Highlights from our Southern States Road Trip
The Southeast region of the United States, often called The South, exudes character. You’ll find it in the richness of its cuisine—like smoked pork shoulder or country ham—and the soulfulness of its music. It’s the birthplace of both the blues and Elvis Presley. Don’t let those sleepy-looking towns fool you. The Southern states have had a worldwide impact.
William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum – Little Rock, Arkansas
Arkansas native Bill Clinton was president of the United States from January 1993 to January 2001, so many of the exhibits at his library and museum cover events that happened during our lifetimes. Not only were we able to learn about the president’s life, but we also were able to relive some of that era of our own lives. Located in Little Rock, Arkansas, deep in the interior of the South, the bridge-like glass museum is an architectural marvel.
Buckstaff Bath House in Hot Springs National Park – Hot Springs, Arkansas
Just 141 kilometers west of Little Rock, road trippers have been relaxing in natural thermal mineral waters at the Buckstaff Bath House in Hot Springs National Park since 1912. So of course we stopped for a soak, too. Reservations aren’t accepted and the bath house has all the supplies and towels you’ll need for a Swedish massage or a progression from a 38-degree Celsius tub bath to hot packs to a sitz bath to a refreshing rinse in a needle shower.
Crossroads – Highway 49 and Highway 61, near Clarksdale, Mississippi
We drove through a lot of crossroads on our southern states road trip, but only one of them was The Crossroads—the intersection of highways 49 and 61 where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil to become the world’s pre-eminent bluesman. Located outside of Clarksdale, Mississippi, none of us sold our souls when we saw the spot, now marked with a blue-guitar sign, but a few of us did get chills to visit such an important part of music history.
Rowan Oak – Oxford, Mississippi
The family home of Nobel laureate William Faulkner inspired the setting of many of the novelist’s most famous works. Located in Oxford, Mississippi, 103 kilometers due east of Clarksdale, we toured the house and grounds of Rowan Oak, a quintessential Southern estate. Faulkner’s former office even had his handwritten outline of the award-winning “The Fable” on the wall.
Elvis Presley’s Birthplace – Tupelo, Mississippi
Another 88 kilometers east is the birthplace of Elvis Presley in Tupelo, Mississippi. While it’s close geographically to his famous Graceland estate in Memphis, we were amazed at how far he had to travel in his career to get there: the King was born in a two-room, two-light house. The house has been restored, and we were able to step inside it.
Brown Chapel AME Church – Selma, Alabama
Just about in the center of Alabama, Selma and its Brown Chapel AME Church was the starting point of marches in 1965 advocating for voting rights for African-Americans. While those marches did help get the U.S. government to pass a law protecting those rights, one march was met with a violent response from police. It’s still a functioning church, so even with its historic status, we were still able to go inside and see how locals worship.
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park – Mobile, Alabama
This park, on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, has a collection of U.S. military aircraft, a submarine and the USS Alabama battleship, which was active in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans during World War II. We were amazed at the size of the ship: 207 meters long.
Kayaking in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge – Gulf Shores, Alabama
We had a lot to explore at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Located directly west of Gulf Shores, it contains more than 2,700 hectares of wildlife habitat. Kayaking in the Little Lagoon, we could see herons (just one of more than 370 species of birds there), armadillos and alligators.
Cypress Restaurant – Tallahassee, Florida
While we ate great food throughout our southern states road trip, our dinner at the Cypress Restaurant in Tallahassee, Florida, (located in the north part of the state on what’s called the panhandle) really gave us a comprehensive taste of Southern flavors. The Florida shrimp and grits, blackened cobia, Low Country bouillabaisse and smoked pork shoulder stack were just some of the local dishes we loved. We were glad we saved room for dessert too: the Georgia peach ice cream here is too good to pass up.
Helicopter Tour of Tallahassee – Tallahassee, Florida
We got a spectacular view of Florida’s capital city with a tour from Tallahassee Helicopters. Taking off from the airport, we flew over Lake Bradford and the natural history museum, checking out the city’s impressive skyline as well. Sure, some of us were a bit nervous at first, but by the end of the flight, we were all relaxed and eager to get this bird’s eye perspective again.
Check out the places we wish we went on our southern states road trip.
Got some extra time in Florida? Meet the animals of the Everglades Outpost.