while in Pensacola to see The Blue Angels, be sure to go into the marvelous museum of flight, there (same location). And check on the dates that the Blue Angels practice...they are not there every day.

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    The nice thing about the MS gulf coast is that you've got both pretty, small towns and the more lively stuff at the casinos, but the one doesn't particularly overtake the other. (Before Katrina, by law in MS the casinos had to be over water, so they were relegated to "tying up" along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast. Such a large number of them were destroyed by the storm that the state modified the rules, but the intent is the same...)

    // I don't know about the prepaid data for an iPad b/c I use wifi only. Plus, stateside I've only seen USB or mobile hotspot devices, not a micro card. You could look into the offerings at AT&T (att.com), which is the only US GSM service provider to carry iPad. (Verizon does too but they're CDMA.) There's also the fairly new Clear network (clear.com), but I have no idea how extensive their coverage is.

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    I live at Pensacola Beach (on Santa Rosa Island) and will be happy to help with anything around here.

    I agree with those who recommend seeing the Blue Angels practice and going to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. The museum is free but they have an IMAX theater for which there's a charge. You actually watch the practice from the museum area. Afterwards, the Blues pilots usually come up to the museum to chat and sign autographs. They are scheduled to have 3 practices during the time frame you're most likely to be here. Wed., Sept 5, Tues., Sept 11, and Wed., Sept. 12. Practices do change/get cancelled, but they try to keep things as posted on their website as much as possible. Practices begin at 8:30.

    As to your questions about beaches. Orange Beach is much more built-up than either Port St. Joe or Apalachicola. Neither of the latter 2 have pretty beaches, in my opinion, compared to other areas along the Gulf Coast, many of them only short drives from PSJ and A. Since I chose Pensacola Beach as my home, I obviously like it here, but there are other beautiful beaches nearby. A great deal depends on what else you might want to do.

    If you did stay near here, it's a fairly easy 5 1/2 - 6 hour drive from here to Atlanta, via mostly interstates. If your beach time falls at the very end of your trip, you may be ready to stick to the major highways. If not, there are certainly other routes that are more scenic or interesting.

    For a place it's size, the Pensacola area has a lot to offer - a thriving arts scene, live music somewhere almost every night, including a free outdoor concert on the beach on Tuesday nights (September 5th and 11th in your time frame), several great places to eat covering a wide variety of food, and various outdoor activities.

    Pensacola is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. so we have quite a bit of historical stuff of interest to see. It was actually settled before our country's oldest city, St. Augustine, but was wiped out by a hurricane and wasn't re-settled until after St. Augustine had been established. Which lets me segue into your question about hurricanes.

    Yes, it is hurricane season on the coast during that time. But, unlike tornadoes and earthquakes, they let you know they're coming well in advance so you can stay out of their way. As others have said, just keep you eye on the weather and change your plans/route, if needed. If the entire Gulf coast is threatened, just scoot across the state to St. Augustine for some beach time. The sand isn't sugary soft and white like ours, and the water isn't as pretty a color or as clear, but it isn't all that bad either. And, it's easy to get back to Atlanta from there.

    Hope this helps a bit. Feel free to ask more and have a great trip.


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    If you go to the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg, be sure to plan lunch at Miss Bobo's Boarding House. You will definitely need reservations there. We were there 20 years ago, I understand it has only gotten more popular and more touristy, but still fun. You can google it and make reservations online.

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    Firstly I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has provided me with such a host of information so far...! We are really starting to put together a fantastic itinerary and cant wait for this to happen now.

    The Blue Angels is on the list for sure and will keep an eye on the website for info. Thanks for all the info on the Gulf coast, Pensacola Beach looks lovely as we just want somewhere to chill out and relax for about 3/4 days after all the rushing around and before we go home.

    I'm a bit thin on the ground for things to do in the Smokies I think we want to stay on the NC side and travel to Gatlingburg as we leave for Lynchburg or Nashville as we would like to take in the Dollywood experience, not sure if it's really us or what to expect but love Dolly so why not?

    Any thoughts on Bryson City, Asheville or Cherokee and thing to do there or there abouts.

    Chattanooga Will be on the list if we decide to take on Lynchburg. The Ocoee River together with some of the sights you mentioned in and around the city sound like a great day.

    I'm starting to worry that i might be trying to take on too much so will get it on paper and look at it over the weekend and start to put some detail in the plans.........!

    Thanks again


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    In Cherokee there is gambling if you want, BUT there is the Qualla Village, a Cherokee Indian museum. When you get to Dollywood, you will probably answer your own question of what to do. I LOVE Dolly also but Gatlingburg and Dollywood is wall to wall kitsch these days.
    If you would like a real old time American experience in Bryson City, stay at the Frymont Inn. It is where a family would have travelled (hours by car with the windows open on two lane roads) to the mountains from the hotter parts of the South and stayed for the week. All meals are served family style. Fun and interesting.
    In Cherokee there is trout fishing. You might be able to rent gear at the fly shop there, if you fish. The rivers and creeks are stocked by the tribe.
    The drive through the park from Bryson City is very lovely. Also on the Bryson City side of the Park there is tubing on the river there--can rent tubes near the entrance.

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    Cherokee is tatty. Gatlinburg is tattier still. Tat can be wonderful if it is tat abroad rather than in your back garden. I wouldn't miss Palace Pier in Brighton, but I wouldn't visit if it were just down the street.

    You could spend the entire holiday in Asheville and touring from it as your center. Thus I would recommend that you skip the whole thing on this trip. There is another good trip of about the same length that would begin with you in Washington, DC, from there to Asheville, from Asheville to Charleston, SC, and thence up the Atlantic coast, ultimately back to Washington.

    It will be interesting to see the next iteration of your itinerary (!)

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    Yes, Cherokee IS, but you basically have to go through it from the NC side of the Park--and the Indian museum there IS worthwhile, especially to those not from America.
    And the GSMNP IS worth visiting.

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    You had asked upthread about when the New Orleans Saints play at the Superdome. You can find out the nfl schedule here:


    It looks like the regular NFL season starts on 5 September and the Washington Redskins play the Saints in New Orleans at 1:00 on Sunday, 9 September.

    Here is the preseason schedule:


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    In the Smokies -- and if by any chance money is not an issue -- check out www.blackberryfarm.com. Very expensive but lodging, food, service and Smoky Mountain views are amazing.

    The well-written book "A Walk in the Woods" by Bryson (about a hike on the Appalachian Trail by hiking novices) is worth reading, and has an apt description of Gatlinburg.

    I second the recommendation of Bluebird Cafe for authentic music in a small venue. True songwriters -- good ones -- play their own stuff.

    Since you'll be in Nashville and like music, be sure to tour the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum downtown.

    You mentioned rodeos -- a bull-riding show will be in downtown Nashville on Sept. 7 and 8 in the evenings. Here's a description from the venue website:

    The Professional Bull Riders announced that the Top 35 bull riders in the world will compete against the best bucking bulls on the planet when the PBR Built Ford Tough Series returns to Bridgestone Arena for the Jack Daniel’s Invitational on Sept. 7-8.

    Leading the way into Music City will be home state favorite and Top 25 rider Cody Nance from Paris, Tenn.

    Fans will witness thrilling 8-second rides and jaw-dropping wrecks throughout the adrenaline-soaked performance as the PBR’s insanely brave cowboys risk it all against monstrous animal athletes that can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds.

    A football game at the Grove at Ole Miss in Oxford, MS is always a fun experience. Or I should say TAILGATING before the game is always fun.

    Have a great trip!

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    If you want to try the best Clarksdale has to offer have an early lunch at Ground Zero which is owned by Morgan Freeman and two of his friends. Get a plate lunch or sandwich but eat light. The Blues Museum is next door. Before you leave Clarksdale, MS go to Hick's and get another light lunch of BBQ and tamales. This way you get the best of Clarksdale. Morgan owned Madidi’s but it’s closed now. There's an old neat store that sells a lot of junk across the street from Madidi's and plenty of places for the wife to purchase items to take home. I wish you could visit Oxford, MS. If not then plan 6/7 hours in Clarksdale. Have an early lunch at GZ, visit the Museum, walk around downtown and shop, get some tamales at Hick's. After lunch head back S on Sunflower by the river and stop at Hick's just to visit. Take a right on Highway 61 which is State St. Go across the river and Hick's is on the right in nice red brick building. Go in visit and get a cold drink. Talk to Eugene and look at his pictures when President Clinton visited. On your way N stop at The Ranchero and get a cold drink. Charlie Conerly who was a famous QB for the NY Giants lived in Clarksdale and there are all kinds of old sports photo's there of Conerly and some of his old buddies. It's a fun place and the food is outstanding.
    I really hope you find time to visit Oxford. It's my favorite town in Mississippi. If so head N on State St. to Highway 278/6 E to Batesville/Oxford. It's about 60 miles to Oxford. You should be there around 3PM. When you get to Oxford you will come to a red light and Jackson Ave. going to the left. Go straight ahead and get off at the first Exit which is Coliseum Dr. Get off on right but turn back left and cross the highway. Take your first right by the Basketball Practice Facility on Hill Drive. You will see the football stadium straight ahead. Go to dead end at All American Drive turn right and go past N end of stadium. You will run into the Grove. Go to the left on University Ave. and you will go past the Grove on your right and run into the Circle. Go around the circle and you will see The Lyseum which is the oldest building on campus. The James Meredith riot started in the Circle. There's a monument of him behind the Lyseum. The street you came in on at The Grove is University Ave. Take it back E all the way to Lamar. Take a right on Lamar and go about 6 blocks and take a right on Old Taylor. Go about 3 blocks and you run dead into Faulkner's home. You can drive up the gravel road in front and park and go in and visit. Go back to Lamar and go N past University Ave. two blocks and park. You are now on The Square. The building on your left is Square Books which is very famous. John Grisham has a home in Oxford. You passed it on the right just before you got to town. It sits off to the right on a hill and it's easy to see. It's just before the car dealership before you get to the first red light. He's a frequent visitor to Oxford.

    Park and walk around the Square. City Grocery is two doors down W of Square Books. Neilson's to your right on the Square is a nice department store. If you walk past City Grocery on the left you will see Waltz Restaurant after you pass the Pizza joint. Going around the Square you will find Ajax which is a good country food joint. There are a couple of nice ladie's shops on that side of the Square. Downtown Grill is on N side of Square. They have a nice bar upstairs. There's a Rebel junk store around on the N side if you want to buy a Rebel souvenir to take home. Go N on Lamar and Lenora's is on the left. Have dinner at City Grocery. CG has a nice bar upstairs and you can sit outside if you like. Tell Jim Weems the manager with a beard that Henry McCaslin said hello. He will take good care of you. If Jim is not there then a cute young lady named Lauren will take care of you. I hope you have a great trip.

    City Grocery @ 152 Courthouse Square, Oxford, MS. 662 - 232 - 8080.

    If you have time stop by Greenwood, MS where you will find some outstanding casual local dining at Lusco's, Crystal Grill and Giardinia's. Giardinia's is in The Alluvian Hotel which is a 4 * hotel owned by Viking Range. The Crystal has good plate lunches, seafood and steaks. Giardinia's and Lusco's both have outstanding seafood and steaks. Lusco's is old style in a fairly rough neighborhood but safe with lots of history and famous names that have been there. Everyone dines in a booth with a curtain same as Giardinia's. Spend the night at The Alluvian and dine at Giardinia's or Lusco's for dinner.
    Alluvian Hotel @ 318 Howard Street, Greenwood, MS 662 - 451 - 1500.
    Crystal Grill @ 423 Carrollton Ave.,Greenwood, MS 662 - 453 - 6530.
    Giardinia's @ 314 Howard St., Greenwood, MS 662 - 455 - 4227.
    Lusco's @ 722 Carrollton Ave., Greenwood, MS 662 - 453 - 5365.
    Stop in Greenville, MS if you have time for dinner at Doe's Eat Place. Greenville, MS is W of Greenwood, MS on Highway 82. Doe's Eat Place is not to be missed. You enter the restaurant through the kitchen where you can watch the steaks being prepared. In the center of the main dining room there are stoves at which the fries are made and salads are prepared there as well. In most cases, one steak there easily feeds two.
    Doe's Eat Place @ 502 Nelson Street, Greenville, MS 662 - 334 - 3315.
    You can head S on Highway 49 to Yazoo City and take Highway 3 to Vicksburg, MS. If you are in Greenville, MS you can go S on Highway 61 to Vicksburg, MS.

    In Vicksburg you could tour the old antebellum homes and the Vicksburg National Military Park.
    Have lunch/dinner @ Rusty's River Front Grill @ 901 South Washington St., Vicksburg, MS 601 - 638 -2030.
    or @ Walnut Hills @ 1214 Adams Street, Vicksburg, MS 601 - 638 - 4910‎ for southern cooking.
    Stop in Greenville, MS if you have time for dinner at Doe's Eat Place @ 502 Nelson Street
    Greenville, MS 662 - 334 - 3315.

    Rosswood is a great B&B between Vicksburg and Natchez. Be sure and stop at Old Country Store in Lorman for an outstanding country lunch.
    Rosswood Plantation @ 2513 Red Lick Road, Lorman, MS 601 - 437 - 4215.
    Old Country Store @ 18801 Hwy 61, Lorman, MS 601 - 437 - 3661.

    I would definitely stop in Natchez and spend a day touring the plantation homes there. Monmouth is an oustanding place for the night. The dining room there is superb. I would also check out The Carriage House Restaurant at Stanton Hall for a wonderful lunch.

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    Realize that from Atlanta, the Smokies are about 3.5 to 4 hours away. The most scenic way to go is up I-985. You will be going through Cherokee on the East side of the park. There are a few small hotels by the creek in Cherokee which are cute. They aren't fancy, but they are nice.

    When you are driving over the Smokies, it would be nice if you could stop in Cade's Cove. Google it to get more information.

    Also, I think college football games are way more fun than professional games.

    As others have said, be prepared for very hot and humid weather.

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    I'd try to see a college football game more than an NFL game in the South. The Saints are a different species - their fans are notoriously nuts and you'll see a lot of banners and protestations relating to their recent scandals - but you will pay HUNDREDS to get a crap seat at the Superdome on September 9. That's the season and home opener for the Saints and the debut of the Deadskins' new quarterback, who is from Texas.

    College football is a religion in the South and every school treats its games like a border war. The lone problem is that you'll be there in September when the schools tend to schedule against weak teams instead of playing the difficult conference schedule of late September to November. One major college team that stump missed above is UT, which is in Knoxville (e.g., right at the foot of the Smokie Mountains) and usually puts out a better product than Vanderbilt (which is the smallest school in the conference and the only one that is a private college).

    The only SEC intra-conference games during your trip that could be accessible to your itinerary are South Carolina @ Vanderbilt (Nashville, 8-30-12) or Auburn @ Mississippi State (Starkville, 9-8-12). The latter is a better game from a hate standpoint (Tottenham-Fulham level, not quite Tottenham-Arsenal) and that helps make it fun. The best game to see would be Auburn-Clemson in Atlanta on 9-1-12, but you'll be on the road then in all likelihood.

    If you go to the plantation homes in Mississippi, don't also do plantations outside New Orleans and vice versa. Pick one set.

    There should be concerts all around but ultimately your love of musical anything is off by about 1.5 weeks - on 21-23 Sept, the Deluna Festival will be held in Pensacola and on 21-22 Atlanta will host Music Midtown festival. Many acts are going to both.

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