Historic tracks lead us on a rail tour through the heartland of great American music - from Nashville, home of Country Music, to the Blues, Soul and Rock 'n' Roll of Memphis and the jazz of New Orleans.
We fly from London Heathrow to Atlanta and transfer to our hotel, the Holiday Inn & Suites Atlanta Airport South, for an overnight stay.
A morning sightseeing tour explores this fascinating city. Entrance is also included to the Martin Luther King Center and Church which pays homage to the man himself as well as the civil rights movement which he was part of. The tour continues to Margaret Mitchell House, where the author wrote her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, 'Gone with the Wind'. Following free time for lunch, we transfer to Chattanooga. This evening, we check in to the Doubletree by Hilton Chattanooga Downtown.
Our coach takes us through Tennessee to Lynchburg, capital of Moore County. Moore County has been 'dry' since the days of prohibition, which makes its main attraction all the more extraordinary - it is the home of Jack Daniel's Distillery. After a tour of the distillery we continue to Nashville, staying for three nights at Gaylord Opryland Nashville. This evening, we visit the legendary Grand Ole Opry, one of the oldest and most iconic country music venues in the US. Founded as a radio station in 1925, today this classic music venue still hosts the same regular broadcast, now with a popular extended format, in addition to regular stage shows - the likes of which we are treated to tonight. Enjoy live music performed on 'country's most famous stage'.
Since the 1940s Nashville has been synonymous with country music, with its collection of recording studios on 'Music Row' and the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry for three decades. A morning guided tour introduces you to the sights before we visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, the world's largest music museum, for an amazing 'who's who' in the world of country music.
Day 5 is free to explore Nashville under your own steam. Named the capital of Tennessee in 1843, today the city is considered by many to be the true home of country music. Perhaps delve into the rich music scene of the city, enjoy traditional southern food in a typical American diner, or soak up some 200 years of history at one of Nashville's historic sites.
Our journey through Tennessee continues to Memphis, pausing en-route at Jackson, where you have free time for lunch and a spot of sightseeing - perhaps visit the Rock-a-Billy Hall of Fame. We then stop at the Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville, a series of museums dedicated to the history of the south, from its musical traditions to its infamous history of slave labour in the cotton fields.
We complete our journey to Memphis later this afternoon, where we check in to the Doubletree Downtown Memphis. The rest of your day is at leisure.
This morning we pay a visit to the fantastic Graceland, Elvis' 14 acre mansion, and view his preserved living quarters, private aircraft and car collections. This afternoon introduces the sights of Memphis' extraordinary musical history. We visit Sun Studio, which lays claim to being the birthplace of rock 'n' roll, with a roster featuring Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.
This morning we board Amtrak's City of New Orleans service, heading through Mississippi to Louisiana. It is claimed that the Blues spread along this route by rail. The pretty, floral towns of Brookhaven and McComb lead into the exotic Cajun swamps of the Louisiana Bayou. We take the train as far as Hammond, from where we transfer by coach to the Oak Alley Plantation, for a guided tour. This restored house stands as testament to both the grand lives of Louisiana land owners and the suffering of those enslaved here.
One of the many sugar plantations that once lined the Mississippi River, Oak Alley retains the grandeur of its heyday, aided by restorations taken out after 1925. Featuring typical Greek-revival architecture, the approach to this antebellum property is particularly impressive, shaded by a canopy of bowed oak trees, thought to be 300 years old. Our guided tour reveals the history of the magnificent house, sometimes referred to as the 'Grande Dame of the Great River Road', along with its splendid grounds. Later, we continue by coach to New Orleans, where we stay at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel.
Your entire day is free to soak up the splendour of New Orleans. Roaring with life, the 'Big Easy' is known as the south's party city thanks to Mardi Gras, yet year-round there is a sense of spirited adventure and playfulness here. A wander through the colourful streets will offer an excellent introduction to the eclectic architecture stretching back centuries, whilst restaurants here offer a taste of hearty southern cuisine influenced by the various cultures that rub shoulders here - from spicy Creole cooking to the fried meats that are synonymous with the south.
On Day 11, departing from New Orleans, we board our Amtrak service to Houston. We begin Day 12 in Houston with a guided tour of the city's main landmarks, including the Allen's Landing and NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. On Day 13, we transfer to the airport for our return flight to London, arriving the following day.
For our February 24th 2019 departure a grandstand ticket for the New Orleans Mardi Gras (or 'Fat Tuesday') celebrations is included in the price. Mardi Gras is one of the biggest and most colourful celebrations in America, with a plethora of parades, jazz, and food to enliven anyone who visits. Taking place on what is otherwise known as 'Shrove Tuesday' in the Easter season, this is one of America's oldest traditions, with the first one being held in 1699. Enjoy this incredible experience - it is certainly unforgettable.
Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.
All prices are per person and assume full occupancy of the room.
Please always refer to the website for up-to-date prices and availability.
Amtrak trains provide the passenger rail services in the USA, and relaxing on board one of its comfortable long distance trains is simply the best way to discover this vast country, its great cities and ever-changing landscape.
On overnight journeys, accommodation is in a Roomette Cabin, which are comfortable but compact. Inside you have two comfortable reclining seats beside a large window, which convert to upper and lower berths at night. Each cabin has individual climate control, a fold down table, fresh towels and complimentary bottled water. WC, shower and washroom facilities are located at the end of each carriage. Roomettes are located on both the upper and lower levels of the double-deck carriages.
On some Amtrak trains a limited number of bedrooms are available at a supplement. These cabins have a daytime sofa that converts to a wide lower berth and a comfortable upper berth at night, and the added benefit of their own en suite shower, washbasin and WC. During daytime journeys we travel in comfortable seats with plenty of legroom. On tours involving journeys on overnight sleeper services, passengers enjoy a meal in the restaurant car if they are travelling during a mealtime. Passengers travelling during the day may purchase meals from the restaurant car where this service is provided. Many Amtrak trains also have Lounge, Dinette and Café cars where passengers can buy snacks, meals and beverages and take advantage of the comfy seating.
The City of New Orleans serves the 926-mile (1,490km) route between Chicago and the Great Lakes in the north to the Gulf of Mexico and the city of New Orleans in the south. On our Tracks of the Deep South tour, we join the train for just a section of this route from Memphis, Tennessee, through Mississippi and Louisiana to New Orleans - a journey of just under 9 hours, all in daylight. It is particularly apt, given the musical theme of our Tracks of the Deep South tour, that the City of New Orleans is the subject of a folk song of the same name written and performed by Steve Goodman. The song, which describes the journey made by the City of New Orleans, was subsequently covered by artists such as Arlo Guthrie, Johnny Cash, John Denver and Willie Nelson, amongst others.
Lookout Mountain played an important part in the American Civil War, as it was where the Union forces suffered one of their greatest defeats. So, by the late 19th century, Lookout Mountain had become a popular attraction for tourists, but it took a long time to ascend - horse drawn buggies were the quickest option, and they took about four hours.
With the advent of railways, the idea of a mountain railway was proposed to reduce the time taken to reach the top. A direct route was planned and then built on; this ran for a mile from St Elmo to the summit. The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway was opened in November 1895, and has been a firm favourite with locals and tourists ever since. In 1911 the steam locomotives were replaced with diesel engines, but apart from that very little has changed on the line since its opening.
Due to the tremendous scenery it passes, the railway is sometimes referred to as "America's most amazing mile". The line is also loved by railway enthusiasts as in places it reaches an incline of 72.7% - making it one of the steepest passenger railways in the world.
The Tennessee Valley Railroad is a heritage railway company that was established in 1961. Unusually for a heritage railway, it was not formed to preserve a particular route or railway line from closing down. Initially it was designed to be a museum, preserving whatever railway equipment was donated to them.
But in 1969, the company was given a 4-acre railway yard, as the Southern Railroad had built a new one, and so no longer had use for it. Using this site, the Tennessee Valley Railroad was able to construct an operational line for its steam locomotives, as well as a fine place to store and maintain them. A bridge had to be constructed to restore the track between the depot and the Cromwell Road terminus six miles away, which proved to be a lengthy process. The line was operational in 1977 and has been a great success, proving popular with all ages as an experience of the bygone age of steam.
Our trip on the Tennessee Valley Railroad begins at the Grand Junction Station in Chattanooga, which is a modern replica of the station in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Hauled by either a steam or vintage diesel locomotive, we take the Missionary Ridge route on a 55 minute round trip to East Chattanooga Depot and back. The journey takes us through one of Tennessee's oldest railroad tunnels, which was constructed in the mid-19th century. We also witness the locomotive turning around using the Tennessee Valley Railroad's turntable at the East Chattanooga Depot and enjoy a guided tour of the maintenance and restoration shop where the railroad's historic locomotives are repaired, repainted and rebuilt.
In Atlanta we stay at the 3-Star Courtyard by Marriot Atlanta Airport South, conveniently located just minutes from the airport. The hotel provides comfortable guest rooms and a great range of facilities, including a swimming pool, fitness centre, an à la carte restaurant serving American cuisine and a full bar.
In Chattanooga, you will stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown.
A short distance from the centre of the fourth largest American city, the 3-Star Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks is our home in Houston, boasting comfortable, minimalist rooms with fantastic views across the city. Facilities here include an outdoor pool, a fitness room and a restaurant and bar. The rooms enjoy complimentary WiFi, a television and a fridge.
Located in the heart of Memphis opposite the famous minor-league "Autozone Ballpark", the DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel Memphis Downtown is within easy walking distance of Beale Street - birthplace of the blues. The hotel has an outdoor pool and fitness room, and each room has air-conditioning, a telephone, television, tea and coffee making facilities and a hairdryer.
Located within walking distance of the Grand Ole Opry, the Opryland Resort in Nashville by Marriott is a modern, luxury hotel. Services for guests include a salon, concierge, game room, newspapers, safety deposit boxes, dry cleaning and access to the hotel's spa and fitness centre. Individual rooms feature high-speed Internet access, minibar fridge and coffee maker, telephone, TV with satellite, a safe and room service.
The Sheraton New Orleans Hotel is located on Canal Street, close to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street. The hotel has a bistro serving typical New Orleans cuisine, a bar offering a range of drinks and light snacks and a Starbucks. Leisure facilities include an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre with cardiovascular equipment, weights, steam rooms and saunas. (Please note: a fee applies for use of the fitness centre.) Rooms are air conditioned and feature a telephone, television, radio alarm clock, coffee maker, safe and a hairdryer. Many of the rooms offer views over the Mississippi or the French Quarter.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Enhancing your tour
We offer a selection of upgrades and 'add-ons' designed to help you make the most of your holiday - and make it even easier!
Upgrade your flight to World Traveller Plus from £400 per person each way.
Spending a night in London before your tour can make such a
difference to the first day of your holiday - you can arrive in the
capital in good time, relaxed and ready to join your Tour Manager
the next morning. You may even want to take in a show on the West
End, or dine in one of London's famous restaurants. Perhaps on your
return to London, you would like to break your journey with an
overnight stay before continuing home.
We are able to book a wide range of hotels in central London or, for our holidays beginning with a flight, at Heathrow, Gatwick or Manchester Airport for the night before or after your holiday. The hotels listed below are some of the more popular hotels our customers book in Central London, others are available on request.
|Hotel||Room Rate From Price|
|The Ambassador Hotel||From £65 per person|
|Pullman London St Pancras||From £110 per person|
|Studios2Let, Cartright Gardens||From £55 per person|
Above prices are approximate, subject
to availability, and per room per night based on two people
sharing. If you require a quote for single occupancy at any of the
hotels please contact us on 01904 734 805.
Buying tickets for UK train services can be a tricky business - there are so many fares to choose from, each with different rules and restrictions. As you are connecting with an international departure, we strongly recommend that you book a fully flexible ticket to ensure that should the departure times for your holiday change, your rail ticket can allow for these changes.
We can book fully-flexible UK rail tickets from your local station to join your holiday whether this be a European holiday from St Pancras or a UK holiday. The prices are competitive and tickets are not restricted to a particular train or time of day, and in most cases offer you a free choice of routes.
For an up to date quote from your local station, please ask one of our Tour Advisors.