When I tell people that I have a degree in American Studies, I steel myself for the inevitable eye roll, smirk and “what, so you just studied Mickey Mouse for four years?” question. Well yes, as a matter of fact I did. I took a deep dive into American culture and history in those four glorious years and loved every minute of it – dissection of Disney included. From film to feminism, civil rights to civil wars, and Watergate to Woodrow Wilson, we left no stone unturned in trying to understand more about this vast, sprawling superpower. And there is still so much to learn. Which is precisely why I’m always looking for new ways to explore areas of the states that will quench my thirst for knowledge. In this series, I’m going to share three micro road trips that will give you an education in American culture, no degree required.
Atlanta→ Charleston→ Savannah (7 days)
I’ve always been fascinated by the make-up of the Deep South. From a chequered past of slavery, segregation and civil war, to sweet home Alabama and southern belles, it’s a unique area of the country full of heart, history and of course, good old-fashioned soul food. Whilst it’s debatable which states actually form the Deep South, for the purpose of this trip I covered three cities in the South East region – Atlanta, Charleston and Savannah. More on the unmistakable capital of Deep South culture, New Orleans in another post!
Atlanta, Georgia (Days 1-2)
With direct flights from the UK to Atlanta daily, this became the first stop on our trip by default. However, BA are launching direct flights to Charleston in April which opens up another option to kick-start your deep south adventure.
Atlanta is a sprawling city but most of the action happens near the Centennial Olympic Park; home to the 1996 Olympics where Michael Johnson famously triumphed in both the 400m and 200m races. Visit the nearby World of Coca Cola and try to uncover the secret ingredient in every bottle. They even have a Willy Wonka-style room where you can try hundreds of Coca Cola products from all over the world! Or head to the Georgia Aquarium to check out an underwater oasis in the heart of the city.
As the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr, there are many civil rights landmarks to discover too. Learn more about this legendary figure at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park or visit the home of his birth.
Charleston, South Carolina (Days 2- 4)
This beautiful city in the heart of South Carolina is bursting with a mix of history, stunning architecture and culinary creations.
Make your first stop historic King Street, a pink-tinged parade awash with a sea of pastel buildings and palm trees. This impossibly pretty street is home to an eclectic mix of shopping, dining and art galleries. You can easily get lost for hours admiring the elegant mixture of period-style architecture, coffee in hand.
Visit the beautiful Waterfront Park to admire the manicured lawns and majestic fountain on display, before heading to historical landmark Fort Sumter National Monument – the site of the first battle between the union and confederate armies in the civil war.
Charleston is fast becoming a foodie’s destination, with so many fantastic restaurants serving up inventive takes on classic southern comfort food. You won’t find better steak than at Halls Chophouse, a family-owned Charleston institution since 2009. Don’t leave without trying their buttery, melt-in-your-mouth lobster mac and cheese.
Savannah, Georgia (Days 4-7)
My one piece of advice before you visit Savannah; read the non-fiction classic Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. This 1990’s page-turner paints an unfiltered picture of Savannah and its inhabitants that you’ll want to pay close attention to.
Savannah is steeped in history and you’ll feel part of it the moment you step out under draping Spanish moss trees. A heady mix of hazy sunshine, riverside party vibes and a haunting past make Savannah a quirky and unique Deep South destination that is not to be missed.
Stroll through 30 acres of immaculately kept gardens at Forsyth Park before tucking into finger-lickin’ good fried chicken and traditional trimmings at family-style dining room Mrs Wilkes’ Boarding House. At night, sip on extra strength cocktails at the stretch of bars lining the riverfront or hop on a ghost tour of the city’s most haunted streets.
The Deep South’s unique combination of history, culture, quirkiness and good times make it a destination you can’t help but fall in love with. Have you visited any of the Southern states?