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

The Carolinas are a fantastic destination to enjoy a historic hotel. Well known for their Southern hospitality and charm, historic hotels here exude luxury, and are fine examples of culture, architecture and art. They are always fabulously located near their city's main attractions, and in fact, some even qualify as the main attraction themselves.

Depending on the season and the time of year, you can often even finding a cheap hotel deal. The following are the most standout historic hotels in the Carolinas.

Inn on Biltmore Estate, Asheville

Hotels in Asheville offer travelers the chance to stay just off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, and if looking for an accommodation experience which combines luxury with a historic hotel, the Inn on Biltmore Estate is where you want to stay.

This 4 star upscale hotel sits on the historic estate and puts you within a 15 minute drive of the area's main attraction; Biltmore House. This is the largest privately owned home in America; a 250 room French Renaissance château built by George Vanderbilt in 1895. Guests of the hotel can enjoy an outdoor pool with views of the Mountains, enjoy a bite to eat in the Library Lounge, and enjoy the same level of personalized service the Vanderbilts would extend to their friends.

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte

The Dunhill hotel is a fantastic choice of accommodation in Charlotte; a boutique hotel with sophisticated accommodations steeped in history and surrounded by modern significance.

Guests are conveniently located close to museums, art galleries, nightlife, shopping and the CBD. The hotel opened in 1929 and is among the few National Trust Historic Hotels of America in North Carolina. It has been fully restored and is now a landmark in Charlotte's cultural district and arts community.

Marriott's Heritage Club, Hilton Head

In the historic district of Hilton Head Island, Marriott's Heritage Club is close to Baynard Plantation Ruins, Harbour Town Lighthouse and Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge.

This property has an outdoor pool, a fitness center and spa tub, as well as complimentary internet access in public areas. Spacious two-bedroom villas are fully self-contained, and rooms open out onto beautiful patios. This accommodation is a perfect base for those looking to spend a relaxing vacation in Hilton Head.

Kings Courtyard Inn, Charleston

An enchanting blend of history and southern hospitality, culture and cuisine, architecture and art, Kings Courtyard Inn in Charleston embodies all the qualities of a truly remarkable historic hotel.

Decorated with original hardwood floors, antique furniture, oriental rugs, four-poster canopy bed, a fire and modern technology, guests enjoy modern creature comforts balanced with the quaint coziness of a historic inn.

Hampton Inn by Hilton Columbia Downtown Historic District

In the center of downtown Columbia, Hampton Inn by Hilton is a traditional hotel in a fabulous location, a mere 15-minute stroll from Bicentennial Park, and 1 miles drive from the University of South Carolina.

Classic rooms offer free WiFi and flat-screen TVs as well as desks and coffee makers. Suite upgrades offer extra living space, as well as pull-out sofas, microwaves and whirlpool tubs.

  This article was posted on Mapping Megan by Megan.

Published in United States

South Carolina's long summers, unique Southern flavors, and geographic beauty make it a picture-perfect travel destination. To get the most out of your trip, get out your checklist and make sure you have all your unforgettables. As you pack, keep these five travel essentials at the fore of your mind.

Weather-Appropriate Clothing

South Carolina is in a subtropical zone so its summers are hot and humid. Winters are mild at about 60 degrees average but temperatures can certainly drop to the 30s in the early mornings and nights. Factor in the storm season, which runs from summer to fall, and sporadic rain throughout the year.

You’ll need light, breathable, cotton clothes for the humid months as well as sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. Carry layers for the winter season so you can adjust to changing temperatures. Bring rain gear such as a collapsible travel umbrella and a thin poncho you can fold up and tuck out of sight in the corner of your handbag.

Your Best Beachwear

Most of the things you'll need will really depend on your itinerary and how you plan to spend your time. If you have your sights set on the beach, pack a bathing suit. A destination like Isle of Palms, a barrier island in the Charleston area, has miles and miles of raw shore for great strolls and phenomenal sunsets. Don’t forget your cover-up and several beach towels, plus your hat, shades, and healthy sun protection for your skin. Pack a stylish tote that can hold everything you’ll need for your beach outing.

No-Nonsense Fitness Gear

Sometimes getting away is the perfect time to assess your fitness level and amp up your goals for physical health, so pack your fitness gear. A resort town like Hilton Head Island gives you a lot to tackle at once. It has 12 miles of beach, yoga studios, gyms, world-class tennis facilities, and over 60 miles of biking trails. Pack sneakers with great foot support, comfortable athletic clothes, a visor, sports shades, and extra cash for renting any equipment you might need.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island

Must-Haves for Outdoor Expeditions

South Carolina's seductive landscapes and coastal proximity offer great opportunities for adventure-lovers. Whether you're sailing in ocean waters among bottlenose dolphins, horse-back riding across golden fields, or canoeing among old bald cypresses in the Congaree National Park in Columbia, there are plenty of options that will get you closer to Mother Nature. Among the items you might need are: binoculars, waterproof footwear, a backpack, sketchbooks and journals, camera film and memory cards, insect repellant, hats, and long-sleeve shirts and pants for bug protection.

Essentials for Walking Tours

The South's urban vibrance combined with its significant heritage offers up unique experiences, from extravagant shopping tours to the stunning architecture that defines Charleston, and phenomenal learning experiences like those you'll find at the Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant. You’ll probably do a lot of walking, so you’ll need dependable walking shoes, a daypack, and a good plan for water and refreshments.

Most importantly, plan your itinerary for your entire trip. The more prepared you are when you get there, the more you can focus on creating amazing memories to bring back home.

This article is part of Hipmunk’s Destination Unknown travel series.

  This post was published on Heart & Soul by Kemba Banton.
AUTHOR: Kemba Banton is a writer, artist, and mother, passionate about life, social change, and personal empowerment. She has a B.A. in Anthropology and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. She’s teamed up with Heart & Soul and Hipmunk to bring intriguing tidbits about travel destinations across the world.

Published in United States

Summer is coming, and the beaches are calling. Whether it be on the east coast, the west coast, or the Gulf, get ready to feel the sand between your toes. These five destinations are family friendly but also offer plenty of activities that will appeal to adults of all ages--but especially those still young at heart. Get ready for a fun summer!

Gulf Shores, Alabama

When it comes to overlooked family destinations, Gulf Shores should be at the top of everyone's vacation list, with 32 miles of pristine white sands. It's the home of both the Gulf State Park and the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, as well as more than half a dozen different golf courses--even a mini golf center for the kids. There's Waterville USA and the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, not to mention a seemingly never-ending number of water-based activities in the warm Gulf waters. What are you waiting for? Get packing and come on!

Marina del Rey, California

The beachside Los Angeles suburb of Marina del Rey is small but beautiful. The area gets its name from the marina, which is actually the world's largest small boat marina in the world. Marina del Rey is home to over 5,000 boats and yachts, Burton Chace Park, Mother's Beach, and Fisherman's Village, which has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows over the years, including one of my favorites, Arrested Development. Other must-visit attractions include the famous Venice Beach and refreshing Yvonne B. Burke Park.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Known for its many miles of boating canals and iconic riverwalk promenade, Fort Lauderdale has long been a popular year-round destination. Besides all the obvious aquatic activities, there is a sprawling city to explore full of museums, parks, shopping districts, casinos, live music venues, delicious restaurants, and sports arenas. The area is also home to hotels of all budgets, including the immaculate Lago Mar Resort Hotel & Club for discerning travelers, as well as several more affordable chain options.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

For those looking for a romantic luxury getaway, look no further than Hilton Head Island. This upscale island paradise is full of beautiful beaches, meandering rivers and streams, relaxing parks, lavish resorts, 24 sprawling golf courses, and over 350 tennis courts. While these are all perfect for couples, those traveling with children might consider checking out Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort. Located on an island within a river, this is arguably Hilton Head's most impressive resort.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Everyone in America knows the name Myrtle Beach, but the city is popular with international tourists as well. Beyond the 60 miles of soft beaches lies an exciting and fun-filled city to explore. For adventurous travelers, there are adrenaline-packed activities like NASCAR races at the Myrtle Beach Speedway, ziplining, and even skydiving. Water lovers will find that their days are full of parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking, and scuba diving. Are arts and culture more your thing? Myrtle Beach is home to a wide array of museums, historical tours, live music venues, and, of course, the Duplin Winery.

Published in United States

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