There are thousands of wonderful places to visit in the Southern United States, and these nine popular attractions are some of the most popular, largest, tallest or otherwise highly ranked in the region, the nation and, in a few cases, the world.
Most Visited National Park in the United States
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Tennessee and North Carolina
Welcoming about 10 million annual visitors, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited U.S. national park. Located at the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, although some roads and facilities close during the winter. The three main park entrances are in Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Townsend, Tennessee; and Cherokee, North Carolina.
Largest Living History Museum in the United States
Portraying the city of Williamsburg as it was from 1774 to 1781, Colonial Williamsburg encompasses 301 acres of living history, including 88 original buildings, 225 period rooms, 500 reconstructed buildings (many on the original foundations), a vast archaeological collection, and thousands of American and English antiques. Part of America's Historic Triangle, Colonial Williamsburg is one of the premier tourist destinations in the United States.
Largest Known Cave System in the World
Mammoth Cave - Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Located in Mammoth Cave National Park, Mammoth Cave is the longest known cave system in the world. To date, more than 365 miles of passages have been explored, surveyed, and mapped, but more of the cave remains undiscovered. Subterranean geologic features include stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, travertine dams, and several types of gypsum formations. Mammoth Cave National Park attracts over two million annual visitors.
Tallest Brick Lighthouse in the United States
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Village of Buxton on the Outer Banks of North Carolina
Though the lighthouse is often listed as having a height of 208 feet, recent measurements have been revised to 210.01 feet above mean sea level and 198.49 feet above the separation from its old foundation to the top of the spire. The focal height of the light is 192.2 feet. With these lofty numbers, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States.
Highest Point East of the Mississippi
Mount Mitchell in Mount Mitchell State Park
At more than a mile high (6,684 feet, to be exact), Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the eastern United States. Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina's first state park, is located in the Black Mountains, about 33 miles north of Asheville off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 1,946-acre park offers breathtaking vistas, rigorous hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, a summit observation platform, an interpretive center, and a concession stand.
Largest House in America
Biltmore House on Biltmore Estate
Asheville, North Carolina
With approximately four acres of floor space—or roughly 174,240 square feet—Biltmore House of the Biltmore Estate is the largest house in America. This magnificent French Renaissance chateau contains 250 rooms, with 65 fireplaces, 34 bedrooms, an indoor pool, and a bowling alley. Biltmore Estate is also home to the most visited winery in the U.S.
Largest Bas-Relief Sculpture in the World
Stone Mountain at Stone Mountain Park
Stone Mountain, Georgia
At 825 feet tall and reaching 1,683 feet above sea level, the mountain at Stone Mountain Park is billed as the world's largest known free-standing piece of exposed granite, though it's actually composed of multiple types of rocks. But it is home to the world's largest bas-relief sculpture in the world: portraits of three major Confederate heroes cover three acres of the mountain's smooth face. Drawing more than four million annual visitors, Stone Mountain Park is Georgia's most popular attraction. With over 3,200 acres of parklands, lakes, and woodlands—plus more than a dozen attractions and many recreational activities—Stone Mountain offers plenty of fun for all ages.
Tallest Active Sand Dune System in the Eastern United States
Jockey's Ridge at Jockey's Ridge State Park
Nags Head, North Carolina
Jockey's Ridge State Park is a fascinating 420-acre park and a recreational area in North Carolina's Outer Banks where you'll find the highest sand dunes on the entire Atlantic coast. The three peaks, known collectively as the Living Dune ridge given their ever-shifting nature, are composed of a total of about 6,000,000 dump truck loads of sand. In addition to the dunes, Jockey's Ridge includes two other ecological environments: a maritime thicket and the Roanoke Sound Estuary. Visitors can go hiking, kayaking, and even hang-gliding here.
World's Most Popular Theme Park
The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
Lake Buena Vista, Florida
With 20.45 million visitors in 2017, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida is the world's most popular theme park. The Disney brand at large fills many of the spots on the list, with Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Epcot, Shanghai Disneyland, and Disney's Hollywood Studios all placing within the top ten most visited theme parks in the world.