Tourist Destinations in the Southern U.S.

USA, Georgia, Savannah, a square in the city
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The South is both a geographical location and a way of life. A distinct culture of music, cuisine, and easy-going people defines the South, and the region has also been booming in recent years thanks to cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, Austin, and Tampa. Some of the best food and live music can be found throughout the region. Learn more about visiting the cities in the South and the towns in between with our guide to the top places to visit in the southern U.S.

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New Orleans

The French Quarter

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson 

With its reputation for throwing big parties, such as Mardi Gras, New Orleans is one of the most popular destinations in the South. Visitors to New Orleans can get a taste of the Cajun and Creole cultures not found anywhere else in the country.

Sure, you can spend several hours or even days on Bourbon Street, but with so many things to do, you'd be remiss not to take advantage of the whole city.

See truly unique gravesites in Saint Louis Cemetery, located in the Flower District, take a frightening ghost tour, or listen to live jazz at one of the city's many famous venues, such as the Davenport Lounge. 

You will also want to feast on one of the many delicacies, including redfish, gulf oysters, po' boys, and of course, crawfish.

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Orlando

The Orlando Eye
© Merlin Entertainments

Due to the number of hotels and theme parks, Orlando is the top tourist destination in all of America, including the South. 

You can spend time in the House of Mouse by visiting Walt Disney World, cast a spell with Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, or get up close to marine animals at SeaWorld.

A lesser-known attraction located near the parks is the Showcase of Citrus, where guests can pick a wide variety of citrus fruits, like oranges, grapefruits, and even hybrids, as well as shop for central Florida-themed souvenirs. 

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Nashville

Graceland Mansion
Alison Wright / Getty Images

Everything from country-western and blues to rock 'n' roll music comes to mind when thinking of Nashville, the Music City. 

Save your pennies for a trip to the Grand Ole Opry by checking out one of these cheap or free country music attractions, earlier in the day, take a walking tour of the city, or visit one of the many beautiful historic homes.

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Austin

Capitol building, aerial skyline, sunset, Austin, TX, Texas State Capital
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Austin is both southern and part of the Southwest, so it's hard to categorize it. That's probably why, when it comes to tourism, it is a "Lone Star," able to stand on its own with a bevy of attractions.

Most notably, you will find a buzzing music scene in Austin,  which is home to the famous South by Southwest Festival and Conference. There is also the eccentric Museum of the Weird, and several more must-see attractions downtown.

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Atlanta

Atlanta Skyline
Ferran Traite Soler / Getty Images

A former host of the Olympic Games, with one of the busiest airports in the United States and home to many large corporations like Coca-Cola and CNN, Atlanta is an economic beacon in the Deep South.

Here you'll find remnants of Antebellum South, monuments to the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as world-class venues for sports, theater, and music. There’s a lot of rich history in Atlanta and plenty to see.

Depending on the season, you can check out a game of one of Atlanta's professional sports teams, or refresh yourself at The World of Coca-Cola Museum. There are also plenty of free and cheap attractions in the area, so a trip to ATL doesn't have to break the bank.

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Charleston

Charleston Battery
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Charleston, South Carolina, is a genteel city that is steeped in Civil War history.

If you're not a history buff, however, the city also attracts artists, top chefs, and luxury designers, so you have several choices when picking a tourist attraction

Visit Rainbow Row to see a bevy of pastel-hued Georgian rowhouses, or visit one of the many former plantations for a look at the South's troubled past.

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Miami

An aerial view of La Gorce Country Club in Miami Beach, Florida
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When you plan a trip to Miami, you can expect warm, sunny weather, bathlike ocean temperatures, and the best in Latino culture outside of South America.

If you stay in South Beach, you will get a glimpse at the stunning art deco buildings, as well as the glamour of its restaurants and nightclubs, such as the famous former residence of Gianni Versace, The Villa Casa Casuarina.

Art lovers should head to Wynwood, with dozens of colorful street murals painted by artists from around the globe, and foodies can get their fill at one of the delicious and unpretentious Peruvian restaurants like Pollos & Jarras.

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Hilton Head Island

Photo of Coligny Beach on Hilton Head Island
Photo Credit: Rachid Dahnoun / Getty Images

For travelers that enjoy the great outdoors, Hilton Head Island is a great choice.

An incredibly family-friendly destination, there is a Disney-owned resort, as well as plenty of sandy beaches and water sports to keep everyone entertained.

A stop at the Salty Dog Cafe is a must, and, if you're there in the warmer months, make sure to sit on the patio and enjoy the live music. 

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Memphis

Memphis, Tennessee
JSF306 / Flickr

Most famously known as the home of Elvis Presley, there is so much to see and do in the city of Memphis.

For those looking for a taste of the nightlife, check out one of the many bars and clubs on Beale Street. or see a show at the Memphis Pyramid, a true marvel of modern construction. 

Music fans can also visit the Memphis Rock N' Soul Museum, and of course, check out Graceland

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Louisville

Photo of the Belle of Louisville - Louisville KY
Photo Credit: Richard Cummins / Getty Images

Home of the world's best bourbons and the famous Kentucky Derby, Louisville has something for everyone,

Head to Churchill Downs to test your betting skills, or enjoy the local favorite, a hot brown sandwich at The Brown Hotel for a taste of Kentucky's past, or get some fresh air and exercise on the Big Four Bridge in Louisville Waterfront Park. This bridge connects Louisville with Jeffersonville, Indiana, so you will have the chance to step foot in two states by walking on the riverside path. 

The 21c Museum Hotel not only offers amazing accommodations and an incredible restaurant, but there is also a rotating art display that is free and open to the public every day. 

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Saint Simons Island

This small barrier island is Georgia's answer to Hilton Head. Cute, quaint, and made for relaxation, you will find more golf carts riding around town than vehicles. 

Saint Simon's jewel, the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort is a stunning, luxury, family-owned beachfront resort that treats its guests like they are members of the family. 

Enjoy golfing, swimming, sunning, and a gorgeous natural terrain, or pop over to one of the other nearby islands such as Sea Island or Jekyll Island for a fun day trip. 

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Asheville

University of North Carolina Asheville
Blue Bullfrog / Flickr

Beer lovers rejoice: there are 26 craft breweries located in this small city in North Carolina, and more than 60 in the surrounding area, making this a must stop for brew aficionados.

Visitors can also take a tour of America's largest home, The Biltmore Estate. Built by George Vanderbilt, this Châteauesque-style mansion is a must see when visiting Asheville. 

For a quirkier tour, visit the Asheville Pinball Museum to see over 75 vintage pinball machines, as well as get the chance to play them. 

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Birmingham

The Mailbox, Birmingham
Visit Britain/Simon Winnall/Getty Images

Once relatively unknown as a tourist destination, this city in the Deep South has landed on many a traveler's bucket list.

Birmingham has become so much of the zeitgeist as of late that Food and Wine Magazine moved a significant portion of their operations to this town, so it is a foodie's paradise.  

There is also a wide range of creative cocktail bars, a stunning botanical garden, several art and cultural museums, such as the Civil Rights Institute, and so much more. 

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Mount Airy

Made famous by its most famous resident and hit television show with his namesake, The Andy Griffith Show, Mount Airy is a truly beautiful area of North Carolina. 

Major attractions include The Andy Griffith Museum, that, of course, is an homage to the show, but also has a fascinating lower level dedicated to America's first Siamese twins, Chang and Eng Bunker.

Visitors can also ride in a replica police car from the show in a fun tour around the town, and visit one of the many stunning distilleries and wineries, such as Mayberry Spirits Distillery, which is owned and operated by a former monk.  

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