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Tracks of the Deep South

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202420252026
14 days From £4,395 per person
4.2 stars(99 reviews)
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Discover the rich historic soundtracks of America’s Deep South, taking nostalgic journeys on legendary rail routes

Mobility Rating 2

2025 Tour code: DSG25

About the tour

Historic tracks lead us on an unforgettable rail tour through the heartlands of great American music - from Nashville, home of country music, to the blues, soul and rock 'n' roll of Memphis and the expressive jazz of New Orleans. Starting our journey in North Carolina, we discover the music legends of Tennessee, then continue on the City of New Orleans train through Mississippi to Louisiana, tracing musical tracks on a culture-packed adventure.

Unforgettable experiences

Nashville
Nashville
Watch a live country music show at the legendary Grand Ole’ Opry on a fabulous tour of Nashville, also known as ‘Music City’.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Take a journey on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad into the fabulous Smoky Mountains National Park. Travelling aboard a restored heritage train, our route follows the Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers.
New Orleans
New Orleans
Discover Café Du Monde in New Orleans' wonderful open air French Market in the French Quarter and try beignets and café au lait on a guided sightseeing tour.
Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
Enjoy an elating trip on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, one of the world's steepest passenger railways which has been running since 1895.
Oak Alley Plantation
Oak Alley Plantation
Visit Oak Alley Plantation and learn about Louisiana’s role in America's Slave Trade during the 19th century at this historic sugar cane plantation.
Graceland
Graceland
Visit Graceland, in Memphis, the 14-acre mansion which was Elvis Presley’s home – wander through his preserved living quarters, and view his jaw-dropping collection of classic cars and private jets.

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - To Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city

Our holiday begins at London Heathrow, where we meet our Tour Manager and the rest of our group of fellow travellers before joining our flight to Charlotte, North Carolina. After touching down in Charlotte, we transfer to our city centre hotel to spend our first night. In this sleek modern city, Downtown is known as Uptown, due to its position on a slight ridge. Our hotel is right in the heart of Uptown, which has a cosmopolitan atmosphere, pedestrianised streets and a great range of restaurants to choose from when you head out for dinner this evening.

Day 2 - Charlotte to Gatlinburg, gateway to the Smoky Mountains

This morning we travel by coach to our next destination, Gatlinburg, Tennessee with an impressive stop enroute in Ashville, in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Up among this iconic American landscape, part of the Appalachian Trail, is Biltmore House - the largest stately home in the United States, once the home of the railroad magnate, George Vanderbilt and his family. We enjoy a buffet lunch at the Stable Café before a self-guided tour of this grand, historic estate.

We continue by coach to Gatlinburg, a characterful mountain resort town at the gateway to the evocative Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Arriving in the late afternoon, we check into our hotel, close to Gatlinburg's downtown area. The remainder of the day and evening is free to get acquainted with the town, where we spend the next two nights. Eating options in Gatlinburg are typical of the Deep South: steakhouses, Cajun-style restaurants and pizzerias. The town also has a brewery, a cider house and a 'moonshine' distillery, plus a highly-rated coffee shop, popular for its locally-roasted coffee.

Day 3 - Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Today's excursion is one of our tour highlights as we transfer to Bryson City to take a journey into the fabulous Smoky Mountains National Park on the historic Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Travelling aboard a restored heritage railway, our route follows the Tennessee and Nantahala River, crossing a historic bridge over the expansive Fontana Lake and into the stunning Nantahala Gorge. There is a choice of onboard dining options or you could choose to pre-purchase a packed lunch to dine as we travel. This 4 and a half hour round-trip through the Gorge a stop to relax along the river.

We transfer back to our hotel in Gatlinburg and have another chance this evening to savour some great Southern food in one of the town's inviting restaurants. Local specialities to try are the clam chowder, crab stuffed with shrimps, and seafood hush puppies.

Please note: for Mardi Gras departures, this train won't be operating. Instead we will drive through the Great Smoky Mountains, making scenic stops in the National Park.

Day 4 - A night in Chattanooga, Nashville, Look Out Mountain Incline Railway

Today we make our way to the city of Chattanooga, famous as the site of several battles in the American Civil War and for its railways which were vital for the Deep South. Set on the banks of the Tennessee River and surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains, Chattanooga's official nickname is 'Scenic City'. After free time over lunch to dine independently, we board the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway for a trip on one of the world's steepest passenger railways. As we travel up among the steep forested hillsides above the Tennessee River to the mountain ridge, we look out across the sprawling city of Chattanooga. At the top of Lookout Mountain is a battlefield site and the Visitor Centre there explains the significance of the site. At the bottom of the Incline Railway is a collection of trading outlets including a coffee shop, ice cream bar and an outdoor restaurant.

We return to Chattanooga and after checking into our downtown hotel for the night you are free to explore this buzzing city and its many tasty eateries. Downtown spans from the Riverside District to Southside Historic District and along that stretch is a great choice of many types of restaurants. On most menus you'll find typical Southern food: sticky barbecued ribs, smoked meats, chicken wings, seafood, and fries with everything! Mexican and Italian food is also popular here, and Puckett's on the river front offers vegetarian friendly meals. The city is also known for its bluegrass music and you may be hear strains of this as you wander through downtown.

Day 5 - To Nashville, the home of country music, via Jack Daniel’s Distillery

This morning we leave Chattanooga by coach, heading to the world's capital of country music, Nashville. On our way to this fabulous music city we stop off in Moore County, Tennessee - an area which has been 'dry' since the days of prohibition, which is extraordinary, given that this is the home of the Jack Daniel's Distillery. During out visit we are taken on a tour and tasting of the iconic whiskey. We then continue to Nashville, where we check into our downtown hotel for three nights. This afternoon there's time to explore and soak up the city's unique atmosphere and history and to enjoy an early dinner independently, before tonight's entertainment.

In the early evening we visit one of Nashville's most famous institutions, the legendary Grand Ole Opry, an excellent introduction to Nashville's music heritage. Founded as a radio station in the mid-1920s, this popular venue still hosts a regular live music broadcast, in addition to its popular stage shows. We take our seats for this extraordinary performance, featuring a line-up of eight or more artists, from legendary music stars to upcoming talent. In 2025 the venue turns 100, so be prepared for a sensational night of live music on 'Country's most famous stage'. At the end of the evening we're transferred back to our downtown hotel - the city's bars and venues will still be humming, if you'd like to keep on partying.

Day 6 - A dive into Nashville’s musical history at the Country Music Hall of Fame

This morning we delve further into Nashville's musical history on a guided tour which introduces us to the main sights of the city. The city has been synonymous with country music since the 1940s, thanks to its collection of famous recording studios on 'Music Row', which is in downtown Nashville.

We visit the legendary RCA Studio B, where artists including Elvis, The Everly Brothers and Dolly Parton once cut records and wrote songs. Our guided tour ends at the fantastic Country Music Hall of Fame, the world's largest music museum where we are free to explore and find out more about the stars and superstars that have shaped the history of country music, from its roots until today. There are various interactive exhibitions here, and the centre has an unrivalled collection of country music recordings dating back to the 1930s.

After this morning's memorable music experience, the rest of the day is free to enjoy at leisure. If you still have an appetite for discovering classic moments in music history you may like to visit the Ryman Auditorium, which hosted the Grand Ole Opry show for three decades, until the early 70s. This beautiful, restored auditorium has an incredible history - in 1945, Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys introduced 'Blue Grass' to a large audience for the first time. Known as 'the Mother Church of Country Music' other artists who performed at the Rymer include June Carter, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. It is possible to take a backstage tour of dressing rooms and you could even record your own version of a legendary song at the auditorium's in-house recording studio.

Day 7 - Rambling free in Nashville, Tennessee

Today, you have a full day and night to explore Nashville at your own pace. Besides its reputation as a music city, Nashville is also known for its vibrant neighbourhoods packed with great indie coffee shops, breweries and boutiques. Plus there's some outstanding cuisine to be enjoyed across the city. While you can take your pick from a fantastic variety of international dishes, from ramen to ravioli, the meals that Nashville does best are traditional Southern comfort foods. Maybe head to a café and order some fiery hot chicken, rich mac and cheese, or a plate of mouth-watering barbecue ribs - you won't regret it.

Other Nashville attractions are the Johnny Cash museum, which has a beautifully curated collection of memorabilia on 'the Man in Black'. A treat for vinyl lovers is to browse in the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, which has an amazing collection of bluegrass, gospel and country music. Another 'not-to-be-missed' experience is to walk down 'Honky Tonk Highway', a vibrant stretch of Broadway which buzzes with live music and honky tonk bars.

Day 8 - Leaving Nashville, to Jackson and into the heart of Memphis

Leaving Nashville this morning our journey through Tennessee continues. On our way to Memphis we make an essential stop at Jackson, famous for its railway culture and as the birthplace of rockabilly music. The city is also the title of a well-known song sung by Johnny Cash and June Carter. We have free time to find lunch independently in this interesting town.

From Jackson we continue to the Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in the historic town of Brownsville, for a guided tour. Among other museums in the collection, one pays tribute to the great vocalist, Tina Turner. The centre is dedicated to the diverse history of the southern states; from the rich musical traditions to the area's infamous history of slave labour in the cotton fields.

We complete our journey to Memphis later this afternoon, checking into our accommodation at The Guest House, right next to Elvis Presley's legendary home, Graceland. This evening we're transferred to vibrant downtown Memphis for a tasty Memphis-style barbecue dinner at a local restaurant. Well known for being cooked 'low 'n' slow', this three-course feast is presented to us in traditional family-buffet style.

Day 9 - Paying tribute to the two ‘Kings’ at Graceland and Sun Studio

After a hot buffet breakfast at our hotel, we set off on today's excursion. We're just 5 minutes' away, so naturally we begin our day with a visit to Graceland - the mansion Elvis Presley called home. We have a fascinating insight into the King of Rock' n' Roll as we experience his preserved living quarters with an eclectic mix of memorabilia on display, and admire his incredible car collections.

This afternoon we're introduced to the main attractions of Memphis' musical history. We visit the iconic Sun Studio, where legendary blues artists Howling Wolf and BB King first cut records. The studio also claims the title of 'the birthplace of rock 'n' roll'… and who are we to dispute that, as both Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash recorded here during their careers.

We're transferred back to our hotel and the rest of the afternoon and evening is free. After some time to unwind and enjoy the hotel facilities, you could step into the past on a trip to downtown Memphis. Beale Street is the heart of the city, known as Rock 'n'roll street and the birthplace of the Blues, the colourful shops and music bars pay tribute to artists including B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Louis Armstrong. With live music in every bar, the street buzzes with an upbeat energy and fun atmosphere.

Day 10 - The City of New Orleans train to Louisiana and the Oak Alley Plantation

This morning we take another trip into the past aboard Amtrak's City of New Orleans train service. The stories go that blues music spread along this route by rail, and we retrace the journey from Tennessee through Mississippi to Louisiana. The views from the train are captivating, as the pretty, floral towns of Brookhaven and McComb lead into the peaceful Cajun creeks of the Louisiana Bayou.

In the afternoon our train arrives in the Louisiana town of Hammond, where a coach takes us to the Oak Alley Plantation for a guided tour. We learn the history of this grand house with its beautiful grounds which stands as a testament to the privileged lives of Louisiana landowners and to the awful suffering of those who were enslaved to work on the sugar cane fields of the plantation.

We continue to New Orleans, where we check into our hotel in the historic heart of this sensational city, right in the French Quarter, for three nights. Our hotel is just around the corner from Bourbon Street, which only simmers with activity during the daytime but comes alive at night with the blast of jazz trumpets, lively cocktail bars (serving exotic drinks, with and without alcohol) and flamboyant dance shows.

Day 11 - The French Quarter and a Mississippi cruise

This morning on a guided tour, a local expert introduces us to the surrounding neighbourhood. Officially a National Historic Landmark, the renowned French Quarter is one of the best-known areas of New Orleans, and the hub of the party during Mardi Gras. During our tour we stop at the fabulous, hugely popular Café Du Monde - an open air café and a great spot for people watching - and enjoy a beignet, a delicious, deep-fried choux pastry, and a café au lait.

After some free time to get to know the city and choose a place to enjoy lunch, we rejoin our group for an afternoon excursion. We board a traditional paddle steamer for a delightful sightseeing cruise along the Mississippi River, taking in the site of the Battle of New Orleans. Our cruise takes place on board the Creole Queen, an authentic steamboat which offers a view of the 'Big Easy' which only the river can provide. After disembarking, you're free to enjoy your evening in this exciting city. As you'll have already discovered, this is carnival city, and during the Mardi Gras the party never stops!

For Mardi Gras departures: today is the parade day and you have tickets to enjoy the show

Day 12 - Free as a bird in New Orleans

Your day is free to soak up the many splendours of New Orleans. Known the world over as the Deep South's party city, due to its dazzling Mardi Gras celebrations, there's a year-round sense of spirited adventure and playfulness. A wander through the colourful streets offers an excellent introduction to NOLA's eclectic architecture that stretches back centuries. For example, the stunning St. Louis Cathedral, North America's oldest cathedral. For an authentic New Orleans experience, you could hop on a streetcar on St Charles' Avenue, taking in the city sights as you travel from uptown to downtown, or maybe spend some time in the peaceful green space of one of the city's great parks.

The French Market, which we visit on our first day, has an amazing history. It started in 1791 as a Native American trading post along the Mississippi, then - as French and Spanish colonists arrived - it gradually evolved into a commercial hub for New Orleans. Over three centuries, immigrants from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean opened up shop here, adding to the colourful array of goods on display, from Caribbean coffees and native American spices to hand-made crafts and unique jewellery.

As you'll have discovered, the French Quarter has an endless choice of enticing eateries for your last evening in the Deep South. Most places offer traditional Southern food, from po-boys (meat, seafood or crawfish-filled bread rolls) and jambalaya to fresh oysters - served raw, baked or char-grilled!

Day 13 - Night flight home – Homeward bound

Make the most of your final morning in New Orleans because, sadly, today our explorations of the American South come to an end. This afternoon we transfer to the airport in New Orleans for our overnight flight home to London Heathrow.

Day 14 - Arrival in London Heathrow

We touchdown at London Heathrow this morning and, while you may only have managed a few hours of sleep on the flight, you'll return home with many unforgettable memories of this musical tour of the Deep South. Along with many unique experiences, new friendships may also have been formed.

Additional information

Mardi Gras

The first origins of Mardi Gras can be traced back to medieval Europe, travelling Italy and then onwards to France. On 2nd March 1699, French- Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived on a plot of land south of New Orleans - now the small town of Mobile - and named it "Pointe du Mardi Gras" when he realised it was the eve of the festive holiday. The Carnival of Mardi Gras refers to the period of feasting and fun that begins on the Christian Feast of the Epiphany (6th January) and ends on Mardi Gras (also known as 'Fat' Tuesday), the final day of revelry before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. When visiting New Orleans, the festival is in full swing, with floats making their way through the streets, and the vibrant colours of purple, green, and gold - standing for justice, faith, and power.

You can experience Mardi Gras in full swing on our February Departures.

Mardi Gras
Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown, Chattanooga

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The Guest House at Graceland

The Guest House at Graceland, Memphis

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Hyatt Place, Nashville

Hyatt Place, Nashville

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Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, New Orleans

Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, New Orleans

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Courtyard Charlotte City Centre, Charlotte

Courtyard Charlotte City Centre, Charlotte

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Park Vista DoubleTree Hotel, Gatlinburg

Park Vista DoubleTree Hotel, Gatlinburg

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Trains

Amtrak Trains
Lookout Mountain Incline Railway

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Reviews

4.2 stars4.2 / 5 · 99 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (54)
  2. 4 stars
    (25)
  3. 3 stars
    (12)
  4. 2 stars
    (4)
  5. 1 star
    (4)

David Buck

5 stars

Submitted 14/May

Excellent trip with a fantastic tour guide, very interesting for anyone into, country, blues and jazz music. Expect a packed and varied schedule and a lot of travelling. I understand that the schedule has changed somewhat for next year, so a more detailed review may not be that helpful l for anyone planning a future trip.

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Mr moore

4 stars

Submitted 5/May

A well organised and led tour. Our leader, Tim, was very good, organising room keys, entrance tickets, etc. His briefings on music and venues were thoughtful and informative.

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Suzann Quayle

5 stars

Submitted 4/May

Brilliant holiday we saw so much and more. Everything was so well organised and our tour guide Tim knowledge and help was outstanding.

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Nicola

4 stars

Submitted 4/May

Great tour of the Deep South with an excellent tour manager, local guides & wonderful experiences & excursions included.

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Peter Roberts

4 stars

Submitted 2/Mar

Excellent tour guide - looked after party very well - tour very good - some things to consider - did we need to visit 2 recording studios.. group meal restaurant in Nashville could have been better - food not as good as expected and plastic knives, forks & spoons visit to plantation ok - but did we need to stop on way to next destination - perhaps could have been slotted in somewhere else some of the hotels could have been of a better standard - but as only sleeping there suppose ok

from Great Rail Journeys
Dear Peter, Thank you for taking the time to leave a review. I am glad that you had a good tour and an excellent Tour Guide. I will make sure to pass your feedback across to our Product team so we can look into altering the itinerary for the future. Kind regards, Sophie.
1 comment

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Alan Benest

5 stars

Submitted 29/Feb

Amazing visits to Graceland, Martin Luther King’s tomb and museum. Mardi Gras is just so different to any procession we have in this country, must see once. The music in Nashville and Memphis was incredible. To visit the recording studios where Elvis and many other great names did their recordings was memorable. The trip was tiring but well worth it.

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