Our Road Trip of the South
Where We Went
We started in San Antonio and worked our way up into Tennessee, passing through Arkansas. In Tennessee, we stayed one night in Memphis and two nights in Nashville. From there, we went to Asheville, North Carolina and spent Thanksgiving with friends, followed by one night in Birmingham, Alabama with my cousin. Our last night was in New Orleans, and then we booked it home, just in time for work! Overall, it was 2400+ miles and almost 40 hours of driving; by far, our longest road trip yet. Whew!
Everyone has been asking what our favorite spot was out of the entire trip. We always like to play the game of, “Could We Live Here?”. Brandon and I agreed there wasn’t one place that we truly could’ve pictured ourselves moving to. We loved our visit to the Biltmore the best, but definitely didn’t see Asheville as a place we could actually live long term. We also experienced some really cold weather almost every place that we stopped and were reminded of what babies we are. I think South Texas really suits us in that department! All that to say, each place had something that we loved, which we’ll share in the outline below.
City By City
Stop #1: Memphis
We arrived in Memphis Sunday afternoon. Everything seemed to be deserted and shutting down, and I forgot how much is closed on a Sunday in the south. We were able to see the iconic duck march in the Peabody Hotel (look it up, it’s the cutest thing). From there, we explored a little downtown and at a nearby park along the Mississippi River.
Favorite Restaurant We Ate At: Soul Fish (amazing seafood and southern cooking)
Favorite Thing About The City: Blues Music
Stop #2: Nashville
Everyone kept talking about how much they loved Nashville when we announced we were going. We stayed right by the Parthenon at an Air BNB. This was a two night stay so it was nice to be centrally located, next to lots of our desired attractions. On day one we toured Belmont Mansion and the university. I love old historic homes and this one was owned by a remarkable and independent woman. It was cool to hear the history behind the home and see it decorated for Christmas.
We also explored the 12 South shopping area and loved the quaint, unique stores like the original Draper James, cool jewelry shops, and of course, yummy coffee shops to warm up in. I feel like things would’ve been a lot livelier in the spring or summer with better weather. As it was, we were very cold almost the whole time. So bring heavy coats if you’re visiting in the winter!
On day two, we spent the morning at Cheekwood Estate & Garden, then drove around the residential areas looking at some STUNNING homes. I always love finding pretty neighborhoods when we travel and getting home inspiration. We did a little more shopping and a lot more eating through the afternoon, walked down Broadway in the evening, and closed our trip with a great dinner at Urban Grub.
Favorite Restaurant We Ate At: Woolworth’s On 5th (we went for breakfast and had chicken & biscuits and the sweet potato pancakes); this was also the location of one of the sit-ins during the civil rights movement. Lots of history!
Favorite Thing About The City: The residential homes we got to see and the amazing southern food
Stop #3: Asheville, NC
It was a bit of a further drive from Nashville to Asheville so we didn’t arrive until 2:00 in the afternoon. Before we met our friends for dinner, we strolled through their downtown in an area called The Grove Arcade. It was adorable, fully decked with Christmas trinkets and decor. I got a delicious hot chocolate to beat the cold, and we lost ourselves for a few hours window shopping.
Day two (Thanksgiving) was primarily spent at the Biltmore. We did a whole post on it here and both Brandon and I said we will definitely return in the future. It was amazing and so worth the time!
Favorite Restaurant We Ate At: City Bakery (OMG the best biscuit breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had and amazing pastry items)
Favorite Thing About The City: The Biltmore
Stop #4: Birmingham, AL
My cousin (who also blogs over at A Byers Guide) lives in Birmingham with her husband who is in med school. We definitely wanted to see their new home and new city so we made sure Birmingham was one of our stops. We didn’t arrive until 3 or 4PM so we primarily spent the evening touring around, and then had a long family dinner which was so much fun. This was unfortunately our shortest stop and we really loved Birmingham from what we saw. I’d love to go back and get to do a little more!
Favorite Restaurant We Ate At: Ovenbird
Favorite Thing About The City: The free botanical garden
Stop #5: New Orleans
Can you believe that I’d never been to New Orleans before this trip?? I was so excited to go because I’d heard so much! My expectations were low because we only had one night there and I knew we’d be weary from our road trip of the south. We got to stay at the beautiful Catahoula Hotel and covered it in this blog post. Aside from that, we only managed to explore the French Quarter district but I loved it so much! Colorful homes, the New Orleans architecture, and the fact that there was so much going on around every corner kept me enthralled. I’m so eager to go back for a longer trip!
Favorite Thing About The City: So much life everywhere!
Our Tips & Notes:
*Obviously, this was an extremely long trip in the car (8 full days). We made sure that we had plenty of podcasts, audiobooks, playlists, and of course, snacks. If you’re really not keen on driving, consider doing less stops and staying longer than one or two nights. If we had to do it again, we’d fly to a more central location and rent a car from there.
*We also made sure to look at alternate routes through Google Maps. For example, the map showed us taking a major highway from Asheville to Birmingham; however, we saw an alternate route that went through the Smokey Mountains. It only added 20 minutes to our drive and was so much more scenic than a regular old highway. Definitely investigate your route to see if you can find fun spots along the way!
* Try to leave one city and arrive in another by meal times. For example, we left early enough to where we could arrive in our next city in time for lunch. Some days that meant leaving at 6:30AM and other days that meant leaving at 9 or 10 AM. We wanted to avoid lots of fast food and opted to time the drive so that we were eating at yummy restaurants in our desired cities versus fast food on the highway.
*Keep your toiletries and a few layers close. I put my makeup bag, a jacket, and tennis shoes in a bag that stayed an arm’s length away. Everything else was zipped up in my suitcase but it was nice to have access to a few necessities in case you stop for a break or get out to walk around.
*Make sure that you have some activities planned upon arrival in a city. We weren’t able to check into our Air BNBs until 3:00 or 4 (same for hotels), so we needed to be able to jump right into exploration. We didn’t want to waste any time so be sure and have addresses saved for the places you’d like to visit and just check into your hotel later.