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avenue of the oaks something to see on a southern USA road trip

15 Fun Southern USA Road Trips For Your Bucket List

February 15, 2021 //  by  Southern Trippers

There are so many wonderful reasons to love the South, so to experience them all, it’s time to hit the road for some Southern Road Trips. With miles of coastline, mountain ranges, and iconic culture, there’s so much to see, do, and taste.

Sure, you can hop on a plane and visit city to city. But you’d be robbing yourself of some of the most picturesque landscapes that the USA has to offer. Let’s not forget that due to current circumstances, flying looks less and less appealing to many.

More and more people are abandoning air travel for hitting the open road. Whether it be traveling by car and sleeping in cozy AirBnbs or packing up an RV and sleeping under the stars in open nature, this is the perfect time to take a road trip.

Not only will a road trip keep you safe and socially distanced, you’ll get a real sense of the lands that warm the hearts, smiles, and delicious meals the South has to offer. Here are our favorite Southern road trips that won’t disappoint.

The open highway stretches across Route 66, one of the best Southern road trips.

Football Championship Tour (Alabama)

  • Jordan-Hare Museum
  • Toomer’s Corner
  • Bryant-Denny Stadium
  • Alabama Sports Hall of Fame

While college sports are popular all over the United States, nobody loves their football quite like Alabama. Of all the Southern road trips, this trek is perfect for college football fans. We won’t judge who you’re rooting for!

Start in Auburn, home of the Tigers. On the Auburn University campus, you can visit the Jordan-Hare stadium. 75,000 season tickets have been sold every season for the past 18 years!

Jordan-Hare Stadium at the University of Auburn, a perfect stop on a deep south road trip.

Don’t forget to visit the celebration spot of Auburn sports victories. At the corner of College Street and Magnolia Avenue, you can see where students “roll Toomer’s Corner.” Then grab a shake at Toomer’s Drugs, an old fashioned soda fountain!

Then head west to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, home of the Crimson Tide. Walk in Bryant-Denny Stadium, where many legendary victories have taken place. A few blocks over, you can see Bama’s $30,000 replica of their Rose Bowl trophy!

Finally, head to the north to Birmingham. Spend a couple hours in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. You’ll also notice the headquarters of the Southeastern Conference across the street!

Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, a perfect stop on some Southern road trips.

Sunken Lands Cultural Roadway (Arkansas)

  • Southern Tenant Farmers Museum
  • Boyhood home of Johnny Cash
  • Hampson Archeological Museum State Park

One of the best road trips in the South is to take the Sunken Lands Cultural Roadway in Arkansas. Normally used for the Tour duh Sunken Lands Cultural Bike Ride, it’s one of the best Southern road trips because of the stopovers in small towns.

Start in Tyronza where you can visit the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum. Then head uptown to see the Marked Tree. From there, keep on to Lepanto, where you can see “A Painted House,” featured in the TV movie based on the novel by John Grisham.

Next up, it’s Dyess, where you can see the boyhood home of Johnny Cash. Tours can take you through the home, restored with the help of Cash’s two youngest siblings. The home and gravel path leading to it were used in the movie, Walk The Line.

After that, move onto Wilson. Here at Hampson Archeological Museum State Park, you can explore the excavated ruins of the Nodena Native American Village. Finally, you’ll circle back to where you started in Tyronza.

The childhood home of Johnny Cash.

Natural Springs Road Trip (Florida)

  • Ginnie Springs
  • Devil’s Den
  • Rainbow Springs
  • Ichetucknee Springs

A road trip in Florida to visit the  natural springs  can be perfect for summer or fall! The 72 degree waters will cool you down during the hottest summer day. During the winter, manatees migrate to the springs to keep warm.

Start your tour in Weeki Wachee to watch mermaids swim in the spring waters before heading north on US 19 to  Crystal River . If you time it right, you can attend their Manatee Festival!

Take US-41 to get to Rainbow Springs State Park, which actually has six waterfalls! Then hop back on US-41 to head north to Devil’s Den, a diver’s haven!

The stairs descending down to Devil's Den, a stop on a Southern road trip.

Get back on, you guessed it, US-41 and keep going north and you’ll hit three springs grouped very close together! Take your pick between  Gilchrist Blue Springs ,  Ginnie Springs , or Ichetucknee Springs. Or visit them all!

End your journey by driving north for just another hour and you’ll reach Madison Blue Springs, where you can swim and relax as your final reward!

Victoria floats in the clear waters of Ginnie Springs.

Gulf Coast Road Trip (Florida to Texas)

  • Panama City Beach
  • Gulf State Park
  • Rutherford Beach
  • Biloxi Beach
  • Rockport Beach

The Gulf of Mexico has some truly magical beaches, some rated the best in the country and even the world! Of all the Southern road trips, this one will take you through the best beaches on the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas.

You’ll start in the Florida Panhandle, in Panama City. The beach here is a Spring Break destination, but can be family-friendly if you visit during any other time of the year.

Two palm trees sway in the wind in Biloxi Beach, a perfect trip on a Southern road trips.

Heading west to Alabama, you’ll then hit Gulf State Park with pristine white sands. Mississippi and Louisiana have Rutherford Beach and Biloxi Beach, respectively. You’ll want to stick around these parts for a while to experience the cuisine!

Biloxi is also home to some of the best Resorts In Mississippi , including beachfront ones!

Finally, you’ll land in Texas at the number one beach in the Lone Star State, Rockport Beach. A clean cresent of beach, you’ll find shallow waters and calm waves, perfect for families with small children!

The crescent shoreline of Rockport Beach in Texas.

Chattahoochee Mountains Road Trip (Georgia)

  • Amicalola Falls
  • Wolf Mountain Vineyards
  • Apple Alley

This deep South road trip takes you in a loop around the Chattahoochee National Forest. These mountains were the site of America’s first major gold strike and continue to enrich the area with its unique cultural riches. Of all the Southern road trips, this one is perfect for the fall!

Start in Dahlonega, where you can visit the Gold Museum. You can see gold pans, tin signs and other treasures at the General Store. And don’t forget to grab some Outlaw Jerky & Trail Grub for the road! Make sure to check out some of the Best Things To Do In Dahlonega!

Stop off at the Wolf Mountain Vineyards, where you can dine on wild game with red wine with an unbeatable view from the mountaintop operation. Then head to the northwest to reach downtown Blue Ridge.

A favorite high-altitude retreat, Blue Ridge’s quaint downtown is full of bed and breakfasts and charming shops on Main Street to keep you busy and rested. If you visit during October through November, take a Fall Foliage Excursion on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway!

The view of the tracks from the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, a perfect destination on one of the many Southern road trips in Georgia.

Head southwest to Ellijay to reach a ten-mile stretch of HWY 52 to find seven apple houses. Hit up several along the way and indulge in fritters, cider slushies, applesauce, chutney, and more! Make sure to bring a basket or bushel home for your friends!

Finally, end your trip at Amicalola Falls, the tallest waterfall in the south. Hikers will enjoy the challenging paths and staircases to the cascade, but there are other easier to reach observation areas! The falls are also adjacent to the Appalachian Trail, if you’re so inclined.

The base of Amicalola Falls.

Bourbon Trail Road Trip (Kentucky)

  • Woodford Reserve Distillery
  • Wild Turkey Distillery
  • Lexington Brewing Distilling Company
  • Maker’s Mark Distillery

There’s a reason bourbon comes from Kentucky. The limestone-filtered water just makes it taste better. Of all the Southern road trips, the Bourbon Trail will explore Kentucky’s deep passion for creating America’s bourbon.

Begin in Louisville at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. Take the full tour of the distillery which ends of course in a free tasting. If you’re so inclined, you can stop off at the Louisville Slugger Museum afterward, to see where professional baseball bats are made!

The exterior of the Sluggerville Museum, a perfect destination for one of the many Southern road trips in Kentucky.

Then head to Versailles to see the Woodford Reserve Distillery. After seeing the still, the warehouse, and the bottling process, grab a bite to eat in the cafe. Hop across town to the Wild Turkey Distillery, which has been making bourbon since 1869.

Afterwards, head to Lexington, home to Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company and Barrel House Distillery. Lexington Brewing also brews a delicious beer while Barrel House creates moonshine, vodka, and rum.

Finally, end your bourbon conquest in Loretto at the Maker’s Mark Distillery. Arguably the most famous in the state, a tour will afford you the opportunity to dip your own bottle in their iconic red wax.

The black exterior of the Maker's Mark distillery.

Everglades Road Trip (Florida)

  • Anhinga Trail
  • Nine Mile Pond
  • Mahogany Hammock Trail
  • Pa-Hay-Okee Overlook

The  Everglades National Park  is a gigantic place to explore. It’s hard to know where to start! Luckily, this Southern road trip through the park will allow you to experience a little bit of everything the park has to offer.

Enter the park from the southernmost entrance of the three off of the Ingraham Highway. Here you’ll start your journey at the Coe Visitor Center. As you start driving, right off the bat, you’ll have your pick between the Anhinga Trail or the Gumbo Limbo Trail, some of the best hikes in Florida.

The road continues through the Pinelands and into the Dwarf Cypress Forest whose leaves actually change during fall in Florida! After passing Rock Reef Pass, stop at Pa-Hay-Okee Overlook. From the elevated platform, you’ll have the best views of the enormous sawgrass prairies.

The Anhinga Trail through the Everglades, a stop on one of the Southern road trips through Florida.

Cajun Country Road Trip (Louisiana)

  • Lake Martin
  • Lake Fausse Point State Park
  • Tabasco Factory

If your Southern road trips have you all New Orleans-ed out, then this will be welcome news. Louisiana is so much more than Mardi Gras, and a tour through the Acadiana region will immerse you in Cajun Country!

Start in Lake Martin to get a taste of wild Louisiana. Take a swamp tour in an airboat to wind through the cypress trees draped with Spanish moss. You’ll see turtles, egrets, herons, spoonbills, and baby owls. Don’t get too close to the gators!

Bald Cypress trees hover over the water in Lake Martin.

Then head over to St. Martinville to explore Louisiana on your own! Lake Fausse Pointe State Park offers hiking, fishing, and birding opportunities. There are also cabins and campgrounds, so spend a night in the wilderness!

Hot sauce fans, rejoice! Next up is the Tabasco Factory in Avery Island! The McIlhenny Company will give you a tour and you can pick up souvenirs! Visit Jungle Gardens to see botanical gardens or consider taking a plantation tour while in Avery Island.

Finish your trip in Lafayette, full of Creole and Cajun cuisine! Make sure to try all the regional specialties, including blackened fish, shrimp Creole, gumbo, fried shellfish, and even fried alligator!

The greenhouse where peppers are grown in the Tabasco Museum.

Waterfall Road Trip (Florida and Georgia)

  • Falling Waters State Park
  • Big Shoals State Park
  • Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park

Florida does in fact have  waterfalls ! Not something you see every day! On this Florida road trip, you’ll discover that the best sound is that of a waterfall crashing down in front of you!

Start in Chipley in the Panhandle with a bang. Falling Waters State Park is home to the largest of Florida’s waterfalls at 73 feet high! From there, head to Bristol to get to Torreya State Park. Consider skipping this waterfall if you’re not a strong hiker.

Falling Waters State Park, a perfect stop on one of the many Southern road trips through Florida.

Afterward, the next three waterfalls are thankfully close together. First see the “Disappearing” Waterfall at Camp Branch Conservation Area. Then head to Big Shoals State Park, which also offers river rafting! Just to the south is Falling Creek Falls.

As you head south to  Gainesville , you’ll reach Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park. Here the waterfall was created by a series of sinkholes. You can even stand inside of the sinkhole right next to the waterfall!

Take a refreshing reward at Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon just outside of  Ocala . Here, you’ll get not one, but six waterfalls! You can also enjoy swimming, tubing, kayaking, snorkeling, and more.

Finally, head into Georgia to hit Amicalola Falls for your final reward. Higher and taller than any of the Florida waterfalls, the towering cascade reflects rainbows in the mist, perfect for photo ops.

The base of Amicalola Falls.

The Great River Road Trip (Minnesota to Mississippi)

  • Itasca State Park
  • Gateway Arch
  • Peabody Hotel
  • Natchez National Historical Park

The Great River Road takes you from the head of the Mississippi River in Minnesota to its mouth in the Gulf. While it starts farther north than the rest of these Southern road trips, there’s nothing stopping you from starting further down south like in Tennessee or Arkansas!

Starting in Itasca State Park in Minnesota, you can visit the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Be sure to take a picture with the sign that reads: “Here, 1,475 feet above the ocean, the mighty Mississippi begins to flow on its winding way, 2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.”

The sign marking the mouth of the Mississippi River in Minnesota, the start of the journey on one of the Southern road trips down the Mississippi River.

Skipping down South to Missouri, make sure to stop in St. Louis, the Gateway City! Of course, stop at the Gateway Arch with a newly finished museum. Then head to Memphis, Tennessee, the birthplace of Rock N’ Roll to spend a night at the famous Peabody Hotel.

Continuing down to Mississippi, stop again in Natchez to see the Natchez National Historical Park or the Longwood mansion seen in True Blood ! Then it’s to the French Quarter in Louisiana for chicory coffee and beignets!

Cape Hatteras National Seashore Road Trip (North Carolina)

  • Jockeys Ridge State Park
  • Wild Horses
  • Wright Brothers National Memorial
  • Roanoke Island

Most people think of the Smokey Mountains when they think of North Carolina. Unlike other Southern road trips, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Road Trip will take you to little known oddities in the state’s culture and history.

Start in Corolla, where you can see the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, open daily from Easter to Thanksgiving. Here, you can also see wild horses running free, or Spanish mustangs as they’re known to locals.

A wild Spanish mustang runs on the beaches of North Carolina.

Then head down to Duck, where you can visit the Wright Brothers National Museum. On the site of their first controlled powered flight, you can see full-scale reproductions of the 1902 glider and the 1903 flying machine.

A replica of one of the Wright Brothers planes at the Wright Brothers Memorial Museum.

Then visit Jockey’s Ridge State Park, where you can explore the highest sand dunes on the Atlantic coast. Climb up to the top to enjoy hang-gliding and sand-boarding from dizzying heights.

Finally, end your trip with some spooky North Carolina history with a visit to Roanoake Island. Although England’s first settlers’ mysterious disappearance is still a mystery, that didn’t stop American Horror Story from speculating. Get the real story here.

Historic Plantations Road Trip (South Carolina)

  • Magnolia Plantation
  • Middleton Place
  • Charleston Tea Plantation

Visiting Plantations and taking tours are a sober reminder of the stains of human rights violations in American History. As hard as they are to visit, it is important to remember our mistakes so we can prevent them from happening again.

The most historic of Southern road trips begins in Charleston. Just outside on Wadmalaw Island is the Charleston Tea Plantation. The camellia plants originally planted in 1960 are now packaged by Mr. Bigelow.

Then head to the Magnolia Plantation, which is open from November to February. Down the road, you can find Drayton Hall which survived the American Revolution and the Civil War.

The front of the Magnolia Plantation House, a stop on one of the many Southern road trips through South Carolina.

At Middleton Place, you’ll learn the story of slaves on the plantation through Eliza’s House. A relic of the freedmen housing, artisans perform demonstrations in period costumes as slaves.

Finally, head to Boone Hall in Mount Pleasant. Tour the large Colonial Revival mansion, slave cabins, and flower gardens. Then stroll the Avenue of Oaks, the road to the plantation with live oaks on both sides planted in 1743.

The trail cutting through the Avenue of Oaks, leading up to Boone Hall in South Carolina.

American Music Road Trip (Tennessee) 

  • Grand Ole Opry
  • Sun Studios
  • Beale Street

Perhaps the most fun of the Southern road trips, the American Music Road Trip starts in Nashville, or “Music City” with its 120+ live venues. Check out the real deal at the Grand Ole Opry, the most famous stage in Country music and even get a backstage tour!

The Grand Ole Opry, a perfect destination on one of the many Southern road trips through Tennessee.

Then head southwest to Memphis to visit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music where Issac Hayes and Aretha Franklin have recorded. Down the road is Sun Studios, the birthplace of Rock N’ Roll where Johnny Cash and Elvis recorded.

Stroll down Beale Street to hear current live performers before heading to Pigeon Forge to Dollywood! Co-owned by Dolly Parton herself, end your road trip with roller coasters, flume rides, and swing rides! Hit the Chasing Rainbows museum full of Parton’s treasures!

The Palace Theatre at Dollywood.

Route 66 Road Trip: Texas Edition

  • Cadillac Ranch
  • Floating Mesa
  • Big Texan Steak Ranch

Route 66 ranks as one of the most famous Southern road trips. While it’s long, you never have to drive the entire thing. Good thing there’s plenty to do on Route 66 in the Lone Star State.

As you pass through Amarillo’s Historic District, you’ll find lots of quaint shops, restaurants, and amazing street art. Make sure to stop at the Cadillac Ranch, where ten Cadillacs are partially buried in the desert, covered in spray paint!

Cadillacs covered in spray paint stick up from the ground on Route 66.

As you leave Amarillo, look out for the Floating Mesa! Okay, it’s not actually floating, there’s just a white stripe painted near the top, but it looks really cool!

Then head to the Big Texan Steak Ranch. The most infamous restaurant on Route 66, take their 72 0z. steak challenge. If you can eat the entire steak, plus sides, in less than an hour, your meal is free. If not, you’ll be set back $72.

After your victory or defeat, head to Palo Duro Canyon, the second-largest in the US. The Grand Canyon of Texas, this stop is 30 minutes off the route, but worth the visit.

Monticello Wine Road Trip (Virginia)

  • Flying Fox Vineyard
  • Pollak Vineyard
  • Knights Gambit Vineyard

None of the other Southern road trips on this list feature wineries, and none in Virginia are more pleasant than the ones on the Monticello Wine Trail. Inspired by inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s vision of grape growing and winemaking, this road trip can last as long as you like.

There are 30 beautiful wineries along the trail, all within easy access of Charlottesville. Just some include the Flying Fox Vineyard, Pollak Vineyard, Meriwether Springs, Knights Gambit Vineyard, and the Glass House Winery.

Stop in to a few to take tours of the processing plants, bottling facilities, and finish it all off with a wine tour! You might even get to stomp grapes with your own feet! You’ll want to visit during October, as it has been designated as Virginia Wine Month!

The rows of grape trees stretch across a vineyard in Virginia.

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Southern US Road Trip

Your Guide to the Southern Road Trip

janetteasche / Getty Images

This road trip will take RVers from the Pacific coast in San Diego to the high desert of the southwest US and through the deep south before ending in gorgeous Savannah, Georgia. You’ll be booking around 3,000 miles for this trip on a variety of road types, and extreme climates so make sure your RV is up to the challenge before heading out. Don’t expect a lot of sprawling metropolis on this road trip. It’s all about the people, the places and, of course, some delicious food.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the southern states get pretty darn warm during summer. You don’t want to overtax yourself and your RV so don't plan this trip for June, July, or August. Spring is a great time to see the desert blooms in Arizona and New Mexico, and fall is an excellent time for some varied colors along the southeastern states.

First Stop: San Diego, California

Chavalit Likitratcharoen / Getty Images

Campland on the Bay is an ideal RV park for any RVer. Paved spots are outfitted with full utility hookups, and that’s the basic sites, choose a super-site if you want full utilities as well as privacy, your Jacuzzi spa, and your laundry facilities. The park is loaded up with plenty of other features and amenities such as game rooms, fitness center, onsite café, boat put-in, dog park, on-site market and plenty more. Campland is an all-around great RV park.

What to Do in San Diego

San Diego has long been a fun place to go so there will be plenty to do. If the kids are on the trip, you have your choice of the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Legoland , SeaWorld and more. If you’re a big fan of history, especially naval history, you’ll appreciate the USS Midway Museum as well as the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Outdoor adventurers will have plenty to do as well as you have La Jolla Cove and Shores, Point Loma, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, Balboa Park and Torrey Pines State Reserve all within the local area. Once you get done with all the fun in San Diego, you’ll be able actually to hit the road.

Second Stop: Tucson, Arizona

Manuela Durson / Getty Images

Without the signs, you may not even know that this is a public park due to the great amenities. You will be greeted at Catalina State Park with 120 full-service sites, and all these sites come with their picnic table as well as a grill. Campground bathrooms and shower facilities are new so feel free to leave your shower sandals behind. On top of those amenities at your site, you also have a gift shop, on-duty rangers, exhibits, group use areas and more. 

What to Do in Tucson

If you’re staying at Catalina State Park, you may as well take advantage of your local surroundings. Catalina offers over 5,000 acres of canyons, streams, desert landscapes and some great wildflowers. Try hiking, biking, horseback riding or cruising to check out the local area. You’re also on the doorstep of Sabino Canyon and Saguaro National Park if you need more outdoor fun. Other points of interest in Tucson include the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Pima Air and Space Museum, the Mission San Xavier del Bac and much more. A good mixture of things to do when staying in Catalina State Park and Tucson, Arizona.

Third Stop: Carlsbad, New Mexico

TripSavvy / Alisha McDarris

KOAs are known by RVers for their amenities and features and the Carlsbad KOA Holiday is no different. Even the biggest or rigs will fit at Carlsbad KOA Holiday as they have sites to accommodate rides up to 75 feet at sites loaded with full utility hookups. You can clean yourself up in the clean bathhouse, shower, and laundry facilities after having fun in the caverns. Not only do you get these great basics but you also get a pool, snack bar, Wi-Fi access, group pavilions and top it off, BBQ is served nightly. 

What to Do in Carlsbad

The number one reason to stay in Carlsbad, New Mexico is to check out Carlsbad Caverns National Park . Take a guided or self-guided tour to check out the many amazing geological formations, the great rooms and make sure to grab a seat for the nightly migration of the local Brazilian Free-tailed bats. There are even trails to explore the local area up above if you’re feeling a bit claustrophobic. Other than the park you have the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, Sitting Bull Falls and the Lake Carlsbad Recreation area.

Fourth Stop: Dallas, Texas

John Coletti / Getty Images

Dallas, Texas does have some RV parks, but for a real gem, we need to be a little outside of the city at the Vineyards Campground and Cabins . You’re right on Grapevine Lake with large grassy pull-through sites that come with all three major utilities on top of The Vineyard’s clean and bright shower and laundry facilities. The amenities don’t end there, there is a camp store, fishing pier, disc golf, playgrounds, bike, and kayak rentals, group pavilions and plenty more — lots of fun and amenities at the Vineyards Campground.

What to Do in Dallas

Dallas is a huge metropolis with plenty of great activities, so you shouldn’t be searching too hard for things to do. If you want to be outside, you should try Klyde Warren Park, White Rock Lake Park, or the gorgeous Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. If you’re looking to check out the history of Dallas, you can check out the infamous Sixth Floor Museum/Texas School Book Depository or the Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District. You also have the Dallas World Aquarium and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science for the little ones.

Pit Stop: Shreveport, Louisiana

You may be a little north of the bayou, but you can still get some excellent Cajun food in Shreveport. 

Fifth Stop: Jackson, Mississippi

Kat Clay / Getty Images

A lovely park in a great recreational area greets you when you roll into Mississippi and Timberlake Campground . There are water/electric sites as well as full-service sites if you don’t like dealing with your black tanks. Every great RV park has shower and laundry facilities, and Timberlake is no different. You also get grills, picnic tables, TV rooms, tennis courts, swimming pools, comfort stations, water access and plenty more. There’s so much to do at Timberlake you might forget to visit Jackson.

What to Do in Jackson

Jackson, Mississippi is a good mix of activities for the whole family as well as some historical and heritage sites. The kids will likely enjoy the small but entertaining Jackson Zoo, the Mississippi Museum of Nature and they’ll dig the Mississippi Children’s Museum. If you dig the historical buildings, you’ll want to try the State Capitol, the Old Capitol Museum, the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion or the Eudora Welty House. Other points of interest include the Mississippi Museum of Art, the Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Museum, and the Alamo Theater. 

Sixth Stop: Montgomery, Alabama

John Coletti / Getty Images 

Capital City RV Park is a highly rated park that gives you plenty to work with while hanging out in Alabama’s capital city. The sites are large and include full utility hookups on top of cable TV connections and your patio. The showers are private if you do not feel like an exhibitionist and laundry facilities are clean and able to handle your on-the-road stinky clothes. You also have a dog park and playground to keep Fido and the kids happy.

What to Do in Montgomery

We move from the capital city in Mississippi to the capital city in Alabama with Montgomery. Montgomery is one of the best places in the United States if you’re big on American history and the civil rights movement with points of interest such as the Rosa Parks Museum and Library, the Civil Rights Memorial Center and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church . After you’ve learned some history, you can try the Montgomery Zoo or the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. You also must stop by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival for some of the finest productions of Shakespeare in the United States.

Pit Stop: Atlanta, Georgia

Make time for an Atlanta stop to visit one of the world’s largest aquariums and to eat some fried chicken and waffles. 

Seventh Stop: Savannah, Georgia

Amy Luo / Getty Images

We featured this park on our Atlantic coast road trip, but it serves as well for the southern US road trip. Skidaway Island State Park has over 80 RV sites with 17 of those sites coming with full utility hookups. You’ll also get all the basics that RVers need for a long trip like their shower and laundry facilities, group meeting areas, picnic areas, playgrounds and more. You get all these features and amenities in the lovely Georgia country setting. 

What to Do in Savannah

It’s not difficult to have a good time in Savannah, all you have to do is take a stroll around the Historic District for some beautiful buildings, neat shops, and some excellent dining. There also a few landmarks you shouldn’t miss such as the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Bonaventure Cemetery and the Pin Point Museum. One unique way to have fun in Savannah is to go on a ghost or vampire tour, something different that’s sure to lease.

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An Epic 2-Week Southern U.S.A. Road Trip Itinerary

March 18, 2024 March 17, 2023

A Southern U.S.A. road trip is one of the most American road trips . 

We’ve been all over the United States since our last trip through the South, spending months in Louisiana and Georgia and what’s considered the Deep South.

While it’s certainly a different world down there, especially for gals from Chicago like me, it remains one of my favorite regions of the country for road trips.

A road trip through southern states like Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Alabama is delicious, historically and culturally significant, and, if you time things right, an escape from the winter chill.

Join me on a southern United States road trip that will rival all of the others.

Disclosure: Please note that the post below contains affiliate links, including links through the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I won’t recommend something I have not used/would not use myself, and any income earned supports the upkeep of this site.

A Southern U.S.A. Road Trip: Things to Know

A stunning approach in Georgia on a Southern U.S.A. road trip

We started in Chicago during our own road trip through the South the first time around, so this itinerary will start from the north and go south. You can certainly switch it up depending on your starting point, especially if you have to fly into a major city to make this happen.

As this itinerary details road trips in the South, you’ll need a car for this one. If you have your own fuel-efficient vehicle, that’s awesome.

If not, book a rental car at your arrival airport ahead of travel using an aggregator like Hotwire or Priceline . You’ll likely save money that way vs. picking up a car upon arrival wherever you land.

Where can I experience the Deep South?

You can experience the Deep South in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

I’ll be getting into all of those and more, as I’m taking the federal government’s approach to defining “the South” in this post. Here are the states they consider the South in ABC order:

  • The District of Columbia
  • Florida 
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia

No, you won’t be able to hit all of those on this one road trip . This is basically a primer itinerary that gives you a feel of road trips in the region. You’ll certainly want to return as you continue ticking things off your U.S.A. bucket lists .

Also, Delaware is the South?!? Mind. Blown.

Want a visual of the stops I’ll suggest on your southern U.S.A. road trip itinerary? Click on the Google map link below:

GIMME MY SOUTHERN STATES ROAD TRIP MAP!

Days 1-2: memphis, tennessee.

Spend at least two full days in Memphis, especially if you’ve never been. You could spend one full day just eating all of that delicious barbecue if you’ve packed stretchy pants and stretchy pants alone. If you’re short on time and planning a seven-day Southern road itinerary, Tennessee is still a great place to start.

Oh, you are here just for the barbecue? Here are our favorites, in no particular order:

  • Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous*
  • Cozy Corner BBQ
  • The Bar-B-Q Shop

*This one was Brian’s favorite growing up. He spent quite a few of his formative years in Bartlett, just outside of Memphis. My barbecue palate isn’t as discerning, but if you want the goods from a barbecue snob, start there!

A man eats barbecue in Memphis on a Southern USA road trip.

From there, pick and choose how you’d like to spend your time using my weekend itinerary for Memphis .

If you’re invested in this road trip guide , here are some things you shouldn’t miss if you’re short on time in Memphis, Tennessee:

  • Allow iconic Beale Street to suck you in with promises of live music and a good time. This is where legends like Louis Armstrong and B.B. King found their footing.

A restaurant on Beale Street on a Southern USA road trip

  • Visit The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum . Hear a sobering retelling of the start of slavery in Memphis in a home linked to the Underground Railroad.
  • Tour Sun Studio . This is where some of the biggest names in music history recorded many of their hits. Elvis Presley himself frequented Sun Studio in his early years. The studio is still a working studio today.
  • Spend a few hours at the National Civil Rights Museum , one of the best museums in Memphis . You’ll see the Lorraine Hotel while you’re there. That’s the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968.
  • Learn all about Stax Records at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music . This is another legendary studio in these parts. Isaac Hayes and Otis Redding both recorded here.

You’ll want to overnight in Memphis proper during this leg of your trip. Luckily, I have a guide to the best neighborhoods and Memphis accommodations for you to peruse.

Day 3: Tupelo, Mississippi

Start your day early. In a breezy couple of hours, you’ll be Tupelo, Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis Presley.

Here’s what you shouldn’t miss while in Tupelo:

  • Visit the Elvis Presley Birthplace . This is why you’re here, right? I mean, this is why we were here. See the modest home where the King of Rock and Roll was born and grew up and hold hands with a statue of a 13-year-old Elvis.

A couple holds hands with Elvis in Tupelo on a Southern USA road trip.

  • Take a mural walk. Tupelo’s colorful past meets a colorful present in murals you’ll find in town. Start with the postcard-perfect Greetings from Tupelo downtown. Continue your Elvis education outside the Gardner-Watson Ice House Club.
  • Sip on award-winning mead. Elvis doesn’t have to get all of your attention in Tupelo. Pop into Queen’s Reward Meadery , the first meadery in Mississippi, for some sneaky-strong honey mead.
  • Pop into Tupelo Hardware Company. This hardware store is credited with selling Elvis Presley’s mother his first guitar. They still sell guitars there, by the way, on top of the usual fare you’d find in a hardware store.
  • Travel some of the Natchez Trace Parkway. The parkway is over 400 miles of scenic road from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi, a town that’s on my to-do list for its old mansions.
Fun fact: For your convenience, the road cuts right through Tupelo.

If you have more time, spend the night. Otherwise, continue on for another two hours to your next stop: Birmingham. You’ll have a full day in the Alabama city, so feel free to linger in Tupelo on the way. 

Love that advice? I’d recommend booking with chain hotels in Birmingham like the Homewood Suites by Hilton .

While these hotels may not sound as exciting as boutique properties, your stay will be safe, consistent, and budget-friendly. I like the Homewood Suites in particular for its central location, spacious spaces (say that three times fast), and secure parking.

Want to comparison-shop? Use the map below:

Day 4: Birmingham, Alabama

Spend the day exploring the best of Birmingham. This is the seat of Jefferson County and where a good chunk of Alabamians call home. The historical threads of the civil rights movement persist in this town, especially if you hear the moniker “Bombingham” for the first time.

Explore that history and more with these Birmingham highlights :

  • Try the sours at Avondale Brewing Company . Visit for a great selection of pours and an impressive outdoor space. If your tastes run a little funky as mine do, visit The Sour Room where they serve up sours and mouth-puckering cocktails.
  • Face your fears at Vulcan Park. Brian got a little weird at this stop because of the heights and open grates, but the observation tower offers some of the best views of the city. The Vulcan itself is the biggest cast iron statue in the world.

A man worries about the heights at Vulcan Park on a Southern USA road trip.

  • Stroll among the flowers at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens . This community treasure is the perfect place to reflect on all you’ve seen in town. Don’t miss the Japanese Garden. You walk through a red torii to get there.
  • Visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute . This Smithsonian Institution affiliate details key moments from the civil rights movement like the 1963 Children’s Crusade. The event was pivotal to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Stop at Kelly Ingram Park. If you’re traveling the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, this park is a key stop. It was once an assembly spot for a number of groups in the movement. It’s marked by powerful sculptures throughout the park.

Powerful sculptures at Kelly Ingram Park on a Southern U.S.A. road trip

If you’re following this itinerary as written, you’ll overnight in Birmingham again this evening. With more time in Alabama, I’d urge you to linger in two cities critical to the civil rights movement: Montgomery and Selma :

  • Montgomery: Educate yourself at The Legacy Museum and its lynching memorial, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. See more things to do while you’re there in my guide to Montgomery .
  • Selma: This historic city was the site of Bloody Sunday, a day named as such because of attacks on civil rights protesters by local police. See where it all happened using my guide to Selma .

Days 5-6: Atlanta, Georgia

About two hours and 15 minutes will get you to Atlanta, Georgia. I’m giving you an extra day here because you’re entering another time zone, and in case you’d like to linger some in Alabama. 

Atlanta gets a lot of attention for its very busy airport, but it’s an excellent stop to show off the diversity of the South from a cultural perspective. This is a hub of progress here while retaining the best of the region. 

I’m talking about the food and the hospitality, friends. 

While in Atlanta, here are a few popular tourist spots with a day or two in the city:

  • See where the chicken (or the egg?) started at the Dwarf House. Travel to the nearby town of Hapeville to see the original Chick-fil-A site, although the building is no longer original.
Note: I have mixed feelings about the chicken chain because of their record of donations to anti-gay advocacy groups, but they’ve made efforts in recent years to refocus where they put their money. I haven’t been to one since, but it’s up to you and your comfort level with that history.
  • Visit the well-designed Jimmy Carter Library and Museum . Take a deep dive into the lives of the Carters and peruse a wealth of historical artifacts from the Carter administration. Spend some time walking the grounds if it’s a nice day.
  • Tour one of Atlanta’s most popular sites at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park . See where the iconic civil rights leader was born and came up during a time of segregation. The audio exhibits are particularly powerful.
  • See The National Center for Civil and Human Rights , one of the country’s best civil rights museums. This museum wasn’t open yet during my trip to Atlanta, but I’m including it here for aspirational purposes. It looks stunning.
  • Eat Atlanta’s best burgers at The Vortex Bar & Grill . My local pal brought me here, and I must say entering through a large skull is a little bit intimidating. Once you get over yourself, you will indeed be eating some delicious burgers.

A pair of friends get ready for burgers at The Vortex in Atlanta on a Southern USA road trip.

I also visited the Clermont Lounge on my Atlanta trip upon request from a local friend, but I know it’s not for everyone. Do yourself a solid and Google it, and then decide for yourself whether it’s right for you.

Fun fact: At the very least, I feel like it led to quite a few stories that I’ve told throughout my life. Do with that what you will.

We stayed with friends on our trip to Atlanta, but the city has accommodations for you at every price point. Use the map below to get started:

Days 7-8: Savannah, Georgia

It’ll take you about four hours to get to Savannah from Atlanta. Start your driving early to make the most of your time in this magical place. If you’re traveling with your honey, I have a guide for you on visiting Savannah for couples .

If you haven’t guessed yet, Savannah is one of the most romantic cities in the country. That doesn’t mean you need a partner to make a trip here happen. Savannah is also delicious, welcoming, and full of sights to keep you busy for a few days.

No matter how you’re rolling, don’t miss these highlights:

  • Find your favorite square in Savannah. Visit Chippewa Square to see where Forrest Gump mused about chocolates. Calhoun Square is the city’s most haunted, while Johnson Square is the oldest. There are so many squares here.

Chippewa Square on a Southern USA road trip

  • Take a ghost tour in style with Hearse Ghost Tours . I’ll let you guess what you ride around in while you’re hearing spooky Savannah tales. It’s less scary and more comedy-focused, by the way.
  • Tour the Mercer Williams House Museum. If you’re a fan of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil , you won’t want to miss this one.
  • Indulge in a special meal at The Old Pink House . If you’re on a budget, no sweat. Grab a drink at the Planters Tavern in the basement of the eatery.
  • Explore Tybee Island and Fort Pulaski National Monument. See where the Union Army forced the Confederates to surrender during the Civil War and the scenic Tybee Island Light Station. Follow that up with a trip to The Crab Shack.

Fort Pulaski National Monument on a Southern USA road trip

You’ll overnight in Savannah proper for the duration of your stay. While you’re here, staying at a historic property is a very bucket listy thing to do. The Catherine Ward House Inn is steps away from Forsyth Park. Go on a square crawl from the Planters Inn on Reynolds Square as your base.

Enjoy your delicious breakfasts on historic Jones Street without worrying about toddlers lamenting over the lack of Cheerios at the Eliza Thompson House . This is an adults-only property.

Want more options? Check out the map below:

Days 9-10: Charleston, South Carolina

It’s just a few hours from Savannah to Charleston, another southern city that has to top some list of the most whimsical cities in the United States. I have a more detailed guide to Charleston for you, but if you don’t feel like jumping around, here are the highlights:

  • Explore the French Quarter. Nope, you’re not in New Orleans. The Charleston version isn’t as intense, but it’s a hub of activity nonetheless. Shop at Charleston City Market or visit the Old Slave Mart Museum, a difficult but important stop.
  • See the charming Pineapple Fountain. Visit Waterfront Park for the requisite Instagram photos in front of Charleston’s quintessential water feature.
  • Marvel at the city’s historic homes. If you’re interested in touring a few, you can buy combo tickets for the Joseph Manigault House and the Heyward-Washington House. George Washington stayed at the latter in 1791.

The Heyward-Washington House on a Southern USA road trip

  • Sip on spirits at High Wire Distilling . If you’re not into bourbon, they have vodka. If you’re not into vodka, grow up. I’m mostly kidding, but you can probably just skip to the next thing then.
  • Tour Fort Sumter , where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. You’ll need to take a boat to get there, but this one’s a must for history buffs.

We stayed outside of town as we waited too long to book, but I’d recommend that you stay as close to the action as possible while in Charleston to make the most of your time. I love the looks of the Andrew Pinckney Inn , a boutique hotel that dates back to 1840. Think about that while you’re snacking on a complimentary breakfast on their rooftop terrace.

Use the map below to peruse more options:

Days 11-12: Asheville, North Carolina

Another four hours of driving time get you to Asheville, one of my favorite cities in the country. While it may not feel as southern as some of the others, that’s why it’s a primo spot for tourism in the region. It’s quirky and hipster and such a good time.

I have a detailed guide for a weekend in Asheville , North Carolina, if you want to linger. Want the highlights? Here you go:

  • Tour the Biltmore Estate . Budget a few hours for your visit to America’s largest home, but leave a few hours for a tasting at the Biltmore Winery, too. It was our favorite rainy-day activity on the grounds.

The gardens outside the Biltmore on a Southern USA road trip

  • Visit Thomas Wolfe’s boyhood home at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial . Come for the historical intrigue but stay for the gossip. Wolfe was messy .
  • Stand in line for the grub at 12 Bones Smokehouse . This is former President Barack Obama’s favorite barbecue in the country. Also, Brian gave it an elusive “A” rating, so you know it’s legit.
  • Drink all the craft beer . Asheville’s beer scene is stellar and worthy of your time. Highland Brewing Company is the oldest, but my favorite was Wicked Weed Brewing’s Funkatorium . I love my sours.
  • Watch a glassblowing demonstration at Lexington Glassworks. It’s a little off the beaten path of most Asheville itineraries, but what they do here is truly a marvel.

A glassblowing demo at Lexington Glassworks on a Southern USA road trip

Hang around in Asheville for the most efficient stay. I’d personally recommend the Clarion Inn Biltmore Village if you want easy access to the Biltmore or the Four Points by Sheraton Asheville Downtown . The latter offers walkability for Asheville’s downtown. I’ve done both, and had great stays!

Use the map below for even more options:

With more time, check out Charlotte and its brewery scene and day trips from Charlotte before you hit Asheville, or explore the North Carolina Triangle .

You can also add day trips from Asheville to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is a fantastic region of the country for lingering.

You’ll want enough time to experience the Blue Ridge Parkway at the very least. This is one of the most impressive drives in the country, so take your time along the way with my Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks guide.

Days 13-14: Nashville, Tennessee

It’ll take you about five hours to get to Nashville from Asheville, passing through Knoxville on the way. This is where you’ll end your road trip.  If you have more time, Nashville is a great place to spend it after a whirlwind tour of the South.

I’ve been to Nashville with both Brian and my mother on a mother-daughter trip . It works so well for both, especially if you’re at all into country music. (I’m not, and still always have a good time!) I have a Nashville weekend itinerary if you want to stay a while, but if you’re short on time, don’t miss these highlights:

  • See what the Maxwell House coffee fortune built at the Cheekwood Estate & Gardens . While I didn’t notice any kind of coffee aroma while there, the live jazz in the garden is a welcome delight.

The inside of the Cheekwood Estate on a Southern USA road trip

  • Learn about country legends at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum . Upgrade your ticket to include a tour of the historic RCA Studio B to hear where Elvis recorded some of his early work.
  • Hear the longest-running radio broadcast in the United States at the Grand Ole Opry . Listen to history in the making, even if you’re not a country fan.

A group dances at the Opry on a Southern USA road trip.

  • Indulge in yummy home cooking at Monell’s . The family-style dining at this popular Nashville eatery may bring folks like my mom out of their comfort zone, but I promise it’s worth it.
  • Sample spirits in Marathon Village. This historic complex was once the site of Marathon Motor Works, a car manufacturing company. Today, visit for shops, casual eats, and distilleries.

Close out with overnights in Nashville. I’ve stayed at The Gallatin in East Nashville to save some money vs. staying in downtown Nashville. You’re still within easy access of all kinds of fun eateries at this one, so I promise you won’t feel like you’re missing out.

I stayed at the Hyatt House Nashville Airport with my mom during our bonding trip to Nashville and we both enjoyed the staff, breakfast, and cost-savings of staying closer to the airport. It’s a nice place for a quick trip, too.

More Stops on a Southern Road Trip

When we went nomadic after selling our house in San Diego , we knew we’d be spending time in warmer climates during the winter months. 

Note: We were completely acclimated to very little temperature change throughout the year, which I know isn’t sustainable in most places around the United States.

Where do you go when the snow starts hitting half the country? You head south on a Southern U.S. road trip and explore all the fun to be had in warmer pastures. (We tend to avoid Florida, though. Everglades National Park is all kinds of intriguing, but the state overall isn’t our favorite in recent years.)

Still, there’s so much we have left to see, like Hilton Head Island with its luxe beaches and golf, and historic Natchez, Mississippi. We’ve seen a lot, though, and are so grateful for it.

Here are a few of our favorites, including stops to consider for a Deep South road trip in two weeks:

  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana: We visited Baton Rouge on a New Orleans day trip, and I’m so glad we did. I wouldn’t know what beignet fingers were otherwise. You’ll just need to taste ’em for yourself.
  • Charleston, West Virginia: This is a bit niche when it comes to road trips through the South, but you shouldn’t only give the Charleston in South Carolina all of your attention. Take me home, country roads. This Charleston’s also adorable.
  • Houston, Texas: Yes, the traffic is terrible. If you plant yourself in Eado, or East Downtown, you won’t have to do much driving. If you want to hit the road, it’s close to Galveston and the Texas Gulf Coast and Galveston Island State Park.

A woman laughs in front of an "We Love Houston" sign on a Southern USA road trip.

  • Little Rock, Arkansas: Come for Hot Springs National Park but stay for important stops like the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. It’s one of the best guided tours in the country.
  • Lockhart, Texas: If you love barbecue, you should prioritize a trip to a town with some of the best barbecue in the country . We had a literal meat crawl during our own trip to Lockhart. We suffered some after, but it was still worth it.
  • Louisville, Kentucky: This town is big on bourbon but it’s also big on kitsch. Visit historic spots like the Louisville Slugger Museum and Churchill Downs, the host of the Kentucky Derby, to see what I mean.
  • Mobile, Alabama: As soon as we left Mobile I knew we’d be back. It’s like New Orleans in miniature, and not just because it’s where the first Mardi Gras was held. Enjoy all of the delicious eats and watch out for gators.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana: We spent a month exploring beyond the Mardi Gras thing and the French Quarter thing to really come to a better understanding of what makes New Orleans tick. Get off of Bourbon Street, people.

The Tree of Life in New Orleans on a Southern USA road trip

  • Tulsa, Oklahoma: We spent a full month in this underrated Oklahoma town . It’s a great base for exploring the rest of the state , including Oklahoma City and towns like Tahlequah within the Cherokee Nation, and travel with your pup .

If you’re interested in expanding your road trips in the South with some of these ideas, I have some guides for you:

  • Cute Things to Do in New Orleans for Couples
  • All of the Best New Orleans Day Trips
  • A Mobile Day Trip to Bayou La Batre
  • Take a Drive on the Lake Pontchartrain Parkway
  • Top Things to Do in Houston as a Traveling Couple

Is it safe to drive through the South? 

It is safe to drive through the South, but normal precautions apply. Don’t leave anything on your car seat and make yourself a target for petty crime. Pay attention to the rules of the road. In my opinion, all of the locations I’ll get into here are appropriate for solo travelers. 

That all said, I’m a white woman with a white husband. Not to get all alarmist on you, but the South still has a lot of work to do when it comes to racial equality and a more open-minded approach to ideas that may freak them out.

If you’re a traveler of color, the Confederate flags throughout the South may give you more pause. Some places feel stuck in time as if the Civil War happened differently. 

I look at them as a sign of ignorance, but there is still hate in the hearts of what I hope to be a weak minority of people in the region.

You may hear remarks based on lingering stereotypes or off-color jokes that wouldn’t fly elsewhere. Many of the cities are very much liberal enclaves with work being done to curb gun use, expand voter rights, and create welcoming communities for all.

Georgia is such a great example of a turning tide.

The smaller towns in the South are still very conservative, some even more so with a heightened political climate in recent years. I’ve found that some people just want a reaction when they say something absurd. You don’t need to give it to them.

The American South is worth your time on Deep South road trips, but it’s also worth your honest experiences.

As you navigate the best road trips in America through the South, do so with an open mind, but protect your own peace, too.

Ready for Exciting Southern U.S.A. Road Trips?

Your Flight: I use a variety of tools to find cheap airfare, but if you’re looking to book during a particular period of time, you should use Skyscanner . It’s a great tool for when you’re more flexible, too, as it allows you to compare travel based on length of travel, departure date, etc.

Scroll up for logistics on the best southern road trips, including where you should start on your own trip. If you’re kicking it off with Memphis, you’re likely to find some great deals out of Memphis International Airport.

For adventurous folks who travel on the reg, I also subscribe to Going , formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights. You’ll get cheap flight deals from your home base straight to your inbox. It’s a great way to visit destinations you’ve always wanted to visit or that weren’t even on your radar.

Your Accommodations: I usually use Booking.com and Hotels.com for our hotel needs. Both offer loyalty programs and now offer listings that are more of the home or condo rental variety, which is great. Vrbo is my preferred Airbnb alternative. 

Scroll up for my top picks on accommodations throughout your southern road trip.

Seeking even more wallet-friendly accommodations? Try Hostelworld . Their picks are heavily vetted and reviewed to offer you a safe experience on a budget.

Etc.: For general travel goodies, visit my Favorite Things page. For more information on planning your travel, visit my Travel Tools page.

Love this guide to southern road trips? Pin me!

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Spending more time in the South? Check out some more of my favorite places:

  • Top Things to Do in Congaree National Park
  • Visit Beautiful Lake Oconee, Georgia
  • Things to Do in Athens, Georgia in One Day
  • A Planning Guide for Augusta, Georgia
  • A Complete Guide to Texas Wine Country

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  • Travel Guide

The Ultimate Southern USA Road Trip Guide

Published: October 17, 2023

Modified: December 28, 2023

by Briana Pollack

  • Plan Your Trip
  • Travel Destinations
  • Travel Tips
  • United States

the-ultimate-southern-usa-road-trip-guide

Introduction

Welcome to the ultimate guide to embarking on a road trip through the Southern USA! The Southern region of the United States is known for its rich history, diverse culture, delicious cuisine, and breathtaking landscapes. A road trip through the South allows you to immerse yourself in the vibrancy and charm of this unique part of the country.

From the iconic cities of Charleston and New Orleans to the picturesque landscapes of the Appalachian Mountains and the Gulf Coast, the Southern USA offers an abundance of stunning destinations waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a history buff, a music lover, a foodie, or an outdoor enthusiast, there’s something for everyone along the southern roads.

One of the great advantages of a road trip is the freedom it offers. You have the flexibility to set your own pace, stop at unexpected attractions, and explore off-the-beaten-path locations. As you drive through the South, you’ll encounter charming small towns, majestic plantations, vibrant music scenes, and breathtaking national parks.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to plan an unforgettable Southern USA road trip. We’ll cover the best time to go, planning tips, must-visit destinations, mouthwatering regional cuisine, historic sites, natural wonders, music and cultural experiences, and outdoor activities. So buckle up and get ready to hit the road!

Whether you’re a seasoned road tripper or a first-time adventurer, this guide will help you make the most of your journey through the Southern USA. So grab a map, pack your bags, and let’s dive into the enchanting world of Southern hospitality, beauty, and adventure!

Best Time to Take a Southern USA Road Trip

The Southern USA is a large and geographically diverse region, spanning from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, the best time to take a road trip through the South can vary depending on the specific destinations you plan to visit. Here, we’ll provide you with a general overview of the best times to explore the region.

Spring and fall are often considered the ideal seasons for a Southern USA road trip. In the spring, from March to May, the weather is mild and pleasant, with blooming flowers and colorful landscapes. This is an excellent time to visit destinations like Charleston, Savannah, and Nashville, where you can enjoy outdoor activities without the scorching heat of summer.

Similarly, the fall season, from September to November, offers comfortable temperatures and stunning foliage. This is a great time to witness the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, explore the vibrant cities of Atlanta and New Orleans, and indulge in fall festivals and events.

Summer, from June to August, can be quite hot and humid in the Southern USA. However, if you don’t mind the heat, this is the perfect time to experience the lively atmosphere of coastal destinations like Miami, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach. You can cool off in the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf Coast or explore the majestic Great Smoky Mountains.

Winter, from December to February, is generally mild in the South, making it a great option for travelers seeking a respite from colder climates. This is an ideal time to visit cities like New Orleans, where you can indulge in Mardi Gras celebrations, or explore historical sites and museums in Richmond and Charleston.

While these are general guidelines, it’s essential to check the specific weather conditions and events for the destinations you plan to visit. Some areas may experience extreme heat, hurricanes, or winter storms during certain months, so it’s essential to plan accordingly and be prepared for any weather changes.

Overall, the Southern USA offers something special to experience throughout the year. Whether you prefer mild temperatures, vibrant colors, or lively festivals, there’s a perfect time for everyone to embark on a Southern road trip adventure.

Planning Your Southern USA Road Trip

Planning a road trip through the Southern USA can be an exciting and rewarding endeavor. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey, it’s essential to take some time to plan and prepare. Here are some key steps to help you plan your Southern USA road trip:

  • Choose Your Route: Decide on the main destinations you want to visit in the Southern USA. Are you interested in historical sites, coastal towns, or natural wonders? Map out your route accordingly and identify any must-see attractions along the way.
  • Determine the Duration: Consider how much time you have available for your road trip. The Southern USA is vast, and exploring the entire region may take several weeks. Be realistic about what you can cover and allow for some flexibility in case you want to spend more time in certain places.
  • Research Accommodations: Look for accommodations along your route in advance. Whether you prefer hotels, bed and breakfasts, or campsites, make reservations to secure your accommodations, especially during peak travel seasons.
  • Plan Your Daily Itinerary: Break down your road trip into daily itineraries. Identify specific attractions, activities, and dining options for each day. This will give you a sense of how much time you need at each destination and help you make the most of your trip.
  • Check Road Conditions: Stay updated on road conditions and potential construction or closures along your route. Websites like the Department of Transportation or GPS navigation apps can provide real-time information to help you plan your driving routes effectively.
  • Prepare Your Vehicle: Before embarking on your road trip, ensure your vehicle is in good condition. Get an oil change, check tire pressure, and make sure all lights and signals are working correctly. It’s also a good idea to pack a roadside emergency kit with essentials like a spare tire, jumper cables, and a flashlight.
  • Pack Essentials: Pack appropriately for your road trip. Consider the weather conditions and pack clothes, footwear, and accessories accordingly. Don’t forget personal essentials like medications, toiletries, and chargers for all your electronic devices.
  • Budget for Expenses: Plan a budget for your road trip, including accommodations, food, gas, attractions, and any additional activities. It’s a good idea to have some extra funds for unexpected expenses and souvenirs.
  • Research Local Customs: Familiarize yourself with the local customs, traditions, and etiquette of the areas you’ll be visiting. This will help you show respect and have a deeper appreciation for the local culture.
  • Be Flexible: While it’s important to have a plan, be open to unexpected opportunities and detours along the way. Some of the best experiences on a road trip come from spontaneous decisions and exploring unique places off the beaten path.

By following these planning tips, you’ll be well-prepared for your Southern USA road trip adventure. Remember to have a sense of adventure, stay flexible, and enjoy the journey as much as the destinations themselves.

Destinations in the Southern USA

The Southern USA is home to a wide array of captivating destinations, each offering its own unique charm and attractions. Whether you’re seeking vibrant cities, stunning coastlines, or picturesque mountain landscapes, the Southern USA has something to suit every traveler’s taste. Here are just a few of the must-visit destinations in the region:

  • New Orleans, Louisiana: Known for its vibrant music scene, delicious cuisine, and colorful festivals, New Orleans is a city like no other. Explore the historic French Quarter, indulge in mouthwatering Creole and Cajun dishes, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of Bourbon Street.
  • Charleston, South Carolina: With its cobblestone streets, antebellum mansions, and historic charm, Charleston is a perfect blend of history and Southern hospitality. Take a stroll along the Battery, visit the picturesque plantations and gardens, and savor the flavors of Lowcountry cuisine.
  • Asheville, North Carolina: Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and lovers of arts and crafts. Explore the stunning landscapes of the Great Smoky Mountains, visit the Biltmore Estate, and discover the vibrant arts scene in downtown Asheville.
  • Savannah, Georgia: Known for its charming historic district, beautiful squares, and oak-lined streets, Savannah exudes Southern elegance. Take a guided tour of the city’s historic sites, wander through the enchanting Bonaventure Cemetery, and experience the haunted tales on a ghost tour.
  • Austin, Texas: Austin is a vibrant and eclectic city, often referred to as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Immerse yourself in the thriving music scene, explore the unique shops and restaurants on South Congress Avenue, and relax by the beautiful Lady Bird Lake.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina: Straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and miles of hiking trails. Explore the stunning vistas along the Blue Ridge Parkway and discover the peaceful beauty of Cades Cove.
  • Key West, Florida: Located at the southernmost tip of Florida, Key West offers a laid-back tropical vibe with stunning beaches and a lively arts scene. Enjoy water activities like snorkeling or kayaking, explore the vibrant Duval Street, and witness beautiful sunsets at Mallory Square.
  • San Antonio, Texas: Rich in history and culture, San Antonio is a city with a unique blend of Mexican and Texan influences. Visit the iconic Alamo, stroll along the picturesque River Walk, and indulge in delicious Tex-Mex cuisine.
  • Mountains of North Georgia: The North Georgia mountains offer stunning vistas, charming small towns, and abundant outdoor activities. Visit Helen, a Bavarian-inspired town, hike to picturesque waterfalls in Amicalola Falls State Park, and take in the breathtaking views from Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia.
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: With its pristine sandy beaches, lively boardwalk, and golf courses, Myrtle Beach is a popular coastal destination for families and beach lovers. Enjoy water sports, explore amusement parks and theaters, and savor fresh seafood along the Grand Strand.

These are just a handful of the incredible destinations to explore in the Southern USA. Each offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, creating unforgettable experiences along your road trip through the South.

Southern Cuisine to Try on Your Road Trip

A road trip through the Southern USA wouldn’t be complete without indulging in the mouthwatering cuisine that the region is famous for. From soulful comfort food to fresh seafood and delicious desserts, the Southern states offer a wide range of culinary delights. Here are some must-try dishes to savor along your road trip:

  • Fried Chicken: Crispy, flavorful, and tender, Southern fried chicken is an iconic dish that should be high on your foodie bucket list. Whether you enjoy it as a meal or in a sandwich, this classic comfort food is sure to satisfy your taste buds.
  • Shrimp and Grits: Combining creamy grits with succulent shrimp cooked in a flavorful sauce, shrimp and grits is a beloved dish in the Southern culinary tradition. It’s a perfect blend of flavors and textures that showcases the region’s love for fresh seafood.
  • Barbecue: The Southern USA is known for its diverse barbecue styles, including slow-smoked pulled pork, tangy vinegar-based sauces, and savory dry rubs. Indulge in a plate of smoky, tender barbecue ribs or a juicy pulled pork sandwich for a true taste of Southern BBQ.
  • Gumbo: Hailing from the Louisiana Creole and Cajun traditions, gumbo is a hearty and flavorful stew made with a variety of ingredients, including seafood, sausage, chicken, and aromatic vegetables. The combination of spices, slow-cooked flavors, and a rich dark roux makes it a Southern delicacy.
  • Biscuits and Gravy: A Southern breakfast staple, biscuits and gravy is a delicious combination of flaky, buttery biscuits smothered in creamy sausage gravy. It’s a comfort food classic that will leave you craving for more.
  • Pecan Pie: No Southern meal is complete without a slice of pecan pie. Made with a sweet and gooey filling of pecans, corn syrup, and brown sugar, this indulgent dessert embodies the flavors of the South.
  • Collard Greens: A traditional Southern side dish, collard greens are slow-cooked with smoked meats and seasoned with spices for a rich and savory flavor. Paired with cornbread, this dish is a taste of Southern soul food at its finest.
  • Shrimp Po’ Boy: Originating from New Orleans, a shrimp po’ boy is a sandwich filled with crispy fried shrimp, creamy remoulade sauce, and fresh lettuce and tomatoes. It’s a delightful combination of flavors that showcases the Gulf Coast’s seafood bounty.
  • Red Beans and Rice: Red beans and rice is a classic Southern dish with Creole roots. Slow-cooked with sausage, spices, and soaked red beans, it’s a hearty and flavorful meal that embodies the comfort of Southern cooking.
  • Sweet Tea: Cool down with a glass of sweet tea – a Southern staple. Made with black tea and sweetened with sugar, it’s the perfect companion to quench your thirst as you explore the Southern USA.

Be sure to sample these Southern delicacies along your road trip and immerse yourself in the rich culinary traditions of the region. From savory to sweet, the Southern USA offers a delightful array of flavors that will leave you craving for more.

Historic Sites to Visit in the Southern USA

The Southern USA is steeped in history, with a rich tapestry of cultural and architectural heritage waiting to be explored. From Civil War battlefields to antebellum plantations, the region offers a plethora of historic sites that provide a glimpse into the past. Here are some must-visit historic destinations to include in your Southern USA road trip:

  • The Alamo – San Antonio, Texas: Step back in time at the iconic Alamo, a mission-turned-fortress known for its pivotal role in Texas history. Explore the grounds and learn about the legendary Battle of the Alamo, a key event in the Texas Revolution.
  • Charleston Historic District – Charleston, South Carolina: Take a leisurely stroll through the charming historic district of Charleston, where you’ll find well-preserved antebellum architecture, cobblestone streets, and beautiful gardens. Don’t miss the landmark homes along Rainbow Row or a tour of the historic Boone Hall Plantation.
  • Colonial Williamsburg – Williamsburg, Virginia: Immerse yourself in the colonial era at Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum that recreates life in 18th-century America. Explore the restored buildings, interact with costumed interpreters, and learn about the American Revolution in this historic district.
  • Vicksburg National Military Park – Vicksburg, Mississippi: Visit the Vicksburg National Military Park, a historic site that commemorates the Civil War Battle of Vicksburg. Explore the preserved battlefield, trenches, and monuments, and gain insights into the significant role this battle played in the outcome of the war.
  • The Historic District – Savannah, Georgia: Explore Savannah’s picturesque historic district, filled with beautifully preserved mansions, squares, and monuments. Take a guided walking tour to learn about the city’s rich history and visit notable landmarks like the Mercer-Williams House and the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA.
  • French Quarter – New Orleans, Louisiana: Discover the vibrant history of New Orleans in the famous French Quarter. Stroll along the charming streets, marvel at the iconic architecture, and explore historic landmarks such as St. Louis Cathedral and the historic Café du Monde.
  • Monticello – Charlottesville, Virginia: Visit Monticello, the former home of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. Explore the beautifully designed estate, stroll through the gardens, and learn about Jefferson’s life and contributions to American history.
  • St. Augustine Historic District – St. Augustine, Florida: Step into the country’s oldest continuously occupied European settlement at St. Augustine’s Historic District. Wander through narrow streets lined with colonial-era structures, visit the Castillo de San Marcos fortress, and learn about the Spanish influence in this charming city.
  • Gettysburg National Military Park – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Pay tribute to the soldiers who fought during the Battle of Gettysburg at the Gettysburg National Military Park. Visit the battlefield, explore the National Cemetery, and gain a deeper understanding of this pivotal moment in the Civil War.
  • Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky: Journey beneath the surface at Mammoth Cave National Park, home to the world’s longest known cave system. Take a guided tour to explore the magnificent underground chambers and learn about the cave’s historical significance.

These historic sites offer a captivating glimpse into the past and provide a deeper understanding of the events that shaped the Southern USA. As you travel through the region, be sure to immerse yourself in the history and heritage that awaits at these remarkable destinations.

Natural Wonders in the Southern USA

The Southern USA is blessed with breathtaking natural landscapes, from majestic mountains to pristine coastlines and lush forests. If you’re a nature enthusiast, your road trip through the South wouldn’t be complete without exploring these natural wonders. Here are some must-visit destinations for nature lovers:

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Tennessee/North Carolina: Spanning across Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a true natural gem. Hike scenic trails, witness stunning waterfalls, and immerse yourself in the rich biodiversity of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Everglades National Park – Florida: Explore the unique and fragile ecosystem of the Everglades National Park in southern Florida. Glide through mangrove tunnels, spot alligators and manatees, and discover the extensive wetlands that make up the “River of Grass.”
  • Appalachian Mountains – Multiple States: Experience the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, a vast mountain range that stretches from New England all the way down to the Deep South. Traverse scenic drives, hike sections of the Appalachian Trail, and enjoy breathtaking vistas along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore – Florida/Mississippi: Discover the pristine white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Whether you’re into swimming, sunbathing, or birdwatching, this coastal paradise offers unparalleled beauty and tranquility.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park – Utah: Venture beyond the Southern states to experience the otherworldly rock formations of Bryce Canyon National Park. Marvel at the famous hoodoos, hike scenic trails, and witness breathtaking sunsets over this geological wonder.
  • Cumberland Island – Georgia: Step foot on Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, Cumberland Island. Explore pristine beaches, its famous wild horse population, and lush maritime forests teeming with wildlife. Immerse yourself in the serenity and natural beauty of this untouched paradise.
  • The Okefenokee Swamp – Georgia/Florida: Embark on a unique adventure in the Okefenokee Swamp, one of North America’s largest intact freshwater ecosystems. Take a guided boat tour, paddle through cypress-lined waterways, and observe the diverse wildlife that calls this swamp home.
  • Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky: Descend into the depths of Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest known cave system. Explore vast underground chambers, marvel at intricate rock formations, and learn about the fascinating geological history preserved within the cave walls.
  • The Outer Banks – North Carolina: Experience the raw beauty and wild landscapes of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Explore the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, visit historic lighthouses, and witness the powerful force of wild horses that roam free along the beaches.
  • The Congaree National Park – South Carolina: Venture into the Congaree National Park, home to one of the largest intact areas of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States. Hike scenic trails, go kayaking on the Congaree River, and marvel at the towering cypress trees that dominate the landscape.

These natural wonders offer a glorious diversity of landscapes and outdoor adventures. From soaring mountains to wetlands and coastal wonders, the Southern USA’s natural beauty will leave you in awe and inspire a deeper appreciation for the world around us.

Music and Culture in the Southern USA

The Southern USA is often referred to as the birthplace of various music genres and is known for its vibrant cultural heritage. From the soulful melodies of blues and jazz to the foot-stomping rhythms of country and bluegrass, the region’s musical legacy is deeply intertwined with its rich cultural traditions. Here are some highlights of the music and culture you can experience on your road trip:

Blues in the Mississippi Delta: Explore the heart and soul of the blues in the Mississippi Delta, where legendary musicians like B.B. King and Muddy Waters began their careers. Take a tour along the Mississippi Blues Trail, visit iconic juke joints, and immerse yourself in the raw emotion and history of this influential musical genre.

Jazz in New Orleans: Delve into the lively jazz scene of New Orleans, a city renowned for its musical heritage. Visit historic jazz clubs like Preservation Hall and experience the energetic rhythms of live jazz performances. Don’t miss the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, a celebration of music, food, and culture.

Country Music in Nashville: Get your cowboy boots ready and immerse yourself in the country music capital of the world, Nashville, Tennessee. Visit the Grand Ole Opry, stroll down Broadway to hear live performances in honky-tonk bars, and explore the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to learn about the genre’s rich history.

Gospel in the Deep South: Experience the powerful and soul-stirring sounds of gospel music in churches across the Deep South. Attend a Sunday morning worship service or seek out gospel concerts to witness the uplifting harmonies and heartfelt lyrics that have inspired generations.

Cajun and Zydeco in Louisiana: Let loose and dance to the lively Cajun and Zydeco music of Louisiana. Head to Lafayette or Lake Charles and join in the energetic rhythms and foot-stomping beats. Don’t forget to savor the flavors of Louisiana’s unique cuisine, like gumbo and jambalaya, along the way.

Cultural Festivals: Keep an eye out for cultural festivals that showcase the diverse heritage of the Southern USA. From Mardi Gras in New Orleans to the Charleston Food and Wine Festival in South Carolina, these celebrations offer a glimpse into the region’s culinary, musical, and cultural traditions.

Civil Rights History in Alabama: Visit significant sites in the Civil Rights Movement, such as the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Learn about the struggles and triumphs that shaped American history and appreciate the courage of those who fought for equality.

These are just a few examples of the vibrant music and culture that the Southern USA offers. Take the time to immerse yourself in the local traditions, attend live performances, and engage with the warm and welcoming communities along your road trip.

Outdoor Activities on Your Southern USA Road Trip

The Southern USA is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a plethora of activities to enjoy amidst stunning natural landscapes. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a nature lover, or simply seeking a breath of fresh air, the region has something for everyone. Here are some outdoor activities to add to your Southern USA road trip itinerary:

Hiking: Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails in the Southern USA’s many national and state parks. Explore the breathtaking vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains, hike along the Appalachian Trail, or venture into the canyons of the Red River Gorge in Kentucky.

Beach Adventures: With its extensive coastline, the Southern USA offers miles of pristine beaches to enjoy. Soak up the sun along the shores of the Gulf Coast in Florida, Alabama, or Mississippi, or discover the sandy dunes of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Kayaking and Canoeing: Get out on the water and explore the region’s rivers, lakes, and swamps by kayak or canoe. Paddle through the peaceful marshes of the Okefenokee Swamp, glide along the scenic rivers of the Ozarks, or embrace the serenity of the Intracoastal Waterway in South Carolina.

Whitewater Rafting: For those seeking a thrilling adventure, tackle the whitewater rapids found in the Southern USA. Test your skills on the Nantahala River in North Carolina, the Ocoee River in Tennessee, or the Chattooga River along the Georgia-South Carolina border.

Biking: Hop on a bicycle and explore the Southern USA’s picturesque landscapes. Bike along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, cycle through the charming streets of Charleston, or enjoy the coastal beauty of the 30A Bike Path in Florida’s Panhandle.

Wildlife Encounters: The Southern USA is home to diverse wildlife, providing excellent opportunities for animal sightings. Take a swamp tour in Louisiana’s bayous to spot alligators and rare bird species, or embark on a whale-watching excursion along the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Camping: Pitch a tent or park your RV at one of the region’s many campgrounds and experience the great outdoors up close. From scenic mountain campsites in the Smokies to beachfront spots along the Gulf Coast, camping allows you to fully immerse yourself in nature’s beauty.

Rock Climbing: Test your climbing skills on the limestone cliffs of Kentucky’s Red River Gorge or tackle the challenging routes of Tennessee’s Obed Wild and Scenic River. The Southern USA offers an array of rock climbing opportunities for all skill levels.

Golfing: With its mild climate and beautiful surroundings, the Southern USA is a golfer’s paradise. Play a round of golf on world-class courses like Kiawah Island in South Carolina, Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head, or Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia (home of the Masters Tournament).

These are just a few outdoor activities to consider during your Southern USA road trip. Embrace the region’s natural wonders and enjoy the exhilaration of exploring the great outdoors at your own pace.

Tips for a Successful Southern USA Road Trip

Embarking on a road trip through the Southern USA can be an exciting and memorable adventure. To make your journey as smooth and enjoyable as possible, here are some valuable tips to keep in mind:

  • Plan Your Route: Before hitting the road, plan your route and identify the key destinations you want to visit. Take into account the driving distances and the time you have available to ensure a realistic itinerary.
  • Check the Weather: The Southern USA can experience a range of weather conditions depending on the season and location. Check the weather forecasts for your desired destinations and pack accordingly. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather, especially in mountainous areas or coastal regions.
  • Be Flexible: Remain flexible and open to changes in your plans. Allow for detours or extra time spent in a place that captures your interest. Some of the best experiences on a road trip come from spontaneous moments and unexpected discoveries.
  • Stay Hydrated: The Southern USA can have high temperatures, especially during the summer months. Always carry ample water with you to stay hydrated throughout your journey, especially during outdoor activities.
  • Try Local Cuisine: The Southern USA is renowned for its delectable regional cuisine. Take the opportunity to try local dishes, whether it’s authentic barbecue, Southern-style fried chicken, or delicious seafood. Explore local restaurants and eateries to fully immerse yourself in the culinary delights of the region.
  • Take Breaks: Long drives can be physically and mentally tiring. Be sure to take regular breaks to stretch your legs, rest, and rejuvenate. Use these breaks to explore small towns, visit roadside attractions, or simply soak in the scenic beauty of the Southern landscape.
  • Plan for Outdoor Activities: The Southern USA offers numerous outdoor activities. Pack appropriate gear and clothing based on the activities you plan to participate in, whether it’s hiking, kayaking, or visiting beaches. Don’t forget essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, and comfortable shoes.
  • Respect Local Customs: Familiarize yourself with the local customs and traditions of the areas you’ll be visiting. Treat the locals with respect and curiosity, and be mindful of cultural differences. Embrace the Southern hospitality and the friendly nature of the region’s residents.
  • Stay Safe: While road tripping can be a wonderful experience, always prioritize safety. Observe speed limits, wear seat belts, and follow traffic rules. Be cautious when parking, especially in urban areas. Secure your belongings and don’t leave valuables unattended in your vehicle.
  • Capture Memories: Keep a camera or smartphone handy to capture the beautiful landscapes, unique experiences, and memorable moments along your road trip. Take photographs, journal your thoughts, and create lasting memories of your Southern USA adventure.

By following these tips, you’ll ensure a successful and enjoyable road trip through the Southern USA. Embrace the freedom of the open road, immerse yourself in the region’s rich culture, and create unforgettable memories along the way.

Congratulations, you’re now armed with all the knowledge you need to embark on an unforgettable road trip through the Southern USA! From discovering the historic sites and indulging in the delectable cuisine to exploring the natural wonders and immersing yourself in the vibrant music and culture, the Southern USA has something to offer every type of traveler.

As you traverse the region’s scenic roads, be prepared to be captivated by the charm and beauty that awaits around every bend. Take the time to revel in the rich history of destinations like Charleston and New Orleans, bask in the glory of the Great Smoky Mountains, and savor the soulful flavors of Southern cuisine.

Embrace the warm hospitality and friendly nature of the Southern USA’s residents, and immerse yourself in the local customs and traditions. Whether you’re dancing to jazz in New Orleans, exploring the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, or experiencing the thrill of outdoor adventures, allow the Southern spirit to envelop you and leave a lasting impression.

Remember to plan your route carefully, stay flexible, and take breaks to fully appreciate the journey. Capture the breathtaking landscapes and unforgettable moments through photographs and keep a journal to document your experiences along the way.

Most importantly, savor every moment of your Southern USA road trip. Let the open road be your guide as you uncover hidden gems, explore iconic landmarks, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

So, pack your bags, hit the road, and embark on the adventure of a lifetime through the enchanting and diverse landscapes of the Southern USA. The Southern states are waiting to be explored, and the experience is sure to leave you with a deep appreciation for the region’s history, culture, and natural beauty.

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12 Sensational Southern USA Road Trip Ideas

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No country in the world does road trips quite like the United States, and Southern USA is where you’ll find some of the best of them. 

A Deep South USA road trip is an experience like no other. Thanks to its humongous size and the plethora of states it contains, the southern region of the USA provides some of the best roads and highways out there, each one with a very different cultural flavor and scenery than the last! 

From overseas highways above turquoise waters to endless deserts and towns that brim with history, each and every single southern states road trip has something interesting on offer. 

Below, we share some of the best southern road trips every single traveler needs to do at least once in their life! 

12 Sensational Southern USA Road Trips 

USA Southern USA Road Trip Map

1. Miami to Key West Overseas Highway (Highway 1), Florida 

Taking you all the way from Miami to Key West through over-the-ocean bridges that connect the Keys, this mesmerizing highway is one of the most classic southern states road trips and a favorite for those who love sunny days and endless beaches. 

It goes without saying that the scenery along its 113 miles is as spectacular as it gets. Each and every mile, you’ll be treated to beautiful ocean views and white sand beaches as you make your way to Key West. 

USA Southern USA Road Trip - Bahia Honda State Park, Florida

While the trip can be completed in less than a day, it’s recommended to spend several days on this trip as there are plenty of incredible destinations worth making a stop at to explore. Top highlights include Key Largo, Islamorada, Bahia Honda State Park , and the underwater John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park . 

The best time of the year to do this southern states road trip is between March and May when hurricane season is over and the winter crowds have tapered off. 

2. Skyline Drive, Virginia 

Starting in Richmond, the Skyline Drive will have you seeing some of the best the state of Virginia has to offer as you make your way to the heart of the Appalachian Mountains.  

Even though this road is only 105 miles long, it can very well be turned into a multi-day southern road trip as there are plenty of stops worth making along the way for hiking aficionados. 

USA Southern USA Road Trip - Skyline Drive, Virginia

The drive will take you along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains inside Shenandoah National Park . All along the highway, you’ll find plenty of trailheads to park your car and go for a hike, as well as several campsites for those who want to spend the night inside the park.  

The best time to do the Skyline Drive is September through November, when the park gets wrapped up in gorgeous fall foliage. 

3. Chipley to Rainbow Springs State Park, Florida 

If you’re up for a few days spent chasing waterfalls, this southern states road trip through Florida is guaranteed to please. 

Starting in Chipley Falling Waters State Park , you’ll make your way all the way to Rainbow Springs State Park . Along the route, you’ll get to see the highest waterfalls in Florida, gaze at plenty of natural sinkholes, and spend a few hours exploring Torreya State Park .

USA Southern USA Road Trip - Rainbow Springs State Park, Florida

Moreover, you’ll also get the option to stop at plenty of other parks such as the Big Shoals State Park and Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park , where you’ll be able to see a series of waterfalls crashing down into a sinkhole that contains an actual mini rainforest!  

This road trip can be done any time of the year but keep in mind that the summer months are usually the warmest and wettest. With that said, summers are when the waterfalls look the most impressive due to the rain, so take your pick! 

4. Pineywoods Autumn Trail, Texas 

Vineyards, fairytale-like forests, and autumn colors are the staples of the Pineywood Autumn Trail in Texas . 

While it’s much lesser known than other southern states road trip routes, this 145-mile loop between Palestine and Athens will have you passing plenty of forests and parks worth making a stop at to take a walk and truly take in the golden and crimson tones. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also fly above the fall foliage at Texas ZipLine Adventures! 

As if that weren’t enough, Pineywood is also dotted by tons of idyllic lakes and vineyards. This route includes the Tara Vineyard & Winery for those keen to get a taste of Texas’s hidden wine country , but if you still haven’t gotten your fill of grapes, you can continue the road trip onwards over the Piney Woods Wine Trail, which is dotted by over 20 wineries.  

Autumn is definitely the best time to do this road trip, especially considering it’s a mecca for fall hues. If you’re unable to do it at this time of the year, spring is another great choice for mild weather and colorful blooms. 

5. Tuscaloosa to Eutaw, Alabama 

If you love all things vintage, artsy vibes, places that feel as local as they get, and historical architecture, this Alabama scenic road trip is everything you’ve been looking for. 

As you make your way from Tuscaloosa to Eutaw in West Alameda, you’ll pass plenty of antique shops, art galleries galore, and a plethora of antebellum mansions, not to mention you’ll also get the chance to make a few detours. 

USA Southern USA Road Trip - Tuscaloosa, Alabama

A few highlights of this road trip include the Courthouse Square in Eutaw , the lakes that surround the town of Livingston, and getting to drive over the Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge , a wooden bridge that is said to be haunted by an outlaw who was hanged there! 

Spring and fall are the best time of the year to do this road trip as the weather is mild and comfortable. Summers are also pleasant for warm-weather lovers, although this is the high season in Alabama and cities like Tuscaloosa can get pretty crowded. 

6. Haunted Oklahoma, Oklahoma 

Love all things haunted? If you consider yourself a bit of a daredevil, this deep south road trip is definitely one to remember!  

This sensational road trip travels through some of Oklahoma’s most haunted cities, including Tulsa, Ponca City, Alva, and El Reno before looping its way back to Oklahoma City . 

All of these spots are great to spend the night in, but the main reason to visit them is to check out a few of its most haunted buildings. Highlights in Tulsa include the Gandini’s Circus in Edmond, an abandoned carnival, the Hex House , and Cain’s Ballroom.

In Ponca City, visit the Constantine Theater & Poncan Theater, which are said to be incredibly haunted and don’t forget to check out the Cherokee Strip Museum in Alva, which is believed to be extremely ghost-ridden. 

The best time to do this Oklahoma road trip is from late March to early June and September to November when the weather is temperate. Bonus points if you do it in late October for Halloween! 

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7. Outer Banks Scenic Byway, North Carolina 

Starting in Nags Head, this scenic byway runs all the way to Ocracoke Island and back to the mainland (yes, a ferry journey is included here!). 

As one of the most iconic routes in North Carolina, this road trip in the southern US is a great addition to your bucket list, taking you through one of the most popular vacation destinations on the US east coast . 

USA Southern USA Road Trip - Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina

Along the way, you’ll get to visit Bodie Island , Cape Hatteras , and if you like hiking, you can also spend a few hours exploring the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge . Ocracoke Island is another must-do stop for beautiful beaches, and if you’re feeling up for a day trip, you can hire a boat to the alluring Portsmouth Island.  

The best time of the year to do this road trip is between April to mid-June and early September to late October. 

8. Haunted Louisiana, Louisiana 

Another of the best southern USA road trips for those who love all things spooky, this incredible route will have you checking out some of the most beautiful (and haunted) sites in a state that is already infamous for its paranormal activity. 

The route begins in Keachi and ends in Fort Proctor , following mostly the I-49. Along the way, you’ll get to make stops at deserted schools, sugar plantations, and plenty of mills. There’s even an abandoned Six Flax on the way – it’s illegal to enter the premises, but even the sight from the road is enough to send chills down your spine! 

Must-do stops include Laurel Valley Sugar Plantation , Fort Proctor, Elise Reuss Memorial School, Charles Boldt Paper Mill, Kisatchie High School , and Keachi Women’s College.  

Louisiana is best visited between mid-February to early May and from October to December for mild weather. This road trip is a great idea for a Halloween adventure, or you can combine it with a Mardi Gras trip in February instead! 

9. Tennessee Waterfalls Road Trip, Tennessee 

If you love nature and all things waterfalls, the Tennessee Waterfalls route is one of the best southern road trips to take for outdoor adventures. 

This gorgeous drive will show you some of the best the Great Smoky Mountains have to offer. The drive starts at Cumming Falls on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River, where you can freshen up and swim before continuing to Burgess Falls to check out four different waterfalls. 

USA Southern USA Road Trip - Fall Creek Falls, Tennessee

Next, you can make a stop at Falls Creek Falls and finish up the trip at Twin Falls to end the trip with a bang! 

This road trip is a summer favorite, but fall is also a great time to do it for fall foliage – you can catch all our favorite Smoky Mountain scenic drives here.

10. Hilton Head to Charleston, South Carolina 

Starting on Hilton Head, an island just off the coast of South Carolina, this epic road trip will have you seeing the absolute best the Palmetto State has to offer. 

USA Southern USA Road Trip - Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina

The drive is technically only 90 miles long, but there are plenty of wonderful spots to overnight in if you have the time. As you make your way to Charleston, you’ll get the chance to enjoy plenty of coastal scenery and small-town charm.

Stops worth making include Hunting Island State Park for secluded beaches, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge for wildlife spotting, and Beaufort for antebellum mansions. 

Summer is the best time to do this road trip for perfect beach weather. 

11. Midland Trail, West Virginia 

Gorgeous nature, charming historical towns, local art, pioneer history, pretty waterfalls, and plenty of mystery are just a few of the aspects that make this deep south USA road trip a true gem. 

Covering over 100 miles between Charleston and Sam Black Church in West Virginia , this scenic byway crosses some of the most rugged areas of the Mountain State. The road is believed to have been originally carved out into the mountains by buffalo and native tribes of the area. 

USA Southern USA Road Trip - Hawks Nest State Park, West Virginia

Some of the top highlights to check out for nature include Hawks Nest State Park and New River Gorge National Park and Preserve , while historical sites that are musts include The Ruffner Log Cabin , Salt Village, Old Stone House, and the colonial town of Lewisburg. 

Fall is a great time to do this road trip for beautiful autumn colors, but spring and late summer are perfect for comfortable weather. 

12. The Blues Highway, Tennessee and Mississippi 

Along this epic road trip, you’ll get to visit some of the places where rock and roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, and country music were born, inspired by the melodies of the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta . 

USA Southern USA Road Trip - Mississippi Delta, Mississippi

The Blues Highway follows Route 61 between Memphis and Vicksburg, taking you right into the heart of American Music.  

Must-do stops include the Gateway to the Blues Museum in Tunica, the Delta Blues Museum and Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, and the Back in the Day Museum in Greenwood, where you can also visit the grave of Robert Johnson. 

Memphis is full of kid-friendly attractions including the acclaimed Children’s Museum and Shelby Farms Park, one of the largest urban parks in America. Ride the trolley and stroll historic Beale Street during the day.

Further on, make a stop at Yazoo County for authentic Bentonia Blues at the Blue Front Café before heading to Indianola to check out the B.B. King Museum . The Mississippi Grammy Museum in Cleveland is also a treat, and a can’t-miss stop is the Dockery Plantation , where the genre was born! 

More Great US Road Trips

If you’re looking for more great US road trip inspiration, you may want to check out next:

  • The Best American Road Trips To Take With Your Kids
  • The Best of the Midwest – Unmissable Family Road Trips
  • Taking on the US East Coast National Parks in One Epic Road Trip

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The Best Cross-country U.S. Road Trip Itinerary: Southern Route

Where to stay, eat, and sightsee, from Los Angeles to Virginia — or vice-versa.

southern road trip map

Driving cross-country is the ultimate trip for the adventurous soul. If you are in need of varied landscapes, picturesque viewpoints, and impressive, relaxing stays, then this route is for you. Here we mapped out the must-see stops and roadside attractions along the southern route from the Southwest to the Southeast. Not to worry, this trip can be accomplished starting from whichever coast you prefer, so pack your bags and let's get started.

Los Angeles, California

As you depart Los Angeles , a city known for its bustling downtown and landmark attractions and neighborhoods, stop by Alcove Cafe and Bakery near Griffith Park for a unique take on classic breakfast favorites before continuing east. If starting your trip from the East Coast, Los Angeles will be your final stop on the route, so an overnight stay at The Hoxton in Downtown LA will be much-needed — this chic hotel is the ideal combination of phenomenal views over Broadway and Old Hollywood glam. Grab dinner and drinks at L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Hollywood, an iconic restaurant serving world-renowned, traditional Neapolitan pizza, as well as handmade pastas.

Sedona, Arizona

No road trip through Arizona would be complete without a visit to Grand Canyon National Park . Plan to arrive at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon — as this part of the park is open year-round — and stop at one of the breathtaking viewpoints to absorb its magnificence. Continue on to Sedona where you will be enamored by the beautifully colored red rock formations. Right before sunset, follow the short walk up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which was built into the buttes, for a beautiful panoramic vista. Stay at Amara Resort and Spa for an upscale retreat with spectacular views of the red-rock buttes.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

This enchanting city is known as a richly artistic and culturally distinctive place with a deep-rooted history. Spend the day exploring the Canyon Road art galleries to get a taste of the vibrant display of both traditional and contemporary art. Dine at The Shed for a timeless take on New Mexican cuisine in a bright, exciting atmosphere. After you have had your fill of margaritas and enchiladas, make your way back to the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi for a luxurious stay in a classic adobe-style hotel a short walk from the downtown Santa Fe Plaza.

Amarillo, Texas

For a short visit to Amarillo, a stop along Route 66 at Cadillac Ranch is a must. Here you will find a row of 10 spray-painted Cadillacs buried nose-first, which comprise an art installation and public sculpture. Come add your own spray paint and leave your mark on Amarillo. Stay at The Big Texan Airbnb — a lodging experience and partnership from The Big Texan and Amarillo's Airbnb Superhost — right across from The Big Texan Steak Ranch , a historic landmark and Texas attraction known for its 72-oz. steak eating contest.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

As you head out to Oklahoma, make a pit stop off Route 66 in Stroud, near Oklahoma City, at Rock Cafe , which served as the inspiration behind Disney's Cars movies. The cafe showcases Cars movie posters and other items left by the crew, as well as other gifts from the owner's time helping with the movie.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

When visiting Hot Springs, spend time hiking through Hot Springs National Park before making your way to Bathhouse Row. Here you can visit the historic eight bathhouses built over the natural hot springs — only two of which remain open today, the Quapaw and the Buckstaff. Check out Superior Crafthouse Brewery for the only craft brewery that uses the thermal water of the hot springs in its beer. Stay overnight at The Waters Hotel , where you can see Bathhouse Row and Hot Springs National Park from your window.

Memphis, Tennessee

Take a step into the "Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll" with a short trip to Memphis. Be sure to stop by Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion for a tour before enjoying Elvis's favorite peanut butter and banana sandwich at The Arcade . This vibrant and eclectic city is also home to Beale Street, a must-visit place to soak up the live blues music and nearby restaurants and shops.

Nashville, Tennessee

Known for its prolific country music scene, lively downtown nightlife on Broadway, and local eateries serving Southern comfort food staples, Nashville is sure to leave you enamored. For an inventive spin on the classic biscuit breakfast, stop by Biscuit Love , and for its 23 daily scratch-made varieties of pancakes, stop by The Pancake Pantry . Affectionately nicknamed Music City, Nashville is home to such iconic live music spots as The Bluebird Cafe , the Grand Ole Opry , and the Ryman Auditorium . After shopping your way through 12 South and The Gulch, check in for the night at the nearby Thompson Hotel , and go up to its LA Jackson rooftop bar for cocktails with a skyline view. Dine at The Pharmacy for a burger parlor and beer garden serving creative burgers or Whiskey Kitchen for its sophisticated take on Southern classics. End the night checking out the live music at some of the many honky tonk bars on Broadway.

Asheville, North Carolina

Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is the quintessential mountain town with gorgeous vistas and a rich history. For a short visit to Asheville, start by hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail before checking out the shopping at the historic downtown Grove Arcade . Be sure to save time to drive part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Parkway known for showcasing the serene beauty of North Carolina. Dine at Buxton Hall Barbecue for a sample of authentic Carolina-style barbecue.

Charlottesville, Virginia

Congratulations, you completed your cross-country road trip! No better way to celebrate than ending your trip in Charlottesville's wine country with an overnight stay at The 1804 Inn at Barboursville Vineyards, one of the best wineries in the area. Here you will find a stunning landscape, cozy cottage suites, and on-site wine tasting. If you are beginning your road trip from the East Coast, then Virginia will be your first stop on the route (lucky you!), so be sure to set aside some time to explore all that Charlottesville has to offer before heading west.

Best Southern Road Trips in the U.S.

By CNT Editors

Big Bend National Park Texas

New Orleans to Houston

When most people talk about making the drive from New Orleans to Houston, they do so begrudgingly—that needs to change. You can make this trip year-round, and see everything from antique bookstores to distilleries to contemporary art. Or do it for the food alone (we won’t judge).

Where to stop: Don’t miss the Texas Travel Information Center in Orange, right over the border. There’s a great photo op here with a giant lone star sculpture.

Where to eat: Order half a dozen buttermilk drops to go from the decade-old Buttermilk Drop Bakery in New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood. They will change your life—or at least how you think about doughnuts.

Where to stay: Check into the two-year-old Watermark Baton Rouge, a 144-room hotel housed in the former headquarters of the Louisiana Trust & Savings Bank. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi, the hotel is a three-minute walk to Louisiana's Old State Capitol, famed for its Gothic architecture and jaw-dropping stained glass rotunda.

We planned your five-day road trip through French Louisiana.

Chateau Elan Georgia

Atlanta to Jekyll Island

Hollywood has officially descended upon Georgia—making it the third-busiest filmmaking location behind Los Angeles and New York City. You probably knew you could eat fried green tomatoes like Jessica Tandy did in Juliette, Georgia, but what about tracing the zombie trail in the town from The Walking Dead ? Here, how to take a road-trip through your favorite scenes.

Where to stop: Stop about an hour southeast of Atlanta in Jackson, or as you may know it, Hawkins, Indiana. You’ll recognize the main square from various scenes in Stranger Things —the general store where Joyce Byers works, the alleyway where Jonathan fights Steve, and the public library where Dustin studies up on demogorgons.

Where to eat: Zesto Drive-In was featured on Atlanta for a reason: spring for the famous double-pattied Fat Boy burger with a giant Pibb-infused ice cream float.

Where to stay: Chateau Elan in Braselton is a must for Ozark fans—you’ll recognize it from episode eight, when Jason Bateman and Laura Linney go to visit their drug lord. But if that doesn’t entice you, the four golf courses, grand, newly-renovated wine-tasting room, and spa should do the trick.

We planned your three-day tour of Georgia's best filming locations.

Image may contain Building Architecture Bridge Arched Arch and Arch Bridge

Civil Rights Trail: Tennessee, Alabama, and Louisiana

There’s nothing like running a late-summer thunderstorm on a two-lane highway in the American South, roof pummeled by hail the size of golf balls, to test your nerves behind the wheel. But it’s only one small part of a put-me-in-my-place drive everyone should do, following a stretch of the Civil Rights Trail from Memphis to New Orleans by way of Alabama, where some of the country’s best social-justice museums confront the past head on—prompting those who pass through to look at the present in the same way.

Where to stop: After a visit to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, pass through Montgomery, where the brand-new National Memorial to Peace and Justice has been making headlines as the country’s first memorial to lynching victims, before parking for a weekend in New Orleans. A different kind of education happens here, where local artists like muralist Brandan Odums feed a national conversation on race and class.

Where to eat: Stop in Birmingham to decompress at the James Beard-winning Highlands Bar and Grille .

Where to stay: Once you get to your final destination in NOLA, there are plenty of hotel options, but we'd pick the Henry Howard Hotel or the Pontchartrain Hotel , both just far enough removed from the craziness of the French Quarter.

Big Bend National Park Texas

Houston to El Paso

What we’re going to tell you is not surprising: Texas is a big state. By the time you drive from east to west, you could have passed through five European countries. But as diverse as France is from the Czech Republic, South Texas is from West Texas. You may not be able to hit up the whole state in one road trip—unless you have a month to spare—but our 1,022-mile itinerary from Houston to El Paso, with an optional stop in New Mexico, will cover all of the highlights.

Where to stop: Marfa has become a bucket list trip for anyone who's tapped into culture. Here, there are 16 galleries, one for every 124 residents of this isolated town, in addition to the Chinati Foundation, which holds hundreds of works by Dan Flavin, John Chamberlain, Donald Judd, and more. The key to tackling Marfa is timing, as restaurants have odd hours and can be closed unexpectedly. Your best bet falls between Thursday and Sunday.

Where to eat: On the way to Austin, make a lunch pit stop in Lockhart. With three standout barbecue restaurants, you’ll have to leave your ego at the door and join the ranks of brisket and rib enthusiasts eating with their hands off butcher paper “plates.” Stop at least one joint from the town’s holy trifecta: Kreuz Market , Black’s Barbeque , or Smitty's Market .

Where to stay: San Antonio’s Pearl District should be your starting point, with home base at the offbeat Hotel Emma , which itself is plenty of reason to visit San Antonio.

We planned the ultimate Texas road trip.

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2024 solar eclipse: Here are 3 places to drive from south-central Pa. to see full event

southern road trip map

A solar eclipse this spring will offer a lifetime memory for viewers who see it − especially if they are in a location where the moon's shadow fully blocks the sun.

To see the full event, observers must be in an area known as the path of totality, which will include 13 states from Texas to Maine.

South-central Pennsylvania lies outside of the path of totality, but a sliver of the northwestern part of the state, including Erie, will be in it, said Brian Lada, meteorologist with AccuWeather.com.

For those who want to witness a total solar eclipse, this spring is the time to hit the road.

The next big total solar eclipse in the United States will occur on Aug. 12, 2045.

Anyone living in south-central Pennsylvania at that time will need to travel to a long distance, such as going to Florida, to see it, Lada said.

Booking a trip: What's the best place to see the April 2024 solar eclipse? One state is the easy answer.

Plan a road trip to reach a location in the path of totality

Hotels and vacation rentals already are booked in many places along the path of totality.

At this point, planning a trip to see the total solar eclipse likely will involve a long day on the road, Lada said.

He suggest packing a cooler with food and drinks. It will reduce the worry of getting to a busy restaurant.

Be prepared for traffic jams after the event is over, he said. Millions of people will be traveling to the path of totality. Viewers might want to hang out in the area for a period of time before heading for home.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it takes twice as long to get home because there's going to be so many people on the highway, going in the same direction," he said. "It takes one fender bender to turn that into a gridlock."

Three places to go from south-central Pa. to see the total solar eclipse

South-central Pennsylvania residents who are looking for the closest locations in the path of totality have the option of staying in the state or heading to New York or Ohio.

Here are three cities to go to be in the path of totality:

Erie, Pennsylvania: The city in the northwestern part of the state has been gearing up for the big event. Lectures, parties and other activities are planned. It will take about 5 hours and 15 minutes to get there from York.

Rochester, New York: Numerous watch parties are planned in the area . It would take about 4 hours and 45 minutes to reach the city from York.

Cleveland, Ohio: Heading west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the Buckeye state is another option, and Cleveland is in the path of totality . It takes about five hours and 25 minutes to get there from York.

Travelers also could head to smaller communities, such as Titusville, Pa., which is on the edge of the path of totality. A trip there is under 4 hours and 30 minutes. The Drake Well Museum and Park , the birthplace of the modern petroleum industry, will be celebrating the solar eclipse that day. Admission will be buy one, get one free.

Be aware that the duration of totality will vary depending upon the location within the path. For example, the length of time will be 3:42 in Erie while it will be 0:47 in Titusville.

Prevent eye injuries: Everything you need to know about solar eclipse glasses, including where to get them

Why viewers should head to a location in the path of totality

Not everyone will be able to make a trip to see the total solar eclipse, but for those who can, it comes highly recommended from those who have witnessed one in the past.

"The difference between what's happening in York and what's happening in this path of totality is literally the difference between night and day," Lada said.

It's going to turn to nighttime for a few minutes in the path of totality, he said.

During totality, viewers will be able to see the atmosphere of the sun around the moon, and planets and bright stars will be visible. Observers might even see a comet, said Todd Ullery, planetarium director for the York County Astronomical Society and solar system ambassador for NASA.

Ullery said he saw his first total solar eclipse in 2017. Others advised him to sit back and enjoy the experience and to not worry about taking photographs because they will not turn out.

It's amazing how much the eye can see, Ullery said. Photographs are not good representations.

"There's just nothing like it in the world," Lada said.

Advertisement

How the Key Bridge Collapsed in Baltimore: Maps and Photos

By Weiyi Cai ,  Agnes Chang ,  Lauren Leatherby ,  Lazaro Gamio ,  Leanne Abraham and Scott Reinhard

On Tuesday, a major bridge in Baltimore collapsed into the water seconds after it was struck by a cargo ship, sending vehicles on the bridge into the river below. The ship lost power and issued a mayday call shortly before it hit the bridge.

A video shows the cargo ship striking the bridge and the resulting collapse of the bridge.

The ship, a 948-foot-long cargo vessel called Dali, was about a half hour into its journey toward Colombo, Sri Lanka, when it hit a main pillar of the bridge. All crew members are safe, according to the ship’s owners.

Follow our live coverage .

A mayday call from the ship gave officials enough time to stop traffic at both ends of the bridge. The waters where the bridge collapsed are about 50 feet deep. By Tuesday morning, six construction workers who had been fixing potholes on the bridge remained missing as divers and other emergency workers on boats and helicopters continued to search for them. Two others had been rescued, and one was in the hospital.

Francis Scott

Patapsco River

The ship left the Port

of Baltimore around

1 a.m. on Tuesday.

Where impact occurred

Direction of the ship

The ship hit the

bridge at 1:28 a.m.

The ship hit the bridge at 1:28 a.m.

Where impact

Source: Spire Global

The New York Times; satellite image by Google Earth

The lights of the ship flickered on and off as it lost power in the minutes before the ship changed bearing and hit the bridge.

Ship approached from

the Port of Baltimore

Road repair crews

Ship changed heading

as it neared pillar

Ship hit pillar

Southern and central spans

of bridge began to collapse within

seconds of impact

Northern span began to

collapse seconds later

Within 30 seconds of impact,

the central part of bridge had

entirely collapsed.

Source: StreamTime Live via YouTube

Timestamps are from StreamTime Live video.

The New York Times

The Francis Scott Key Bridge was opened in 1977 and carried more than 12.4 million vehicles last year. The bridge was one of the three major ways to cross the Patapsco River and formed part of Baltimore’s beltway.

The Port of Baltimore is a major trade hub that handled a record amount of foreign cargo last year. It is an especially important destination — the nation’s largest by volume last year — for deliveries of cars and light trucks.

Ship impact

To Chesapeake Bay

Sources: Maryland Port Administration, OpenStreetMap, MarineTraffic

Note: Ship positions are as of 2:46 p.m. Eastern time.

Overall, Baltimore was the 17th biggest port in the United States in 2021, ranked by total tons, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The bridge collapse brought marine traffic there to a standstill, with seven cargo or tanker ships stranded in the harbor as of Tuesday afternoon.

Gov. Wes Moore declared a state of emergency for Maryland and said that his office was in close communication with Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. transportation secretary. The White House issued a statement saying that President Biden had been briefed on the collapse.

A photo shows the cargo ship with the collapsed bridge.

Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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