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Historic highways: 3 iconic road trips through the USA

Embark on a four-wheeled adventure through American history and immerse yourself in the stories, people and heritage of this great land – learning has never been so fun!

Embark on a four-wheeled adventure through American history and immerse yourself in the stories, people and heritage of this great land – learning has never been so fun!

Every nation has a story – especially the USA. Sure, you could read all about this country’s eventful historical record and the important figures who made America what it is today. But a better option is plunging smack-bang into the land and its colourful characters and immersing yourself in its fascinating heritage.

From exploring the Civil Rights movement to the dramatic developments that led to the Civil War, not to mention tracing America’s colonial legacy, all you need to do is choose your own driving adventure, check out this handy guide, and enjoy the ride!

Drivers – buckle up for an unforgettable journey through time and tradition!

Road Trip #1: The Civil Rights History Trail

Fast facts
  • Starts: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Ends: Nashville, Tennessee
  • How long: Allow 14 days
  • Distance: 2,699 km
Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library in Nashville, Tennessee.
Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library in Nashville, Tennessee ©Brand USA

Buckle up and set off on both an epic and educational road trip through Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia by visiting some of the most iconic landmarks woven into this chapter of American history and learn about the struggles for equality as you trace the footsteps of the heroes who shaped America’s modern history.

Before leaving Nashville – the start and end of this historic journey – step back in time at Woolworth on 5th and immerse yourself in the Nashville sit-ins at this celebrated restaurant before exploring the rich history at the Civil Rights Room in the Nashville Public Library. Then, pay homage to the Witness Walls, where concrete murals whisper tales of freedom rides and protest marches.

Departing Nashville, next make your way to Henning, Tennessee, which is home to the Alex Haley Museum and Interpretive Center. Then continue on to Memphis and visit the Burkle Estate, a former Underground Railroad safe haven, and be moved by stories of resilience and bravery.

The historic centre of the civil rights movement, Memphis is a city that demands at least a full day of exploration. Grab a coffee and start your adventure at the National Civil Rights Museum, delving into pivotal moments like Rosa Parks’ defiance and the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Then immerse yourself in the soulful rhythms of Beale Street and pay homage to Stax Museum, the soul music mecca! Finally, wrap it all up with a hearty meal at The Four Way, where civil rights activists and music legends once dined together.

Continuing your journey, make your way to Mississippi, stopping at landmarks like the University of Mississippi and the haunting remnants of Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market. In Jackson, visit the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and Tougaloo College where you can gain a profound glimpse into the state’s tumultuous past.

Crossing state lines and reaching Tuscaloosa, Alabama, confront the ghosts of segregation at the “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” site before hopping back in the car and driving to Selma, retracing the footsteps of marchers who risked everything for the right to vote. In Montgomery, learn more about Rosa Parks and her act of defiance at the Rosa Parks Museum and then visit the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church – it’s where Martin Luther King Jr. both preached and organised the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Back in the car, drive deeper into the heart of civil rights activism as you explore Albany and Savannah in Georgia, before reaching Atlanta, the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. Visit The King Center and the Center for Civil and Human Rights in town where you can pay your respects to one of the most important figures of American modern history.

Womsloe State Historic Site, Savannah ©Brand USA
Womsloe State Historic Site, Savannah ©Brand USA

Then it’s time to continue to Birmingham, Alabama, where echoes of Project C still resound in the streets. Explore the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingram Park where statues still stand as silent sentinels to those who dared to dream of a better world…

Before your road trip comes to a full circle back in Nashville, visit the Scottsboro Boys Museum & Cultural Center to learn of the injustices faced by the Scottsboro Boys who, whilst falsely accused and convicted of a crime that they did not commit, ended up inspiring significant legal reforms in the U.S. judicial system.

Book this road trip package (with flights or just accommodation and car hire) through Infinity Holidays today!

Road Trip #2: Civil War Battlegrounds

Fast facts
  • Starts: Washington, D.C., Virginia
  • Ends: Washington, D.C., Virginia
  • How long: Allow 8 days
  • Distance: 617 km
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery ©Brand USA

Get ready to dive into some serious time-travelling through Civil War history, kicking things off in the bustling streets of Washington, D.C. First stop is a visit to the big man himself, Abe Lincoln, at the Lincoln Memorial. Take a selfie in front of this iconic monument and then hop over to Arlington National Cemetery for a meaningful stroll among the tombstones…

Later, it’s time to roll out of D.C. and visit Manassas National Battlefield Park which is where the Union and Confederates duked it out. Keep your eyes peeled for ol’ Stonewall Jackson’s stomping grounds.

Back in the car, swing by Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park for some more battlefield action before reaching Richmond – the Confederate capital – where you can soak up the history at Richmond National Battlefield Park.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden ©Brand USA

Before you split town, pay your respects to Maggie L. Walker, a true trailblazer, at her historic site. Then, it’s time to hit the road for Shenandoah National Park. Get lost in the stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and maybe try to find Bigfoot while you’re at it… He is out there, somewhere…

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania ©Brand USA

Next up, leave the peaceful vibes of Shenandoah behind and head to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park where John Brown and his crew stirred up some serious trouble. Then walk around the town’s historical nooks and crannies before making tracks to Gettysburg National Military Park. Keep an ear out for ghostly whispers from the Battle of Gettysburg.

Wrap up your adventure with a return to D.C. and salute the brave African-American soldiers at the Civil War Memorial, before visiting Ford’s Theater where Honest Abe met his untimely end.

Road Trip #3: The Mayflower and the Atlantic Colonies

Fast facts
  • Starts: Boston, Massachusetts
  • Ends: Charlotte, North Carolina
  • How long: Allow 16 days
  • Distance: 2,882 km
Take a tour of Philadelphia and see the Liberty Bell ©Brand USA
Take a tour of Philadelphia and see the Liberty Bell ©Brand USA

Starting in the charming city of Boston where cobblestones whisper secrets of the past, trace the story of the Mayflower and the Atlantic Colonies through this epic road journey through 14 different states!

Leaving Boston, venture into the heart of colonial New England and dodge lobster traps as you make your way to Portland. Breathe in the fresh sea air as well as the scent of freshly baked lobster rolls whilst taking a stroll along Congress Street before soaking in the salty charm of Casco Bay.

After bidding farewell to the lobster boats, and some of the best seafood you’ve ever, set sail (not literally of course!) for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where history comes alive in the streets. Wander through Strawbery Banke Museum and imagine life in colonial times before savouring a seaside feast at Black Trumpet – yum!

Next, journey south to Plymouth, Massachusetts, and dive into the chilling history of Salem and the witch trials before paying homage to the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. Then it’s time to sink your teeth into some fresh seafood (again) and take in the gorgeous bay views at Shanty Rose.

Suitably rested for the trip ahead, put your seat belt on as you chart a course for Newport, Rhode Island, a delightful place where colonial charm meets seaside chic. Stroll through its Historic Hill and Bowen’s Wharf quarters, imagining a time when pirates ruled the waves… Then, finish your day with a sunset cocktail overlooking the harbour.

Rise and shine, it’s time to hit the Big Apple! Cruise along Ocean Drive for breathtaking views before diving into the hustle and bustle of New York City. Of course, you could spend an entire lifetime here, unravelling all her secrets, but at the very least, explore the city’s oldest streets and waterfront haunts before indulging in a steak dinner at Delmonico’s.

The next morning, pack your bags and set your sights on charmingly historic Philadelphia. Take a tour of Independence Hall, snap a selfie with the Liberty Bell, and wander around the vintage neighbourhoods of Old City and Society Hill – checking out its incredible restaurants and art galleries – before feasting on colonial fare at City Tavern.

Leaving Philly behind, say hello to Richmond, Virginia, where southern charm is infused with a revolutionary spirit. Take a stroll down Monument Avenue and take in all the storied heritage before settling in for the night. Spend some time the next day exploring the quaint towns (and former capitals) of Virginia, such as Jamestown and Williamsburg, before kicking back on the Virginia Beach boardwalk as you savour the epic journey so far…

. Visit Pilgrim Memorial
State Park, home of Plymouth Rock, where the Pilgrims stepped
ashore ©Brand USA
Visit Pilgrim Memorial State Park in Massachusetts, home of Plymouth Rock, where the Pilgrims stepped ashore ©Brand USA

Then, hit the road again as you make your way to Wilmington, North Carolina, and admire this unique fusion of colonial history and coastal charm. Walk around the Historic District and indulge in a seafood feast overlooking the river before travelling on to Charleston, South Carolina, for a hearty dose of southern hospitality. Plunge into the city’s historic district and dive into a plate of authentic Southern cuisine at Husk Restaurant.

Unfortunately, it’s time for this road trip to come to an end. Sad face! But what a journey it’s been! However, it’s not quite over yet. Continue north to stunning Charlotte in North Carolina first and visit the Charlotte Museum of History housed in a beautifully historic building and then raise a toast to the end of an unforgettable journey through American history.

Find out more

Register for the USA Discovery Program and start your journey to become a USA Specialist.

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Brand USA and Infinity Holidays are proud to partner to showcase even more of the USA and the endless possibilities for your clients. For more information on the fully bookable and customisable USA Road Trips itineraries and USA City Breaks go through HELiO, here.

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