The beauty of choosing to travel around America is that there are so many places to go. Thanks to the country's vast size, you are spoilt for choice with amazing destinations from New York to Los Angeles - but the southern states are really worth seeing.
Here you can experience a rich blend of cultures and some good old fashioned hospitality - which could be a welcome treat when on a gap year. Read on to find out more about three of the southern states that are well worth including in your travel plans.
There are few more vibrant states to visit than Louisiana - and nowhere is this clearer than in New Orleans. Here, European, African and Caribbean customs and traditions have come together to create the unique cultural atmosphere you will find today.
Wander round the iconic French Quarter, which sits on a bend of the Mississippi River. This is the heart and soul of the city and its oldest part, where Hollywood stars have flocked over the years and neighbours still take the time to stop and catch up with one another in the sunshine.
Just like its culture, New Orleans' architecture is also influenced by styles from across the world, so expect to pass one building looking as though it is Spanish in design and the next Creole. Passing these properties is also a good way to better understand the history of the area, which was practically burnt to the ground in 1788 and again in 1794 by blazes that ravaged the capital. Once the properties were built again - with many incorporating Spanish-style courtyards - laws were introduced stating the homes must have plastered walls and a single chimney.
Of course, it's hard to think of New Orleans without thinking of music - particularly jazz - and perhaps the best place to hear some swinging tunes is Preservation Hall. After that you will be in the mood for a cool drink so make your way to one of the al fresco bars, such as at Pat O'Brien's where you can drink an authentic Hurricane cocktail.
Away from the city limits, there is plenty more to see. Take advantage of your location near the Mississippi River by chugging down it in a steamboat, as people have been doing for decades. You can also take a tour of the state swamps, which are home to all manner of creatures, including alligators.
This is another state associated closely with jazz, rhythm, soul and blues. In fact, many say it is here that American music originated from so whether you're a fan of rock or rap, this is a fascinating place to visit. Simply tuning into a local radio station as you travel through the state is a treat for the ears.
If you have time to stop, you can indulge in all manner of music trails, covering every genre from blues to country. If you're a fan of the blues, you'll be pleased to discover the state is generously peppered with fascinating landmarks, including the birthplace of BB King in Berclair and Muddy Waters in Rolling Folk. Country was born from the blues and so factoring in a few interesting landmarks associated with this genre is also worthwhile.
Before your time in the state is up, treat yourself to a slice of authentic Mississippi mud pie served with ice-cream. It's certain to cool you in the heat of the southern sun.
If you're a music lover, you'll most likely be as eager to visit Tennessee as you were Louisiana and Mississippi, as the state is home to Graceland - home of Elvis Presley. Visiting the former residence of the King of Rock and Roll has become something of a pilgrimage for music fans the world over, so no trip to the state would be complete without a stop.
Tennessee is also a fascinating destination for history fans, as you can find out so much about the American Civil War here, as well as far further back. The state was once inhabited by native Americans before permanent European settlements sprung up in the 1770s and you can learn more about it in the Cherokee Heritage Trail.
It's not only manmade attractions you'll find here, but also natural ones and you can explore more in adrenalin-thumping style by taking a white-water ride through the countryside.