As a passionate traveler, I’ve always been drawn to the diverse landscapes, rich history, and warm hospitality of the Southeast United States. This region, encompassing states like Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and more, offers a wealth of experiences for every type of adventurer. In this guide, I’ll share my favorite things to do in the Southeast United States so you can make the most of your visit to this captivating corner of the country.
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What to Do in the Southeast United States
1. Explore the Historic Charms of Charleston, South Carolina
Start your Southeastern adventure in Charleston, South Carolina, where cobblestone streets, historic homes, and charming waterfront parks await. Stroll along the Battery and Waterfront Park, visit historic plantations like Boone Hall, and savor Lowcountry cuisine at local restaurants.
2. Savor the Culinary Delights of New Orleans, Louisiana
No trip to the Southeast is complete without a visit to New Orleans, where jazz music fills the air and the cuisine is legendary. Explore the vibrant French Quarter, savor beignets and coffee at Café du Monde, and indulge in gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish étouffée. Don’t miss the lively atmosphere of Bourbon Street and the historic architecture of the Garden District.
3. Discover the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. Straddling the Tennessee and North Carolina border, this park boasts lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. Hike along the numerous trails and drive the scenic Newfound Gap Road.
4. Enjoy the Beaches of the Florida Panhandle
The Florida Panhandle is home to some of the most stunning beaches in the Southeast. Visit Destin for its crystal-clear waters and vibrant nightlife, or head to the serene shores of St. George Island for a more laid-back experience. The Emerald Coast is a haven for water sports, fishing, and sunbathing.
5. Immerse Yourself in History in Savannah, Georgia
Savannah’s well-preserved historic district is a treasure trove of Southern charm. Wander through the city’s squares shaded by ancient oaks, take a guided ghost tour, and visit historic homes like the Mercer-Williams House. Don’t forget to explore River Street for shopping, dining, and scenic riverfront views.
6. Experience the Magic of Disney World in Orlando, Florida
For family-friendly fun, head to Orlando, Florida, and dive into the enchanting world of Disney. Explore the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, or cool off at the water parks. Beyond Disney, Orlando offers many attractions, including Universal Studios and the Kennedy Space Center.
7. Travel Back in Time in Williamsburg, Virginia
Travel back to colonial America in Williamsburg, Virginia. This living history museum recreates an 18th-century town with costumed interpreters and historic buildings. Visit Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, and Yorktown Battlefield to gain insights into America’s early history.
8. Relax on the Scenic Beaches of the Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks of North Carolina has a tranquil beach getaway with a touch of adventure. Explore the Wright Brothers National Memorial, climb the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and visit the wild horses of Corolla. The pristine beaches and charming coastal towns are perfect for a leisurely escape.
9. Discover the Eclectic Scene of Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville, situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a haven for artists, musicians, and outdoor enthusiasts. Explore the vibrant arts district, tour the Biltmore Estate, and hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The city’s craft beer scene is also a significant draw for beer lovers.
10. Get Lost in the Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia/Florida
Experience the unique wilderness of the Okefenokee Swamp, which spans Georgia and Florida. Take a guided boat tour through the swamp’s cypress forests, observing alligators, birds, and other wildlife. It’s a true immersion into the natural beauty of the Southeast.
11. Visit Historic Civil Rights Sites in Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama, played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement. Explore historic sites like the Rosa Parks Museum, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. These sites offer essential insights into America’s struggle for civil rights.
12. Enjoy Music and BBQ in Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville, known as “Music City,” is a must-visit for enthusiasts. Visit the Grand Ole Opry, explore the Country Music Hall of Fame, and stroll along Broadway, where live music fills the honky-tonks. Don’t forget to savor some mouthwatering Tennessee barbecue while you’re here.
13. Experience the Southern Hospitality of Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, offers a blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Explore the North Carolina Museum of Art, tour historic homes like the Joel Lane House, and enjoy the city’s lively food scene. Nearby, you can also visit the charming town of Durham and the Research Triangle Park.
14. Cruise the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis, situated along the banks of the Mississippi River, is steeped in music history. Visit Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley, tour Sun Studio, and experience the vibrant Beale Street music scene. A riverboat cruise on the Mississippi is a serene way to soak in the city’s charm.
15. Hike the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia
For serious hikers and nature enthusiasts, the Southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia offers a challenging and rewarding adventure. You can hike some trail or embark on a thru-hike to experience the Appalachian wilderness.
16. Enjoy the Coastal Beauty of the Gulf Islands, Mississippi/Alabama
The Gulf Islands, located off the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, provide a tranquil retreat with pristine beaches, hiking trails, and abundant birdwatching opportunities. Visit the Gulf Islands National Seashore and take in the natural beauty of these barrier islands.
17. Witness the Spectacle of the Great Migration in Everglades National Park, Florida
Everglades National Park in Florida is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. Take an airboat tour to witness the incredible diversity of wildlife, including alligators, birds, and manatees. The park is a vital ecosystem and a unique place to explore.
18. Go Wine Tasting in North Georgia’s Wine Country
Surprisingly, North Georgia is home to a growing wine region. Explore the picturesque vineyards and wineries, tasting various wines and enjoying the scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
19. Experience the White Sandy Beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores, Alabama, offers pristine white sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and water sports, and don’t forget to try fresh Gulf seafood at the local restaurants.
20. Visit the Historic Districts of Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia, is steeped in history and offers a blend of historic architecture, museums, and vibrant neighborhoods. Explore the historic district of Shockoe Bottom, visit the Virginia State Capitol, and stroll along Monument Avenue to see its iconic statues.
21. Discover the Barrier Islands of South Carolina
South Carolina’s barrier islands, including Hilton Head, Kiawah Island, and Pawleys Island, offer pristine beaches, golf courses, and a relaxed coastal atmosphere. Enjoy water sports, golfing, and seafood dining in these idyllic coastal communities.
The Southeast United States is a region that beckons with its diverse landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. From the enchanting streets of Charleston to the lively jazz scene of New Orleans, from the pristine beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains to the lively beaches of the Florida Panhandle, the Southeast offers an array of experiences for every traveler. Whether you’re seeking history, natural beauty, music, or simply a taste of Southern hospitality, the Southeast United States has something to offer.