Good news: Travel within the US is actually pretty affordable right now. But where should you go to get to know your own country? After you’ve scoured your favorite free travel planning sites , torn through the best travel vlogs , and consulted your besties’ recommendations, you probably have quite a list of potential domestic spots to hit up. And we’re here with some great potential additions. Our Southern states have some of the richest culture, best weather, and most interesting food that the country has to offer. Below, find seven reasons why tripping through the South this summer is the best idea yet.
1. Miami , Florida: Miami is more like a northern Caribbean outpost than it is a Southern US city (the southernmost, in fact!), what with its tropical palm trees and Latin American influences. And while it was once known only for its larger-than-life personality (all gold chains and 50-foot yachts), Miami has become an international cultural hub, drawing in the global art community with the Wynwood Walls , its Design District , and the recently opened Institute of Contemporary Art and newly renovated Bass Museum . It’s possible to have a luxe Miami weekend on a budget and still soak in all the glam vibes, but you’d be just as well off wandering around Little Havana and sampling the traditional Cuban fare on offer.
2. Charleston , South Carolina: Pack your Lilly Pulitzer and prepare your liver, because Charleston is a party town with a preppy streak. Whether you’re trying out local beers while catching sunset views on the water at Tavern & Table or sharing a punch bowl on the roof of The Cocktail Club , this historic South Carolina town is best served with a fun group of friends. And there’s plenty to do during daylight hours too, from taking harbor tours , to browsing at The Charleston City Market , to soaking in the architectural beauty of the Battery, to visiting Magnolia Plantation for its incredible gardens. Of course, all of this touristing works up an appetite, and nestled among the cobblestone streets and palm trees of Charleston are some of the best restaurants in the country. There are fine foodie haunts like Husk and The Ordinary , but don’t sleep on local faves like Fast & French or Hannibal’s Kitchen for delicious eats on the cheap.
3. New Orleans , Louisiana: One of our own recently traveled to NOLA solo , and now none of us can stop talking about visiting the Paris of the South. It’s a quirky, vibrant town, currently home to some of the best restaurants in the country (Turkey and the Wolf ‘s collard green melt is a must-eat) and best jazz in the world (music pours out from every door on Frenchmen Street). Go on a guided kayaking swamp tour , spend an evening in the backyard of Baccahanal , and make a dent in your wallet shopping down Magazine Street. Take a stroll through the Garden District to imagine yourself in one of its cotton-candy colored row homes, and visit Defend New Orleans for a locals-approved souvenir. Seriously, there’s so much to see and do here, you’ll never be bored — but the pace is slow and the people are friendly, so you really feel like you’re getting a vacation.
4. Savannah, Georgia: Whether you’re on a romantic getaway with your S.O. or a raucous girls’ trip, Savannah has something for everyone. Spanish moss dripping from Southern live oak trees, rambling antebellum mansions on every square, crumbling historic cemeteries — there’s a mystical aura in this Georgia town that just draws you in. And speaking of mysticism, you’ll definitely want to take a ghost tour while you’re visiting. Open-container laws mean you can sip wine with the spirits or take a beer with you as you shop your way down Broughton Street, with must-stops at the Savannah Bee Company and the The Paris Market . A leisurely long weekend will suffice here, but be sure to make time to hop over to Tybee Island, a barrier island just 30 minutes from the city center.
5. Richmond, Virginia: The food scene reigns supreme in Richmond, so you’ll want to hit up Stella’s (widely accepted as the best restaurant in the city) for Greek food made by yaya herself, Kuba Kuba for traditional Cuban fare, Edo’s Squid for real deal Italian, Heritage for new American with a Southern bent, or Rappahannock for oysters and Champagne. Speaking of drinks, be sure to take in a 360° view of the RVA skyline from the Quirk Hotel rooftop , grab a playfully inventive cocktail at Rogue , or stop by any of the city’s numerous breweries for a craft beer (our favorite? Ardent or Blue Bee ). And if you’re into natural wellness (which of course you are), we suggest taking a 45-minute break to experience the restorative wonders of an infrared sauna at Purify , stopping by Aquarian Bookshop to stock up on your chakra-balancing quartz, and popping into Boketto to dabble in their earthy skincare offerings.
6. Asheville, North Carolina: A liberal oasis tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina, Asheville is quickly topping every alternative traveler’s must-visit list. There are microbreweries galore, the Appalachian mountains to explore, and enough restaurants to keep you full for a week. You’ll want to stop at 12 Bones Smokehouse (a barbecue joint that counts Barack and Michelle Obama as fans) and Cúrate (a Spanish tapas bar owned by a local chef and her Catalan husband). The River Arts District runs a mile down the length of the French Broad River, where over 200 artists have set up studios in renovated historical and industrial buildings. Hotels in Asheville are pretty standard, so consider a cheap Airbnb rental for the weekend. And consider a visit to Biltmore , America’s largest home (with 8,000 acres of grounds!), built in 1895 by George Biltmore — they host a summer concert series, bring in traveling art exhibitions, and have an on-site winery (seriously, you could spend an entire day here just touring the grounds).
7. Nashville , Tennessee: As we always say, if it’s good enough for Taylor Swift, it’s good enough for us, and the pop star is far from alone in her love for this Tennessee music town. For any Nashville fans out there, the Bluebird Cafe should top your venue list; and design diehards, you’ll want to stay at the 404 Hotel , a five-room boutique hotel in the Gulch neighborhood. Imogene + Willie offers bespoke denim, rare vintage, and a semi-monthly concert series under the stars. Owned by the same hospitality group, Pinewood gets you bowling and fancy beverages, The Catbird Seat offers an interactive chef experience while you dine in the kitchen, and the The Patterson House slings craft cocktails in a converted home. The vibe in Nashville is really friendly in that Southern way, so don’t feel shy asking locals where you should visit once you’re there. Oh, and there’s a replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park .
(Photos via Getty)