The Ultimate Southern Summer Bucket List
Most bucket lists feature exotic international locations, West Coast national parks or Northeastern metropolises, but the often forgotten southern states have just as much to offer. From natural wonders to bustling cities, explore the best of the South in this strictly Southern bucket list.
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Resting in the southwestern corner of Tennessee, this soulful city is home to over 650,000, making it the largest city on the Mississippi River. Featuring iconic locations like Elvis Presley's Graceland, the Peabody Hotel and the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis is filled to the brim with history and culture. Take a stroll down historic Beale Street and later stop in at Leonard's Pit Barbecue to experience the oldest and some of the most famous barbecue in the city.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Located in the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs is home to 35,000 people and is built around some of the greatest wonders of the Natural State. At the height of the commercial bathing industry, Hot Springs National Park was originally established as a reservation in 1832 and was the first piece of land to ever be set aside by the federal government for recreational preservation before officially becoming a national park in 1921. Traditionally, it is believed that the hot springs hold medicinal properties, so check out the many spas and baths on Central Avenue to see for yourself. The city is packed with interesting attractions, including everything from the Magic Springs Water and Theme Park to The Gangster Museum of America and more.
This modern metropolis nestled in northern Texas is home to over 1.2 million and has a plethora of activities fit for everyone. From some of the best shopping in the South to unique museums and attractions, spending just a few days in this cultural hot spot may not be enough for most. For a truly unique experience, take a journey through history and pay a visit to the Sixth Floor Museum on Dealey Plaza to learn about the life and assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Take a stroll and grab lunch at one of the food trucks in Klyde Warren Park, then experience some truly rich history and culture at the Frontiers of Flight and African American Museums. At night, make sure to grab a spot with a nice view to see Dallas' famous Reunion Tower light up the skyline.
Due to the astounding popularity of the stars from HGTV's Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna Gaines, the town of Waco has taken up a top spot on many people's bucket list. Averaging about 20,000 visitors every week, Magnolia Market at the silos is a great place to spend a day for any HGTV fan. Though Magnolia may be what draws the crowds in, there are plenty of other great things to do in Waco, like tour the beautiful Baylor University, visit Cameron Park, shop around historic downtown or pay a visit to the Waco Mammoth National Monument.
The eclectic capital city of the Lone Star State, Austin has been coined, "the LA of the South," over the last few years. With a motto of, "Keep Austin Weird," this unique city is guaranteed to offer something new and fun around every corner. Explore historic downtown and tour the Texas State Capitol by day and head down to Sixth Street to experience Austin's famed entertainment district by night. Take a walk down one of the many walking trails around Lady Bird Lake to catch a beautiful view of the skyline any time of day. For a real treat, take a half hour drive out to the nearby town of Driftwood to experience some world-famous Texas-style barbecue at The Salt Lick.
San Antonio, Texas
Yet another must-see stop in the great state of Texas, San Antonio boasts a rich history packed with a lot of culture. The second largest city in Texas, San Antonio is home to the famous Alamo national landmark and museum which allows visitors to walk through the story of the pivotal battle of the Texas Revolution. Another famous attraction, the San Antonio Riverwalk, offers food, shopping and other activities, along with the best view of the San Antonio River.
New Orleans, Louisiana
An obvious choice for any avid traveler, New Orleans is known as one of the biggest cultural hubs in the South. Packed with centuries of history, the Big Easy is known worldwide for its food, traditions, music and nightlife. Take a walk down the famous Bourbon Street by day or by night for two very different feels, and marvel at the unique architecture of the French Quarter. Grab some gumbo, some beignets from the famous Cafe du Monde, and experience the vibrant lifestyle of this lively city.
Despite having a population of only 45,000 Biloxi is known for being one of the most popular gambling hubs in the United States. From its famous casinos to its revered Biloxi Lighthouse, there is plenty to do and see in this small town nestled along the Gulf of Mexico. Spend a day walking around Ship Island or pay a visit to the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art.
Home to some of the most important sites in Civil Rights history, Montgomery is a necessary stop for anyone looking to see the best of the South. Visit the Rosa Parks Museum, the bus stop where she first sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King was a pastor. For an even deeper glimpse into history, take a drive to nearby Selma and walk along the Edmund Pettus Bridge to experience a truly moving connection to the heroes of Alabama's past.
For anyone interested in NASA or anything related to space, Huntsville is the perfect place to visit. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is the true gem of this city, offering a truly exciting glimpse into the world of space exploration. Experience more of what Huntsville has to offer by checking out the Bridge Street Town Centre for some food and shopping or spend a day in Big Spring International Park downtown. Take in the arts and culture scene of Huntsville at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment, the largest privately owned arts facility in the U.S. This historic factory building as been redeveloped into 148 working studios for more than 200 artists and makers, six fine art galleries, a multi-use theatre and performance spaces. Sign up for a photography or painting class at Lowe Mill, or if limited on time, just pop in and grab a coffee at Alchemy Lounge and browse the art galleries.
Home to nearly half a million people, Atlanta is a constantly happening hot spot for the South. From concerts at Phillips Arena to shopping in Buckhead and Lenox Square, ATL has a little something for everyone. Spend the afternoon admiring the skyline in Centennial Olympic Park, visit the Georgia Aquarium, tour the World of Coca Cola or visit CNN Center and tour the news studio for an inside look at some of the best that Atlanta has to offer. Don't miss some of the newest must-see attractions: the BeltLine, a paved walking and biking path connecting some of the city's coolest neighborhoods, and Ponce City Market, a mixed-use building with trendy shops, restaurants and even a rooftop amusement park called Skyline Park that offers some of the best views of the city.
Nicknamed the theme park capital of the world, Orlando is a must-hit destination for any amusement park tycoon. Orlando is home to three of the world's most famous theme park franchises, including Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and Universial Studios. From fawning over the iconic Cinderella castle in Disney's Magic Kingdom, to traversing through Hogwarts in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure, there are countless adventures to be had for people of all ages in this jam packed city.
Miami Beach, Florida
From luxurious beachfront resorts, to vibrant nightlife and unbeatable shopping, Miami is one of the top destinations for anyone looking to experience a little Caribbean or Spanish flare here in the South. From the crystal blue water and white sand of South Beach to the luxe high rises along the coast, Miami is the perfect place to sit back and relax while still keeping pace with the hustle and bustle of a big city.
St. Augustine, Florida
Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is famous for being America's oldest city. This beautiful coastal gem offers an old-world Spanish charm that goes unrivaled in the U.S. To get a proper taste of this city's rich history, take a tour of Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. Also experience the American Gilded Age by taking a peek at the antiquities housed inside Hotel Alcazar at the Lightner Museum, and don't miss checking out the Fort Mantanzas National Monument.
The epitome of Southern charm, Savannah, Georgia is one of the most breathtaking places in the South. From its many historic squares to its iconic Spanish moss-lined Wormsloe Plantation, Savannah is the perfect place to catch a glimpse into America's past. For those looking to experience this charming city in a little bit different way, check out Savannah's many haunted sites and attractions.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is perhaps one of the most picturesque locations in the United States. From its rich history to its iconic sites like Rainbow Row, Charleston offers the perfect amount of Old World charm mixed with the hip downtown vibe every city needs. With its countless beautiful beaches, like Folly Beach, this charming coastal paradise is the perfect place to spend any vacation.
Williamsburg isn't usually the first city that comes to mind when one thinks of Virginia, however, it is definitely one of the most fascinating. Williamsburg was the capital of the orginal Virginia colony from 1699 to 1780. Its neighboring settlements of Jamestown and Yorktown also were intricate parts of the United State's beginnings. In Williamsburg today, you will find a full living history museum staged in the heart of the town that functions as real colonial Williamsburg once did, complete with average citizens in period costume. It's a must-see for any history buff. For those with a more adventureous side, check out the haunted parts of the town by night, and make a stop at the euro-themed Busch Gardens by day, which is packed with roller coasters and family friendly attractions.
Charlotte, North Carolina
As the biggest city in the Tar Heel State by almost double, Charlotte offers anything a visitor could ever ask for. From its bustling Uptown financial and historic district, to its many parks and green oases, this city is packed with plenty of fun to be had. Visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame for a dose of real Southern pop culture, or see the Levine Museum of the New South for a taste of North Carolina's history after the Civil War. For a fun day trip, head over to Carowinds amusement and water park which is home to some of best thrill rides in the U.S.
Asheville, North Carolina
Nestled in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is the perfect combination of picturesque landscapes and cool downtown vibes. One of the biggest tourist attractions, Biltmore Estate, brings in more than one million visitors each year. Explore the bustling Downtown Art District for countless museums and galleries, or visit one of the many wineries in the area for a true cultural experience. On a sunny day, take a drive up on the famous scenic Blue Ridge Parkway to get the full effect of the breathtaking mountain landscape.
Tucked away in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, this picturesque Tennessee town is packed with adventures waiting to be had. As the most visited national park in the world, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomes nearly 10 million visitors each year. Spend a day hiking in the Smokies, or take a scenic drive around Cades Cove in nearby Townsend to experience the striking beauty of Tennessee's prized natural wonders. Downtown Gatlinburg offers countless must-see attractions, including Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies and the ski slopes of Ober Gatlinburg. In the neighboring town of Pigeon Forge, experience the life and times of country music legend Dolly Parton at her world famous Dollywood theme park, or spend an afternoon at the world's largest Titanic Museum attraction. No matter what you're looking for, there is a little something for everyone!
Home of the famed Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Kentucky Derby, Louisville is one of the Bluegrass State's brightest stars. Experience one-of-a-kind attractions like the Muhammad Ali Center and the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, or head downtown to Fourth Street Live! to experience some of the best food and entertainment the city has to offer. Spend the day touring the derby track at Churchill Downs, or if you're up for a bit of a walk, take a trip out to Waterfront Park and walk across the Ohio River on the Big Four Bridge to Indiana!
As Tennessee's largest city and the state capital, this fast-growing country music hub is now home to almost 700,000. Nicknamed "Music City," Nashville has it all when it comes to culture, history, entertainment and of course— food. Take a stroll through Centennial Park and see ancient Greece-inspired sites like the Parthenon, and then head on over to the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame for a glimpse of Nashville's famous past. Catch a show at the world renowned Ryman Auditorium and take a walk down Broadway to catch this Southern city at its best. For a real treat, check out some of Nashville's best eats at the Loveless Cafe or the Five Daughters Bakery, and make sure to grab some of Hattie B's famous hot chicken.