Southern delicacies include chicken and ribs, biscuits and gravy, and more curiously, Elvis' favorite Graceland snack, a peanut butter and banana concoction. But here's food for thought: Our equally eclectic travel menu of mouth-watering southern destinations, nicely sandwiched between prime left- and right-coast stop-overs. Get a taste of Texas, full servings of Memphis and New Orleans, and a naughty nibble of Las Vegas, before a final bite in the Big Apple, New York City.
Meet up with your Contiki crew and Trip Manager before we hit the road. Journey through Southern California and the vast Mojave Desert, with its iconic Joshua trees, into Nevada. Get ready to arrive in larger-than-life Las Vegas – a manmade entertainment oasis smack in the middle of the desert. Dubbed “Sin City”, it’s all about glitz, neon lights and excess. See the bright lights of this city and its world famous casinos in a first taste of Vegas kitsch. As the group heads down the main drag, the “Strip”, your Trip Manager will fill you in on the story behind the city. Then cruise downtown to Freemont Street where you’ll experience the spectacular light and laser show in a massive pedestrian mall.
With a free day, you’ve got time to get a real feel for this outrageous town, so keep an eye out for Elvis impersonators and fast-paced chapel weddings! Explore more of the Strip and check out over-the-top versions of international icons, like the Eiffel Tower, Venetian canals and gondolas, a Roman temple or the pyramid, whose nightlight can be seen from the moon. Try your luck at one of the casinos, sit yourself down at a blackjack table and watch the high-rollers or go for a ride at one of the casino’s theme-parks. If you work up an appetite, tuck into an all you can eat buffet, and lunch American style. For something different, discover Las Vegas’ trademark art at the Neon Museum and for a look into this town’s atomic heyday in the 50s, visit the Atomic Testing Museum. Tonight, get some pointers on Las Vegas’ hot spots from your Trip Manager and make the most of this towns’ 24/7 action with some of your new friends.
Leaving the desert of Nevada, we head into Arizona’s high country. With down time on the coach, plug in your iPod, catch up on some sleep or chat with your new friends. Following a section of the legendary Route 66, we stop in the town of Seligman. This historic town will give you a feel for the old style as you check out 1940s shop fronts and motels. This is a good place to pick up a souvenir for back home. We continue on to the mind-blowing landscape of the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s most recognizable natural wonders and pride of Arizona.
Today, we discover the mind-blowing landscape of the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s most recognizable natural wonders and pride of Arizona. A day here means time to take in the immensity and spine-tingling beauty of the scene-stealing canyon – you won’t be able to stop looking at it! Hike along the rim for full-blown vistas of the dramatic scenery. See some of the oldest exposed rocks on earth, take in the depths of the abyss and soak up the wildness of the area. There are trails for all levels of hiking, so take it up a notch or cruise along at your own pace.
It’s into the Wild West today as we travel past cacti, rocky plateaus and the iconic desert backdrop of Monument Valley. Packed with stone spires and mesas (flattop mountains), the valley is also home to Navajo culture. Learn about the American Indian and Navajo way of life as the group visits the Navajo Tribal Park with a Local Guide. Your jaw will drop as we travel through a narrow gorge to the Painted Desert, where colorful rock formations dot the desert. Get your camera ready for a rock shaped exactly like a Mexican sombrero (hat). Cruise into Colorado this afternoon and pull into the hip mountain town of Durango, the gateway to the Rocky Mountains.
Get into the region’s outdoor lifestyle in an adrenaline-pumping river-rafting optional or choose to take the laid back approach on the Horse back trail ride. This afternoon, it’s a total change of scene when we enter New Mexico, where sun-baked earthen brick buildings stand out against the bright blue sky. When we pull into Albuquerque, you’ve got time before dinner to uncover the city’s Spanish heritage. Check out the pueblo (old town), where the original settlement still stands, as well as small shops that sell knick-knacks, antiques and souvenirs.
Enjoy an unforgettable experience by choosing an optional hot air balloon ride over New Mexico in the early morning. This region is famous for hot air ballooning, so grab hold of your camera for the full-blown vistas over the desert and the Rio Grande. Next up is Santa Fe. It’s a prime example of how New Mexico mixes up Mexican, Spanish, Anglo and American Indian cultures. Walk around town and see pueblo style architecture or experience Santa Fe’s artistic flair and visit some of its 250 art galleries. It’s a great place to pick up some turquoise jewelery – a traditional craft of the American Indians. For lunch, try out some local spicy specialties like caldillo (green chilli stew), fajitas (sizzling meat and vegetables wrapped in tortilla) and tamales (cornmeal, meat and chili). Eastbound, we travel into the heart of cowboy country to laid- back Amarillo, a small, quirky town known for its ranches and cattle auctions. Get your dose of Americana at the Cadillac Ranch – a roadside open-air collection of off-beat art. Cast your eyes over the time line of Cadillac models and learn about this classic American car. Make the most of our “old west” accommodation tonight, complete with a Texas-shaped pool and horse hotel (stables for those travelling steeds). Later on, if you’re keen, put your hand up for the Big Steak Challenge and take on a 2.1kg portion (4.4lb) of beef.
Home to the Dallas Cowboys football team, oil millionaires, rich ranchers and a famous soap opera, Dallas doesn’t do things by halves. The “Big D” dishes up big attitude. You’ll get your bearings as your Trip Manager shows the group some of downtown Dallas’ core spots. Then there’s time to get out there among the city slickers and pound the pavements for a first taste of the Lone Star State’s famous city.
Dallas is well known for its oil tycoons, ranchers, millionaire tech innovators, and of course, the Dallas Cowboys football team, better known as "America's Team." Feeling like an investigation? We include a visit to the 6th floor museum where you can learn more about the assassination of President John F Kennedy and try your hand at figuring out 'whodunnit.' Back in Forth Worth, enjoy lunch and sightseeing around Sundance Square, try a craft beer on the Ale Trail or pick up some genuine leather boots and hats at the world famous Justin's Boots. You will be looking good tonight as we head to the Fort Worth Stockyards, home of the cowboy hall of fame and the world's largest honkey tonk, Billy Bob'
With one foot in Texas and one foot in Arkansas, we visit the town of Texarkana! Make sure you grab a photo of yourself standing in two states. Stop by Little Rock and see the Central high school - a hot spot during the Civil Rights Movement! Then we cross over the mythical Mississippi River and pull into the 'musical mecca' and BBQ capital, Memphis. Hometown to blues, soul and rock’n’roll, Memphis moves to a lot of different beats. Get a feel for its rhythm as your Trip Manager points out the Gibson guitar factory, the Orpheum Theatre, Rock’n’Soul Museum and Beale Street.
Jump start the day with a tour of Graceland and pay homage to the King of Rock’n’Roll. Your Trip Manager will tell you Elvis’ story before you tour his 70s style mansion and get up close to his lifestyle, gold records and jumpsuits. After Graceland, you’ve got free time to explore Memphis. Stop by at Memphis’ signature site, Sun Studios, where Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash all recorded. If you want to find out more about Memphis musical heritage, have a look around and even make your own record! If you’re hungry while your here, make sure you try out some Memphis BBQ, as this place is known for it. Later, head to Memphis’ core and former hub of African American culture, Beale Street. Birthplace of the blues, stomping ground of famous singers like B.B. King and Tina Turner, this historic street is a major landmark and a great place to listen to live music, kick back with a beer and party.
Drop by Jackson, Mississippi, and then cross Lake Pontchartrain on the longest causeway in the world. A meeting point of European style and Caribbean flavors, swinging New Orleans is busy with soul, flamboyance, festivities and a whole lot of jazz! Get your first taste of the city’s romance as the group looks into New Orleans’ spiritual heart: the historic French Quarter. See New Orleans’ main drag, the city’s original coffee shop Café du Monde, the French Market and thriving Jackson Square, with its pretty wrought iron balconies. Later, turn the energy levels up with a visit to Bourbon street. Humming night and day, it is all about music and bars. So make sure you live the New Orleans’ motto “Laissez les bon temps rouler” - let the good times roll!
A free day means time to absorb the atmosphere and lose yourself in the energy and diversity of New Orleans. You could hop on a historic street car and head to the southern end of the Garden District, where you can soak up the rundown elegance and old-world charm of the quarter’s Victorian mansions. Experience more of the stunning French Quarter, made up of hidden courtyards, soul-kitchens and jazz clubs. Hang out in Jackson Square and watch musicians, fortune tellers and artists. For a taste of tradition, sit down in historic Café du Monde and order the only two things on the menu: café au lait (milk coffee) and beignets (French donut). To learn more about local flavours, sign up for the New Orleans Cooking School optional and watch well-known local chefs make classics like gumbo (a type of stew), shrimp Creole and bread pudding, and then eat the food afterwards. Other ideas for your free time include rummaging through the farmers and flea markets on the square, visiting the Voodoo Museum for a look into more spellbinding traditions or reliving Mardi Gras at the Mardi Gras Museum.
With time to relax on the coach, enjoy a siesta or get some tips for the up-coming destinations from your Trip Manager. Travel through Southern Mississippi. Afterwards, we head to Southern Alabama to soak up some sun with an overnight stop at "The World's Most Beautiful Beaches" - Panama City Beach.
Get ready to arrive in the former farming town of Orlando. This ordinary town was transformed into the most-visited place in the state by Walt Disney’s imagination, when he created Disney World. Now Orlando is all about wild rides, fantasy and amusement parks, so get some pointers from your Trip Manager and take your pick!
Free time means a day out in one of the many fun parks located here with some friends. There are loads of options; Disney World with its 4 parks, Universal Studios and several water parks. The parks also serve up theme-bars and clubs, so if you’re keen, keep it moving tonight at one of them.
Flamboyant, flashy and fabulous, Miami is hot and loud. Packed with diverse neighborhoods, each with their own character, Miami is great place to hang out. First up it's a look around the downtown. You’ll see the Miami Heat (basketball team) arena, the high rises of the financial district and the outdoor shopping area of the Bayside Marketplace. Then, discover stylish South Beach with its iconic art deco buildings, swaying palm trees and neon lights. Sizzling any night of the week, South Beach is where all the action is, so explore it in a night out with your friends.
Tropical Miami oozes energy and a free day here means time to get into this happening hub. Head down to Ocean Avenue and people-watch. If you’re looking to relax, kick back among the toned, bronzed bodies on South Beach and take a swim in the warm waters of the southern Atlantic. Have a go on 2 wheels in a fun biking excursion with the group and get familiar with the waterfront neighborhoods. Your Local Guide will give you an insider’s view on this colorful town, and take you to many of Miami’s signature sites like Casa Casuarina (Versace Mansion), the Bass Art Museum and the Holocaust Memorial before winding down with something cool to drink at Miami’s Marina. If you’ve got time to live a bit of the local Latin lifestyle, return to Little Havana and order some Cuban rice and beans, followed by some sweet Cuban coffee. Try your hand at dominoes on one of the outdoor tables on Calle Ocho (Eighth Street) or pick up a Cuban cigar and some salsa music at one of the little shops. Before you hit the shops, get some pointers about where to head from your Trip Manager, who knows the ins and outs of Miami. For shopping in style, stroll through the outdoor shopping promenade of the Lincoln Road mall and for bargains, head to Espanola Way. Tonight, live a slice of the high life and party it up Miami style out on the water in our optional harbor party cruise.
We head north today, to the incredible Daytona Beach. Take in the sand, sea and sun on one of the most famous beaches in the world.
Hit the Space Coast, home to NASA, and visit the fascinating Kennedy Space Center, the only rocket launch point for space missions in the Western Hemisphere. You’ve got time to explore the massive series of buildings, as you learn about space exploration and get up close to pieces of the moon, mission capsules, astronaut’s gear and space shuttles. You’ll also see the launch and landing pad first hand.
Free-wheeling Savannah is up next and its all about southern charm. Fall under its spell as you check out the old cotton warehouses, historic city squares and mansions. Spared from the destruction of the Civil War, you’ll see original historic buildings here. Visit stunning Forsyth Park and see gorgeous moss covered oak trees, surrounding historic homes and inns. Take in the sub-tropical plants, flowers and lush greenery that spill onto the town’s 24 public squares. Perhaps enjoy dinner along the waterfront tonight and experience southern hospitality at its best.
The southern hospitality is second to none in the delightful Savannah, and after a good rest and some great food its back aboard the coach (is it starting to feel like home yet?) where we travel to Charleston, SC before arriving at our home for the night, Raleigh, situated in the state of North Carolina. Charleston, the birthplace of the dance craze of the same name. Here, horse and carriages are the norm and the ‘low country’ favourite of shrimp and grits are menu regulars, which should be high priority on your agenda today. Learn some facts from our Local Guide, and visit a historical rice plantation. Later, more beautiful 17th Century buildings will excite the architecture enthusiasts as we stroll along stunning Church Street and the waterside promenade, visiting the 200 year old market. We pull up the brakes for an over night stop in North Carolina's capital city of Raleigh. Get some good zzz's here before we head on tomorrow for a big day of travel and some more sight seeing.
This morning, cross over the border into Richmond for a slice of history. After a look around the old center we head to Carytown, a young and funky district, for lunch. Next up: the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. It’s the USA’s political core, buzzing with decision makers and busy with museums, monuments and politics. Get inspired on our Illuminations Tour around D.C’s famous structures and see the city brilliantly lit up against the night sky. Your local guide will fill you in D.C’s signature sites and monuments, like the Capitol Building, Washington Monument and the White House. We’ll drive along the National Mall, a traditional place of protest and of key events in the USA’s past. Enjoy an overview of presidential history with a look at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech, the Jefferson memorial with its famous columns and the Roosevelt Memorial. Remember those who died in Vietnam and Korea as you check out the memorials to those conflicts.
With two full days to explore the capital, you can visit some fascinating museums and monuments, or hang out in the city’s vibrant neighborhoods for a different feel. We’ll visit Arlington National Cemetery, where JFK is buried and thousands of US soldiers lie. You’ll see the sobering sight of endless rows of white headstones and have the chance to watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Then get some pointers from your Tour Manager on where to go next. Get a dose of culture at the Smithsonian Museums. This is a one-stop culture spot, made up of 19 different museums. It has it all – from natural history to space, so the choice is yours, and best of all, it’s free! You can also visit the world-class Holocaust Museum and learn about one of history’s darkest moments as you honor the victims. For something fun and intriguing, head to the Spy Museum. Find out about infamous FBI cases and what it means to be a secret agent, while you listen to bugs and play around with gadgets and interactive displays. Later, hit Georgetown, D.C.’s oldest district and see how it has injected itself with new energy. 200 year-old buildings hold hip galleries and boutiques – it’s a great place to pick up something funky. It’s also a global kitchen - try something from the 50 different types of ethnic food on offer. With a university crowd, Georgetown is vibrant and young, so spend some time exploring the laid-back lounges and upscale bars. For something more upbeat, get down and funky in Adams-Morgan, another trendy district.
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Trip Name: Grand Southern (Start Los Angeles)
Duration: 26 Days
From Price: £3,655
Supplier Tour ID: GSLA/160568
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