Can you afford to board the Chattanooga choo-choo?

The 12 best Deep South holidays
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The Independent Travel

1 Steamboat cruiseTravelling along the lazy waters of the Mississippi in a paddle steamboat is an enduring image of the Deep South. Delta Vacations (tel: 0870 9005001) can bring that image closer to reality with a cruise aboard the Delta Queen steamboat out of Memphis, Tennessee. A seven-night break, with four days of cruising, costs around £1,190 per person, based on two sharing. The price includes flights, transfers, four nights full-board accommodation on the steamboat, three nights room-only accommodation at the Radisson Hotel in Memphis, and entertainment on board.

1 Steamboat cruiseTravelling along the lazy waters of the Mississippi in a paddle steamboat is an enduring image of the Deep South. Delta Vacations (tel: 0870 9005001) can bring that image closer to reality with a cruise aboard the Delta Queen steamboat out of Memphis, Tennessee. A seven-night break, with four days of cruising, costs around £1,190 per person, based on two sharing. The price includes flights, transfers, four nights full-board accommodation on the steamboat, three nights room-only accommodation at the Radisson Hotel in Memphis, and entertainment on board.

2 Sweet and sourDon't expect to enjoy a taster of the famous sour mash when visiting the Jack Daniel's distillery at Lynchburg, Tennessee. For, with a sense of delightful irony, the distillery is located in Moore County - one of Tennessee's dry counties. The distillery, opened in 1866, now operates regular daily tours that are free of charge. Visitors will see the copper stills and learn how the mash is charcoal-mellowed. The UK's Tennessee Tourism Office (tel: 01462 440784) can help with details of the tour and local accommodation. Lynchburg has a good range of traditional guest houses, including Dream Fields b&b (tel: 001 931 4388875), which offers rooms from £45 per person per night, based on two sharing, including a Southern breakfast.

3 Peabody ducksNever let it be said that America doesn't have its share of bizarre hotels. In keeping with a 65-year-old tradition, twice daily the Peabody ducks arrive by elevator in the front lobby of the Peabody Hotel, waddle along a specially laid section of red carpet, and wait to be fed. This ritual is played out in Memphis's most luxurious hotel. Getaway (tel: 020 8313 0550) can book a six-night break to this special hotel, starting from about £683 per person, based on two sharing, including flights and room-only accommodation. Transfers can be arranged via car hire, through Getaway, from £195 per week.

4 Country fansFor true aficionados of C&W, the annual Fan Fair (www.fanfair.com), is a must. Not only does it offer fans a chance to meet their idols at a special gathering, but country's finest, such as Alan Jackson and Loretta Lyn, will be performing live in a series of specially arranged concerts. Joe Fish Tours (tel: 01204 305001) will be organising a trip to next year's event (this year's runs between 12-17 June). A nine-day break will start from £999 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, coach transfers, room-only accommodation, tours and concert tickets.

5 Chattanooga Choo ChooGlenn Miller's 1941 million-selling hit "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" put the city of Chattanooga firmly on the map. These days, the original rail station is now the Chattanooga Choo Choo Holiday Inn. The city also has the world's steepest incline railway; and from the mountain summit that it climbs, you can see the seven surrounding states. Premier Holidays (tel: 01223 516688) offers a four-night break staying in the Holiday Inn's converted railway carriages for around £612 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, car hire, and carriage-only accommodation.

6 White-water raftingTennessee has many turbulent rivers - the Upper Ocoee river was home to the 1996 Olympic Games' white-water competitions. There are a number of American companies offering the thrills and spills of a day's white-water rafting on the river. The names of the rapids, "Hell's Hole" and "Broken Nose", rather unsubtly describe what rafters can expect. Ocoee Outdoors (tel: 001 423 3382438; net: www.ocoee-outdoors.com) charges around £60 per person for a full-day's rafting on the Upper Ocoee, including lunch and transfer to and from the river. Sunburst Adventures (tel: 001 800 2478388; net: www.sunburstrafting.com) offers a similarly priced trip.

7 Tennessee touringNorth American Representative (tel: 01344 890525) offers self-drive tours of Tennessee for the independent-minded. Its suggested itinerary takes in all of the usual suspects, including Nashville, Memphis and the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as some of Tennessee's finest plantation homes, in a nine-day tour costing around £489 per person, based on two sharing. Car-hire, eight nights' standard, room-only accommodation, tours in Nashville, and dinner on the Southern Belle paddle-steamer in Chattanooga are included. Return flights cost extra.

8 Smoky Mountains in the fallGreat Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the USA's most visited wilderness areas, and still home to black bears. Funway Holidays (tel: 020 8466 0222) can take you out to Gatlinburg, on the edge of the National Park, to enjoy the spectacular colours of the fall in October. The Smoky Mountains offer excellent hiking and even some skiing in the winter. A week-long break staying at the Sunspree resort, starts from around £548 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and six nights' room-only accommodation. A car can also be hired through Funway Holidays for around £189 per week.

9 Grand Ole OpryThe radio show, the Grand Ole Opry, has broadcast bluegrass, Cajun and C&W for the past 75 years. The show, now performed at the Grand Ole Opry House, is one of the many entertainments available to guests staying at Nashville's immense Opryland complex. Underneath a glass dome, the complex has a 3,000-room hotel, a huge new "shoppertainment" centre, and even a river running through it. Thomas Cook Holidays (tel: 01733 418100) offers four-night packages from £603 per person, based on two sharing a room in the Opryland Hotel, including return flights with American Airlines, car hire and room-only accommodation. Tickets to the Grand Ole Opry cost about £14.

10 Secret CityFollowing the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt initiated the top-secret Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, East Tennessee. The project aimed to compete with Germany in the race to produce atomic weaponry. In three short years, a top-secret city with a population of 75,000 emerged from absolutely nowhere. Today, the Secret City is a popular visitor attraction. Mainstreet USA (tel: 0191-3845500) can book a week-long break, staying in nearby Knoxville, from £619 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights with Continental Airlines, car hire and room-only accommodation.

11 DollywoodPremier Holidays (tel: 01223 516688) offer a four-night packages to Tennessee's leading theme park, Dollywood, at Pigeon Forge. The park is, needless to say, the creation of C&W diva Dolly Parton. As well as the occasional concert by the great entertainer herself, the park also boasts this year's world lumberjack series, and breathtaking rides on the only tunnel-drop triple-loop rollercoaster in existence. For £478 per person, based on two sharing, the price includes return flights, car hire and room-only accommodation at the nearby Pigeon Forge Holiday Inn. Day-passes to Dollywood cost an extra £21 per person.

12 Patsy rememberedAs her fans will not need reminding, Patsy Cline was one of the greatest Nashville recording stars. Joe Fish Tours (tel: 01204 305001) offers a special escorted tour that not only charts her career but also allows you to enjoy the sites of Tennessee in the company of George Hamilton IV, who hosts the whole trip. The 16-day extravaganza will also travel to Winchester in Virginia to visit the place of Patsy's birth and where she was finally laid to rest. The tour costs £1,229 per person, based on two sharing. Return flights, transfers, largely room-only accommodation, concerts and tours are included. The tour departs on 30 August .

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