Day 1, 2 & 3
Depart London Heathrow – 11:15
Arrive Washington Dulles – 14:35
Journey Time – 8 hours 20 minutes
Welcome to America’s capital! There are many great neighbourhoods in this very cosmopolitan city, yet the key museums and historic buildings are concentrated around the US Capitol Building and the National Mall, which is lined with Smithsonian museums.
You can’t help but be inspired and even awed on your first visit to Washington, DC. It’s like no other place in the world. Created in a swamp where frogs originally outnumbered residents, the city has gradually emerged as an impressive monument to America’s continuity. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and architect Pierre L’Enfant, Jefferson’s French friend, laid out the original city, which has kept pace with the fortunes of the country it governs. Buildings consciously designed to appear monumental have been preserved and renovated, and where applicable, integrated with new architecture. The massive fabric of monuments and museums peacefully coexists with a bustling, dynamic metropolitan area with world-class entertainment, unique restaurants, and a dynamic arts and cultural community.
A good way to get to know the city is to begin at the US Capitol Complex, which includes the Capitol Building, House and Senate Buildings and the US Botanical Gardens. Standing on the Capitol steps looking west, the expansive two-mile National Mall between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, stretches out before you, lined with monuments and museums. The Washington Monument stands in the centre, while the cross axis of the Mall is anchored by the White House on one end and the Jefferson Memorial on the other. You’ll find a number of the wonderful Smithsonian Museums along the Mall, as well as throughout the city.
The list of museums to choose from is extensive: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of African Art, National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are all on or near the Mall.
Memorials on or near the Mall include the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, United States Navy Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial..
3 nights – Washington DC
Washington DC to Fredericksburg to Williamsburg
South this morning and sixteen miles from Washington perhaps make a visit to Mount Vernon, the estate and burial place of George Washington. The mansion and museum contain much of the original furniture, and displays include the bed in which Washington died, his sword and the keys to the Bastille, presented to him by the Marquis de Lafayette.
Continue south to Fredericksburg, a town steeped in the history of the Revolution and the Civil War. The Rising Sun Tavern where patriots gathered with Washington and Thomas Jefferson offers a fascinating glimpse of 18th century life while during the Civil War Fredericksburg became a virtual armed camp as the most monumental battles between North and South took place here. The Battle of Fredericksburg (December 1862) would result in a stunning defeat for the Union. Confederate Robert E. Lee suffered roughly 5,000 casualties but inflicted nearly 13,000 on his opponent, General Ambrose Burnside. At the Battle of Chancellorsville (May 1863), 11 miles away, a series of controversial events defined this crucial battle, including General Robert E. Lee’s radical decision to divide his small army – a violation of basic military rules – sending Stonewall Jackson on his famous march around the Union army flank. Jackson was mortally wounded, but this was considered one of Lee’s greatest victories. Depending on your inclination both battlefields can be visited and at each site the visitor centers are happy to offer advice.
In the afternoon arrive in Colonial Williamsburg, the most extensively restored 18th century town in the US. So compelling is the restoration that you feel that you are in a crown colony over 300 years ago.
Overnight – Williamsburg
Recreating the elegance and hospitality of early America the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg encompasses 173 acres and within this portion of the city or its immediate surroundings are 88 original 18th or early 19th century houses, shops, taverns, public houses and dependencies. Approximately 90 acres of gardens and public greens provide an authentic setting for the restored 18th century capitol. Major buildings such as the Governor’s Palace, the Capitol, the Old Jail & Magazine, taverns and craft shops also offer the opportunity to relive the times of Colonial America. Visitors dine in authentic taverns featuring foods of George Washington’s time, participate in musters of colonial militia and fife and drum corps, watch craftsmen ply their colonial trades and ride in horse drawn carriages.
Overnight – Williamsburg
Williamsburg to Richmond to Charlottesville
This morning drive for one hour to Richmond, formerly the Capitol of the Confederacy, and one of the most handsome capitals in the south. Old waterfront warehouses have been restored into trendy shops and at historic Shockoe Slip, the renovated tobacco warehouse district, you can enjoy strolling cobblestone streets to browse the unique shops and restaurants. Visit the Museum & White House of the Confederacy, the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, drive along Monument Avenue, with its statues, and see Maymont, a lovely plantation-style home and gardens
Another one hour drive takes you to historic Charlottesville, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains and once home to American statesman Thomas Jefferson. Today Charlottesville is a lovely college town that still retains the 18th century charm of old homes and the gentle south.
Don’t miss a visit to Monticello, one of the loveliest and most impressive American estates and home of Thomas Jefferson from 1770 until his death in 1826. Jefferson inherited quite a large amount of land from his father and started building Monticello when he was twenty-six years old. The plantation was originally 5,000 acres, with extensive cultivation of tobacco and mixed crops, and the house, which Jefferson designed, was based on the neoclassical principles of the Italian Renaissance. He reworked it through much of his presidency and the plantation at full operations included quarters for domestic slaves along Mulberry Row near the house, gardens for flowers, produce and Jefferson’s experiments in plant breeding. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark and in 1987 Monticello and the nearby University of Virginia, also designed by Jefferson, were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Overnight – Charlottesville
Charlottesville to Blue Ridge Parkway to Roanoke
The Blue Ridge Parkway is literally the ‘Backbone’ of a great scenic mountain region embracing the southern (And highest) portion of the Appalachian mountain range, an area of approximately 20,000 square miles. Opening up vast mountain areas for the benefit and enjoyment of all, the Parkway forms a broad avenue of approach and at the same time a high balcony from which to view the natural wonders and cultural significance of this mountain region. This great 469-mile scenic Parkway follows closely the highest ridges between the Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, attaining altitudes of more than 6,000 feet and averaging between 3,000 and 4,000 feet. It is designed especially for leisurely enjoyment of the scenic wonders along the wayóa high road of adventure intended for leisure travel on the ride-awhile, stop-awhile basis. The numerous overlooks provide parking areas from which to enjoy some of America’s finest scenic views and a highlight is a visit to Natural Bridge just six miles off the Parkway. It’s a site sacred to Native Americans and Thomas Jefferson considered it the most sublime of nature’s works. We break our Blue Ridge journey with an overnight in Roanoke, often called the Star City of the South, an important hub of trails and roads in colonial times and still the commercial and cultural centre of West Virginia.
Overnight – Roanoke
Day 8 & 9
Roanoke to Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville
Another day to enjoy the scenic wonders of the Parkway passing Blowing Rock where an unusual rock formation above the Johns River gorge affords magnificent views and where wind currents from below cause light objects to float upwards into the sky.
Our destination for the next two nights is Asheville in North Carolina, a. charming town nestled amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains and also the ideal base for exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, once part of the homeland of the Cherokee tribe and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Spend a day exploring the ‘Smokies’ with beautiful panoramas and scenic drives. The Great Smoky Mountains are the most massive uplifts in the East and one of the oldest land areas on earth, the blue, smoke-like haze hanging over the peaks giving the region its name. Among the highlights is Chimney Rock Park where by a 26 story elevator inside the mountain you can reach the top of the peak for a spectacular view.
2 nights – Asheville
Day 10 & 11
Asheville to Charleston
Today a complete change of scene as we head to coastal Charleston, en-route passing Columbia, capital of South Carolina, home to the University of South Carolina and a city of wide avenues and historic sites.
Charleston is one of the country’s most delightful towns, the cradle of Southern gentility with miles of restored historic structures and renowned for its fancy wrought-iron work and splendid antebellum architecture. To fully understand and appreciate all of the history and beauty of the city we highly recommend joining one of the many narrated coach or trolley tours. If shopping is one of your passions visit Charleston Market which features an amazing variety of quaint shops and open-air vendors. You’ll discover an enticing selection of gifts, handcrafted items and merchandise unique to the Charleston area.
For a complete plantation experience stroll through the gorgeous flora and fauna at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens on Route 4, Highway 61 just 13 miles from the city centre. Another popular trip is a boat cruise through Charleston Harbor to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
2 nights – Charleston
Day 12 & 13
Charleston to Savannah
Travel this morning to beautiful Beaufort, SC, a city of rich history, Southern hospitality and casual seaside charm. Known as the ‘Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands’ Beaufort was discovered by the Spanish in 1514 and chartered by the British in 1711. Beaufort was also discovered by Hollywood and three of the most popular and celebrated films in Hollywood history were filmed in and around the town: ‘The Big Chill’ (1983), ‘The Prince of Tides’ (1989), and ‘Forrest Gump’ (2001). A trip to Beaufort is like a step back in time and we recommend a 50 minute narrated horse drawn carriage ride through the narrow streets of the historic district with its magnificent antebellum houses; be drawn in by the history, culture and elegance of this beautiful city by the sea.
An hour drive from Beaufort we come to the glittering jewel of the southeast coast, romantic Savannah. Regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Savannah has long been a beacon of civility, taste, and beauty along the meandering Georgia coastline. Founded in 1733 as England’s last colony by General James Oglethorpe the town was planned to centre on public squares and thanks to the efforts of Historic Foundation 20 of these remain, bordered by handsome town houses landscaped with live oaks, azaleas, fountains and statues.
Cotton made Savannah prosperous and the city became a vital port when in 1754 the first ships were loaded with cotton to make their way across the ocean to England. Explore the restored waterfront where many old buildings have survived and been restored, including the Pirates House (1754), an old seaman’s inn mentioned in Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Savannah was once a favourite haunt of marauding bands of pirates as they pillaged the eastern coast of America and the Pirates House (Now a popular restaurant) is reputed to have a tunnel that leads to the Savannah River through which pirates ‘shanghaied’ drunken sailors onto their ships. In more recent times Savannah has become renowned as the location for the atmospheric book and film ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil’ and you can see the Mercer House where the real life story of Billy Hansen’s murder played out and where the Hollywood movie was primarily filmed
Overnight – Savannah
Savannah to Atlanta
You can almost hear the music as you arrive in the attractive city of Macon home to Little Richard, Otis Redding, and the Allman Brothers, This is where James Brown recorded his first smash, the epoch-making “Please, Please, Please,” in an unlikely-looking mansion at 830 Mulberry St. There’s a bronze statue of Otis beside the Otis Redding Memorial Bridge and the lives of these great artists are celebrated in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame where Georgia musicians are recalled by displays including a gospel chapel, a rock’n’roll soda shop, and a country cafe. Macon is 2.5 hours drive from Savannah and perhaps have lunch here before driving a further 1.5 hours to Atlanta, the capital of the Peach Tree State
Famous for its links with Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone With the Wind, Atlanta rose from the ashes of the Civil War to become a commercial and financial giant of the Southeast. Host to the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games the city is also the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr and his birthplace along with the Ebenezer Baptist Church can be seen in the Sweet Auburn Historic District. Jimi Hendrix, Bobby Brown and Elton John have all called this sophisticated contemporary city home and highlights include the Carter Presidential Centre, the World of Coca Cola Pavilion and the CNN Centre, home of the largest TV network where a behind the scenes tour gives insight into the complexity of production required to put on a good show.
Have a great evening in the city known as ‘The Big Peach’ as you choose from the abundance of superb restaurants and take in some of the many jazz bars. Underground Atlanta sizzles at night or a short ca
b ride can get you to Blind Willies Bar for the best in blues, booze and Cajun food
Overnight – Atlanta
Squeeze in a little last minute shopping and pick up some bargains in Buckhead before you head for the airport for your afternoon flight home. We are confident you will take to the skies looking back on a rich and fulfilling visit to some timeless cities, and areas of stunning natural beauty.
Depart Atlanta – 21:45
Arrive London Heathrow – 09:45 (Next Day)
Journey time – 8 hours