Uncovered: Secret Spots in the South

published on September 20, 2022 by

If you think you’ve been to all the best southern travel destinations in the U.S. — think again. These charming spots are packed with unique cultural experiences, classic food & drink, outdoor adventure and, of course, plenty of that famous southern hospitality. 

Dolly’s Town: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

The name of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, may not ring a bell. But the name Dolly Parton certainly will! The country music legend was born not too far from the town, and it’s where she chose to build Dollywood, Pigeon Forge’s world-class Appalachian-themed amusement park. Open from March through January, Dollywood brings tens of thousands of people to the area to enjoy classic rides, delicious food and an array of Dolly-themed attractions. But beyond the park, Pigeon Forge is an excellent homebase for exploring the natural wonders of the Great Smoky Mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular national park in the U.S. for good reason. Across more than 500,000 pristine acres, outdoor adventurers will find a playground filled with hiking and mountain biking trails, scenic drives, cascading waterfalls, abundant wildlife and much more. 

Where To Stay In Pigeon Forge: Laurel Crest Resort

Appalachian Getaway: McGaheysville, Virginia

For another excellent Appalachian getaway option, head to McGaheysville, Virginia, located in the heart of the lovely Shenandoah Valley. There’s no theme park in her honor, but this destination is the birthplace of a different country music legend — none other than Patsy Cline. The pastoral beauty of the surrounding area, with rolling hills, lush greenery and blue skies that stretch on endlessly may inspire you to write a few country songs yourself! But there’s a lot more to get up to in McGaheysville, including the acclaimed Brix & Columns Vineyards, offering some of Virginia’s very best wines in an exquisite setting, and the Cave Hill Farms Brewery, serving finely crafted beers in a 18th century farmhouse. Simpler times await in McGaheysville! 

Where To Stay in McGaheysville: The Summit at Massanutten

Laid-Back In The Sunshine State: Siesta Key, Florida

Located just a short drive from Sarasota, Siesta Key offers travelers in search of sun, sand and serenity a perfect escape. The eight-mile-long island on Florida’s spectacular Gulf Coast is laid-back but luxurious, with white-sand beaches and turquoise waters that practically beg you to spread out a towel and forget your cares. But it’s not all relaxation in the region. For eco-tourists, both Myakka River State Park and Oscar Scherer State Park offer glimpses of Florida’s unique wildlife, from alligators to a dazzling selection of migratory birds. And you’re never far from the water in Siesta Key, with plenty of opportunities to go jet skiing, parasailing or deep-sea fishing. 

Where To Stay In Siesta Key: Hyatt Siesta Key Beach – A Hyatt Residence Club

Historic Flavor & Coastal Charm: St. Augustine, Florida

Over on Florida’s other coast, St. Augustine is a place steeped in history; in fact, it’s arguably the longest continually inhabited city in the United States, having been founded all the way back 1585. The lovely Spanish architecture you’ll see here is a reminder of this legacy, as are several historic landmarks, including Ponce de Leon’s famed “Fountain of Youth” archaeological park and the Castillo de San Marcos, a 450-year-old Spanish fortress. Beyond the history, there are more than enough 21st century experiences for all ages to enjoy in St. Augustine, from spacious beaches (Vilano Beach is a local favorite), celebrity-designed golf courses and dolphin cruises that get you up-close with friendly marine mammals. 

Where To Stay In St. Augustine: Grande Villas at World Golf Village

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