My husband and I are planning a 3 week road trip to the USA in May 2013 flying from London to Atlanta and home from Washington. We plan to combine a few different interests - namely the Civil Rights Trail, Music of all kinds and spending a week doing the scenic drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Washington. Our initial plan which is not exactly written in stone is as follows: Atlanta 2 nights, Birmingham 1 night, New Orleans (just after the Jazz Fest) 4 nights, Memphis 3 nights, Nashville 4 nights, Asheville 4nights - Biltmore Estate, Charlottesville - Moniticello, Washington - flying straight home as we have recently been to this great city. So far the only hotel we have booked is the Courtyard New Orleans Downtown/Iberville. We'd really like some suggestions/recommendations and advice for our trip including hotels to stay at especially for the Blue Ridge Parkway drive.
Consider the RI or the Renaissance in Asheville, NC. Both are very nice values and you will enjoy either, base upon your taste and budget. The RI is at the entrance to The Biltmore. There are many nice places to dine nearby each property.
Nashville, The Renaissance or CY are within walking distance to Broadway places of interest. The Hermitage is a wonderful place to visit
Memphis, The Marriott at The Convention Center. Easy trolley ride or walk to historic places. Don't forget to visit Graceland!
New Orleans, The JW or Renaissance.
You should get a lot of great suggestions!
The Farmer's Market just north of Asheville has some really good cheeses and other things to buy for picnics along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
If you drive as far as the Linn Cove Viaduct, I would recommend going to Blowing Rock, NC and Boone, NC. Also, Waynesville, NC.
We did a similar trip in 2011 ... we did a loop from Atlanta ... Hilton Head Island ... Jacksonville (NC) ... Williamsburg ... Christiansburg ... Gatlinburg ... Nashville ... and back to Atlanta ... we allowed ourselves 4 weeks. We go to the USA once or twice each year and do a fair amount of touring whilst there. In the Autumn of last year we were back in Virginia for a week and went up to the Blue Ridge Parkway ... visited Wintergreen - pretty spectacular scenery ... also toured Monticello and visited Charlottesville.
A few pointers from our trip:
1. Atlanta Airport ... I don't know if you have been there before but it is our most hated airport ... if you are coming in on an international flight, you have to collect your bags then put them onto another bag transfer system; then you have yo go through security again, so move any duty free into your checked bags or it will be confiscated. Overall we found the airport poorly signed and the staff lacking courtesy and unhelpful. (This is so rare in the USA ... we have generally had great service wherever we have visited.) Atlanta city itself was disappointing ... a poor selection of shops and limited history/music in the centre.
2. We chose to stay outside central Nashville ... we stayed at a Fairfield Inn over near the Grand Ole Opry. (We have found that Fairfield Inns are a good touring overnight stop ... reasonably priced, free parking, complimentary breakfast, clean and reliable.) We stayed near the Opry as we wanted to take in a show ... worthwhile ... a very unique experience. There is also a good restaurant close by called the Opry Backstage Grill ... the food is good and the waiting staff are all aspiring singers and step up to the mike every so often whilst you are dining. Both the restaurant and the Opry are within walking distance of the hotel we used. There is also a shuttle that can be booked for a trip into central Nashville ... the front desk staff can sort this ... saves on parking fees etc. but you may need to get a cab back if you decide on a late one. We were disappointed in downtown Nashville ... most of the music in the bars was very average and the food poor. (We were lucky that Taylor Swift was in concert at the Bridgestone Arena ... our kids took the mick that we were going but she was outstanding.)
3. I agree with Jerry ... The Hermitage is worth a visit ... lovely grounds for a walk. We found being outside central Nashville made visiting other locations easier ... we didn't have negotiate city centre traffic.
4. I stayed in Birmingham once on business and wouldn't really want to go back ... however, that was a long time ago.
5. We've never been to Memphis, so no comments on that.
6. New Orleans ... where to start ... we love the city! We are there for a week at the end of April. I am sure that one of the NO based MRIs will give you some 'must do's'. We love Cafe Du Monde near the waterfront ... just sitting, drinking coffee and eating beignets for breakfast with live music! Jackson Square is a great place just to sit and people watch ... there often stunning weddings at the big church. A bayou trip is worth doing. Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville is interesting for an evening ... the portions were huge when we were there. For a special dinner try The Court of the Two Sisters ... our favourite ... although we have been recommended to Bayona's this year by a fellow MRI. We've not stayed at the Courtyard but it looks nice and is pretty central. There are a few good walking tours that you could try ... info can be obtained from the visitors centre on Jackson Square ... the Garden District is a great tour. You should find live music just about everywhere.
7. Asheville ... again, we've never visited but did stay in Gatlinburg, which is nearby. We stayed there because it gave easy access to several Smokey Mountain walks. We used a Fairfield Inn again ... the area was pretty stunning. I'll be interested to hear what you think of Asheville.
8. Charlottesville ... again, apart from Monticello, we didn't find much of interest there. However, there are many good vineyards in the surrounding area. On the positive side, we did manage to catch a Bruce Springstein concert there last year ... but beware, if you do go to a show in town, watch where you park ... they are not tourist friendly and will tow you! Monticello is a great day visit but allow a good few hours to take in the whole area.
9. Washington ... this is probably our favourite USA city ... so much to do and see. We had to do the same on our last trip over and fly straight back ... are you sure that you don't want a revisit? If/when you do go back ... check out Blues Alley in Georgetown ... we managed to catch Dr John there ... they do two shows with dinner ... the food was ok ... the music was great.
We are doing Los Angeles to New Orleans in April of this year ... fortunately, we have timed it to be there for the first weekend of Jazz Fest ... the line-up looks good!
If I can provide any further help, let me know ... have a great trip.
HI chrisf - thank you for the wealth of information. Take your point about Charlottesville as we are going there especially to see Monticello.
We also want to go the Old Opry so your hotel tip is great! Restaurant tips appreciated too - interesting as the same ones do keep popping up - a good sign. Enjoy your trip in April.
Let me support Chris' accounting of:
Nashville: I have stayed at the RI, just North of Opryland. Having stayed at Opryland, I would visit it. but never stay there again. The FF, and the RI South of Opryland are excellent, and inexpensive. You will want to take at least a walk down historic Broadway.
New Orleans: Having met Chris, our tastes are identical. Would recommend a shrimp dinner at Pascal Minales. Never had BBQ shrimp as good as that place. Casual and reasonable priced.
Birmingham: No reason to go back.
Memphis, A "One nighter", with a BBQ dinner at The Rendezvous, and then on the road.
Would visit Monticello, and drive to historic Williamsburg. You can't see all the area in a short period of time, but can see enough just by driving around and there is a great RI there, that is very reasonable. Easy drive from there to WDC.
WDC, location can really help you a lot. There are many choices and the prices vary a lot. Pick a place that suits your budget and you will be able to see it all. You have the Metro, walking and trolley's!
Hit us with some questions and I am sure you will get some great answers.
You may want to send direct messages to SSINDC (WDC) and Razorback (NO)
Hey jerry ... you've just added another restaurant to my list for New Orleans ... Pascal's sounds excellent ... just checked it on TripAdvisor.
Sandy ... I'll be posting progress on our South States Roadtrip on a blog on this site ... if you want to hear our views of places as we go ... I'll try and post any info on NO early, so that you can check it out before you get there. Our route etc. for the Roadtrip is already on an existing posting under Discussions ... I had a huge amount of info from US based MRIs ... really helpful.
BBQ shrimp (With the heads on), some French bread to dip in the sauce, and your favorite libation to wash it down!
You are making me very hungry, I am twelve hours away, but the drive would be worth it!
Have never seen people eat crawfish, shrimp, and seafood like they do in New Orleans!
BTW have you ever dined at K Paul's? Don't know if it is even still there, but the "Blackened Red Fish" was the best I ever had!
I have been looking for blackened redfish like I tasted in Corpus Christi, TX while at a PTA convention forever, well, since about 1978 or 1979. The president of the Ft. Worth PTA gave me a bite since I'd never even heard of it. Her husband was a corporate lawyer, so they really knew their way around. Sophisticated, beautiful, smart and the sweetest person. :-)
I think it was invented in NO by Paul Prudhomme. That would be it!!! Most blackened fish just have spices on them that I can find. His has the thick, black, crust. I didn't know where his restaurant was.
Jerry, you must be referring to the Fairmont Hotel... seems to be the Roosevelt Hotel these days.
Is it any surprise that America's first cocktail, the Sazerac, was created in New Orleans, the city that loves to party?
Back in the early 1800's, Antoine Peychaud created the drink in a French Quarter bar and named it for his favorite French brandy, Sazerac-de-Forge et fils. In 1870, the drink was changed when American Rye whiskey was substituted for cognac, and a dash of absinthe was added by bartender Leon Lamothe, and today he is now regarded as the Father of the Sazerac. In 1912, absinthe was banned, so Peychaud substituted his special bitters in its place.
In 1893 the Grunewald Hotel was built in the city, and at this time the hotel earned the rights to Ramos Gin Fizz and the Sazerac. In 1965 the hotel was renamed the Fairmont Hotel.
Today, the Sazerac is best enjoyed in many of New Orleans' finest restaurants and bars, most notably the Sazerac Bar in the Fairmont Hotel, where celebrities, locals, and tourists enjoy the drink.
Small world.... I met Terry Bradshaw and his lawyer/friend in a bar-restaurant in Tampa Bay a night before a game back in the mid 80's. The place was supposedly owned by George Steinbrenner.
Guess they must have been playing the Bucs that weekend. All the Bucs and wives were staying at the hotel/condo complex where I stayed.
I really doubt if you would encounter celeb's today like you used to in the past.
If I was one, I would avoid it, but in the past there were so many who really enjoyed meeting people.
One of the nicest ones I ever met was Andy Williams at Tony Rest in St Louis, A "Prince" of a man!
(I will get in trouble for not starting a new thread, sorry)
I just finished eating, and you still made me hungry. All that talk of the great things like Blackened Redfish, and Crawdads (crawfish), soft-shelled crabs.... For Crawfish, you have to do like the die hard locals do, and that is to suck the heads after you pull them off. That is where all the flavor and spices end up. Several beers may be required first, depending how strong stomached you are They really are pretty good, I think. I had so many good southern meals, and developed a real love of food with rich seasonings, when I was down in the southern states for many years. I really love good cajun food, more that any other cuisine I can think of.
Well, if you're talkin' crawdads or crawfish, you might also want to check out - while you're up near/around DC - a relatively recent addition in Northern Virginia (very conveniently located just off Route 66) called Chasin Tails - Chasin Tails Crawfish Seafood and Bar - how can you not like a place whose slogan is NO PLATES. NO FORKS. NO RULES??? If you do go, make sure you get some of the sausage in one or more of your seafood bags - they're family favorites. We like the shellfish boiled and soaked (and hot and spicy) rather than fried, but to each his/her own... Then finish up with the Beignets.... Messy, yummy, fun...
Apologies if we've now veered off topic....
and, well, since I'm off topic, you should also consider Georgia Brown's in downtown DC - Georgia Brown's, Low Country Cuisine - The Soul of Washington, D.C - Home - far more elegant, but not necessarily more expensive, than Chasin Tails - it's somewhat of a Washington landmark and a longstanding favorite among the catfish, shrimp and grits, and gumbo crowd...
HI to Jerrycoin and all you guys!
I was out of action for a bit this week as I had a bad cold and you all made me laugh so much with your banter. Thanks for that.
I booked the RI Biltmore in Asheville last night and checked out the Woolworth Soda Fountain and Galleries - looks like fun and worth a visit. Seems like you could stay in Asheville for a week easily but I think we will only have about 4 days to cram everything in - it was supposed to be a restful break! Oh well - we'll rest when we're dead as they say.
One of my favorite places is Acme Oyster House which is a local restaurant in the French quarter that has become a local restaurant chain (much the way Clydes in WDC has). If you want real local food in a local setting at reasonable prices, nothing beats a couple dozen oysters on the half shel with local abita beer. There are also beer tastings, and brewery tours.
Another local favorite, a little more upscale is Commander's Palace Sunday Brunch. While its always been well-known in New Orleans, two well-known chefs also had there start there, Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse. Emeril's 1st restarunt named, "Emeril's" in the Warehouse District. The food was fabulous, but the high warehouse style ceilings made the restaurant very noisy.
Nice commentary. Sounds like you have some extensive miles under your belt in this region.
I hope you can give me this kind of info for my next trip. You make me want to head down that ways!
There is certainly some useful information on that post. I may have to do a print out or "at least a book mark" for safe keeping!
I have to agree with Chrisf on the Atlanta Airport....I try to avoid it as its difficult to navigate.
also, Washington DC is still my favorite city in the US. I lived there for many years, and when I return I am constantly discovering new things. In my opinion it has the best there is in the world available without going far.
It's good to see you're already getting good advice.... With so many suggestions (and not enough time), so let me just throw a few out there (alas, without any clear organization):
ssindc - wow you are spoiling me with great ideas! I love it - thank you.
Luray Caverns was on our list as a maybe but you just made it a definite.
Our Marriott hotel choices will be on the modest side for this holiday as it's quite a long break for us but we will also look at B & Bs as we won't have enough Marriott points for all our nights anyway.
We are also planning to split our timeshare week via Interval Internanional and attempt to use that for some nights too. Does anyone have any tips for that? I'm told that I can't make any requests of Interval Int until 59 days before our proposed stay.
We are defintely planning our route North via the Parkway and Skyline Drive and have given ourselves a week to do that.
If you like German food, we always try to stop at the Eidelweiss in Staunton, VA. We were never even that crazy about German food until we ate at a German restaurant in Stone Mountain, GA once while visiting there.
BTW, Stone Mountain, GA is a really nice place for tourism. It has carvings on the bald, quartz mountain of a Civil War scene by the same sculptor who did Mt. Rushmore. At night, there is a laser light show on the sides of the mountain that's really nice and there's a park and ski lift going to the top.
Pictures from Stone Mtn. National Park.
Being that close to Atlanta, if you have the time, you might consider Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, TN.
I just remembered that in 2005, I flew back from LV, NV via the Delta hub in Indiana. It was early morning and there was a group of German business people on the plane with me en route to Birmingham, AL and they were going on to their destination in Atlanta, GA. They had already been there earlier that morning but there were no customs in Atlanta, so they had to be diverted to Indianapolis to go through customs, then sent back to Atlanta via Birmingham. It seems really strange that they would have international flights but with no customs. You might want to check on that situation now.
When we lived in DC we use to love a weekend trip out to Skyline Drive, and one of our favorite places to stop for dinner was the Inn at Little Washington.
You will not be disappointed.
Sandy, it is worth checking out Fairfield Inns (FFI) and Springhill Suites (SHS) from Marriott in slightly off-beat places for us Brits. I have found these locations to be reasonably priced and very good value. We rarely use points at FFI or SHS. On our trip across the Southern States we are using quite a few ... e.g. in Santa Fe the rate is about $98 per night ... inc. free parking and complimentary breakfast. We've tried a few B&Bs but been disappointed in the main ... they've tended to be in not-so-nice areas if they are cheap.
We've got some MVCI time share weeks ... is yours MVCI too? If so, we've found the option of using Vacation Club Points has worked well when we want to use part week stays. I haven't checked recently but I think that they could be swapped for hotel stays. We have only ever used Interval for full week swaps ... the experience was ok but no better.
HI chrisf. Yes our week is MCVI - we thought we'd try the Gold Interval membership so that we could split our week. Will let you know how we get on. We paid for 3 years but was told we could get a refund for 2 years if we wanted to so if we are not satisfied that's what we'll do.
During my research I have also found that the B & Bs I like most are usually pretty expensive. Thanks again.
We weren't that crazy about Hank's Bar B Cue.
For a time share vacation in that area, I do recommend Massanutten, VA; not that far from McGaheysville, VA and Harrisonburg, VA, however. There are also 2 indoor water parks there. Make sure it's in Woodstone units, though.
EB5147 - sorry you didn't have a good experience at Hank's - that's a shame!
I'm a big fan of Massanutten too - my boys learned to ski and snowboard there.
Thanks, but bar-b-cue can be pretty much a regional variation and taste acquisition. SC has mustard bar-b-cue, which I've never gotten a taste for. NC also has vinegar bar-b-cue in some areas, which also isn't one of my favorites. Chili, and I guess most a lot of other foods, are the same way. We went to a chili cook-off in Gatlinburg, TN and didn't like too many of the entrants we tasted.
We love Pancho's Mexican Buffet, which is a chain west of the Mississippi, because of their sopapillas and egg batter covered chili rellenos with cheese sauce rather than the tomato sauce used so often. A lot of people might not like Pancho's, though.
For an easy guacamole, I just mash a Haas avocado or 2 and add picante sauce, which has all the ingredients in it most recipes call for.
I think you are right about barbaque being a local taste.
My Texan friends don't like anything but Texan barbaque.
We had a very good place near us here in NJ, and anyone from another state would just complain and then toute the barbaque places in their state.
I think every one gets use to a receipe and have a hard time adapting.
Might be an interesting road trip, trying barbaque in different states and comparing it.
WARNING: I haven't followed this entire thread, but I do remember reading earlier about Volt. As pleasant as Volt is, there is no such animal as an 'easy' ride from Frederick, Md to either of the DC (Reagan, Dulles) airports, except possibly Sunday morning 6 am to Dulles via Rt. 15. So be very, very careful in your departure planning; we have one of America's worse rush hours (it's very long in duration and distance) and I-270 is a mess in the morning. You're 50 plus miles away with terrible traffic, so allow plenty of time for your international departure.
Just a heads up; so you can avoid a rough ending to a terrific trip.
IN REGARDS TO ERC'S WARNING: Heed this advice with the seriousness that he has expressed!
I must humbly admit that I have been a victim of the I-270 "belt" or "loop" and if you start heading the wrong direction, not only is it very difficult to realize you have done so, it is equally as hard to find an exit to start heading the right direction, and then the traffic just further compounds the issue.
I was coming back from Virginia Beach, stopped off for gas, somehow started heading the wrong direction, (too many south, south-east, etc., etc. and the same road may have 3 designations sometimes, ouch!) and the next thing I know daylight has become night, and here comes the Pentagon again (meanwhile by this time I should be in another state) and not even realized it was the Penatagon ( except for the marveous night view) and that I had been circling around for the last 3 hours. Had to stop for gas again! But I was in the same place! - (I hate it when that happens!)-
Somewhat like the run-on sentence I just wrote! Lasts forever, and goes in circles! :! SORRY!
OK - two separate issues here:
Thank you ssindc
EXHIBIT A, see, I told you it is a real melee there!
I finally just figured out that ssindc MEANS "ss - in - dc". He is there!
I was hoping that beltway was not just my personal nemisis, but is as bad as I thought.
I appreciate your clarification (still sounds pretty darn confusing!)
- Al Be Lost In DC Again