Travelers have many great places to choose from for their perfect Southern vacation as the states south of the Mason-Dixon line have it all. You can soak in the sun on one of the many beautiful beaches or see beautiful views from a mountain top. We love our traditional destinations like the Smoky Mountains but the South has so much more to offer. Check out these five places that are great for a vacation or a weekend getaway.
Cartersville, Georgia: The town with a little of everything
We may be a little bit biased on this Southern vacation spot as we live just 20 minutes from Cartersville. The city is becoming renowned for its world-class museums. The Booth Western Art Museum has the country’s largest collection of art dedicated to the cowboys and pioneers. History buffs will love the Presidential Gallery that features writings from all of the men who have served in the White House. Here’s a tip; if you are in town on the first Thursday of the month, you can get in for free during the evenings.
The Savory Automobile Museum is Cartersville’s newest attraction. We were impressed by the permanent collection and something you may not think about when you think about museums–the food. When you visit, make sure to dine in their restaurant. The food is great!
Cartersville has great local history museums, including the Bartow History Museum downtown. Venture a bit outside the city limits to explore Euharlee’s museum and it’s great covered bridge. Drive a bit further north and learn about the Great Locomotive Chase in Adairsville. Don’t forget to visit the Etowah Indian Mounds to learn more about Northwest Georgia’s Native American History.
If you are not the museum type, Cartersville has plenty of places to explore the great outdoors. Red Top Mountain State Park has great hiking trails for all skill levels you can enjoy year-round. Hike Pine Mountain Trail for a beautiful view of the are. Visit in the summer and enjoy some time on Lake Allatoona.
Frolic on the beach on Florida’s Forgotten Coast
Florida’s Forgotten Coast is one of our favorite Southern vacation spots any time of the year. The beaches are gorgeous but there’s so much more to do here. I have been visiting this part of Florida for more than 20 years and I always discover something new.
Carrabelle is a terrific place to learn more about the history of the area and do some antique shopping as well. The town has three can’t-miss museums. The Carrabelle History Museum downtown spotlights the area’s most famous residents. You can also learn how the area became such a popular spot for fishing. And don’t forget to take a selfie at the World’s Smallest Police Station. You can visit a replica of it in downtown Carrabelle.
We also visited the Camp Jordan Johnston Museum. Steve is a veteran and we enjoy learning about military history in the towns we visit. The Crooked River Lighthouse Museum was closed when we were there but we did get a picture of this unique structure.
Don’t leave Carrabelle without taking a stroll along the shoreline. We saw dolphins several times but we weren’t fast enough to get a picture.
Be dazzled in Abingdon, Virginia
Book an entire week in Abingdon, Virginia and you will still want to come back to experience the amazing restaurants and beautiful scenery. This small-town near the Tennessee border is the perfect Southern vacation spot for foodies, theater buffs and those who love the great outdoors.
Several magazines have named Abingdon the best Southern small town for foodies. You have so many to choose from you will find yourself wanting to eat all day. I ventured outside of my comfort zone at The Girl and the Raven and Steve found some great coffee. We dined in the oldest restaurant we had ever been in–The Tavern. I felt like I was in the 18th century and the food was excellent. You can read more about our restaurant experiences here.
As a former actress at a dinner theater, I was attracted to Abingdon for The Barter Theater. We visited as the pandemic was waning so we had to take in a show at a local drive-in. The wonderful people at the Barter Theater did give us a tour. So many well-known actors have performed there, including one of my favorites–Gregory Peck. You can read more about the theater’s unique history here.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love the Virginia Creeper Trail. You can rent a bicycle at one of the nearby shops. If you are more of the indoor type that enjoys arts and crafts, Abingdon has you covered with several unique venues. Like I said, Abingdon has so much it’s hard to fit it into a week.
Fish, hike and enjoy the sites of Gadsden, Alabama
People in my neck of the woods associate Gadsden , Alabama with Noccalula State Falls and the delish Top of the River Restaurant. But there’s so much more to do in this Southern vacation spot.
The Coosa River runs through this charming small town and several tournaments are held there each year. We don’t fish-at least professionally-but always enjoy a stroll along the river when we visit. The trail on Coosa Landing is short and easy enough for anyone. You will have some beautiful views of the river and wildlife along the way.
Downtown Gadsden is full of surprises. The Mary G. Hardin Center of Cultural Arts includes Imagination Station, a great place to spend time with the kids, especially on a rainy day. We visited once in the winter and acted like kids in their snow exhibit! If you want to be more adult, visit their gallery for some unique exhibits. Art-lovers will also enjoy the Gadsden Museum of Art. The museum also has a permanent exhibit that tells the history of the area.
Noccalula Falls has events throughout the year. Our favorite is Christmas at the Falls. We have been twice and we try to get back every year. Go early and enjoy the view of the falls and a stroll around the park.
Do it all in Northern Kentucky
We discovered Covington, Kentucky and the surrounding area by accident while visiting Cincinnati to see our Atlanta Braves play the Cincinnati Reds. We had no idea all of the wonderful things just across the Ohio River. This Southern vacation spot is one you will be returning to again and again as you can do anything without driving very far. We have been twice and plan to go back again.
Covington, Kentucky’s Mainstrasse Village was our first discovery. We loved hearing the bells from the Carroll Chimes Bell Tower, a working glockenspiel that features characters that emerge from the tower at certain times. The village is full of great restaurants and unique art.
The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption is one of the most breathtaking churches we have seen on our travels. The largest stained-glass window in the western world is located here. The members of the church open it up for visitors for free during certain hours. We were amazed at all of the beautiful and unique art there.
On our last visit I just had to see where the buffalo roam in Kentucky. Big Bone Lick State Park not only has a unique name, it has a unique story. The buffalo weren’t very friendly but we were able to get pictures from a distance. If you love the outdoors, you will love this state park.
If you crave the “big city,” walk across the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge to Cincinnati. I enjoy watching the barges travel along the Ohio river from the bridge. And you have some of the best views of Cincinnati from the bridge, in my opinion.
Planning the perfect Southern vacation
It was hard to choose just five places for that perfect Southern vacation as we love everywhere we have been. You can learn more about other favorites such as Cleveland, Tennessee and Forsyth, Georgia from our articles at Travel The South. Our advice: Think outside the box when planning your next trip and explore some unique destinations. The local visitor’s bureaus have a wealth of information that will help you plan an unforgettable trip.
4 thoughts on “Five Southern vacation spots that will surprise you”
Great article! This Florida lady loves ALL your picks. Am researching for an upcoming road trip in VA & WV, so Abingdon has now moved closer to the top of my list, thanks!
Thank you! Abingdon is so great and the people are wonderful. If you go, prepare to eat. There are a lot of new restaurants and some we didn’t get to try. Do you know Melody at Wherever I May Roam? She just wrote a book about West Virgina. She is super sweet and helpful.
Foodies unite!! Will have to research which ones are locally owned. (Yes I plan to get her book soon, and maybe see her at next STE…in Alabama.) Also hope YOU & I meet one day.
I will be in Alabama at STE. I will see you there.