The Best Thing to Do in Every State This Summer: Southeast
Want to know what to do in American Southeast this summer? Here's what’s hot—literally and figuratively—in the South, from a just-opened luxe hotel in Savannah to vegan popsicles in Mississippi and a new underwater museum in Florida. Interested in more U.S. regions? See here for the Northeast, Midwest, Southwest, and Northwest.
Confront Sorrowful History at Montgomery’s New Museum
Tickets to the National Museum of African American History & Culture can be difficult to score, but a new starchitect-designed museum in Montgomery is every bit as vital to see. Opened on the site of a former prison for enslaved people in April 2018, the 11,000-square-foot National Memorial for Peace and Justice was beautifully designed by Boston-based MASS Design Group and contains chilling sights and even sounds—including narrated memories of enslaved peoples in their own words.
See the Hippest New Museum in One of the Oldest States
Designed by Steven Holl, the Institute for Contemporary Art opened in March in Richmond, Virginia—and looks as clean-lined and groundbreaking as Richmond is historic. The city’s first dedicated contemporary art museum, it houses politically charged works of all kinds, including Kate Just’s hand-knitted feminist scenes and a ball made from penitentiary bedsheets and tar by Levester Williams.
Zipline at The Greenbrier
It may be one of ye oldest hotels in the nation (and housed soldiers from both North and South during the Civil War), but The Greenbrier is continually adding au courant attractions. Our current favorite: the Tree-Tops Canopy Zip Line Tour, which will have you flying à la the bald eagle through the forest canopy, across 10 zip lines and five cable bridges, as well as Mill Creek. Almost heaven, West Virginia.
Go Spelunking in Style
The world’s longest cave system found its home in latter day Kentucky. At almost 60,000 acres, Mammoth Cave National Park is a spelunker's mecca, with 400 miles of underground tunnels that provide a blissful relief from the summer heat. Book a ranger-led tour well in advance, and don’t miss the equally fun kayaking scene in the Green River.
Snorkel Over a New Underwater Art Museum
When the Underwater Museum of Art opens in June, a mile off the coast of South Walton, both scuba divers and darting fish will be able to explore nine eye-popping underwater statues. Adventurers can expect to see sculptures of outsized pineapples, deer, scuba masks and more, and new installations will be submerged every year. The museum is essentially an artificial reef—one all schools of thought can enjoy.
Pamper Yourself at Savannah’s Newest Luxury Hotel
If Georgia’s on your mind, you’re not the only one. Thankfully, there are myriad ways to enjoy the state, including Savannah’s newly opened Perry Lane Hotel—which is treating guests with the ultimate Southern welcome. You’ll find gratis bubbly, hors d’oeuvres, and local Bowerbird drip coffee in the lobby as well as amenities like loaner bikes and chauffeured car service on hand for exploring Savannah’s Spanish-moss-laden historic district.
Visit the Museum that Walmart Built in Bentonville
And no, it’s not an ode to shopping. If you haven’t seen Crystal Bridges yet—the totally free-of-charge museum of American art sponsored by Walmart heirs, designed by Moshe Safdie and set over spring-fed ponds—this summer is the time to go. On exhibition through October: The Garden, a veritable flower collection of flora-themed artwork including work by Andy Warhol and Jessica Pezalla.
Catch a Bluegrass Concert...in a Cave
True country music lovers make the trek about 90 miles from Nashville to descend into stalactite and stalagmite-filled caverns for Bluegrass Underground, regular PBS-recorded live shows. Upcoming acts this summer: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (July 15th) and Mountain Heart (August 11th). Only a Dolly Parton sighting could make it better.
See Chihuly at Biltmore
When they built America’s largest house (with 250 rooms), the Vanderbilts could never have guessed what a beloved destination they were creating. This summer, there’s even more reason to explore the show-stopping 1895 chateau, thanks to Chihuly at Biltmore—an in-garden exhibition of Dale Chihuly’s lively glass masterworks running through October. We recommend heading back at night, when the pieces are lit up and appear to glow from within (and when live music casts a gleeful tenor over the garden).
Tour an Urban Winery
The oenophiles behind Brooklyn Winery and BKW recently opened District Winery—the District’s first “urban winery”—in D.C.’s Navy Yards, set along the Anacostia River. Book their tour to take a deep-dive into the winery process (is there barefoot stomping? Time will tell!) and sample seven of their wines, which may include anything from a chardonnay to a Gewürztraminer.
Toast Cocktails in Their Birthplace
Call it A Streetcar Named Desire... for Cocktails. In sweltering New Orleans, average July high temperatures can top 92 degrees, so locals have concocted a solution: Tales of the Cocktail festival, under new ownership in 2018 and held July 17-22. Bar industry insiders and aficionados alike descend on Sin City South for the bar crawl-turned-bona fide fan favorite, where you can attend author signings and bitters tastings with the likes of Jim Meehan (of New York City's PDT, author of the new book Meehan's Bartender Manual); sample from more than 100 curated Irish and Scottish whiskies; and take an expert-led cocktail crawl through the French Quarter, starting at Napoleon House (which has been open since 1914).
Visit a Tea Plantation
Locavores take note: there's only one tea plantation in North America, and fittingly, it's in the home region of afternoon sweet tea, just outside of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island. Hop on a trolley at Charleston Tea Plantation for a 45-minute jaunt through the gardens where tea plants have flourished for more than a hundred years, transplanted via ship from India and China. Leave time to watch tea being made in the air-conditioned factory (explanatory videos feature none other than Mr. and Mrs. Bigelow) and to pick up some sippable souvenirs—such as tins of their loose leaf tea in flavors like Charleston Breakfast and Plantation Peach, best served ice-cold on a live oak-shrouded veranda.
What to bring when you go.