people visit the United States every year, most overseas travelers hit the big
three– Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York– and rarely stray from that path.
This makes the southern United States “off the beaten path” by default. I don’t
know why more people don’t travel to the south, but I’m sure they have images
of red state hillbillies eating deep fried butter. While that may be true for a
small percentage of the South, there’s so much more to it. I’ve narrowed down
the list to the lucky seven things you need to know before traveling in the
1. Leave the diet at home.
I know I said
most of us don’t eat deep fried butter, but historically southern food is
loaded with carbohydrates because it gave farmers energy for the long days in the
fields. Staples include fried chicken, grits, green beans, collard greens and
corn on the cob. There are, however, restaurants with a modern twist on
Southern cuisine that have won as many awards as those in “foodie” cities like
New York and San Francisco. James Beard award-winning FIG in Charleston is just
one example. Along with the classic Southern food, the southern states now have
a high foreign-born population, with plenty of African, Mexican and Brazilian
2. Go for a drive.
Greyhound buses and
Amtrak service the southeast, but you’re better off experiencing the area in a
car, windows down and music blasting from the speakers. Many roads still exist
that were used before the highways were built, which offer more scenic views.
Specifically in coastal South Carolina and Georgia, take Highway 17, instead of
superhighway I-95. It goes through all the best small towns.
3. Jam to the music.
Your first instinct
may be to think of the south as the place for country music. While there is a
lot of the genre, bands like Kings of Leon, R.E.M, Drive-By Truckers and Hootie
and the Blowfish also call the region home, as do rap and hip hop stars like
Usher and Missy Elliot.
4. Soak up the history.
Sure, we may hold
on to history a little too much (cough, Civil War, cough), but that’s also a
good thing. While the rest of the country long ago bulldozed many of its
historical buildings, towns like Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans aren’t
too different than they were one hundred years ago, architecturally speaking.
You can visit the site of the first shot of the Civil War (Charleston), see the
church where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his message of nonviolence
(Atlanta), explore Elvis’ home at Graceland (Memphis) and roam the halls of
inns that once housed pirates (Savannah).
5. Embrace the kitsch.
attractions are outrageous here.
Gaffney, South Carolina has a water tower shaped like a peach, or a
butt, depending on whom you ask. Marietta, Georgia, has a Kentucky Fried
Chicken built into the shape of a chicken, complete with a moving beak and
eyes. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is known for its tacky tourist shops, while
New Orleans’ Bourbon Street is home to the “huge ass beers” and hand grenades
bigger than your face.
Check out a variety of landscapes.
area can’t be summed up in just one panorama. You have to experience the
cities, like Atlanta, Charlotte, Charleston and Nashville, beaches of the Grand
Strand and the Golden Isles, plains in Georgia and Alabama and the bayous of
Mississippi and Louisiana.
7. Don’t stereotype.
Just as Australians
can’t be summed up by Crocodile Dundee and as the French aren’t constantly
wearing berets and eating baguettes, the people of the southern United States
are as diverse as anywhere else. You might meet closed-minded people who have
never ventured out of their hometowns, but probably not.
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About the Author
Caroline Eubanks is a freelance writer and travel blogger originally from Atlanta, Georgia. She loves Funfetti cupcakes, Coca Colas for breakfast and is spending the year on a working holiday in Australia. You can follow her adventures on her blog Caroline in the City or on Twitter.
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