More than any other part of the country, the South has an identity all of its own – a sense of regional pride, a musical way of speaking, a complicated political history and a shared culture that cuts across state lines. In short, the South is a big, bawdy place that is both modernly cosmopolitan and obsessed with its own past. While slick cities such as Atlanta and Charlotte are in perpetual states of reinvention, some of the more historic cities – places like New Orleans and Savannah – are virtual shrines to their former selves, celebrating historic architecture, locally flavored language and a kind of gentility that just doesn’t exist in other parts of the country.
Blessed with fertile soil and a rich mix of cultures, the South nurtures a food culture that’s arguably unsurpassed in the USA: succulent barbecue, plump Gulf oysters, cheesy grits and fried green tomatoes are all regional delicacies, endlessly tweaked by modern chefs. The arts thrive here, too: the South is the only American region identified by its own strain of literature, and Southern music history runs all the way from slave spirituals through the 21st-century hip-hop of OutKast. Jazz, the blues and rock ‘n’ roll were all born in the South. Nashville, the world’s undisputed country-music capital, will keep you honky-tonkin’ deep into the Tennessee night. And the state of Louisiana remains a unique repository for Cajun and zydeco music. Shrines to Southern-born musicians are all over this part of the country.
Due to its temperate weather, the South is hospitable to outdoor play nearly 365 days a year. Sun bunnies particularly appreciate this climate and the region’s terrain, as beaches run for hundreds of miles down the South’s Atlantic Coast, then circle back along the Gulf of Mexico. The South caters to all incarnations of the active traveler, too, with countless paths to hike, mountains to climb, rivers to run and swamps to explore.