Taste of southern comfort on road to Natchez

We are a family of two adults and two children (aged 17 and 10) travelling to the US to spend Christmas with relatives in Colorado. We have about four weeks available and while we plan to spend about a week to 10 days with the relatives, we are wondering where to go for the other two-plus weeks. We have considered the Highway One drive from San Francisco to LA but are also interested in the southern states such as New Orleans, Texas and maybe Florida, where it may be warmer. Could you provide some suggestions?

- J. Adlington, Wollongong.

Under normal circumstances, I would suggest a road journey back to LA via New Mexico, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas but in December, that would be a savagely cold trip for the most part.

California Highway One between LA and San Francisco is a classic drive but it's not going to stretch to more than a few days. However, the Natchez Trace Parkway (nps.gov/natr) just might have you whistling Dixie. This 710-kilometre route between Nashville and Natchez, Mississippi, follows ancient game trails. The country's native people, explorers, traders, missionaries, soldiers and settlers all used the Trace, especially during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the route is interlaced with the memories of their passing.

In particular, the route passes a number of battlefields of the American Civil War. This is a beautiful and relaxing drive and the names of some of its attractions - Red Dog Road, the Loveless Cafe, Hurricane Creek, Buzzard Roost Spring and not forgetting Browns Bottom - give you an idea of its character. Access to the Parkway is free but limited and since speed is restricted, the two-lane road is only used by drivers who want to enjoy its scenery and history.

If you drive the Trace from north to south, from Natchez you could continue another 250 kilometres to New Orleans and experience another dimension of the US's southern comfort.