Trip Ideas

50 States of Awesome: Southeast

We've covered all the crazy-awesome things to do in the Northeast this summer. Our next stop? The Southeast, where there's a buzzy new restaurant in South Carolina, a just-opened biking trail in Virginia, a supercool retail/restaurant hybrid in DC and much more. Emily Saladino reports from the road.

Don’t miss the Northwest, Midwest, Southwest and Northeast.

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1

Louisiana Check out Nola’s new urban playground

Proof that good things come to those who wait (and spend freely), New Orleans’s $200 million South Market District took more than five years to develop. Now the once barren blocks between the Warehouse District and the Superdome are home to a budding fleet of restaurants, apartment buildings, shops and a forthcoming Ace Hotel. A furniture store from cult label Arhaus debuts this month, and Ursa Major, a glamorous new restaurant from the Booty’s Street Food team, launched May 30 and is already one of the city’s hottest tables. (It also happens to be the city’s first and so far only restaurant to adopt ticketed seatings, à la Alinea and the French Laundry.) New eateries from local favorites Company Burger and Magasin will open shortly, as will Willa Jean Bakery, a café from the Besh Restaurant Group with Kelly Fields and Lisa White at the helm.

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Alabama Go on a beer crawl in Huntsville

Hops hounds convene in Huntsville, where a budding microbrewery scene encompasses award-winning labels like Rocket Republic Brewing Co., Straight to Ale and Yellowhammer. The latter two will soon transform Stone Middle, an abandoned middle school building and its athletic fields into a combined 50,000 square feet of production facilities, including a tasting room and beer garden. The project will triple Straight to Ale’s production and launch redevelopment of the Stone Middle campus, turning it into a multi-use dining and retail destination. We’ll drink to that.

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Virginia Bike from Colonial Williamsburg to Richmond (only 53 miles!)

American history, not to mention athletic ambition, is too large for any one town or municipality to contain. This fall the Virginia Capital Trail will remedy that problem. The 53-mile pedestrian and bicycle path will connect Colonial Williamsburg with Virginia's modern-day capital, Richmond, hugging the James River and Route 5, a Virginia Scenic Byway, while passing Revolutionary War battlegrounds, the Jamestown Settlement and a 40-acre wooded wetland. We suggest toasting the finish line in Williamsburg with a pour from local microbrewer Alewerks, whose recently launched Old Stitch brown ale was made using an 18th-century recipe.

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Mississippi Brush up on music legend B.B. King in Indianola

Mississippi is for (music) lovers. Celebrate the man, the music and the legacy of B.B. King in Indianola at his eponymous museum, which explores his 60-year career from Delta sharecropper to international icon. The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center is part of the Mississippi Blues Trail, which recently added several sites in Duncan to its collection of 200 historic markers throughout the state and region. This fall travelers can complement a musical itinerary with a visit to the Mississippi Grammy Museum, a $20 million institution opening this November on a former golf course in Cleveland (Cleveland, Mississippi, that is).

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5

West Virginia Stay in a cabin on the New River Gorge

Those hoping to impart an A River Runs Through It aesthetic to their Instagram feed need look no further than the New River Gorge, a 53-mile waterway that is part of the National Parks system and runs through craggy canyons under dramatic sandstone cliffs. The river is one of the oldest on earth, and it traverses more than 70,000 acres of lush Appalachian wilderness. Get rugged at the new American Alpine Club campground, which debuted this spring and has elevated platforms and on-site bouldering for those with tent dreams. If that sounds a bit earthy for your tastes, consider Adventures on the Gorge resort, which has its own trail system and deluxe cabins with hot tubs.

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South Carolina Drink decadent cocktails in Charleston

Now that Charleston’s temporary moratorium on late night watering holes is nearing last call, thirsty travelers can imbibe with impunity. From where we sip there is only one responsible course of action: Head to King Street and raise glass at Proof. The award-winning candlelit boîte doubled its list of libations this spring, bringing the grand total of cocktails to 32. In addition to house favorites like Hendricks and tonic with a tart dash of Bitter Truth lemon, bar star Craig Nelson pours inventive creations like the Knuckle Ball, which mixes Old Grand Dad with cola reduction and pickled boiled peanuts. Giddyup.

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Kentucky Hit Newport's newest urban distillery

The ninth stop on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail (it’s real, and it’s spectacular) is this distillery specializing in bourbon, rye and gin, in Newport. Helmed by Ei8ht Ball Brewing’s Ken Lewis and Sam Adams expat Brian Sprance, New Riff opened in a liquor store parking lot. Now it's in a mod 30,000-square-foot space with a glass distilling tower that houses a 60-foot-tall copper column still (made by Louisville’s Vendome Copper & Brass Works) that produces some 2,000 barrels of boozy goodness annually. New Riff will debut its first bottles in 2018, but it already hosts daily tours, whiskey tastings and terrace events at a four-sided zinc bar. Ask for a pour of OKI Straight Bourbon, a Midwestern favorite (the name stands for Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana) that New Riff blends on-site.

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8

Florida Explore a new high-design hood in Miami

Rem Koolhaas. Baz Luhrmann. Francis Mallmann. The list of collaborators on developer (and “urban alchemist”) Alan Faena’s forthcoming Faena Cultural District would make most little black books blush. Modeled after a similar enterprise he oversaw in Buenos Aires, Faena’s eponymous project will transform a swath of Collins Avenue between 32nd and 36th streets into an arts hub. Attractions within the stretch will start debuting in November, and include a 50,000-square-foot arts center designed by Koolhaas, the 169-room Faena Hotel Miami Beach, and three beachfront residences by Foster + Partners, Bill Sofield and Brandon Haw. Baz Luhrmann and his wife, production and costume designer Catherine Martin, are designing the hotel, which will have a theater with nightly live performances, a 22,000-square-foot Tierra Santa Spa, and three restaurants including Los Fuegos, which will serve South American fare from Argentine celebrity chef Francis Mallmann. Alchemy, thy name is Faena.

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Georgia Stuff your face with chicken-fried steak in Savannah

When it comes to design, bus stations are usually on par with dentist offices and DMVs. The Grey, a new restaurant in Savannah’s historic district, flips that script. New York City firm Parts and Labor oversaw the sleek redesign of the 1938 Greyhound Bus Depot, polishing its Art Deco paneling, repurposing a ticket booth into an open kitchen and using former safety glass skylights as partitions between cushy banquettes in the 60-seat dining room. Lest you think it’s all sizzle and no (chicken-fried) steak, chef Mashama Bailey’s refined take on seasonal Southern cooking was nominated for a James Beard Award a mere two months after the place opened in December 2014, and Food & Wine named the Grey one of its restaurants of the year. Don’t call it a comeback.

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Arkansas See superstar artworks in Bentonville

The Moshe Safdie–designed Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville has been on a spending spree, picking up $150 million worth of art in the past year and exhibiting iconic pieces like Louise Bourgeois’s 30-by-30-foot Maman sculpture on its 124-acre campus this summer. Opened by Walmart heiress Alice Walton in 2011, Crystal Bridges has recently made purchases aimed at increasing the number of women artists in its collection, including such masterworks as Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, Mark Rothko’s No.21 and Jasper Johns’s iconic Flag painting. In the next few months, when it unveils additional Bourgeois acquisitions, Crystal Bridges will have the added distinction of being the only American museum with two of the French-American artist’s paintings on view. Artistic integrity is priceless, but admission to Crystal Bridges is always free of charge.

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11

Tennessee Discover another kick-ass restaurant in Nashville

Nashville’s already booming dining scene is flush with excitement in advance of Le Sel’s August debut. This bilevel midtown boîte is the supergroup of restaurants, with a kitchen helmed by chef Rene de Leon, an alum of Grant Achatz’s groundbreaking Next and Alinea restaurants in Chicago; back-of-house operations run by the team from Catbird Seat and Pinewood Social; and interiors by designer-to-the-stars Benjamin Vandiver. The Gallic-inflected menu will be complemented by a largely French wine list, served both in the dining room and in the cocktail-centric lower-level Bar at Le Sel, helmed by Pinewood Social’s Matt Tocco.

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12

North Carolina Check into Durham's coolest design digs

Yankees tend to lump it in with neighboring Raleigh and academic big sis Chapel Hill, but Durham has an up-and-coming indie arts scene all its own. This spring the city added 10,500 square feet of exhibition space courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel, the Louisville-based hospitality brand whose outposts are equal parts boutique hotel and public art gallery. The $48 million hotel/gallery debuted in Durham in March in a 1937 Art Deco building downtown that houses both a 125-room hotel and all that gallery space. The current exhibition includes a 100-piece multimedia display, Pop Stars!, that has video installations of both Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Britney Spears.

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Washington DC Shop, sip and eat at DC's stylish new haunt

Call it a one-stop shop for DC's cool crowd. Maketto is a slick retail/restaurant mashup from Toki Underground chef Erik Bruner-Yang that brings to mind NYC's Soho. The look is all black, white and wood, with custom-made furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows, not to mention a killer roof deck. Shop for stylish clothing by homegrown brands like DURKL and Red Wing, hit the Vigilante Coffee Company bar (which turns into a cocktail lounge at night), or grab a table in the courtyard for small bites like oyster pancakes, pork bao or pan-fried leek buns. There's even a quirky vending machine stocked with Asian candy and other tchotchkes. You've never seen the capital quite like this.