This Southern vacation is a must for music buffs, as it explores some of the locations that played a critical role in the evolution of American music. Your trip includes three great cities in Tennessee: Memphis, dubbed the "birthplace of rock ’n’ roll;" Nashville, famous for country music; and Gatlinburg, a mountain resort destination. You’ll also spend time in Asheville, North Carolina and two of Kentucky’s famous cities—Louisville and Lexington.Begin your trip in Memphis, which is also the “Home of the Blues,” for a sightseeing tour and visits to Elvis Presley’s Graceland and the Rock ’n’ Soul Museum. Then on to Nashville, “Music City U.S.A.,” to enjoy a tour of the city and to attend the Grand Ole Opry with reserved seats. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and legendary RCA Studio B, once a recording home of Elvis Presley. Travel from Nashville to the heart of Kentucky bluegrass country—Louisville, Kentucky. On the way, visit Sinking Spring Farm, Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, and the Jim Beam Distillery, showcasing some of the world’s finest bourbon. In Louisville, visit Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. From Gatlinburg, visit Dollywood, an 88-acre theme park inspired by Dolly Parton, and drive through the Great Smoky Mountains, America’s most visited national park. In Asheville, visit George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned home in America.All of this and more await you on this marvelous vacation highlighting the sights and sounds of the South.
Day #1 Arrive in Memphis. Welcome to Memphis, the “Home of the Blues.” This evening, mix and mingle with your traveling companions at 6 pm for a welcome drink. Your Tour Director will prepare you for your upcoming adventure.
Day #2 Memphis. Excursion to Graceland. This morning, enjoy a guided tour of the city including a tour of the ROCK ‘N’ SOUL MUSEUM, which traces Memphis’ cultural and musical past and features the Smithsonian’s Social Crossroads exhibition. Continue to the gardens and mansions of Elvis Presley’s GRACELAND, named a National Historic Landmark in 2006. You’ll also be able to board his private jets. The remainder of your day is free to explore on your own; perhaps visit the National Civil Rights Museum. Located at the Lorraine Motel, site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it traces the American Civil Rights Movement. (B,D)
Day #3 Memphis–Nashville. Depart for Nashville. Upon arrival, experience this city up close and personal with a sightseeing tour of landmarks with a Local Guide, including Centennial Park’s full-size replica of Athens’ Parthenon and the recording studios of Music Row. This evening you may opt to join an excursion to Nashville Nightlife, combining dinner and the best of Music City’s country entertainment. (B)SPECIAL FEATURE: Your hotel is the world-famous Opryland, where you’ll experience all the grandeur of the South with hospitality at its finest. Explore nine acres of lush indoor gardens, winding pathways, and sparkling waterfalls, as well as 30 specialty shops, a spa, and a variety of restaurants.
Day #4 Nashville. Today, visit the COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME to see its rich collection of costumes, memorabilia, instruments, photographs, and, of course, Elvis Presley’s “solid gold” Cadillac. Also, visit historic [LF] RCA STUDIO B—once a recording home of Elvis Presley. You’ll even have the chance to make your own recording and take it home with you! Tonight you have reserved seats for an unforgettable show at the world-famous GRAND OLE OPRY, the mecca for country musicians. (B)
Day #5 Nashville–Hodgenville–Bardstown–Louisville. Head into the heart of Kentucky bluegrass country. At SINKING SPRING FARM in Hodgenville, Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, see a replica of the original log cabin preserved as a shrine to the best-loved of American presidents. In Bardstown, stop at a local restaurant serving up some Southern cuisine for lunch followed by a visit to MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME STATE PARK, where Stephen Foster composed Kentucky’s anthem. Continue to the world’s largest bourbon distiller, the JIM BEAM DISTILLERY, showcasing some of the world’s finest bourbon, its production process, and the beautiful T. Jeremiah Beam home. (B,L)
Day #6 Louisville–Lexington. Enjoy [LF] breakfast while watching morning training workouts at CHURCHILL DOWNS, home of the “greatest two minutes in sports.” Experience a morning on the track with a preview of the process of training world-class thoroughbreds during their early morning workout and a visit to the stables. Next, experience Derby Day, from the starting gate to the finish line, at the KENTUCKY DERBY MUSEUM. This afternoon, travel the Bluegrass Parkway to Lexington for a fascinating behind-the-scenes visit to a local [LF] HORSE FARM. Travel through rolling countryside and learn about the majestic horses that make Lexington the “Horse Capital of the World.” Journey behind the fences to a thoroughbred farm and hear about the breeding process, rearing, horseracing, and even meet some of these beautiful champions up close. (B)
Day #7 Lexington–Gatlinburg. This morning, journey south through the rugged wilderness of Daniel Boone National Forest, where you will stop to see the thundering, 125-foot-wide CUMBERLAND FALLS. Continue across the border into Tennessee and on to Gatlinburg at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains, America’s most visited national park. Arrive this afternoon for some free time in one of the country’s most popular mountain retreats. Perhaps take a ride up the aerial tram to Mount Harrison for vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains. (B,D)
Day #8 Gatlinburg. Excursion to Dollywood. Spend the day at world-famous DOLLYWOOD, an 88-acre landscaped theme park inspired by Dolly Parton and her love for the mountains, family, and country music. This evening, join an optional excursion to the Dixie Stampede, showcasing a hearty country dinner and an action-packed show. (B)
Day #9 Gatlinburg–Great Smoky Mountain National Park–Asheville. Depart Gatlinburg and drive right through the center of SMOKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK along spectacular Newfound Gap Road to Clingman’s Dome, peaking at 6,643 feet. As you travel through the park, witness the mist of blue haze that surrounds the mountains for which the park is named. Arrive in Asheville and head to George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre BILTMORE ESTATE, the largest privately owned home in America. Tour the French Renaissance-style, 250-room chateau to view the priceless paintings and antiques, including Napoleon’s chess table. Make sure and spend time exploring the spectacular gardens as well as the winery. This evening, gather for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant hosted by your Tour Director. (B,D)
Day #10 Asheville–Atlanta. This morning, depart Asheville for Atlanta. After a transfer to the airport for guests with homebound flights (please schedule flights after 3:30 pm), the motorcoach continues to the Marriott Atlanta Buckhead, where the tour ends. (B)