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The top six cities to visit in America's Deep South

David Pettitt

Music, food, history and culture – the American Deep South is big and bold and with an identity distinct to the rest of the USA. From blues and jazz, country music and zydeco, unrivalled hospitality, delicious cuisine, beautiful architecture and unique scenery, the Deep South provides a true, undiluted, flavour of America. In many ways this large region is defined by its cities with New Orleans, Savannah, Nashville, Memphis, Natchez and Charleston all offering something different yet, at the same time, still sharing common cultural traits. This blog looks in more detail at these six cities and why you should try to include one, or indeed all of them, on your next visit to the Deep South.

1. New Orleans, Louisiana

There are few places in the world with such a strong identity as New Orleans. With its eclectic fusion of music, culture and heritage, in many ways the city personifies the Deep South. European architecture, Caribbean colours and Creole cuisine, the jazz and blues clubs of Bourbon Street, diverse neighbourhoods including Treme, an important centre of African-American culture, and the annual Mardi Gras festival – New Orleans is one of the most historic and culturally rich cities in the US.

Featured in Self-Drive: Musical Flavours of the Deep South

Historic homes in the French Quarter of New Orleans
French Quarter, New Orleans

2. Savannah, Georgia

Arguably America’s most beautiful city, the foundation of Savannah dates to 1733 when James Edward Oglethorpe first laid out the plans to his new settlement. As befits such an historic city, Savannah is famed for its architecture and tree-lined streets. An affluent port that was spared destruction during the Civil War, Savannah fell into decline but today is experiencing a renaissance with a bustling waterfront and a number of fine, beautifully maintained, historic buildings.

For more information see our Deep South holidays page

Historic Fort McAllister in Savannah, Georgia
Fort McAllister, Savannah

3. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville is the home of country music. It is the location of both the Country Music Hall of Fame as well as the Grand Ole Opry and has played host to the greatest country musicians for well over half a century. Set in the heart of Tennessee, to experience a true flavour of the city visit one of the many honky-tonk bars, learn about the Civil War, taste authentic cayenne food at a fried chicken shop and attend a live show – a fantastic opportunity to see a favourite artist in the flesh.

Featured in Self-Drive: The Deep South and Texas

View of the Nashville skyline at dusk
Nashville skyline

4. Memphis, Tennessee

Like sister city Nashville, Memphis is also known for its music. In contrast however, this Tennessee city is America’s first stop for rock ‘n’ roll fans and, most famously, the legendary Elvis Presley. However, it is not just Elvis that called Memphis home with multiple musicians, including Johnny Cash and B.B. King, that have recorded albums in the city. Visit Graceland, spend an evening in the blues clubs of Beale Street and visit the National Civil Rights Museum to learn about the American civil rights movement.

Featured in Self-Drive: Ultimate Deep South Road Trip

Busy street in downtown Memphis, Tennessee
Downtown Memphis

5. Natchez, Mississippi

The oldest settlement on the Mississippi, Natchez was established by French fur traders three centuries ago. Natchez, like other towns in the region, has a difficult past with links to slavery. Plantation owners of the time became extremely wealthy from this forced labour and built the grand antebellum houses seen today. Hundreds of these homes survived the privations of the Civil War making Natchez one of the most beautiful and best-preserved towns in America’s deep south.

Featured in Self-Drive: Plantations, Swamps and Cities of the Deep South and Texas

Historic Antebellum home in Natchez, Mississippi
Antebellum home, Natchez
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6. Charleston, South Carolina

Established in the late 17th century, Charleston developed into a wealthy commercial port and a major centre in the trading of rice and cotton. Despite damaged sustained during the Civil War and an earthquake in the 1880s, more recently Charleston has undergone a period of sympathetic regeneration which has returned it to its former glory. Today Charleston is considered one of the best-preserved cities in America with the charming historic district its undoubted highlight.

For more information see our Deep South holidays page

Historic home in Charleston, South Carolina
Historic home, Charleston
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