Think one Southern city is like all the others? Think again. As these six towns demonstrate, stereotypes and generalizations can’t possibly account for all the distinct, quirky, and amazing towns that blanket the American South!

Asheville, North Carolina has some seriously quirky, offbeat charm

1. Home of the Locavore Aesthetic: Asheville, NC

Nestled between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains lies the town of Asheville, which has earned a reputation for itself as a hub of artsiness, outdoor adventure, and a strong local aesthetic. The city’s downtown is comprised almost exclusively of independent shops and eateries, and the town is filled with artists and musicians from all walks of life (which explains the city’s vibrant busking scene). The city is also a self-described “Foodtopia,” a rich food scene with a farm-fresh bent. And if spiritual exploration is your thing, you’ll be right at home in Asheville, which attracts many a mystical seeker. In short? If you want to expose yourself to unique sights, tastes, sounds, and people, get thee to Asheville.

2. Home of Eclectic Attractions: Birmingham, AL

An odd assortment of attractions has made Alabama’s largest city a popular destination for travelers of all backgrounds. The largest cast iron statue in the world—dubbed “Vulcan”—stands guard over the city, broadcasting to all who enter that Birmingham is just a little bit different. Whether you spend your time at the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, the McWane Science Center (which features exhibits on topics ranging from dinosaurs to space exploration), the Splash Adventure Water Park, the Barber Motorsports Museum (home to more than 1,200 motorcycles), or the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham offers something unique for every kind of traveler.

3. Home of Southern Outdoorsiness: Charlotte, NC

Charlotte’s culture is distinct in that it combines refined, southern hospitality with rugged outdoorsiness. That’s thanks in no small part to the city’s location: The lively downtown sits near the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. Locals and tourists alike take advantage of this prime location at popular outdoor destinations that range from the refined Anne Springs Close Greenway, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, and Biltmore Estate to the more adventurous U.S. National Whitewater Center, which offers rafting tours of the area’s Catawba River. Combined, Charlotte’s zest for life and welcoming attitude have earned it a reputation as one of the friendliest cities in the South.

Columbia, South Carolina has some seriously quirky and offbeat charm
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Akhenaton06

4. Home of Epic Festivals: Columbia, SC

Columbia’s tagline is “famously hot,” and it’s easy to see why. The weather is warm (the temperature rarely drops below 50 degrees in winter), the attractions are popular, and the college sports scene is hoppin’. The city serves as the capital of South Carolina and is home to the University of South Carolina, which makes for an interesting mix of college-town culture and commercial prowess. But what really sets the city apart is its exciting annual calendar of events, including January’s World Beer Festival, February’s Lake Carolina Oyster Roast, June’s Ribs & Renaissance extravaganza, July’s Lexington County Peach Festival, October’s South Carolina State Fair, and December’s Famously Hot New Year.

5. Home of Stately Art and History: Savannah, GA

Art and history collide in gorgeous Savannah, where the weather is fine, the architecture is Antebellum, and the trees are shrouded in Spanish moss. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time while strolling the streets of Savannah’s pre-Civil War district, and you’re likely to feel out of place virtually anywhere in the city if you aren’t wearing your Sunday best. Class and elegance infuse every aspect of Savannah—including its most popular tourist activities, such as the Savannah Arts Festival, the Savannah Tour of Homes, and the Savannah Film Festival. But don’t let all the stateliness fool you; in Savannah, Southern hospitality is alive and well.

Tulsa, Oklahoma has some seriously quirky offbeat charm

6. Home of All Things Retro: Tulsa, OK

Tulsa has been a cult favorite since the heyday of Route 66, which passes right through the city. Today, the town draws tourists who are interested in both what the city used to be and all that it now has to offer. From its iconic oilman statue to its neon signposts, old-fashioned pump stations, and art deco buildings, Tulsa has retro funk on lock. The city is also home to a thriving festival scene—most notably, Tulsa hosts one of the country’s largest Oktoberfest celebrations each fall.

From giant statues, to exciting festivals, to dynamic arts, music, and food scenes, these cities provide a whole new take on the meaning of Southern charm.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 18th.

Published in United States

Thanks in part to its wide-open landscape and sprawling interstate system, the United States has maintained a long-term love affair with the automobile. The romance certainly hasn’t waned over the years, as more cars were sold in the United States in 2015 than during any other year in history. Many of those sales were pragmatic vehicles like Crossover Utility Vehicles, but you don’t have to cover many miles to encounter far more interesting autos. So hit the highway and take the exit for these motor-friendly metropolises!

Portland

  Oregon

Portland may conjure up images of farm-to-table brunch spots and thick-bearded Millennials pedaling past organic coffee shops and tattoo parlors, but this hipster-friendly city knows how to burn some rubber. Portland International Raceway, just south of the Columbia River, features a full calendar, including Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events, motorcycle road-racing, ⅛-mile dragstrip, karting, and unique events featuring vintage racecars, rally cars, British autos, and the surprisingly versatile Volkswagen Beetle. Sign up for their Pro Drive racing school and learn how to handle your car both on and off the track. If you’re more into aesthetics than pure speed, PDX Car Culture can point you towards the myriad car shows, cruise-ins, and custom builders in the area!

Reno

  Nevada

Often seen as Las Vegas’ smaller cousin, Reno provides a gearhead culture unlike anything Vegas has to offer. The National Automobile Museum presents The Harrah Collection, the eponymous casino-owner’s world-renowned collection of over 200 of the world’s rarest, most historic automobiles. Nowhere else can you see the 1938 Phantom Corsair, or the only original example of Buckminster Fuller’s “Car of the Future” – the 1934 Dymaxion – or the 1907 Thomas Flyer, the American-built car that conquered the world in the 22,000-mile 1908 New York to Paris Race. Once a year, Reno offers an adrenaline-pumping alternative to the static displays at the museum: the Reno Air Races, where some of the fastest propeller-driven aircraft in the world tear through the air at over 400 mph. At that speed, they could cover the 7-hour drive from Vegas to Reno in just over an hour!

Austin

  Texas

Another Millennial favorite, Austin boasts something no other city in the contemporary United States can claim: a chance to see Formula One cars at full-tilt. This racing series represents the pinnacle of automotive technology, and, in terms of global popularity, is the soccer of the auto-racing world. The Circuit of the Americas also hosts a number of other high-octane events throughout the year, including a weekend of MotoGP in April (the motorcycling equivalent of Formula One), the Summer X-Games, and the Pirelli World-Challenge in March, contested by racecar versions of the world’s fastest street cars, including McClarens, Ferraris, Porsches, and American iron like Fords, Chevys, and Cadillacs. COTA’s Austin360 Amphitheatre also plays host to huge music and comedy events throughout the year, packing in upwards of 14,000 fans to see headliners like Duran Duran, Florence and the Machine, and Jeff Foxworthy’s RedFest.

Indianapolis

  Indiana

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is hallowed ground in the world of motorsport, and no tour of American automotive history would be complete without paying homage to ‘The Brickyard.’ Except for brief hiatuses during the First and Second World Wars, the world-famous Indy 500 has been run on this site every year since 1911. Contemporary racers cover the 500-mile distance in under three hours, at average speeds nearing 200 mph! The Brickyard also plays host to many other top-notch racing series, including NASCAR, MotoGP, and the Red Bull Air Race. For a more sedate experience, be sure to pay a visit to the Speedway’s Hall of Fame Museum, where a rotating selection of historically significant racecars, around 75 at a time, are on display.

Nashville

  Tennessee

Better known as the Country Music Capitol of the World, Nashville also offers a little something for those who prefer the music of internal combustion. While the Musician's Hall of Fame features musician-owned cars like Elvis’ Gold Cadillac, the true gearhead won’t want to miss the Lane Motor Museum. Featuring one of the most extensive collections of eccentric cars in the world, be sure to pay a visit to gawk at bizarre gems like their 1966 Citroen DS Ice Racer, the three-wheeled (and elegantly named) 1934 B.S.A. TW33-10-4 Cylinder, and the 1951 Hoffmann, which Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky gleefully dubbed "the worst car ever built." Who wouldn't want to see that?

Charlotte

  North Carolina

No motorsport is more American than NASCAR, and no city in the United States is more steeped in it than Charlotte, North Carolina. Take a lap through NASCAR history at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, tour the headquarters of one of the many NASCAR teams who call Charlotte home, and feel the thunder of horsepower at the legendary Charlotte Motor Speedway. In addition to multiple NASCAR races and events throughout the year – including the only Saturday night race in the NASCAR Chase – the Speedway hosts events featuring monster trucks, MXGP motocross, World of Outlaws, and the 8,000 horsepower, 320 mph acceleration-machines known as NHRA Top-Fuel Dragsters. Let your gearhead flag fly, and don’t forget your earplugs!

  This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on February 15th.

Published in United States

Be sure to check out these famous sandwiches on your next trip, which are must-tries whenever you visit their region of origin.

1. Chicago's Italian Beef

The Windy City draws large crowds for deep-dish pizza and Chicago dogs, but the Italian beef is a long-time local favorite. Thinly sliced seasoned beef is piled high on an Italian sub roll, dredged in gravy or au jus, and topped with hot or sweet peppers. You can find these bad boys at a local dog stall down the street from your Chicago hotel or other street-food style restaurants around the city.

2. North Carolina's Pulled Pork

If you’ve ever spent time in the Carolinas, you’ve likely caught wind of the BBQ standoff between the eastern and western parts of the state (and don’t get them started on South Carolina BBQ). Visit the state's capital, Raleigh, or stay close to the coast at a Wilmington hotel and check out little hole-in-the-wall joints that boast vinegar-based sauces and a mix of dark and white meat. Or head to the western part of the state, which holds onto the belief that dark meat and a ketchup-based sauce is the ticket. We’ll let you decide.

3. Upstate New York’s Beef En Weck

Buffalo chicken may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of upstate delicacies, but beef en weck is an equally famous local crowd-pleaser. Sliced roast beef is stacked on a salted and seeded bun and served with a side of au jus for a simple but satisfying meal.

4. Georgia's Pimento Cheese Sandwich

In the South, pimento cheese goes with just about everything. Use it as a topping, a dip or the main ingredient of a good ole Southern sandwich. Georgia’s laid claim to the sandwich as the signature eat of the Master’s at Augusta National, but you can find this sandwich on many a Southern menu. Make it your own with additions like bacon or tomato.

5. New England’s Lobster Roll

You can bake ‘em, boil ‘em, or smother 'em in butter. Or you can add a bit of mayo and herbs to fresh lobster meat for a knock-your-socks-off lobster roll. Eat your way up and down the New England coast on a self-guided food tour. Whether you're staying at a hotel in Bar Harbor or spending a few nights in a Boston, you won't be far from one of these delicious seafood sammies.

6. Texas’s Brisket BBQ Sandwich

If you’ve ever been so hungry you could eat a horse, getting a meal fit for a cowboy could be the next best thing. Not to be confused in any way with the pork BBQ on the East Coast, Texas BBQ is made with brisket, with sauces ranging from a tomato-based sweet sauce in East Texas to molasses-based sauce in the South and spiced rub in the central part of the state.

Tasting these culinary masterpieces in the places where they were perfected is the best way to enjoy an authentic sandwich experience.

  This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 12th.

Published in United States

Once you have decided to visit Raleigh, North Carolina, there is still more planning to do. There are common checklists that individuals have utilized over the years, however with the changing times there are some items and situations that may not be properly accounted for. Below are a few items and protocols that are essential for the new-age traveler.

Travel Documents

There are common travel documents that you should carry with you for travel period, but especially if you are traveling internationally. The most common documents include:

  • Driver’s license
  • Passport
  • Travel itinerary
  • Traveler’s checks

TIn the case that you lose these documents or any of your traveling material, you should carry at least two copies and store them in a safe location. A few other items that you should store copies of would be:

  • Airline ticket (if applicable)
  • Foreign Visa (if applicable)
  • Credit cards brought on trip
  • Hotel confirmation

Vaccinations

With the various outbreaks that are occurring across the world, it is important that you are properly vaccinated against any possible illnesses. Be sure to check with your doctor before travel to not only make sure that your shots are up to date, but that you have all the right vaccinations against any sickness that you may encounter while on your trip; certain areas are more susceptible to specific illnesses.

Money Stash

Though this may seem more like a travel amenity, having a proper money stash can be critical in high crime areas. There are a number of different money stash options that you can choose from, such as fanny packs, money belts and neck wallets. Whichever you choose, make sure that you keep it on your person at all times and hidden away when you are at your resting location. You also should not carry all of your money on you at one time; it is suggested that you have several different money stashes amongst your belongings, so that in the case that you lose some, you will not be left high and dry.

It is also important that you become familiar with the currencies that you will be encountering on your trip. If possible, convert a good amount of your money before arriving to your destination. This can help you to avoid high conversion rates and spending excessive amounts of money unnecessarily.

Research

As times have changed, so have policies and common procedures. Therefore, it is critical that you are aware of the way that you should conduct yourself in the specific regions that you visit. If you do not have a set itinerary, look up and map out a few safe destinations that you plan to visit. If you are traveling internationally, be sure to note where your home embassy is located in the area you are visiting. Taking time to learn these tidbits before your travel can save you possible headache or harm on your journey.

See More       10 Amazing Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Raleigh, North Carolina Right NOW   United States Travel Ideas

By keeping these things and other common aspects of your traveler's checklist in mind, you can be sure to have a safe and enjoyable trip. For other details and resources, check with your travel agent in Raleigh or other local agents.

Published in United States

For some reason people tend to overlook Raleigh, North Carolina as a vacation destination but they really shouldn't. From music to nature, nightlife to history, there is something for everyone here!

Raleigh, North Carolina skyline
Raleigh skyline, as seen from South Saunders   (source)

Raleigh, North Carolina is a bicycle-friendly city
Raleigh is a very bicycle-friendly city   (source)

Charles Frazier House in Raleigh, North Carolina
Charles Frazier House, built in 1925 and on the National Register of Historic Places   (source)

Sun down, fun up in Raleigh, North Carolina
Sun down, fun up   (source)

Great live music in Raleigh, North Carolina
Lots of live music can be found in Raleigh   (source)

Old cottage on the outskirts of Raleigh, North Carolina
There is history in Raleigh too   (source)

Old cottage on the outskirts of Raleigh, North Carolina
Plenty of beautiful nature in Raleigh as well   (source)

Lake Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh Lake   (source)

Lake Johnson Park in Raleigh, North Carolina
Lake Johnson Park   (source)

But the very best part about Raleigh...

Old cottage on the outskirts of Raleigh, North Carolina
There is even a trolley pub!   (source)

So what are you waiting for? Get your trip started!

Published in United States

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