The Best Road Trips in America: Southern Music and Nightlife
The music of the Southeast United States is like America’s heartbeat, influencing artists in genres ranging from country to blues to bluegrass.
Road Trip Itinerary: Exploring the Best Southern Music and Nightlife
It’s where small-town musicians performed at humble venues like juke joints and honky-tonks before hitting it big like BB King, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, and countless others.
The landscapes of this part of the country vary from cityscapes to the bayou, from the flat plains to the Appalachian Mountains. Download these tunes as you make your way around this road trip, which stops in both popular and lesser-known locales.
At a Glance:
Starting Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Ending Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Miles Traveled: 2171
Suggested Duration: 14 days
States Visited: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee
Stop 1: Atlanta to to Valdosta, Georgia
Stop Locations: Atlanta, GA to Valdosta, GA
Total Travel Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Miles: 228 miles
Recommended Route: The journey takes you down I-75 South, a standard stretch of road until you start seeing peach stands and billboards for Florida landmarks like Ron Jon Surf Shop and the Orlando theme parks.
Along the Way:
Town: Detour a few hours south of Atlanta in Macon, the birthplace of Southern rock. It was here that Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers Band, and Little Richard all performed and got their start. Learn about these influential artists at the Big House, the Allman Brothers Band Museum, and the Capricorn Museum. It’s easy to spend a few days here, but if you’re in a hurry, give yourself a few hours.
Eat & Drink: The Rookery in downtown Macon is the best place around for a burger named for notable Georgians. The restaurant has also served as a live music venue for up and coming bands.
Do: The city of Valdosta is the last stopping point before entering Florida so it’s a popular overnight for snowbirds heading south. Ride the roller coasters at Wild Adventures, a local theme park and music venue that was a filming location for Zombieland . The Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts is made up of six galleries of exhibits and a permanent collection including 600 pieces of East African art and over 30 pieces of antique European porcelain.
Eat & Drink: Empanadas and More is popular for lunch, serving (of course) empanadas along with daily specials like arepas and Cuban sandwiches. Watch a local band play over a dinner of fresh seafood at The Salty Snapper Oyster Bar & Live Venue. Or sample craft beer at Georgia Beer Co .
Stay: The majority of Valdosta’s accommodation offerings are roadside chain hotels. But Fairview Inn Bed & Breakfast is the exception, set in an 1800s Victorian home in Valdosta’s oldest neighborhood.
Breakfast: Fuel up at King’s Grill, one of Valdosta’s oldest restaurants. The diner serves Southern favorites like biscuits and grits.
Stop 2: Valdosta to Tampa, Florida
Stop Locations: Valdosta, GA to Tampa, FL
Total Travel Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Total Miles: 231 miles
Recommended Route: Hop back on I-75 South into Florida as the landscape becomes less fields and more swamp.
Along the Way:
Town: The college town of Gainesville is home to the University of Florida. Spend a few hours wandering the campus before continuing your journey.
Eat & Drink: Blue Gill Quality Food is one of the city’s best restaurants, featuring locally sourced ingredients by Chef Bert Gill. If you’re feeling parched, head to Swamp Head Brewing , one of Florida’s best craft breweries.
Nature: The area around Gainesville has many privately-owned natural springs that allow visitors, including Ginnie Springs, north of town, and Devil’s Den to the south. Both offer snorkeling and scuba diving in clear water similar to a cenote. Back on dry land, check out Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, a 68-acre space with tropical plant species.
Do: Downtown Tampa is home to incredible museums like the Henry B. Plant Museum and the Tampa Museum of Art. But the Ybor City is like a living museum and a time capsule of Florida’s early Cuban settlers. Get a guided tour to learn about the cigar industry that put the city on the map.
Eat & Drink: Columbia Restaurant is the most well-known restaurant in town, serving Cuban food since 1905. Ulele offers modern interpretations of these dishes, set on the Tampa Riverwalk. The city has no shortage of craft breweries and swanky cocktail bars, but you can also catch a show at Skipper’s Smokehouse or Green Iguana, two of the city’s live music venues.
Stay: The Epicurean Hotel is a culinary-inspired boutique hotel in the historic Hyde Park North neighborhood with a chef’s demonstration kitchen. Gram’s Place Hoste l is the city’s budget accommodation, named for musician Gram Parsons, which has rooms inspired by train cars.
Breakfast: Head to Oxford Exchange for breakfast, which is equal parts restaurant, coffee shop, and trendy boutique.
Stop 3: Tampa to South Walton, Florida
Stop Locations: Tampa, FL to South Walton, FL
Total Travel Time: 6 hours
Total Miles: 414 miles
Recommended Route: Head back north the way you came on I-75 until you reach I-10 in Lake City. This highway traverses the Florida panhandle and beyond. Cut down one of the many county roads until you see the ocean.
Along the Way:
Detour: Hop off I-75 to State Road 44 to visit Crystal River, which is known for the manatees that inhabit the natural springs year-round. There are snorkeling excursions throughout the river.
Do: The best thing to do in South Walton is to spend time on the sugar sand beaches. But if you’re looking for a change, head to Eden Gardens State Park, a historic homestead that offers tours. Be sure to explore the town of Seaside, which was used as the main filming location for the movie The Truman Show. The Underwater Museum of Art is an underwater installation that can be viewed only by snorkeling or diving.
Eat & Drink: Set on a lake in Santa Rosa Beach, Stinky’s Fish Camp is a seafood restaurant and wine bar where you can enjoy everything from gumbo to fish tacos. Grab a drink at Grayton Beer Company’s taproom, including their lineup of sours, IPAs, and stouts.
Stay: The Pearl Hotel in Rosemary Beach is one of South Walton’s finest hotels with balconies overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Grayton Beach State Park offers oceanfront campsites and two-bedroom cabins.
Stop 4: South Walton to Destin, Florida
Stop Locations: South Walton, FL to Destin, FL
Total Travel Time: 35 minutes
Total Miles: 20 miles
Recommended Route: From the beaches of South Walton, take US-98 west along the coast, passing through Point Washington State Forest to your next oceanfront destination.
Along the Way:
Do: Baytowne Wharf is the hub of much of Destin’s dining, shopping, and excursions for fishing and kayaking. It also hosts live music every week. Book a day trip to Crab Island, a sandbar in the Choctawhatchee Bay where you can stand in the crystal-blue water and spot fish. There’s also Waterworld, a floating restaurant open seasonally.
Eat & Drink: Boathouse Oyster Bar is a popular hangout for cold beer and fresh oysters with dollar bills tacked to the walls. Grab dinner with a side of live music at Graffiti Restaurant & The Funky Blues Shack, which hosts bands of every genre.
Stay: Destin is mostly made up of resorts and rental condominiums. Hilton Sandestin Golf Resort & Spa is the original resort in Destin with something for everyone, from family-friendly fun to an award-winning spa. Or get away from the crowds at Henderson Park Inn, an adults-only all-inclusive resort right on the ocean.
Breakfast: Head to Donut Hole Bakery Cafe early to avoid waiting in line for a table. Don’t miss the doughnuts, pancakes, and massive omelets.
Stop 5: Destin to Navarre Beach, Florida
Stop Locations: Destin, FL to Navarre Beach, FL
Total Travel Time: 35 minutes
Total Miles: 23 miles
Recommended Route: Continue down US-98 through Okaloosa Island until you cross the Navarre Beach Causeway.
Along the Way:
Do: Visitors to Navarre Beach come for the quiet beaches, including those in Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary and Gulf Islands National Seashore, as well as for wildlife. The marine sanctuary also has an artificial reef that is popular for snorkeling and scuba diving. Visitors can also give back at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center, home to non-releasable sea turtles.
Eat & Drink: Juana’s Pagodas & Sailor’s Grill has been a Navarre Beach mainstay since 1989, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the sprawling waterfront deck. They also rent beach chairs so you can get tacos to go while soaking up the sun. Windjammers on the Pier also has Gulf views, fresh seafood, and weekly events like live music and beach yoga.
Stay: Many of Navarre Beach’s accommodations are rental properties and Beach Colony Resort Condos are among the best, with oceanfront balconies and multiple bedrooms for your entire crew. Get as close to the beach as possible at Navarre Beach Camping Resort, which has campsites for RVs as well as cabins.
Breakfast: J.J. Chago’s opens early for the go-getters, serving breakfast tacos and coffee from Amavida Coffee Roasters, located in South Walton.
Stop 6: Navarre Beach to Pensacola, Florida
Stop Locations: Navarre Beach, FL to Pensacola, FL
Total Travel Time: 40 minutes
Total Miles: 26 miles
Recommended Route: Cross back over the causeway and onto US-98 as you go over Pensacola Bay into historic Pensacola.
Along the Way:
Do: Pensacola is known as the “City of Five Flags” for being ruled by different nations since its settling in 1559. Learn about its origins at the T.T. Wentworth Jr. Museum, an eclectic collection that includes a petrified cat and the shoe of the then world’s tallest man. The Pensacola Lighthouse and Maritime Museum dates back to 1859 and is located within the naval station, offering views of the bay.
Eat & Drink: Open since 1967, Seville Quarter is a former warehouse that now houses seven bars, restaurants, and shops into one entertainment district, each with its own atmosphere. An admission fee covers the price of live music. McGuire’s Irish Pub is a popular steakhouse, located in a 1920s firehouse now covered inside with dollar bills from patrons. It also hosts authentic Irish music.
Stay: The hotels in Pensacola and Pensacola Beach are the same chains and rentals you’ll find throughout the Florida Panhandle, but there are a few unique options. The Pensacola Grand Hotel is inside the city’s 1912 passenger rail depot and now has comfortable guest rooms and a heated pool. Lee House is another boutique hotel in an 1866 home with a wraparound porch and daily homemade cookies.
Breakfast: Save room for a hearty breakfast at Polonza Bistro, which is known for its breakfast burritos and biscuits and gravy.
Stop 7: Pensacola to Florabama
Stop Locations: Pensacola, FL to Florabama, AL
Total Travel Time: 1 hours
Total Miles: 34 miles
Recommended Route: Take 292 past the naval station as it winds through Perdido Key and into Gulf Shores. Keep in mind that when you cross over into Alabama, you are switching to Central Time.
Along the Way:
Nature: Perdido Key and its beaches are a part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, which has walking trails and birdwatching. Johnson’s Beach is one of the most beautiful spots for swimming and picnics. Big Lagoon State Park is a part of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, which covers the entire state by boat.
Do: “FloraBama” is a general name given to the towns along the Florida and Alabama state line, including Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. The Hugh Branyon Backcountry Trail connects these beach communities through a paved bike path where you might spot an alligator lazily sleeping on the creek bed. Gulf State Park also has trails, beaches, and geocaching. Learn about the creatures of coastal Alabama on a boat tour of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.
Eat & Drink: Big Fish Restaurant is set apart as one of the few upscale seafood restaurants in Florabama, featuring fresh-caught fish. The Flying Harpoon hosts live music and karaoke but also offers Louisiana-style po’ boy sandwiches.
End your night at the Flora Bama Lounge, a legendary dive bar on the state line. It frequently hosts country music acts, mechanical bull riding, and even church services in the maze of rooms covered with discarded bras. Sip on a Bushwhacker, a boozy slushie popular on the coast.
Stay: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have dozens of condominium skyscrapers that line the beach, but Turquoise Place is the most luxurious with a resort-style pool, hot tubs on the balconies, and full kitchens. Visitors can also enjoy primitive camping in glamping tents on the Backcountry Trail.
Breakfast: Bring your appetite to Hazel’s Nook, a country cooking restaurant that has a breakfast buffet with country ham, scrambled eggs, and biscuits and gravy.
Stop 8: Florabama to Mobile, Alabama
Stop Locations: Florabama, AL to Mobile, AL
Total Travel Time: 1 hour
Total Miles: 54 miles
Recommended Route: Head north on Highway 59, which goes through towns like Foley, where you can take the Foley Beach Express for faster travel. Otherwise, continue on 59 to I-10 over Mobile Bay and into downtown Mobile.
Along the Way:
Photo Op: Magnolia Springs is a charming town on Mobile Bay that has one of the most stunning oak-lined streets around. The appropriately named Oak Street is one such place, surrounded by Victorian homes. It’s also one of the few towns to have mail delivered by boat.
Do: Mobile is another town that was once held by the French, Spanish, and English. Learn about the port’s importance at Fort Conde, a recreation of the French fort built in 1723. Because of these influences, Mobile was one of the first places in America to celebrate Carnival, now known as Mardi Gras. The Mobile Carnival Museum has artifacts like parade floats and carnival ball attire. GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico has interactive exhibits on life on the gulf, including hurricane protection, offshore oil drilling, seafood, and cargo ship imports.
Eat & Drink: Wintzell’s Oyster House opened in 1938 and has been serving Gulf oysters oysters “fried, stewed, or nude” ever since, along with gumbo and other coastal favorites. Panini Pete’s is popular with the lunch crowd for its grilled sandwiches, but don’t miss the beignets, which are served with just a hint of lemon juice.
Grab a drink at one of the venues along Dauphin Street, which allows open containers of alcohol. Callaghan’s Irish Social Club has been open since 1946 in the Oakleigh Garden District and frequently hosts live music. The Merry Widow is a fun spot for funky cocktails and music, along with the occasional burlesque show.
Stay: The Battle House Hotel is one of Mobile’s best-known hotels with a grand lobby, a full-service spa, and three restaurants. Just down the street, guests can stay at The Admiral Hotel, a Curio Collection property that features Art Deco-style decor.
Breakfast: Eat your breakfast of a cappuccino and oatmeal on the go from Nova Espresso before hitting the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Stop 9: Mobile to Biloxi, Mississippi
Stop Locations: Mobile, AL to Biloxi, MS
Total Travel Time: 1 hour
Total Miles: 62 miles
Recommended Route: Hop on I-10 right in downtown Mobile, which will take you across the state line into Mississippi. Turn onto 110, which dead ends along the coast.
Along the Way:
Photo Op: On your way through Pascagoula, stop to see the Round Island Lighthouse, which previously stood on its namesake island in the Mississippi Sound. It was destroyed in 1998 by Hurricane Georges but was relocated to the Pascagoula harbor. During the initial restoration, it was again hit, this time by Hurricane Katrina. But as of 2014, the lighthouse has been completely restored, complete with its original lantern.
Do: While Biloxi may be known as a gambler’s paradise, there’s more to see than the casino floor. The Walter Anderson Museum of Art is named for the painter and writer that called this area home and features his incredible works on the state’s plant and animal life. The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum focuses on the region’s importance for shrimp boats and includes artifacts that survived Hurricane Katrina.
Eat & Drink: Biloxi proper doesn’t have an abundance of restaurants outside of the ones within hotels, but you’re never far from a good meal within a short drive. The Blind Tiger originally opened in Bay St. Louis in 1933 but also has a Biloxi location, serving boiled crawfish and shrimp po’ boys. The Shed BBQ in Ocean Springs is a legendary restaurant and blues venue with house-smoked pork and all the fixings.
Stay: Stay in luxury at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, a massive MGM-owned casino on the ocean. It has dozens of restaurants, a spa, and all sorts of games of chance. For a quieter stay, visit the small town of Ocean Springs to the Inn at Ocean Springs, a charming bed and breakfast in a 1911 home.
Breakfast: The Greenhouse has locations in Biloxi and Ocean Springs and is known for its incredible biscuits, served sweet or savory with pimento cheese or jam.
Stop 10: Biloxi to New Orleans, Louisiana
Stop Locations: Biloxi, MS to New Orleans, LA
Total Travel Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Miles: 92 miles
Recommended Route: Continue down I-10 west until it crosses the eastern side of Lake Pontchartrain, signaling your arrival in New Orleans.
Along the Way:
Detour: Bay St. Louis is a charming town along the Mississippi Gulf Coast that is home to a thriving arts community. Stop at the Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum, named for a local folk artist. It’s free to visit and includes some of her most notable works.
Do: “The Big Easy” has so much to experience that it’s difficult to limit yourself to one day. But if you want a quick overview of the city, start at Mardi Gras World, where some of the most intricate Mardi Gras floats are created. Then head to the incredible National World War II Museum, which details the conflict and its ties to Louisiana. End the day at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum , which covers the all-important history of the region’s cuisine. You can even sip a cocktail while exploring the exhibits.
Eat & Drink: There are endless incredible meals in New Orleans so it can be overwhelming to choose one. Antoine’s Restaurant is the city’s oldest, serving classic Creole dishes like oysters Rockefeller and Trout Meunière since 1840. Domilise’s Bakery is another favorite neighborhood po’ boy restaurant that has been family-owned since 1918.
There are plenty of places to see live music, but none compares to Preservation Hal l. If you can’t get a coveted spot on the floor at the hall, head to Frenchmen Street to see jazz at venues like T he Spotted Ca t and d.b.a.
Stay: The Pontchartrain Hotel opened in 1927 as an apartment building but became a hotel in the 1940s. It hosted celebrities like Frank Sinatra and The Doors and Tennessee Williams even wrote A Streetcar Named Desire while staying here. It’s been renovated with modern details like plush bathrobes and a rooftop bar.
Breakfast: Cafe du Monde is known for its beignets and chicory coffee, open 24 hours a day in the French Quarter. The line for a table can be overwhelming, so grab your breakfast to-go from the window behind the restaurant to enjoy on a park bench in Jackson Square.
Stop 11: New Orleans to Memphis, Tennessee
Stop Locations: New Orleans, LA to Memphis, TN
Total Travel Time: 5 hours 45 minutes
Total Miles: 395 miles
Recommended Route: Bypass Lake Pontchartrain to the west via I-55 to the north through Jackson until arriving on the southern side of Memphis. Alternatively, you can take the country roads through the Mississippi Delta north of Jackson on Highway 61, also known as the Blues Highway.
Along the Way:
Town: The capital city of Jackson played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement, now documented at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum , which covers the slave trade to the fight for racial equality. The adjacent Museum of Mississippi History highlights the rest of the state’s history including the colonial era and Native American history.
Eat & Drink: Dine at one of Jackson’s soul food establishments, including Bully’s Soul Food and Big Apple Inn. The latter is known for its pig ear sandwiches. If time allows, grab a drink at Cathead Distillery, one of the state’s first distilleries.
Roadside Attraction: The Mississippi Petrified Forest in Flora is one of two in the eastern United States. Here, fir and maple logs were petrified over 30 million years ago and have retained fossils of plants and animals.
Do: Memphis is a must-see destination for music lovers who can visit the recording studios where some of America’s most incredible tunes were performed. Sun Studio offers tours of where the “Million Dollar Quartet” of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins came together. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music has exhibits on the recording label’s iconic artists like Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. Graceland, the residence of Elvis, is open for tours, showcasing his funky decor and impressive car collection. It’s also important to visit the
National Civil Rights Museum in the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
Eat & Drink: Memphis is known for ribs and The Bar B Q Shop is one of the best places to eat them, open since 1987. Also on the menu is Bar-B-Q Spaghetti, a dish you’ll only find in Memphis. Hog & Hominy crafts modern Southern dishes with Italian inspiration, including biscuit gnocchi and wood-fired pizzas.
There’s always music playing on Beale Street, the city’s notorious entertainment district with venues like BB King’s Blues Clu b and Rum Boogie Cafe. Hernando’s Hideaway is another music venue and restaurant where Elvis and his contemporaries played, now serving local beer and burgers.
Stay: The Peabody Hotel first opened in downtown Memphis in 1869 but has been in its current building since 1925. The grand hotel has been the site of countless moments in history, including the signing of Elvis’ first recording deal. Today it’s known for its summer rooftop parties and the ducks that make their way into the lobby fountain daily.
The Central Station Hotel converted the city’s passenger depot into a stylish hotel with a lobby DJ spinning tunes from Memphis and beyond, along with a trendy restaurant. Rooms feature views of the Mississippi River.
Breakfast: Arcade Restaurant was a favorite of Elvis and you can eat breakfast in his booth. Opened in 1919, you can dine on sweet potato pancakes and French toast.
Stop 12: Memphis to Nashville, Tennessee
Stop Locations: Memphis, TN to Nashville, TN
Total Travel Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Total Miles: 212 miles
Recommended Route: Get on I-40 in Memphis, which will take you directly into Nashville through rural West Tennessee.
Along the Way:
Roadside Attraction: The West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center/Tina Turner Museum in the small town of Brownsville honors the local girl that became one of the world’s most incredible performers. Located right off I-40, the museum is in the former school Anna Mae Bullock (Turner’s given name) attended and has artifacts like her flashy costumes and gold records.
Detour: Hop off the highway to go 15 minutes north to Hurricane Mills, the home of legendary Tennessee artist Loretta Lynn. The Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum at Loretta Lynn Ranch is just one way to learn about her rise to fame from poverty in rural Kentucky with artifacts like clothing and awards.
Do: Start at the Country Music Hall of Fame, a sprawling museum that traces the genre’s influences from church hymns and Appalachian “old time” music. The nearby, but attached, Johnny Cash & Patsy Cline Museums showcase items belonging to both artists, including the chair Cash used in his final music video and kitchen furniture from Cline’s Virginia home. End your day at the Grand Ole Opry, a long-running radio broadcast that has made names out of countless country musicians.
Eat & Drink: You might have heard of “Nashville hot chicken,” but you might not know that Prince’s Hot Chicken is the place where it was created, reportedly as revenge on a cheating husband. The spicy pieces of chicken are served on a slice of white bread with a pickle. Peg Leg Porker BBQ has been named one of the country’s best barbecue restaurants, smoking pork for ribs and sandwiches until they run out.
Broadway is the most popular area to catch a show at places like Robert’s Western World, which has the famous “Recession Special:” a fried bologna sandwich, chips, and a beer for $6. The Bluebird Cafe is another iconic venue with intimate performances from big names and rising stars.
Stay: The Union Station Hotel is set inside Nashville’s 120-year-old rail station, with the lobby of the station now serving as the hotel lobby, decorated in stained glass and ornate chandeliers. It’s on Broadway, a short walk from the city’s music venues. Urban Cowboy Bed & Breakfast in East Nashville is made up of eight unique suites inspired by the Music City with clawfoot tubs and iron beds.
Breakfast: There are plenty of places to eat biscuits in town, but Loveless Cafe is the original, opened as a roadside motel in 1951 near the Natchez Trace Parkway. Enjoy fresh-made biscuits with country ham or one of their classic jellies.
Stop 13: Nashville to Athens, Georgia
Stop Locations: Nashville, TN to Athens, GA
Total Travel Time: 5 hours
Total Miles: 307 miles
Recommended Route: Start the long day’s drive on I-24 south, which winds through Chattanooga’s Lookout and Signal mountains. From there, transfer to I-75 south, the road that started your journey, until you bypass Atlanta in I-285. Turn onto I-85, exiting for State Road 29, which runs into Athens.
Along the Way:
Detour: Head to the small town of Lynchburg, also known as the home of Jack Daniel’s Distillery. It’s here that all of the company’s whiskey sold worldwide is produced. Take a tour and learn about the surrounding town, located in a dry county. It’s only one stop along the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, so on your next visit download the app to use as your virtual passport.
Town: Chattanooga is a funky mountain town with quirky attractions like Rock City, Ruby Falls, and the Incline Railway, all located around Lookout Mountain. But there’s also the Tennessee Aquarium, one of the nation’s best aquariums, with both fresh and saltwater species.
Roadside Attraction: One of the most unique attractions on this stretch of road is in Athens itself. The Tree That Owns Itself is on a quiet street that you might not notice if not for the plaque. The rumor goes that in the 1800s, a local colonel loved an oak tree on his property so much that he deeded it to the tree. The original 400-year-old tree fell during a storm in 1942, but the current tree was propagated from its acorns. It’s protected for future generations by the Junior Ladies’ Garden Club.
Do: The University of Georgia has incredible facilities, including the Georgia Museum of Art. It features the work of self-taught and Southern artists like Howard Finster and Lamar Dodd. Outside of town, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia is a sprawling green space with trails and native plant species. And in neighboring Watkinsville, visitors can drive through the Elder Mill Covered Bridge, one of the few remaining in the country.
Eat & Drink: Just because Athens is a college town doesn’t mean you have to eat like a student. Five & Ten is one of celebrity chef Hugh Acheson’s restaurants, serving Southern dishes like frogmore stew and pimento cheese. Or grab tacos and burgers at White Tiger Gourmet, a hundred-year-old former grocery store.
Visit the downtown clubs that made names for countless artists, including the 40 Watt Club and the Georgia Theatre. You can also catch a performance at the historic Morton Theatre, a former vaudeville theater where Cab Calloway and Bessie Smith played.
Stay: The Graduate Hotel Athens is located in a former iron foundry not far from campus. It has The Foundry, their in-house music venue, along with a spa and coffee shop. Rooms feature nods to the University of Georgia and its mascot bulldogs.
Breakfast: Enjoy a Southern-style breakfast like French toast with Georgia peaches or biscuits and gravy at Mama’s Boy. After your meal, make the short walk on the Oconee River Greenway to see the decommissioned rail trestle that was featured on R.E.M.’s Murmur album cover.
Stop 14: Athens to Atlanta , Georgia
Stop Locations: Athens, GA to Atlanta, GA
Total Travel Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Miles: 72 miles
Recommended Route: Return the way you came on 29 and then onward to I-85 until you see the familiar skyline of Atlanta.
Along the Way:
Do: Start your visit in Atlanta at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which includes his childhood home, his church, and a visitor’s center with exhibits on the Civil Rights Movement. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights continues that story with additional information on the struggles of LGBTQ and immigrant communities. The Atlanta History Center is another important resource that details the history of the city.
Eat & Drink: Paschal’s was founded in 1947 as a sandwich spot but became a soul food spot popular with leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. Miller Union has been nominated for James Beard awards for its Southern-focused farm-to-table cuisine. You can enjoy the popular farm egg with celery cream along with seasonal vegetables.
Eddie’s Attic has been responsible for launching the careers of countless artists like John Mayer, Shawn Mullins, and the Civil Wars. The Decatur venue hosts open mic nights. If you love dive bars, head to Northside Tavern, which has live blues music nightly.
Stay: The American Hotel was an early Atlanta motor lodge that was one of the first to be racially integrated. Now the former DoubleTree near Centennial Olympic Park has been renovated into the midcentury style it had when it opened. In the trendy Old Fourth Ward, Hotel Clermont is the perfect base for dining out, walking the Beltline path, and shopping at Ponce City Market.
Breakfast: Atlanta Breakfast Club is right next to the attractions in Centennial Olympic Park, serving Southern classics like chicken and waffles.