The South – where the words are long and the tea is sweet. There are so many hidden gems in the South that are full of history, beautiful architecture, and Instagram worthy views. Without further adieu, here are 13 southern cities and towns every American should visit before they die.
Beautiful Savannah, Georgia is located on the east coast, very near the border of South Carolina. It was colonized in 1733 and includes gorgeously manicured parks, Antebellum architecture and notable Revolutionary and Civil War history.
Best Time Of Year To Visit? In the late spring when the Spanish Moss and flowers are at their peak and the humidity is still relatively low
Must See and Do? Hop On Hop Off Trolley Through Historic District, Forsyth Park, Haunted Candlelight Tour, Tybee Island, Bonaventure Cemetery, River Street, St. John The Baptist Cathedral, Park Bench from Forrest Gump in Chippewa Square
Must Eat and Drink? Little Duck Diner for the best mac and cheese and gourmet grilled cheese, The Olde Pink House, Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, Narobia’s Grits and Gravy, Leopold’s Ice Cream to see where the flavor Tutti Fruitty was invented.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston was founded in 1670 and is characterized by it’s colorful buildings, horse-drawn carriages and cobblestone streets. Like Savannah, there is a lot of notable history to be found in Charleston.
Best Time Of Year To Visit? September through November when the temperatures are warm, but not stifling
Must See and Do? The Battery, Folly Beach, The Citadel, Angel Oak Tree, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. If you’re a Nicolas Sparks fan, be sure to check out Boone Hall Plantation, Cypress Gardens, the College of Charleston and Matins Point Plantation.
Must Eat and Drink? EVO Pizzeria for unique pizza combinations, Bertha’s Kitchen for soul food, the Workshop if you’re traveling with lots of people who can’t agree on a restaurant, The Shellmore for oysters and wine, Lewis Barbecue for brisket with a Tex-Mex flare and Nana’s Soul Seafood for the best soul food and seafood at only $10 per platter.
Florence/Muscle Shoals/Tuscumbia, Alabama
The tri-city area of Florence, Muscle Shoals and Tuscumbia, Alabama is the birthplace of Helen Keller, as well as the birthplace of a number of musicians, who first recorded their music at Fame Recording Studios. The area is young and vibrant and located on the banks of the Tennessee River.
Best Time Of Year To Visit? March through May or August through October.
Must See and Do? Helen Keller’s Birthplace; Frank Lloyd Wright House; visit Leo III and Una, the live mascots for the University of North Alabama Lions; check out Fame Recording Studio, where some of the greats like Aretha Franklin and Etta James have recorded.
Must Eat and Drink? Odette, Wildwood Tavern, Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken, Swampers Bar and Grill, Red Clay Table
RELATED READ: Everything You Need To Know About Visiting The South
Chattanooga, Tennessee is often described as “the bridge between the North and South.” Both historically and geographically, Chattanooga has bridged the gap between the southern US and northern US. Chattanooga is rich in history, as it was the site of several Civil War Battles, and one of the main routes for the Trail of Tears. The city that was once famous for locomotives and factories has expanded into one of the fastest growing cities in the US, with vibrant nightlife, beautiful art, huge parks and all kinds of recreation.
Best Time Of Year To Visit? September through November
Must See and Do? Lookout Mountain Civil War Battle Site, Ruby Falls, Chattanooga Choo Choo and the Railroad museum, the Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga Whisky Experimental Distillery, take a ride on the carousel at Coolidge Park
Must Eat and Drink? Public House Restaurant, Sticky Fingers Ribhouse, Whitebird, Boathouse Rotisserie and Raw Bar
Oxford, Mississippi is home to the University of Mississippi, William Faulkner and the Manning Family. It’s located in Northwestern Mississippi and is touted as the “cultural Mecca of the South.”
Best Time Of Year To Visit? Early April to Late May or September and October
Must See and Do? Check out the Ole Miss campus; visit William Faulkner’s estate and grave, Rowan Oak; Historic Downtown Square; study history at the Confederate Cemetery
Must Eat and Drink? Big Bad Breakfast (BBB), Old Venice Pizza Company, McEwen’s, Bottletree Bakery
Memphis is located in Southwestern Tennessee and is famous for the influential strains of blues, soul and rock and roll that were produced in the city. It’s one of the most historic and cultural cities of the southern United States, the city features a wide variety of landscapes.
Best Time Of Year To Visit? October and November
Must See and Do? Attend a concert or visit some bars on Beale Street; visit Elvis Presley’s former home, Graceland; visit the National Civil Rights Museum; learn about music history at the Rock n’ Soul Museum; see the Memphis Music Hall of Fame; tour some of the many recording studios in the city, like Sun Recording Studio.
Must Eat and Drink? The Rendezvous; Hammer and Ale; Old Hammer Distillery; Blue’s City Cafe; Miss Polly’s Soul City Cafe; BB King’s Blues Club.
Mobile is a port city on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. It’s known for Mardi Gras, the WWII battleship, the carnival museum, the Catholic Cathedral and the beautiful architecture throughout the city.
Best Time Of Year To Visit? June through August or February for Mardi Gras
Must See and Do? Check out the Mobile Museum of Art; take a tour of the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion; tour the USS Alabama; catch a Mardi Gras parade in the original Mardi Gras city; take a short drive to Orange Beach or Gulf Shores and spend a day in the sand; take a trip to the state line to drink Buckwashers at the famous Flora Bama; stroll down Dauphin Street to see 19th century buildings and gorgeous architecture; learn about the history of modern medicine at the Mobile Medicine Museum
Must Eat and Drink? Kitchen on George, Firehouse Wine Bar, Dauphin’s, Dumbwaiter, Wintzell’s Oyster House
Not only is Atlanta the capital of Georgia, it’s also played a huge role in American history, including the Civil War and the 1996 Olympics. It’s also the location of a number of fun things like the aquarium, World of Coke and Six Flags.
Best Time Of Year To Visit? March to May
Must See and Do? Visit the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the United States; check out Centennial Olympic Park, where the 1996 olympics were held; see the College Football Hall of Fame; make yourself sick on Coke at the World of Coca-Cola;
Must Eat and Drink? Grab a burger, hot dog or frosted orange from The Varsity. Just make sure you study up on their lingo and rules for ordering before you go; Miller Union; Lanzhou Ramen; Dwarf House (the original Chick-Fil-A)
Nashville is the capital of Tennessee and home to country music legends, country recording studios, and country music venues like the Grand Ole Opry. It’s known for the southern food and hospitality of a charming small town, mixed with the fast pace and diversity of a big city.
Best Time Of Year To Visit? April through October
Must See and Do? Catch a country music concert at the Grand Ole Opry; see the Parthenon, replica of the Greek landmark; check out the country music Hall of Fame; study up on Andrew Jackson at his former estate; take a short drive to Lynchburg and tour the Jack Daniel’s Distillery; tour one of the many recording studios in Nashville; hang out downtown and see how many country singers and other celebrities you can spot
Must Eat and Drink? Biscuit Love; Loveless Cafe; try a Nashville stable, hot chicken, at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken or Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack; grab a meat and three at Arnold’s Country Kitchen
Tupelo is a city in northeast Mississippi. It’s known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley. It’s also the site of a Civil War battle and the home to the Buffalo Park and Zoo. Tupelo may be considered little more than a faded dot on a map now but don’t write this town off before visiting it, meeting the people and seeing all this little town has to offer.
Best Time Of Year To Visit? Late August to Mid October
Must See and Do? Visit Elvis Presley’s birthplace; check out the famous Civil War Battlefield; take a stroll down Tupelo’s Main Street where you can take pictures with murals, try home cooked meals great coffee, and visit the hardware store where Elvis purchased his first guitar; pay homage to the men and women that keep us free at the Tupelo Veteran’s Museum
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New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is located right on the Gulf of Mexico and above all else, is known for 24/7 nightlife. It is, of course, where the most famous Mardi Gras parades take place each year and it’s home to amazing restaurants that serve up the best Creole and Cajun food. It’s food, people, architecture and history are a beautiful melting pot of French, African and American.
Best Time Of Year To Visit? February to May
Must See and Do? Catch a Mardi Gras parade; grab some drinks on Bourbon Street; check out the nightlife in the French Quarter; visit Jackson Square and see what local artists and vendors are working on; see the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral; do a swamp and bayou boat tour; or a spooky voodoo bus tour; visit the National WWII Museum.
Must Eat and Drink? Grab some beignets at Cafe du Monde; dine on some cajun food at Mulate’s; get a po’ boy at Parkway Bakery and Tavern; get the best gumbo in town at the Pelican Club; try some Louisiana home cooking from K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen
Montgomery is known primarily for being the capital of Alabama and the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. If you’re a big history buff, make sure you pay a visit to Montgomery and study up on the rich history of Lunch Counter Sit Ins, marches and bus boycotts. Among the deep history of the city you’ll find charming people, delicious southern food and gorgeous art.
Best Time Of Year To Visit? March through May
Must See and Do? Visit the Civil Rights Memorial and Museum (seriously if you do nothing else in Montgomery for the rest of your life, you have to do this) ; Visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice aka the Lynching Memorial; visit the Hank Williams grave and memorial; check out Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s home and church where he was a pastor; learn about confederate history at the First White House of the Confederacy; tour the Alabama Capitol Building
Must Eat and Drink? Capitol Oyster Bar; Central; Martin’s; Fat Boy’s Bar B Que Ranch; Cahawba House; Jubilee Seafood; Filet and Vine
St. Augustine, Florida