The Sweetest Southern Downtowns
Andy Griffith’s Mayberry seems like the perfect place to live; where the main street is the beating heart of everyday life, and the locals are warm and welcoming. Well, the Southern states are blessed with towns even better than television can create. The sweetest downtowns are places you can enjoy spending hours chatting, shopping, eating and looking around thinking, “I could live here forever!” Explore a few Southern downtowns that are so sweet, they’ll make honey jealous!
This port town owns a history dating back to the colonial time and is best known for its connection with Brunswick stew. The first batch was made on nearby St. Simons Island in 1898, and it even says so on an official plaque in town; there’s even an annual festival — Stewbilee — that takes place in October. But the rest of the year, this historic downtown is the sweetest place to spend some quality time. Wander the shops and stop by Lover’s Oak on the way to Mary Ross Waterfront Park. Spend a lazy day watching the shrimp boats come in with their catch and dock at the wharf. Enjoy the daily catch at nearby Shucks Seafood Market.
Sweet St. Marys
Historic St. Marys, Georgia offers culture, heritage, and outdoor activities that will ensure a relaxing visit. Imagine meandering through the park-like setting of the St. Marys History Walk's 600-foot looping trail. Learn about the old shipbuilding industry, and entertain romanticly tragic visions of the town being overthrown by British soldiers during the War of 1812. Even during the shortest of stays, you will assuredly get a taste of the coastal, small-town lifestyles. Situated on Cumberland Island, there are a variety of accommodations to complement your needs. Hungry for local seafood? Try one of the 30 locally-owned restaurants.
Designated a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art in 2013, Paducah — also known as Quilt City USA — is home to The National Quilt Museum and the annual QuiltWeek festival. Discover stunning examples of 19th-century architecture everywhere, and explore Lower Town, an arty district and oldest neighborhood featuring boutiques, antique stores, and independent art galleries.
Berea is located a few miles south of Lexington and is home to a vibrant community of painters, musicians, weavers, and other such artisans alongside a number of artsy annual events including Berea Craft Festival and Berea Celtic Festival. Beautiful downtown Berea is home to several historically significant sites such as Berea College, which is a liberal arts college founded in 1855, and the South’s first interracial and coeducational institute. Another site, Boone Tavern, is a hotel opened in 1909 and listed on the National Register of Historical Places, and named after American pioneer and explorer Daniel Boone.
Beloved Breaux Bridge
Breaux Bridge sits along the slow-moving Bayou Teche, which rolls lazily past the historic downtown area. Visitors may find it hard to believe that this stretch of gourmet Cajun restaurants, antique stores, and brassy boutiques could have ever been anything but perfectly genteel, but in the 1920s, Breaux Bridge was a haven for speakeasies and gambling saloons. Spend time strolling the shops and eating crawfish — since it is the Crawfish Capital of the World — and be sure to catch some live music in this culturally-rich community. Cajun music is on the stage every night at Pont Breaux's Cajun Restaurant, and every weekend at La Poussière, an old-school Cajun dancehall. Also, Breaux Bridge makes a good base for swamp touring and other eco-tourism.
Appealing Abita Springs
Abita has been long famed for its artesian waters and for the Abita Brewery. This picturesque town is also well known for simply being an incredibly charming main street community. As part of the Northshore, Abita connects to the Tammany Trace so pick up a bike and make it a stop along your route. Right next door to the Trace’s Trailhead, park the cycles and the family at the brand-new Abita Springs playground. Peddle a few more minutes and you will come to the Abita Brew Pub where the beer on tap is delicious and the solid menu of crawfish cakes, burgers, salads, and more are sure to please after such a long day outdoors.
Morristown’s National Register Historic District is the home of the only overhead sidewalk system in the United States! On the downtown’s street level, you can discover a multitude of antique, specialty, and clothing boutiques in addition to outstanding eateries. The Morristown farmers market is located within the district and is one of the few markets operating six days a week, March through December. For in-depth local history, visit the Crockett Tavern Museum or General Longstreet’s Headquarters Museum.
Tennessee’s oldest town is also one of its most charming. With a handful of shops and eateries, it is also home to the annual Storytelling Festival. The city is packed with historic and artistic charm. Don’t miss out on the downtown historic tours; they are jam-packed with interesting facts. Not only does this Tennessee town stage the highly acclaimed National Storytelling Festival every October, but Jonesborough also serves as the home of the International Storytelling Center because it is the Storytelling Capital of World. It is here that story listeners and tellers from across America gather to share tales both big and small through the Teller-in-Residence program and the Storyteller’s Guild. Don’t miss the opportunity to join the most Americana of all celebrations — Jonesborough Days — and for your chance to enter the MoonPie Contest!
The Virginia Creeper Trail begins in downtown Abingdon, and the famous Application Trail is nearby. Bike shops and shuttle services make getting around the outdoors even more enjoyable. For those that enjoy a bit of local shopping and entertainment, then head to Main Street and the historic downtown district that overflows with nice galleries and great restaurants. Don’t miss a chance to catch a performance at Barter Theatre — the State Theatre of Virginia — where its first patrons could purchase a ticket with vegetables, dairy products, and livestock during the Depression. You’ll have no trouble finding the beautiful and historic Martha Washington Hotel and Spa for a luxurious overnight sleep.
Shepherdstown is a charming university town, with lots of small shops, and way more cafes and restaurants than you’d expect a small town to have. It’s also full of history. Stroll through town, using the walking tour as your guide. This Colonial town in its bucolic setting on the Potomac River is only 90 minutes from the Washington/Baltimore metropolitan areas but miles away from the stress and rushed lifestyle of the city. This historic town is well-preserved and offers modern shops and restaurants and abundant natural beauty with wonderful trails for bicycling and hiking.
Heavenly Harpers Ferry
Only minutes away from Shepherdstown is picture perfect Harpers Ferry and Bolivar, two tiny 19th-century villages, bordered by the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park surrounds both towns, providing visitors with tours, museums, and hiking trails all within an easy walking distance of the living history villages. Today, the majestic beauty of the two rivers and the cliffs surrounding Harpers Ferry draw visitors from all over the world. The Appalachian Trail goes right through the heart of town. Boutique shops offer a variety of beautiful items for visitors and local eateries can satisfy any hunger. Helpful local outfitters can help with rafting or kayaking trips.
Can you picture your first visit to one of these saccharine sweet destinations? We can’t wait to share with you more downtowns that are just too precious to pass up, so stay tuned!