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Things to Do in the Deep South

Deep South trees

A jambalaya of cultures, the home of Cajun and Creole cuisine, and the birthplace of American jazz and blues, the Deep South is one of the richest, most diverse regions in the USA. And with seven states to choose from, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy here; below are just a handful of our favourite things to do in this soulful region:

Hit the road

Drive around the Deep South and have the freedom to go wherever you want – it’s what makes getting behind the wheel here so special. You can stop off in little towns that rarely see tourists, hear live music in whichever bar you choose and experience hot weather, delicious food and that world-famous Southern hospitality wherever you park up.

How to do it: All of our Deep South holidays include car hire. You can follow our suggested road trip itineraries or tailor make your own. To start planning, make an appointment with one of our Travel Experts.

Explore NOLA’s French Quarter

It’s easy to see the ironwork balconies and time-warp streets on foot; head for Jackson Square to start. This is where Vieux Carré’s history begins, along with St Louis Cathedral, the Old US Mint and the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, all of which should be on your list. Pause for a moment on Bourbon Street to see the spectacle of boozy joints and neon lights, but don’t linger too long – there’s delicious local cuisine, sophisticated cocktails and rich heritage to explore beyond this party strip.

How to do it: Visit the Crescent City on our Deep South Highlights holiday, which also visits Nashville, Memphis, Natchez and Mobile.

Take a swamp tour

The swamplands and bayous of Southern Mississippi are not to be missed. Keep your eyes peeled and you can expect to spot alligators, birds and all sorts of marine life in their natural habitat here, flying through the wetlands in an airboat.

How to do it: Embark on a high-speed boat ride through the Moss Point/Pascagoula waterways, – try Gator Ranch, which boasts 105 acres in the Grand Bay Estuary. Chat to our Travel Experts to add this to your itinerary.

Visit the birthplace of Mardi Gras

No, we’re not talking about New Orleans. The annual winter festival may have made its home in Louisiana, but it was actually forged a state over – in Mobile, Alabama. The city actually boasts a Mardi Gras Museum and even hosts its own parade to rival the celebrations in the Big Easy every February. This is where you can learn all about the traditions of the event, from the King and Queens that lead the floats, to the garish, technicolour costumes.

How to do it: Take in the Mardi Gras Museum, visit the USS Alabama and try Gulf shrimp in Mobile as part of our Deep South Highlights itinerary.

Eat seafood

From Louisiana to South Carolina, seafood is a restaurant staple. Sample soft-shell crab or snack on fried crab claws in Alabama; slurp baked oysters with parmesan and spinach in New Orleans; or tuck into Gulf red snapper in Mississippi – to name a few. The catch here is usually fresh and tastes it, so even visitors who don’t normally like fish should give it a try in the Deep South – it’s delicious.

How to do it: There's plenty of ways to sample the South's best dishes. Talk to our Experts today about adding a foodie tour to your holiday or you can even tailor make your own Deep South foodie itinerary.

Learn about the history

Home to some of the oldest cities and towns in the States, it’s no surprise that the Deep South has a rich history. For Civil War sites and battlefields try Mississippi – there’s the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, Vicksburg National Military Park and the Tupelo National Battlefield, all located along or near the Natchez Trace Parkway. The Parkway is also known for its Native American history; a five-minute detour from the road near Stanton will take you to the Emerald Mound, the second largest such earthwork in the country.

For a dose of more modern history, you can visit Mobile and walk the decks of the USS Alabama, a battleship used in World War II and later designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. While you’re visiting the ‘Yellowhammer State’, be sure to take in Montgomery, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. This is where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the Bus Boycott of 1955, and where Martin Luther King gained his foothold as the leader of the movement. Expect to get shudders when you visit the Rosa Parks Museum and the Dexter Parsonage Museum.

How to do it: Soak up the history of the South on our Deep South Highlights trip, which also includes some musical heritage – a tour of Elvis Presley’s Graceland.

Stay in a plantation home

The Deep South is full of dramatic antebellum mansions – the ones that look as though they’ve been plucked straight from Gone with the Wind.  Our favourites include Houmas House in Darrow, Louisiana (famed for its quirky owner, lavish gardens and beautiful inns), the Nottoway Plantation with its distinctive Greek Revival style, and Oak Alley, a National Historic Landmark with an educational exhibit of slavery in the South, as well as a beautiful archway of live oak trees.

How to do it: Embark on our New Orleans & the Plantations Journey and spend the night at the Nottoway Plantation in White Castle, Louisiana.

Listen to live music

Rhythm, blues, jazz and soul are the beating heart of the Deep South, so it’s not difficult to catch live music across the region’s states. We thoroughly recommend the Spotted Cat in New Orleans’ Frenchman Street; Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi; and Hal & Mal’s Red Room in Jackson.  

How to do it: Feel the music on our tailor-made Rhythms of the South itinerary.

For more ideas on the best things to do in the Deep South, be inspired by our tailor-made USA holidays