Once Upon A Time… Historic Southern Towns + Dreamy Attractions
Travelling through our Southern states can have you feeling like character in a fable. Moss draped ancient oaks readily spread their branches, welcoming visitors into their enchanted shadows. Rivers babble and bubble spells, luring you to stay a little longer. The gentle kindness of strangers will leave you feeling charmed and spellbound.
The South is your destination for history with a magical touch of romance. Head south for historic sites, and genteel characters. The Southern United States is home to a range of storybook destinations, from seafront cities in South Carolina to mountain hamlets in Tennessee. Whether you prefer strolling through fields of Kentucky bluegrass or relaxing in a luxurious hotel suite filled with antiques from the antebellum era, rewrite your own storybook fable while seeing the sights these Southern locales offer.
With horse-drawn carriages cruising brick streets, centuries-old live oaks dripping in Spanish moss everywhere you turn, old-world architecture, and 22 verdant square parks filled with grand fountains and statues, the scenery just doesn’t get more picturesque—or storybook-like—than historic Savannah. There is also plenty to do just wandering the streets in awe. For a quaint lodging experience, book one of the four polished-yet-cozy rooms at Mirabella Suites and Cafe and be sure to get their liege waffles (the fancier sister of Belgian waffles) delivered to you in bed from the cafe downstairs. Join the art scene around town by visiting SCAD Museum of Art, and the Jepson Center for the Arts. For a romantic dinner complete with oysters on the half shell, make reservations at The Grey, then stop in at Artillery for a nightcap. For a scary story take on your visit, take a creepy ghost tour with Blue Orb Tours. mirabellesavannah.com; scadmoa.org
Few places have as much inherent charm as the South Carolina Low country and Beaufort on Port Royal Island is right in the heart of it. It’s one of our favorite spots in the South with antebellum architecture, oversized live oaks, miles of shoreline, and a perfect small town feel. Make the most of the town’s Southern hospitality by opting to stay at a B&B like The Beaufort Inn, whose porches just beg you to sit and enjoy a glass of sweet tea. Rent beach cruisers from Low Country Bicycles and take a leisurely waterfront ride. Or, spend the day sea fishing or sun bathing with your Prince Charming with boat chartering services at Cast Away Fishing Charters. You cannot miss Saltus River Grill for an evening meal, its Sonoma-style patio adorned with cafe lights makes for the perfect setting. beaufortinn.com; beaufortsc.org
New Orleans, LA
Bourbon Street aside, New Orleans’ vibrantly colored buildings and incredible festivals make this one of the best cities to visit. Try the beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde, sip “the world’s first cocktail” at The Sazerac Bar, and get lost in the classical smooth tunes at a jazz club. A stay at Le Pavillion puts a guest just steps from the youthful bustle of the French Quarter. The lobby captures all the storybook romance of New Orleans with chandeliers the size of cars and lavish oil paintings. Splurge on a meal at Restaurant August - this contemporary French restaurant features a menu influenced by the chef’s Southern background and is highlighted with local produce and products. Listen to live music at Preservation Hall, this New Orleans institution has hosted some of the world’s most accomplished jazz and blues musicians since its founding in 1961. lepavillon.com; preservationhall.com
Step back in time to the Antebellum South and visit this little Louisiana town that’s packed with charm and history. Vacherie has been the site for many a modern day film, television show, and music video. It is home to not only the well-known Oak Alley Plantation – where you can actually stay for a few nights - but it also has several other gorgeous plantations to visit in the area, including Laura, and St. Joseph—which together can keep you occupied for days. At Oak Alley, enjoy creole cuisine for breakfast lunch and dinner. Head over to the other two plantations for lessons in Southern history and history tours. oakalleyplantation.com; lauraplantation.com; stjosephplantation.com
Steal away to Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region and stay at the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg, the oldest city in Kentucky. This bed and breakfast has been operating since 1919. Dine on classic Southern cuisine, such as two-year cured Kentucky ham, at the inn’s restaurant and unwind with spa treatments at the on-site spa. Spend a day visiting nearby wineries, such as the Lover’s Leap Vineyards and Winery in Lawrenceburg. Schedule a tour or attend one of the daily tasting sessions. Take a drive through the storybook green pastures to Keeneland to watch the famed Kentucky thoroughbred race. Finish your Kentucky getaway with a riverboat ride on the Dixie Belle at Shaker Village. The boat cruises along the Kentucky River palisades under old limestone cliffs. beaumontinn.com; shakervillageky.org
Amelia Island, FL
Visit unspoiled Amelia Island, and let yourself enjoy the landscape as nature intended. A walk down the beaches of the national parks is likely to result in the spotting of a wide variety of wildlife—including everything from coastal birds like egrets and herons to whitetail deer and even sea turtles. If you happen to be there in the months of either December or January, keep your eyes open for the rare Atlantic right whales that can be seen during their migration off the coast. If you still haven’t had your fill of animals, try horseback riding on the beach with Happy Trails Walking Horses. The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort offers everything you need to relax in nature with oceanfront villas; it is the perfect place to enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine. happytrailswalkers.com; ameliaisland.com
Cape Charles, VA
This small east coast town follows Virginia’s motto, "Virginia Is for Lovers," with an abundance of quaint ocean-side oyster shacks and a gorgeous waterfront landscape. Situated at the northern entrance of the Chesapeake Bay, it comes as no surprise that Cape Charles features a historic lighthouse that is also the tallest in the state. Try the Fig Street Inn or Sea Gate Bed and Breakfast, for a sumptuous stay. Be sure to indulge in the local seafood at restaurants like the Oyster Farm that sits right on the marina. Take in the ocean views at The Shanty and enjoy live music. With this perfect mix of Southern and East Coast charm, one cannot help but imagine they are in a Nicholas Sparks novel when visiting. seagatebb.com; capecharles.org
Called the “Cultural Mecca of the South,” this Southern town has plenty to see and it is overflowing with history. Take a walk through a Southern author’s old home, Rowan Oak was William Faulkner’s abode for many years and is currently operated by the local university. Follow part of the Mississippi Blues Trail to learn more about your favorite musicians, and head to McEwen’s for picture-perfect plates and their famous buttermilk fried oysters. rowanoak.com; visitoxfordms.com
We have saved the best for last! Natchez sits idyllically on the Mississippi River and begs visitors to walk through its history. Small town Southern charm does not begin to describe the setting with its many antebellum sites. Here, historic homes have transformed into charming bed and breakfasts perfect for visitors. Sleep well at Monmouth Historic Inn and Gardens and walk the beautiful and extensive grounds that feature a wisteria draped pergola, a pond-front gazebo, along with pristine lawns, tulips, crepe myrtles, azaleas, and magnolia trees perfectly placed in every direction. Dine on Southern classics like fried green tomatoes, and pecan pie at the Inn’s Restaurant 1818 or check out the Carriage House Restaurant at Stanton Hall. monmouthhistoricinn.com; visitnatchez.org
The fable does not end here. During your stay at any one of these storybook destinations you will be told of nearby discoveries by the helpful locals, and no doubt be enticed to stay longer and longer each time. No need to rush off at the stroke of midnight, though! These special spots will be waiting for and yours to experience your very own epic story …and to visit happily ever after.