The American South is a rich landscape filled with unique heritage and a distinct culture of food, music and easy-going folks.
Whether you’re a born-and-bred Southerner, a recent transplant or a Yankee looking for getaway destination take a look at this list of the top 11 places to visit this summer.
Have fun, y’all!
1. Tour the Biltmore Estate
George Vanderbilt built this Châteauesque-style mansion in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains between 1889 and 1895. Today, it is the largest private residence in the US, totaling over 175,000 square feet. Both the house and gardens are ready to welcome you for an afternoon of history, splendor, and wonder.
2. Watch the Kentucky Derby
Don’t forget your most eccentric hat or your best seersucker suit before heading out to watch this infamous horse race. And you don’t have to be a racing aficionado to enjoy the spectacle. Just grab a mint julip and settle in alongside the thousands of other fans for the ride of a lifetime – the Run for the Roses is full of high energy and action and never disappoints.
3. Take a Mississippi River cruise
Of the Mississippi, Mark Twain wrote, “The Mississippi Valley is as reposeful as a dreamland, nothing worldly about it . . . nothing to hang a fret or a worry upon.” That’s still true today. Why not take a leisurely run down the river and get a glimpse of what inspired one of America’s greatest writers? You’ll see sleepy towns, antebellum plantations and an idyllic landscape on this trip through the past.
4. Cruise down the Blue Ridge Parkway
Take a scenic drive through one of our most popular national parks, which runs from Virginia all the way to Cherokee, North Carolina. You can devote one afternoon to seeing the sights along part of the parkway or take an extended road trip along all 469 miles. No matter how long you drive, you’ll see beautiful landscapes and experience nature’s splendor. Along the way, there are exits for places to experience the art, culture, and crafts of the Appalachian and Smokey Mountains.
5. Check into The Greenbrier
Located in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, this classic, luxurious resort has been welcoming families since 1778. At Spend time outdoors touring the immaculate gardens or playing a round of golf. Inside, you can enjoy the spa or bowling alley before dining in one of the Greenbrier’s nineteen restaurants.
6. Experience the sunset in Key West
Every evening as the sun goes down, the island city of Key West throws a party. Join in the festivities by heading over to Mallory Square, where you’ll find food, music and a dance party that lasts deep into the night.
7. Take a seaplane to the Dry Tortugas
If you’re already in Key West, take a boat or seaplane the 68 miles from the city’s coast over to our nation’s southernmost national park. Once there, you can snorkel or scuba dive among the 67,000 acres of coral reef, watch the migrating birds, and tour historic Fort Jefferson, built after the War of 1812.
8. Visit Rowan Oak
This antebellum mansion, built by Robert Sheegog in 1848, was restored and turned into a home by Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner. Today, it is a prime tourist destination for literature and architecture buffs alike.
9. Take a hike on the Appalachian Trail
This 2,200-mile-long network of trails sprawls down the Eastern United States, making its way through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia before ending all the way up in Maine. Day hikers can pick up the trail at its beginning at Georgia’s Springer Mountain and hike an hour or two. For more intrepid travelers, you can make a go of the whole thing so long as you have four or five months with nothing on your calendar.
10. Listen to New Orleans Jazz at Preservation Hall
Preservation Hall, a music venue in the French Quarter, was founded in 1961 to protect, preserve, and perpetuate traditional New Orleans jazz. Preservation Hall offers live music 350 nights a year, so anytime is the right time to head over to the Big Easy.
11. Go on a Southern food tour
If you’re looking to feast on Southern fare, try dining at New Orleans’ Willie’s Mae’s Scotch House with a plate of juicy, fried chicken, or try a po’ boy at Mahoney’s. Ever tasted pig ears? You can at the Big Apple Inn in Jackson. MS with the pig’s ear sandwich. There’s velvety butter beans and tasty pork chops at Martha Lou’s Kitchen, and pimento cheese sandwiches at Burbage’s Grocery in Charleston. Up in my neck of the woods? Order a peach milkshake at Atlanta’s Majestic Diner and then move on to a rack of ribs at Fat Matt’s. Of course, you’d better be sure to sample barbecue all along your tour so you can decide which region has the best smoke and sauce. If you ask me, it’s Carolina all the way.