The American South is home to iconic landscapes and diverse peoples, its unique histories celebrated in art, music, literature and film. Yet the South is also home to some of the most enduring contradictions in American culture, from settlement and Civil War to the assassination of JFK. Join America expert, Dr Matthew Laing, on this new 16-day tour, exploring the history and culture of the South, from Charleston to French Louisiana in New Orleans, the great plains of Texas, and on to Santa Fe’s ancient deserts.
A four-day extension to the Grand Canyon and Phoenix is available for this tour. View detailed itinerary for further details.
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Civil War legacies, from Antebellum plantations to the struggle for freedom and civil rights
Unique cultural experiences: New Orleans’ jazz, Dallas cowboys, and Santa Fe’s Native American arts and crafts
South Carolina’s forests, Louisiana’s bayous, the sweeping plains of Texas and New Mexico’s glorious deserts
Culture and cuisine: incredible seafood in Charleston’s Lowcountry, Louisiana’s French-Cajun and Texas’s famous steaks
Nation-defining stories of tragedy and perseverance, from JFK’s assassination to Hurricane Katrina’s legacy
Impeccably preserved southern plantations, including Oak Alley on the Mississippi
Colonial Savannah, Georgia: cobblestone squares and historic architecture
New Orleans’ unique fusion of French, Spanish, Creole and American cultures, from jazz and swing to Cajun and Creole cuisine
World-class art: the Kimbell Art Museum and the Amon Carter Museum
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Taos Pueblo, an ancient mudbrick city occupied for almost a millennium
Private tour of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Home and Studio in Abiquiu, and the spectacular landscapes that inspired her
Days 1–4: The Old South in Charleston, with the Civil War’s beginnings at Fort Sumter, Antebellum townhouses and plantations, and immaculately preserved colonial Savannah and Beaufort.
Days 5–8: Explore a fascinating mix of Spanish, American and French influences in New Orleans, from jazz and swing in the French Quarter, to the Mississippi’s stately manors and bayous.
Days 9–11: The best of Dallas, from the Symphony and Kimbell Art Museum to a classic Texas rodeo and cowboy culture.
Days 12–16: In New Mexico, discover Native American culture at Taos Pueblo and the eerie beauty of Georgia O’Keeffe’s desert.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Qantas flies direct to Dallas-Fort Worth, with connections to Charleston and Santa Fe. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Saturday 26 October: Arrival and Introduction
Today our group meets together in Charleston in the late afternoon and will enjoy welcome cocktails and a group dinner together, followed by an introductory lecture on the history and culture of the South. Overnight Charleston (D).
Sunday 27 October: The Old South
We start our tour this morning by strolling the fine collection of the 18th and early 19th-century townhouses of merchants and planters on the Charleston peninsula, one of the best-preserved historic districts in the USA. These large houses sit side-by-side with fine Georgian churches and oceanside mansions, as well as more modest dwellings, such as ‘Catfish Row’, and the Old Slave Mart, one of the last of its kind left preserved in America. This afternoon we travel along the Ashley River Road to visit the Palladian-style Drayton Hall, on one of the rice plantations which were once the backbone of Charleston’s economy. After our tour, we will enjoy fine Madeira and southern canapes on the lawns. Overnight Charleston (B).
Monday 28 October: Art and War
After a lecture in the hotel, this morning we join a cruise of Charleston Harbor, learning about the history of the harbor, before visiting Fort Sumter, where the first major military engagement of the Civil War took place, and see the American flag hoisted. We’ll return to the city in the early afternoon for a guided visit of the Gibbes Museum of Art, an excellent regional collection of works by well-known colonial artists, displaying the artistic tastes of the 18th and 19th-century ‘plantation aristocracy’, as well as learn some of the history of piracy and war in this pivotal Southern port. Overnight Charleston (B).
Tuesday 29 October: Savannah
We spend the full day in Savannah and its hinterlands. Savannah owes its beauty to the vision of James Oglethorpe, one of the 21 original British colonists of Georgia. Ogelthorpe laid out a street plan of 24 leafy squares. Around these squares were built fine town houses, most of which survive. Savannah’s beautiful houses and society is best known to us through John Berendt’s popular book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We’ll take a walking tour of the town and its great houses, as well as the First Baptist Church, a key stop on the ‘underground railway’ that smuggled slaves to freedom in the North. Our return journey will take us through the beautiful town of Beaufort, with stunningly preserved pre-Civil War streetscapes, as well as the first school in the United States dedicated to educating the freed slaves. Overnight Charleston (B).
Wednesday 30 October: Onto New Orleans
This morning we fly from Charleston to New Orleans, via Atlanta. After checking in to our hotel in the French Quarter we’ll have an introductory talk and take a brief walking tour. Located on the site of the original settlement of the French Mississippi Company, most of the buildings standing today are actually from the period of Spanish control of the colony (1763-1801). Our walk takes in the fine cathedral of St Louis, Jackson Square, the levee of the Mississippi River and of course Bourbon Street. Tonight, we dine at one of the city’s finest restaurants serving a full tasting menu of characteristic Creole dishes. Overnight New Orleans (B, D).
Thursday 31 October: Seas, Swamps and Gardens
Today is all about New Orleans relationship with the water, with a driving tour to some of the outer districts, including the famous Ninth Ward that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the levees that protect the city from the sea, and the beautiful Garden District. In the afternoon we’ll have a chance to venture further out of the city to the Jean Lafitte National Preserve, a vast wetland of swamps and bayous, where we’ll take a boat tour of this unique and iconic biome. Overnight New Orleans (B).
Friday 1 November: The Mississippi
Today we drive up the grand Mississippi River to two of the most important and best-preserved plantations in the region. We’ll tour the majestic and picturesque Oak Alley, which immortalises the pinnacle of sophisticated Old Southern culture, and then after lunch explore the other side at the Whitney Plantation, where the local guides will uncover for us the lives and culture of the African Americans who lived there. After returning to New Orleans we’ll attend a show at Snug Harbour, one of the city’s better-known jazz venues. Overnight New Orleans (B).
Saturday 2 November: Creole Culture
After a morning lecture, we’ll continue our exploration of downtown New Orleans, with a guided tour of some of the great houses in the area and colourful personalities in the city, while exploring in greater depth some of the unique cultures and peoples that made the city what it is, from the Voodoo occultists from Haiti to French-Spanish dons and friars. We’ll have a group lunch at one of the smaller, more boutique restaurants in the city that serve unique and traditional Creole and Cajun dishes. The afternoon and evening are free, with the option of attending jazz or local music performances or letting your hair down on Bourbon Street. Overnight New Orleans (B, L).
Sunday 3 November: Across the Plains
This morning we bid farewell to The Big Easy and fly to Dallas, one of the largest cities in the United States and a modern metropolis epitomising the wealth and character of both the New South and the Western frontier. After checking into our hotel we’ll take a visit to the Nasher Sculpture Center, one the best in the country. Later in the evening, we’ll take in a concert by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, in the incredible I.M. Pei designed Meyerson Symphony Center near our hotel. Overnight Dallas (B).
Monday 4 November: The New South
We start our day with a morning lecture and then take a tour of the arts district of Dallas, including a guided tour of the Dallas Museum of Art, which boasts a world-class collection of European, American and Native American art. After lunch we’ll venture downtown to the iconic Dealey Plaza, site of the 1963 assassination of John F Kennedy, and visit the book depository museum nearby where Lee Harvey Oswald forever changed American history. There will be free time in the afternoon to explore the city on your own. In the evening we’ll take a ride to the top of the Reunion tower that overlooks the city and dine at Wolfgang Puck’s Five Sixty with 360-degree views of the city. Overnight Dallas (B, D).
Tuesday 5 November: Fort Worth
We have a day trip today to Fort Worth, once an independent city but now the twin city of Dallas. Fort Worth was historically the centre of American Ranching culture, with massive stockyards and famous rodeo competitions, and helped define what we know today as the American cowboy. We’ll tour some of the historic sites associated with this history and culture in the morning. After lunch you’ll have a choice of visiting the Amon Carter Museum, which focuses on American and Western art, or the Kimbell Art Museum, located in a stunning pavilion designed by Louis Kahn and featuring one of the best collections of European art in the United States. We return to Dallas in the early evening. Overnight Dallas (B).
Wednesday 6 November: Into the Desert
Today we’ll venture into the west and say goodbye to Texas, as we fly to Santa Fe. It is the oldest state capitol in the United States and one of the best vestiges of Spanish settlement in America. New Mexico has a unique blend of Spanish, American and Native American culture which we’ll explore in this enchanting city. After arriving at our hotel, we’ll have an introductory talk and a group dinner in one of the city’s best restaurants. Overnight Santa Fe (B, D).
Thursday 7 November: Exploring Santa Fe
We have a busy day exploring Santa Fe, home to some of the oldest buildings in North America, including Spanish churches and missions, the original Governor’s Palace, and the old city square, which we’ll spend the morning touring and discussing. We’ll take a trip up to the museum campus of Santa Fe and have a guided tour of the International Museum of Folk Art, featuring the extraordinary international collection of interior designer Alexander Girard. In the afternoon there will be free time to visit Canyon Road, where many stunning private galleries and artist studios are to be found. Overnight Santa Fe (B).
Friday 8 November: Ancient Lands and Cultures
After a lecture in the hotel, we spend the day learning about the Puebloan Native Americans and the ancient landscapes of the region. First, we’ll take a guided tour of Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the Americas. We’ll venture up to the gorge of the Rio Grande River, and visit the Millicent Rogers Museum, which features a stunning collection of Native American pottery and jewellery. Taos is a beautiful town with many historic structures, and in the afternoon there will be time to explore them, such as the San Francisco de Asis Church, before we return to Santa Fe in the evening. Overnight Santa Fe (B).
Saturday 9 November: The Desert Muse
Our final day sees us following in the footsteps of Georgia O’Keefe, Santa Fe’s most famous resident and whose evocative art took inspiration from the eerie beauty of the New Mexican deserts. In the morning we’ll visit the O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, and then venture out to her Home and Studio in Abiquiu, as well as the Ghost Ranch from whose stark deserts and red cliffs she drew much of her artistic inspiration. Our journey there and back will take us through some of the most beautiful and lonely landscapes of the region. After returning to Santa Fe, we have a group farewell dinner in the iconic Fonda on the Plaza. Overnight Santa Fe (B, D).
Sunday 10 November: Farewell
This morning there will be time to squeeze in some last-minute shopping for art and crafts in Santa Fe, before departures are arranged from midday onwards. Those continuing on the Grand Canyon extension will make an early start to cross the desert of New Mexico and Arizona to reach the Grand Canyon. (B).
Dr Matthew Laing
Is a historian and political scientist with a PhD from the ANU. Matthew leads tours to the United States and Scandinavia and lectures for Academy Travel.
Dr Matthew Laing is a historian and political scientist at Monash University who has led tours to the Americas and Europe with Academy Travel for five years. He has a strong personal interest in architecture, cultural history and modern art, with a particular expertise in the United States.
Matthew holds a BA and PhD from the Australian National University, and wrote his doctorate on the history of the United States presidency. He has worked as a lecturer and research fellow at the Australian National University, Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and now at Monash University in Melbourne. He is an accredited ADFAS lecturer and frequently holds public lecture series in Melbourne. He currently teaches United States history and leadership, and has published on both topics.
Matthew’s tours strive for intellectual engagement and to reveal the stories, both big and small, that can bring history to life. A voracious reader and traveller, Matthew strives to be a generalist and draws upon a wide range of subjects – from politics to architecture – to develop his understanding of a place. Matthew’s passion for the United States started as an intern in the United States Congress in 2007. Since then he has made dozens of trips across the country, for both work and pleasure, and is closing in on his goal of visiting all 50 states. He has lectured and written on a wide variety of US subjects, including the American Revolution, the Gilded Age, and American Modernist architecture. Matthew also lived in the Netherlands for two years and has travelled widely there, and has a particular interest in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
Matthew has been tour leading for Academy Travel annually since 2013, with many tours to the United States and Europe, and is now taking on a greater role managing and developing further tours in these regions, including developing new tours to areas like the Southern United States.
We asked Matthew, what do you enjoy most about leading a group tour?
“As an academic, the personal joy of leading tours for Academy Travel is that I get one of the best classrooms I could ask for of intelligent and attentive global travellers who share my passion for learning about our world. And yet often I also find myself the student – with intellectually-engaged travellers from all walks of life, some of the most stimulating debates and discussions I’ve had are with my clients on tours.”
“I think those who come on tour with me benefit most from my enthusiasm, energy and passion – whether it’s a giving a morning lecture or having a causal chat at lunch, I’m always striving to draw out new insights and connections that can further understanding and increase engagement.”
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.