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Hottest Cities in the South

If it’s vacation time, consider heading South to America’s diverse and culturally rich states.

As travel opens back up between America and Europe, the South once again appeals to foreign visitors as much as locals. The Deep South is easy on the pocket for European visitors, as well as those from Canada. In fact, Canadian and U.S. dollars affected by tourism due to the pandemic have been minimal when it comes to exchange rates. You can still get a good bang for your buck in the South, with off-the-beaten-path attractions, affordable foodie cities and charming inns and bed and breakfasts to stay the night.

Here are some of the South’s hottest cities for summer travel, and we do mean “hot” both ways. That’s why we’ve included ways to cool off for each city.

Charleston, South Carolina

Walking around Charleston is an attraction in itself. If you’re a history buff, then the colonial buildings will more than suffice—there’s a lot of 18th-century architecture on display—to spark a bit of property envy. Charleston was instrumental in the development of early America, and the city pays homage to its past with tours of stately homes like Middleton Place and plantations like Boone Hall. Horsedrawn tours are also available, offering an alternative route and view of the city, and you can even elect to take a haunted ghost tour. The cuisine is diverse in this foodie city and there are tons of restaurants serving everything from BBQ to seafood and award-winning cocktails. In terms of accommodations, you can’t go wrong with the John Rutledge House Inn. This colonial-era guest house has 19 rooms, is ideally located for shopping and sightseeing, serves good cocktails, and its second-story balcony is great for watching the city breathe on a summer’s night.

Cool Off: One of the many great things about Charleston is its proximity to the coast. Work a beach day into your trip and cool down at Isle of Palms or Folly Beach.

Nashville, Tennessee

If you’re visiting the home of country music, then it’s only fair that you explore some of its key destinations. There’s the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, one of the world’s largest museum and research centers. Famous inductees include Elvis, Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks. There’s also the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry, and both are within earshot of Broadway, where ambient bars and live music rock on at almost all hours. If you want a break from music-inspired sightseeing, then hop on an Old Town Trolley and see the rest of the city. Hot chicken is a big deal in Nashville; in fact, it’s their signature dish. Two places that stand out for their hot chicken are Prince’s Hot Chicken and Hattie B’s. For lodging, the Union Station Hotel is a rich tapestry of aesthetics. Originally built as a train station in 1900, the hotel retains its 100-year-old prism stained glass ceiling and Italian marble. Located in the city center, this hotel offers up great vibrancy by way of its proximity to bars, restaurants and music.

Cool Off: The Frist Art Museum is celebrating its 20th anniversary all year long with current exhibits on the American West and Glasgow Style. Stroll through the air-conditioned galleries and browse the gift shop while the sun blazes outdoors.

Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is where the King of rock ‘n’ roll made his home, and it’s also the home of the blues. It would be best to start off on Beale Street, a haven of entertainment and activity. Try out all the BBQ joints in the day and by night get swept up in the club-hopping scene. On the other side of town is Graceland, preserved just the way the King left it. There’s the mansion, a museum, hotel and an entertainment complex. If you’re not an Elvis fan at first, you might be one by the time you leave. If you want to enjoy some good old American cuisine, then Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous is a must. Established back in 1948 and specializing in ribs, this place is a Memphis institution whose key to success is its Greek-style dry rub. The Guest House at Graceland is the place to spend the night. Affordable and filled with Elvis memorabilia, this 430-room hotel pumps to the tunes of Elvis, live performances a great cocktail bar and more.

Cool Off: Beale Street Landing has a waterfront walkway along the Mississippi River, a splash pad and park for kids and opportunities for launching a kayak.

Montgomery, Alabama

The South’s new hub for civil rights attractions, Montgomery is on the map for its new Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Part of the Equal Justice Initiative and opened in 2018, the museum and memorial tell the story from enslavement to mass incarceration and are a powerful reminder of our country’s history of slavery. The Rosa Parks Museum, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Alabama State Capitol and Freedom Rides Museum are all great accompaniments to a civil rights tour. For dinner, check out Central or Dreamland BBQ downtown or one of the charming restaurants in Old Cloverdale. Stay at Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa overlooking the Alabama River.

Cool Off: Court Square Fountain downtown is where Zelda Fitzgerald used to frolic in the water or take advantage of paddling and boating in the Alabama River.

New Braunfels, Texas

Guadelupe River Larry D. Moore via Wikimedia Commons

Texas isn’t known for being cool in the summertime, but the Hill Country is known for its cool rivers, vineyards and famous waterpark. The Guadelupe and Comal rivers run through New Braunfels and are great for tubing with friends and family. New Braunfels also has the Gruene Historic District with one of the oldest dancehalls in Texas, along with restaurants, bed and breakfasts, shopping and more. Check out the Hill Country Craft Beer Trail and The Grapevine for wine tasting. There’s also a drive-in theatre open nightly for some real old-time summer fun.

Cool Off: Schlitterbahn Water Park is a highlight of New Braunfels and a sure way to cool down on a river ride or waterslide.

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