By Kemba Banton
The South is among the most fascinating regions in the United States. Its conflicted history combined with its charms and graces give it a peculiar stamp of intrigue. You’ll find southern hospitality and civil rights, elegant architecture and ghost stories, jazz, gumbo, and folktales, rolling countryside and vibrant urban scenes. If you’re planning a trip south this November, each of these five Southern destinations has plenty to explore.
There’s probably one thing that rushes to the mind when anyone hears Birmingham: the profound and roiling intensity of the civil rights era. But this industrial city is also bursting with exciting arts and culture. Follow the Civil Rights Heritage Trail; visit the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, or Birmingham Museum of Art. Check out the McWane Science Center, Botanical Gardens, or Southern Museum of Flight.
Where to stay? The Victorian-styled Cobb Lane Bed and Breakfast is budget-friendly and sits close to many attractions.
Charleston, South Carolina
The perfect model of southern charm, Charleston is a dream. Church steeples rise above the low city line. Cobbled streets line fantastic architecture. Ancient oaks, draped with Spanish moss, spread deep roots into the ground. Here, the history also runs deep. Immerse yourself in Gullah history and culture. Try Low Country cuisine. Take to the beaches, go fishing, or visit Sullivan Island.
Where to stay? The affordable Hampton Inn Charleston in the gorgeous Historic District combines the region’s antebellum aesthetic with contemporary conveniences.
The second oldest city of Georgia is also the birth home of James Brown, and a golf mecca in the spring, but its best qualities are its hidden gems. The city rests on the banks of the Savannah River. Visit Phinizy Swamp, stroll through the gardens and museums of Riverwalk. Soak up intriguing stories about the region and its historic treasures. At night, take your pick between a Broadway play and symphony orchestra.
Where to stay? The centrally located Lookaway Hotel is budget-friendly, has antique accents and high-quality amenities.
Almost 100 miles south of Birmingham, Montgomery is both legendary and new. You will want to visit several prominent civil rights museums and stops, like the Rosa Park Museum or the Dexter Parsonage Museum (once Martin Luther King, Jr.’s home). Then see a dynamic art exhibit, Shakespeare play, or dance performance at one of the city’s many arts establishments.
Where to stay? Try the charming Red Bluff Cottage Bed & Breakfast, near many attractions.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana is famous for its multicultural cuisine, and fresh fish and shrimp from the Gulf. The state’s capital is the perfect place to sample some great food. While you’re at it, visit the arts and crafts holiday markets. Hear echoes of Baton Rouge’s bluesy past at The Blues Room. Visit the Rural Life Museum or tour the State Capitol with its intriguing political history. Feeling adventurous? Take the River Road past levees and countryside to New Orleans and on the way explore the many plantation houses, both majestic and haunting.
Where to stay? Check out Hotel Indigo, a cool, contemporary styled boutique hotel with excellent amenities.
This article is part of Hipmunk’s Destination Unknown travel series.
AUTHOR BIO: Kemba Banton is a writer, artist, and mother, passionate about life, social change, and personal empowerment. She has a B.A. in Anthropology and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. She’s teamed up with Heart & Soul and Hipmunk to bring intriguing tidbits about travel destinations across the world.