Our Annual Rite of Winter

Backroads Migration to Mobile, Alabama

  • Callaway Gardens | FDR's Little White House | Monroeville | Mobile | Africatown


February 26 – March 3, 2023


  • Great natural beauty, in a season of clear and clean air: Pine Mountain, Alabama backroads, Mobile Bay
  • FDR's Little White House; Callaway Gardens
  • Delightful dining throughout the trip, including Gulf Coast seafood specialties
  • Lovely accommodations: The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens (2 nights); the Fort Conde Inn (Mobile, 2 nights); The Hotel at Auburn (1 night)
  • Up Close stories (with local guides) about Harper Lee and Truman Capote (Monroeville); the recovery of the Clotilda

Trip Description

Migrating South . . . Our Seasonal Rite of Passage

It’s our much-ballyhooed winter escape trip to Old Florida! . . . Only we decided to land just west of Old Florida . . . in Old Alabama!  So – Introducing (drum roll please) our Explore Up Close take on Old Alabama’s “first city” . . . the birthplace of Mardi Gras in the modern US . . . and site of the storied bay that has lived under four flags – the city of Mobile!

We’re heading south in late-February, combining the elements that make Explore Up Close exploration travel just that – exploration travel:  backroads drives that showcase a way of life, sometimes thriving, sometimes in decay, but always fascinating like a visual book that tells you some details and leaves others to the imagination; small places, where we spend time to learn the story; stunning accommodations and dining; and meet-ups with local experts, who share their knowledge about their world with us.

We’ll drive across Georgia (off the interstate) to spend our first two nights at the beautiful Callaway Gardens Lodge.  We’ll discover scenic drives, FDR’s Little White House, and local stories you might not have expected in west-central Georgia’s outback.  We’ll make a stop in Monroeville, Alabama – home to Harper Lee . . . and a childhood next-door playmate who came in the summers to live with his aunt – Truman Capote.

In Mobile, we’ll explore historic garden residential districts, learn about the primacy of the bay and the Gulf, see first-hand the ongoing “revival” of the slave ship, Clotilda, and bask in the festive atmosphere that abounds.


February 26

We’ll depart the Carolinas, embarking on a drive through Georgia’s Piedmont – happily away from the interstate.  Our drive will take us through a series of pretty towns:  Madison (lunch); Monticello; Griffin; and Greenville (GA).  We’ll arrive in the mid-afternoon in Pine Mountain – home of Callaway Gardens.  We’ll check into the lovely Lodge (“and Spa”) – snuggled in between forest and lake.  Relax and unwind.  At the appointed hour, we’ll enjoy dinner together on site at the atmospheric Piedmont Dining Room.  Overnight, Pine Mountain, GA.

February 27

This morning we’ll enjoy a delicious Georgia breakfast “at the Piedmont.”

Our day will consist of:  scenic drives along the spine of Pine Mountain ( . . . “Is this central Georgia, or did we stumble north somehow?!”); a visit to Franklin Roosevelt’s Warm Springs “complex” of pools, rehabilitative science, and his humble residence – known as “The Little White House;” and exploration of our own backyard:  the drives, walks, and features of expansive Callaway Gardens.

Dinner and overnight, Pine Mountain.

February 28

We’ll enjoy breakfast, then bid farewell to our “friends” at Callaway.  Our drive will take us “cross-country” to interstate 85 in Alabama, and ultimately to the town of Monroeville, in South Alabama.  There, you’ll have time to explore the pretty square, and we’ll enjoy a short tour dedicated to the early lives of two of America’s great writers, who were childhood friends in Monroeville.  That story will be highlighted by a series of sculptures that honor the characters that walk off the pages of Harper Lee’s and Truman Capote’s works.

We’ll continue our drive into Mobile’s historic center, and our lodging (for the next two nights) at the Fort Condé Inn.  We’re in a quaint, preserved “quarter” of Old Mobile.  Enjoy a stroll; have a drink at the nearby Bistro St. Emanuel (part of our hotel); enjoy the ambiance of our historic digs.

This evening, we’ll enjoy dinner together nearby; overnight, the Fort Condé Inn, Mobile.

March 1

Awake to the happy thought of a very Mobilais breakfast at our bistro.  (This is your chance to order off a French Alabaman menu . . . yes – with English translations!)

After this de rigeur delicious start to our day, we’ll meet a local guide who will embark with us (in our van) on an informative driving tour of Mobile.  We’ll enjoy time in the fashionable “garden districts,” filled with National Historic Register homes and churches; city parks – themselves gardens and oases; and in the historic commercial district.

We’ll pay a visit to the Mobile Carnival Museum, which explores the history and pageantry of America’s oldest Mardi Gras celebration, then go to lunch.

In the afternoon, we’ll visit the acclaimed GulfQuest:  the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico.  Afterward, we’ll have “down time” for resting at the inn, visiting the adjacent (to the inn) Condé Charlotte house museum, or enjoying Mobile’s commercial center.

In the early evening we’ll board the Perdido Queen for a dinner cruise on Mobile Bay.

Overnight, the Fort Condé Inn, Mobile.

March 2

We’ll have a leisurely breakfast ( . . . I mean, why not?) before saying goodbye to the staff at the Fort Condé.  We’ll pack our bags, then drive just north of the city to Africatown, and the amazing story of the slave ship Clotilda.

Our driving route will continue along backroads before rejoining the interstate.  Ultimately, we’ll reach the university town of Auburn for our last overnight.

Dinner and overnight, Auburn, AL.

March 3

After breakfast, we’ll depart Auburn, making our way back across Georgia’s Piedmont to arrive at our Carolina home.

Featured Experiences

The Lodge & Spa at Pine Mountain (Callaway Gardens)

Unwind in one of our 150 modern guest rooms and suites featuring balconies with lovely lake, woodland, and garden views at our Pine Mountain hotel. Feel right at home with airy, upscale furnishings, as well as first-class service and amenities. At the end of a fun day in the Gardens, relax on your ultra-comfortable bed in our AAA Four Diamond award winning accommodations. Or experience a luxurious treatment onsite at Spa Prunifolia.

Tucked away in the courtyard of Callaway Gardens Lodge, you’ll find a swimming pool with a cabana-style bar, a hot tub, and peaceful sitting areas for relaxing with friends and family. Just beyond, Robin Lake Beach offers the perfect spot for a day in the sand, a nighttime stroll, or a morning jog, with the sounds of nature surrounding you.

The Fort Condé Inn

What started as an elegant ten-room bed & breakfast has become a truly one-of-a-kind historic hotel. Originally referred to as the Main House, the Hall-Ford House continues on as the heart of the Fort Conde Inn; however, it is now only one of nine meticulously restored historic properties which house our beautifully appointed rooms and suites.

Centrally located in what has been known for two centuries as Fort Condé Village, on the oldest neighborhoods in Mobile.

Guests now enjoy the character of these historic landmarks without sacrificing the luxury and privacy of a modern, four-star boutique hotel. The day begins with breakfast, inspired by Mobile Bay’s confluence of cultures and cuisines, served either in the bistro or in the shaded courtyards or even in guests’ private rooms. The day ends with chandeliers aglow in the oversized parlors, libations in hand, gas lanterns lighting the verandah.

What's Included

  • Comfortable transportation
  • Accommodation for 5 nights
  • Breakfast, 4 lunches, and 4 dinners
  • All activities / admissions per the itinerary
  • Guide and concierge service throughout the trip

Trip Price

$2,869 / person (double occupancy; single supplement, $660)

What's Not Included

Price does not include alcohol, other meals, or optional trip insurance.

..well-planned, from interesting and fun excursions planned each day, to comfortable lodging and transportation. Our trip leaders, Chumley and Khal, were impressive with their knowledge of each area we explored and gracious in their planning of every aspect of our trips.

Trip insurance safeguards your travel investment, your belongings, and most importantly, you. Though trip insurance is optional, we strongly encourage travelers to purchase trip insurance in the event you have to cancel or leave a trip for any reason. Please note, all trip participants should wait for confirmation from Explore Up Close that the trip has the minimum sign-up required to be a “go” before purchasing travel insurance. Please confirm with Explore Up Close before making any additional travel arrangements.

Once you have received confirmation from Explore Up Close, we recommend contacting a travel insurance provider directly to request a quote and compare pricing and features. You can find other providers that may fit your needs at www.insuremytrip.com, or we can gladly connect you with our travel agent.

This trip departs from Greenville / Spartanburg, South Carolina and Asheville, North Carolina. If you live elsewhere, please contact us to discuss travel arrangements, and we will look forward to assisting you!

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