25 Best Places to Visit in Southern USA

The southern states of the U.S. are a lively region, known for the distinctive accent of its citizens, the history of the American Civil War in the 19th century, and the delicious food that includes fried chicken, cornbread, and collard greens. From the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina to the distinctive culture of horses and bourbon in Kentucky, the South encompasses quite a range of activity. It boasts some of the oldest cities in the country, like Charleston in South Carolina, and some of the most unique and lively, like New Orleans in Louisiana. Photo: Zack Frank/Fotolia



Asheville, North Carolina, is a vibrant city nestled into the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's well known for its historical architecture as well as its thriving arts and music scene, with galleries and live shows at nearly every turn. A heavy craft beer presence makes it a hip spot for a getaway, as does the presence of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which offer some spectacular hiking, biking, and exploration options. Those who aren't up for the physical activity but still wish to explore the stunning nature in the area can take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most scenic roads in America. Things to Do in Asheville Photo: zakzeinert/Fotolia



Located in northeast Georgia, the city of Athens is an historic city with a large presence of antebellum architecture and a lot of Civil War history. It is the first stop on Georgia's Antebellum Trail, which leads history buffs and visitors through a number of historical towns with Civil War significance. The city is also home to the University of Georgia, and the heavy student presence means that there is an abundance of dining and nightlife options for visitors to enjoy, including a rich musical history as the home of famous bands the B-52s and REM. Things to Do in Athens Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia



A small city in Arkansas, Bentonville is best known as the original home of Walmart. There is the Walmart Museum in downtown Bentonville, which includes the original five-and-dime store that founder Sam Walton started with. A modern city icon is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which showcases artworks spanning the period from the colonial era to modern times. The museum grounds include shady forest trails, pavilions, and sculpture gardens. Families with kids should not miss Scott Family Amazeum, featuring a hands-on interactive art and science exhibits. The city has a strong biking culture, with 140 miles of soft and hard trails. Things to Do in Bentonville Photo: Bentonville/Facebook

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4.Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana, located on the Mississippi River. Visitors to Baton Rouge can check out the Old Louisiana State Capitol, an historic castle-esque building with crenellated battlements and towers that once housed the state government within its elaborate walls and is now a museum. There are also several large and elegant antebellum plantations open for visitors and tourists, each of which carry a significant slice of history. Travelers can also rejoice in the fantastic food in Baton Rouge, which varies from Creole to traditional Southern and has been top rated on a number of food shows and websites. Things to Do in Baton Rouge Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia

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5.Biloxi, Mississippi

Biloxi, Mississippi

Another Mississippi city on the southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Biloxi is a place that is well known for its casinos. There are eight top-rated casinos in the city, and each offers its guests the opportunity to play the game of their choice, be it poker, slots, or blackjack, and most of them also offer shopping, dining, hotels, salons, and nightclubs. Many also offer shows and live entertainment. Elsewhere in the city, Biloxi offers sunny beaches on the Mississippi Sound, museums about the seafood industry, and some offshore islands that are home to pelicans and loggerhead turtles. Things to Do in Biloxi Photo: pmstephens/Fotolia

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Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Founded in 1670 by English colonists, it was one of the most prominent cities in the American South until the Civil War. Today, its cobblestone streets, antebellum-style houses, and waterfront lend it an Old World charm and serve as a constant reminder of the history that Charleston has witnessed. Visitors can stay in a luxurious boutique hotel or a B&B located in an historical house or mansion during their stay and spend their days in Charleston strolling along the Battery Promenade, touring Fort Sumter, or experiencing history at one of the old estates in the city. Things to Do in Charleston Photo: davideb89/Fotolia



Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia, which bears mentioning particularly due to the designer of its central campus: Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and one of the Founding Fathers. In fact, the entire city is peppered with monuments and history pertaining to Jefferson. His plantation, Monticello, sits just outside the city limits and is open for visitors to explore the mansion, extensive grounds, and reconstructed slave quarters. The city of Charlottesville is also very conveniently located to Shenandoah National Park, which gives access to some of the most spectacular sights in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Things to Do in Charlottesville Photo: spiritofamerica/Fotolia

8.Montgomery, Alabama

Montgomery, Alabama

Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, has a rich history, especially as part of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The domed Alabama State Capitol building, built in the 1850s, is in Montgomery and is available for tours and visits. There are also many monuments and museums devoted to the Civil Rights Movement, including the Civil Rights Memorial, a massive black granite monument with a nearby exhibit devoted to the era, and the Rosa Parks Museum, which holds exhibits on the legendary woman who refused to sit at the back of a Montgomery bus. Things to Do in Montgomery Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia

9.Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Islands National Seashore

The Gulf Islands National Seashore is a national park area located on the Mississippi Coast, and also encompasses some of the barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico, which are accessible by boat. The park offers ample opportunity for fishing, kayaking, or pleasure boating, and on land visitors can sunbathe on the white sands of the beach, go camping with a spectacular view of the water, or hike and bike around some of the park's beautiful natural areas. On the Mississippi islands, visitors can find some historical sites like Fort Massachusetts on Western Ship Island. Photo: Teressa L. Jackson/Fotolia

10.Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Located in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, Harper's Ferry National Historical Park is a beautiful area that contains hiking trails, museums, and a sleepy historical town that allows visitors to step right back into the past. There are over 20 miles of hiking trails in the park, so visitors can get their fill of nature in this land of hills, trees, and rivers. In the town, the park often hosts living history weekends, with reenactments of famous battles from the War of 1812 or the Civil War, and workshops and demonstrations on blacksmithing, historical medicine, cooking, gardening, and tin making. Photo: Zack Frank/Fotolia



Lexington, Kentucky, is the horse capital of the world. World renowned in the field of horse racing, visitors to Lexington can get a taste for the sport - with or without an elaborate hat - at Keeneland Race Track, where they can watch and bet on horse racing. The Kentucky Horse Park is an equine-themed entertainment park for visitors and offers horse-drawn carriage rides, campgrounds, and educational presentations with highly trained horses. The city is also home to many beautiful historical sights, like Henry Clay's beautiful home and estate Ashland and the home where Mary Todd - who went on to marry President Abraham Lincoln - grew up. Things to Do in Lexington Photo: Henryk Sadura/Fotolia

12.Little Rock

Little Rock

Little Rock, Arkansas, is located on the Arkansas River and its name comes from a very distinctive rock formation on the river's banks, which was discovered by a French explorer in the early 18th century. Little Rock packs a lot of punch for travelers on a budget, with affordable food, accommodation, and attractions that are all top notch in spite of the deceptively low prices. Visitors can experience nightlife at the River Market, wander the paths at the edges of the Arkansas River, or learn about the history behind Central High School National Park. Things to Do in Little Rock Photo: Stephen Finn/Fotolia



Louisville is a city in Kentucky that is famous for its racetrack, Churchill Downs, which each year plays host to the world-famous Kentucky Derby. Around this time each spring, Louisville is packed with tourists, all sporting bright and giant derby hats as is traditional at the races. Louisville is also the hometown of the Hot Brown, the legendary hot sandwich with turkey, bacon, and Mornay sauce, all cooked until the sauce begins to turn brown. For a truly authentic experience, visitors should head to The Brown Hotel, whose chefs invented the sandwich in 1926, for this fantastic meal. Things to Do in Louisville Photo: Waldteufel/Fotolia



Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, is just one of the famous artists who originated in Memphis, Tennessee. A city of music and soul, Memphis is home to Sun Studio, a recording facility where B. B. King and Johnny Cash once recorded their music, as well as the Blues Hall of Fame, the Rock 'n' Soul Museum, and more. And visitors to Memphis would be remiss if they didn't visit the home of the King himself: Graceland. Elvis Presley's home is open for touring visitors, and there they can see museum exhibits featuring Presley's iconic jumpsuits. Things to Do in Memphis Photo: sframe/Fotolia



Located at the southeastern tip of the state of Florida, the city of Miami is one that radiates sunshine and fun. With a heavy Cuban influence in the region's food and culture, Miami also has lots of beaches and opportunity for watersports. The barrier islands off the coast of Miami are fun to explore, and guests will have the time of their lives exploring Miami Beach, just across Biscayne Bay. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and boat tours are all on the table in sunny Miami, and once the sun sets, visitors will learn just why Miami has a worldwide reputation for its nightlife. Best Beaches in Miami Photo: f11photo/Fotolia



Charlotte is a major city in the state of North Carolina. Millions of visitors are drawn there each year to visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the kid-friendly Discovery Place, and the Levine Museum of the New South, which educates guests on post-Civil War history in the southern United States. Visitors to Charlotte can also get a taste of adventure at the US National Whitewater Center and a taste of the delicious at one of the many cafes and bake shops in the area serving freshly roasted coffee and homemade artisan doughnuts. Things to Do in Charlotte Photo: mandritoiu/Fotolia



Nashville, Tennessee, also known as Music City, is very appropriately named: The city is a mecca for music lovers, and attractions like the Grand Ole Opry House at the Ryman Auditorium not only draw tourists but also host countless live shows from incredible artists. Nashville's country music scene is huge, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum awaits travelers to Nashville, as does the Johnny Cash Museum. Live music, frequent outdoor festivals, and delicious food await visitors in Nashville, and it is a must-see for anyone who appreciates music or aspires to be part of the industry. Things to Do in Nashville Photo: Zack Frank/Fotolia



Natchez is a city in Mississippi, located on the eastern shore of the Mississippi River. Its beautiful antebellum architecture is a huge draw for tourists, and homes and estates like the Melrose Estate or the unique, octagonal Longwood estate are very popular for visitors yearning for a glimpse at life in the pre-Civil War era. The Natchez Trace, once a trade route, is now a beautifully scenic driving road where travelers can roll the windows down and enjoy the breeze as they look out over some of the loveliest nature in Mississippi. Things to Do in Natchez Photo: stevengaertner/Fotolia

19.New Orleans

New Orleans

New York City might be known as the city that never sleeps, but New Orleans is the city that never stops partying. This Louisiana city, often called the Big Easy, is world renowned for its vibrant and unique culture of jazz music, Creole cuisine, and Mardi Gras. The winter festival is the busiest time of year for tourists, who will enjoy parades, beaded necklaces, more drinks than they probably should be able to handle, and a party that doesn't stop for days. But the city, with its Bourbon Street nightlife and its ornate French Quarter buildings, is a blast no matter what the season. Things to do in New Orleans Photo: Nenad/Fotolia



For families with children, or any lover of theme parks, Orlando Florida is a veritable mecca of a destination. There's Universal Studios, where visitors can escape the dinosaurs at Jurassic Park and enjoy a mug of butterbeer before taking to the skies on a broomstick at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, and Gatorland will bring guests up close and personal with some of the wildlife local to Florida as well as marine life from around the world. And, of course, there's Walt Disney World, the mother of all theme parks, where visitors can visit other countries in Epcot, take a heart-stopping drop on the Tower of Terror, and feel their hearts swell as they take a photo with Cinderella in front of her castle in the Magic Kingdom. Things to Do in Orlando Photo: offfstock/Fotolia



The Ozark Mountains, sometimes referred to as the Ozark Plateau, refers to a region in the southern US that encompasses parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas. This rural, natural region is full of thick green forests, deep lakes, and a rugged, mountainous landscape. In the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways in Southern Missouri, visitors can go fishing, canoeing, or swimming in either the Current River or the Jacks Fork River, which ease their way through a landscape of hilly green mountains and are edged by many hiking trails. In the Arkansas Ozarks, travelers will find taller, more twisty hills and roads, with natural springs, countless lakes, caves, and more. Photo: clearviewstock/Fotolia



Savannah, Georgia, is the very picture of warm, elegant Southern hospitality. The city has beautiful, historic homes from the antebellum period, cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and beautifully maintained parks. The sidewalks and paths in Savannah are shaded by old oak trees covered in Spanish moss, and it's a place where people passing on the street always offer a smile and a greeting. This picturesque city boasts a relaxed atmosphere, where visitors can enjoy a sweet tea or a refreshing cocktail with every delicious meal of fresh seafood from the coast, and there are frequent festivals and events that emphasize art, music, and community. Things to Do in Savannah Photo: RbbrDckyBK/Fotolia



The capital of Georgia, Atlanta's rich history includes the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and much more. Museums and monuments dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., local history, and The World of Coca-Cola museum can be found within Atlanta, and other attractions include an aquarium, zoo, and the College Football Hall of Fame. Atlanta's vibrant culture is reflected everywhere: In its people, its sports teams, and its music scene, all of which are unique and thriving and have led Atlanta, Georgia, to be called the cultural capital of the southern United States. Things to Do in Atlanta Photo: Sharan/Fotolia

24.St. Augustine

St. Augustine

St Augustine in Florida was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, making it the oldest city in the United States. The unique history of this northeast Floridian city makes it a fascinating destination for a trip, especially for history buffs. St. Augustine is home to plenty of amazing architectural sites, including the 17th century fortress of Castillo de San Marcos, the Lightner Museum, which was a hotel in the 1800s but now hosts a huge array of historical artifacts within its walls, and the Spanish colonial homes and buildings that line the streets of the oldest parts of the city. Things to Do in St Augustine Photo: steheap/Fotolia

25 Best Places to Visit in the Southern USA

  • Asheville, Photo: Courtesy of zakzeinert - Fotolia.com
  • Athens, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
  • Bentonville, Photo: Bentonville/Facebook
  • Baton Rouge, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
  • Biloxi, Mississippi, Photo: Courtesy of pmstephens - Fotolia.com
  • Charleston, Photo: Courtesy of davideb89 - Fotolia.com
  • Charlottesville, Photo: Courtesy of spiritofamerica - Fotolia.com
  • Montgomery, Alabama, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore, Photo: Courtesy of Teressa L. Jackson - Fotolia.com
  • Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
  • Lexington, Photo: Courtesy of Henryk Sadura - Fotolia.com
  • Little Rock, Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Finn - Fotolia.com
  • Louisville, Photo: Courtesy of Waldteufel - Fotolia.com
  • Memphis, Photo: Courtesy of sframe - Fotolia.com
  • Miami, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
  • Charlotte, Photo: Courtesy of mandritoiu - Fotolia.com
  • Nashville, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
  • Natchez, Photo: Courtesy of stevengaertner - Fotolia.com
  • New Orleans, Photo: Courtesy of Nenad - Fotolia.com
  • Orlando, Photo: Courtesy of offfstock - Fotolia.com
  • Ozarks, Photo: Courtesy of clearviewstock - Fotolia.com
  • Savannah, Photo: Courtesy of RbbrDckyBK - Fotolia.com
  • Atlanta, Photo: Courtesy of Sharan - Fotolia.com
  • St. Augustine, Photo: Courtesy of steheap - Fotolia.com
  • Cover Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com