7 Southern Road Trips To Take Now
Road trips south of the Mason-Dixon can be, well, road-trippier than anywhere else in the country. Our tip: rent a convertible and meander these Southern Charm-filled routes in style. Bonus: They're all less than 6 hours one way.
Asheville to Charlotte, North Carolina
The Vanderbilts built the Biltmore—a grand 1889 estate with 65 fireplaces and an indoor pool and bowling alley—in Asheville for good reason. Namely: stunning views of the Blue Ridge mountains. Start your journey here (you'll see what we're talking about) before heading to brunch at Early Girl for the fluffiest biscuits on the planet (best ordered with shrimp and stone-ground grits). It’s just the fuel you'll need to make the winding drive through Pisgah National Forest to Charlotte, where the manicured grounds of Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary is the ideal counterbalance to all things NASCAR.
Knoxville to Memphis, Tennessee
By some accounts Elvis road-tripped here. Johnny Cash, too. That’s the feeling that overwhelms you when crisscrossing Tennessee’s music trail. Catch a concert at the Spanish Moorish 1928 Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville, where everyone from Bob Dylan to ZZ Top is playing in November. Then scoot your boots to Cumberland Caverns near Nashville, home of Bluegrass Underground, which is exactly what it sounds like—a PBS concert series held 333-feet below ground in a cave (you haven’t heard good acoustics until you’ve been to this place). Your last stop: Memphis to tour the iconic Sun Studio; Elvis, B.B. King and Johnny Cash recorded some of their greatest hits here.
Birmingham, AL to New Orleans, LA
Once the capitol of the civil rights movement, Birmingham is now an emerging creative hub, with a cool arts and music scene and inventive restaurants. Tuck into the burnt pumpkin cream and ginger shortbread at Ovenbird, then catch a concert at hipper-than-thou boutique-turned-music venue Open Shop. Once you hit the road, you’ll pass through Tuscaloosa and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, before arriving in N’Awlins. We highly recommend you park the car and let someone else do the driving on a streetcar ride on the 13 mile St. Charles Line. The tour winds through Live Oaks, pre-war mansions, and Tulane University. It's the perfect prelude to a classic Nola brunch at Brennan's – or one of the hundreds of other standout restaurants in the city.
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Natchez to Oxford, MS
Mississippi has long been memorialized in music, literature and legend. Start your journey through the Magnolia State in downtown Natchez, on the Mississippi River, and where the Adventures of Huckeberry Finn was filmed. Then stretch your legs by biking the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway before heading north. It's 102 miles to Jackson, former home to Pulitzer-winner Eudora Welty (you can tour the house she lived in for 76 years). End your trip in the town of Oxford, made famous by William Faulkner (and Nobel-prize winner Bob Dylan). Don't miss a stop at Rowan Oak to see his first floor writing room. Pencils up.
Monticello to Richmond to Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Thomas Jefferson died owing a $107,000 mortgage (nearly two million in today’s dollars) for his 43-room house, Monticello. We think it was worth the debt. Take a tour of the mansion's manicured grounds, then pop inside to see the former president's alcove bedchamber and chrome yellow dining room. It’s just an hour’s drive from there to Richmond, one of the South’s coolest emerging cities, where you can stroll through the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and stay at the new Quirk hotel located in a 1916 department store. End your trip in Colonial Williamsburg, home to charming shell roads and bonnet-donning staff that will reenact all manner of ye olde 18th-century life. Toast the end of your journey with a pint of lager by the fire at Chowning’s alehouse.
Louisville, KY to Durham, NC
Among the many stops on a true baseball fan's bucket list: Cooperstown, Wrigley Field, and (of course) Louisville. Check out the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and take your selfie with the 120-foot-tall replica of Babe Ruth’s bat (don’t forget to check out the indoor stadium, made from more than 100,000 toothpicks). Head east to Charleston, West Virginia (home of the West Virginia State Museum) before your final destination, Durham, NC. The hippest part of North Carolina’s bookish research triangle, the town has a booming culinary scene—we love whole hog scrapple at hotel The Durham—and a $48 million performing arts center.
Chattanooga to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Begin your Tennessee adventure at Chattanooga’s Hunter Museum, set on an 80-foot cliff on the Tennessee River and filled with works by Warhol, then make your way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The pine-dotted, five-mile roundtrip hike to Abrams Falls is the perfect place to stretch your legs before heading to the most Snapchat-worthy destination on your journey: Dollywood, in the mountain town of Pigeon Forge. It's there that the reigning queen of country will see to it that all ages in your family have free-wheeling fun, just check out the newly opened Lightning Rod – the fastest wood roller coaster on earth, hitting 73 mph with a stomach flopping 165-foot drop.
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