Travelers that want to find a combination of beauty, history, hospitality, and sunshine need to consider visiting the South. The South has something for everyone. Whether you want a taste of bourbon in Kentucky or to relax by the water in Maryland, there is a southern city that matches your needs. Check out the 5 southern cities below that have something to offer its visitors.
Lexington is the “Horse Capital of the World” and is one of the most popular cities in Kentucky. One of the must-see’s in Lexington is the Kentucky Horse Park, where you can explore a 1,200 acre facility that features museums, art exhibits, and of course, a variety of horse breeds. If you like gambling, you can bet on horse races on grounds like the Keeneland Race Course. While a lot of the popular attractions involve horses, there are non-horse activities worth checking out if you visit Lexington. One of my favorites is taking a tasting tour at a local distillery. For instance, you can try a taste of Kentucky at one of the bourbon distilleries, like the Wild Turkey or Four Roses.
If you are travelling through Louisiana, you need to stop by Cajun country and stay a few nights in Lafayette. Lafayette is a vibrant city that offers a nice combination of “country” with city-life. You can spend the day visiting Avery Island, where you can see the Tobasco factory, a bird sanctuary, and exotic animals in Jungle Gardens. After a busy day of exploring, go enjoy the local cuisine at one of the many Cajun and Creole restaurants. Want to enjoy the nightlife? Check out the bars and clubs on Jefferson Street. If you need to find a place to stay near the action, consider Studio 6 which is only a few blocks from the action.
The Sunshine State is a popular travel destination in the South. One of my favorite cities to visit is located in the heart of the state in Kissimmee, Florida. For budget travelers, you have to check out the $20 million dollar local park project, the Kissimmee Lakefront Park. You can rent pavilions, go boating, fishing, BBQ, hiking, and other low-cost outdoor activities. The real reason most people stay in Kissimmee is because of its close proximity to Walt Disney World. In fact, you can stay at an affordable Kissimmee hotel like the Vacation Village that is only about 10 minutes away from Disney World.
For travelers that enjoy getting off-the-beaten path, Norcross will be worth considering. It’s cleverly tagged “a place to imagine” because of its blend of art, music, cuisine, and history. Take a stroll down the historic downtown and stop into the Crossing Steak House for a cocktail. The real benefit to staying in Norcross is that you can find an affordable hotel and still be just a few minutes from downtown Atlanta.
Salisbury is a fun city in southeastern Maryland that offers its visitors a variety of activities. If you want a quiet place to relax, the 11 acre park on Schumaker Pond is just the spot. Grab a nice book, blanket, and a few snacks, and you can decompress in the serenity of the park. Another local favorite is the Salisbury Zoo. Admission to the zoo is free and they provide guided tours. If you are looking for a versatile city to spend a few days while traveling through Maryland, you should consider staying in Salisbury.
Planning your summer vacation already? Check out these up-and-coming destinations.
The Biloxi Lighthouse by Ipung Zan via Flickr
The beachfront city of Biloxi is a popular summer destination for people looking to enjoy the gulf. Water-based activities such as fishing are some of the biggest pastimes of the area. In fact, every 4th of July the city holds the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, which draws crowds in excess of 50,000 people. Nearly all the hotels in town are located on or near the water, and because gambling is legal in Biloxi, most have casinos as well.
Charlotte, North Carolina skyline by James Willamor via Flickr
Charlotte is the largest and most well-known city in North Carolina. Home to nearly 3 million people, there is no shortage of sights, activities, museums, theme parks, festivals, and excitement to keep visitors of all ages and interests amused. Plus, all the sports fans will be excited to hear that not only does Charlotte have a team for every major sport, it is also the home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Sunset on the grounds of Deer's Head in Salisbury, Maryland by Eric B Walker via Flickr
Salisbury is a small city at the head of Wicomico River in southeastern Maryland. It is a peaceful, unassuming town that is perfect for a family weekend getaway or a quiet pit stop on an American road trip. Venues like the Salisbury Zoo, Coco's Funhouse, Pemberton Historical Park, and the Wicomico County Youth & Civic Center are perfect for the entire family. Other places, such as the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame Museum, are geared more toward older guests. When it comes to lodging, the Hampton Inn Salisbury is the only one you should consider. Not only does it have a central location, but it's also the highest-rated hotel in town!
Main Street in College Park, Georgia by Robert S Donovan via Flickr
Contrary to the name, there is no college in the small, charming southern town of College Park; the building that was a college many years ago is now city hall. Despite having a population of only 14,000, the city has over 850 properties on the National Register of Historic Places, making it an intriguing destination for anyone interested in the historical side of Georgia. Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Atlanta, College Park is home of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest airport. As such, there is no shortage of hotels and restaurants in town.
Sunset over Bardstown Road in Louisville, Kentucky by Scott Smithson via Flickr
Louisville is Kentucky's largest city and one of the most popular year-round destinations for out-of-state visitors thanks to its abundance of things to see, do, and eat. Baseball fans will immediately recognize the city because it is the home of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, the iconic baseball bat. However, the city is also the home of the Kentucky Derby Museum and the Muhammad Ali Center, among others. Plus, just outside of town are countless parks, trails, lakes, and rivers offering a seemingly never-ending amount of outdoor activities. If you've got an entire family to keep happy or just want to pack as many diverse activities as possible into one trip, definitely put Louisville on your list of destinations this summer!
In 2007, Congress declared September to be America’s National Bourbon Heritage Month—so it’s time to get sipping.
The most popular type of whiskey in the U.S., bourbon is made from a grain mixture (aka “mash”) that’s at least 51 percent corn. Federal law also mandates that bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels and bottled at 80 proof or stronger, and nothing other than distilled water can be added to the bottles.
There’s no better place to celebrate this American spirit than in its birthplace: Kentucky’s Bourbon Country. Fly into Lexington and prepare to drink up on this multi-day tour.
Where else to start exploring the history of bourbon than at America’s oldest continuously operating distillery? For over 200 years, Buffalo Trace has been distilling bourbons—the distillery even remained open during Prohibition in order to make bourbon for “medicinal purposes.” In the past decade alone, the family-owned bourbon producer has earned more awards than any other distillery in the world.
Take part in Buffalo Trace’s award-winning history by embarking on the Trace Tour, a free, hour-long tour that walks visitors through every stage of the bourbon-making process, from aging barrels to packaging (and, of course, tasting the finished product). You’ll also be able to taste the exclusive Pappy Van Winkle or George T. Stagg (both are bottled at Buffalo Trace)—but for a price.
Where to Stay Nearby Lexington is the state’s second-largest city and is considered the Horse Capital of the World. The city is also home to a wide range of budget-friendly hotels; check out the Hyatt Place Lexington for easy access to restaurants and downtown attractions, or the University Inn Hotel, which offers quiet lodgings and a continental breakfast.
After waking up in Lexington, prepare to visit two distilleries over the course of the day (don’t worry; they’re not far from each other).
Start off at one of the country’s smallest and oldest distilleries. To this day, Woodford Reserve is crafted in small batches in order to enhance the flavor of each of the bourbon’s ingredients and developmental stages—grains, water, fermentation, distillation, and maturation. The distillery builds and chars its own barrels and boasts one of the longest fermentation processes in the country, all of which contributes to the bourbon’s complex flavor profile.
The daily tour ($10 per person) at Woodford Reserve explores the history of bourbon and details the distillery’s unique approach to the bourbon-making process. Or take an even more in-depth approach on the Cork to Corn Tour ($30 per person), a two-hour session that covers the mechanical, chemical, and technical processes that contribute to making great bourbon.
Located just 16 miles down the road from Woodford Reserve is the distillery for Wild Turkey, one of the country’s most popular bourbons. The original distillery was founded in 1869 and then modernized in 1933 once Prohibition had ended. It sits atop a limestone shelf on the Kentucky River, which provides water for the distillery. In order to keep up with high demand, in 2010 the brand created a new, larger distillery nearby. Just how big is demand? The new warehouse can hold 20,000 barrels.
The free tour allows visitors to watch mash being made, peruse the original fermentation room, and witness the bourbon-making process from filling the barrels to bottling the aged bourbon.
Where to Stay Head back to the hotel in Lexington for the evening and rest up—you’ll be traveling partway across the state the next day.
Wake up for the approximately 1.5-hour drive from Lexington to Clermont—perhaps better known as the home of Jim Beam. You’ll be visiting two distilleries again today, so be sure to pace yourself. On the way to Clermont, stop for lunch in Bardstown, the official Bourbon Capital of the World. Shop for souvenirs (and, of course, bourbon) at the Kentucky Bourbon Marketplace before driving on to Jim Beam.
Another of America’s most popular bourbons, Jim Beam was founded in 1795 and has been family owned and operated for seven generations. The distillery is known for aging its bourbon twice as long as the standard aging process and has used the same strain of yeast for more than 75 years.
The Jim Beam American Stillhouse tour ($10 for adults 21 and over, free for anyone under 21) allows visitors to actively participate in the bourbon production process, from mixing grains to bottling your very own product from Jim Beam.
Twenty-nine miles away from Jim Beam sits the Bulleit Distilling Company. Despite being the baby of the bunch (the distillery was founded in 1987), Bulleit Bourbon has already made quite a name for itself. The company’s founder, Thomas E. Bulleit, Jr., quit his job as a successful lawyer and pursued his lifelong dream of reviving his great-great-grandfather’s bourbon recipe, which was produced between 1830 and 1860. The distillery maintains the family tradition by creating a spicy-yet-smooth flavor that’s earned accolades across the country.
The Stitzel-Weller Distillery tour ($10 for adults 21 and over, free for anyone under 21) takes place in a beautiful old building that first opened on Derby Day in 1935 and was reopened to the public in 2014. Learn about Bulleit’s distinctive family recipe while strolling through the distillery, then finish things off with (you guessed it) a tasting.
Where to Stay Head to Louisville, which is just a few miles away from Bulleit’s distillery. The city is packed with fun things to do; not least among those activities is the Urban Bourbon Trail, a bar-hopping adventure among the self-dubbed “world’s best bourbon bars,” each of which serves at least 50 different bourbon varieties.
Turn in for the night at the luxurious and stylish 21c Museum Hotel, which also includes an on-site modern art museum. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option after sipping on bourbon all evening, check out the Econo Lodge Downtown.
Three days, five distilleries, and a whole lotta bourbon—after touring some of America’s best bourbon distilleries, you may just want to go ahead and declare October (and November, and December…) your own personal bourbon appreciation month.
This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on September 18th.