From the majestic Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee to the sun-drenched shores of Destin, Florida, the Southern part of the United States is home to some of the most beautiful vacation spots in the country. Whether one seeks outdoor adventures, historic charm, or simply a moment of tranquility, these Southern gems promise unforgettable experiences and stunning vistas at every turn.
This article lists some of the prettiest places to vacation in the Southern US that are sure to mesmerize visitors with their everlasting charm. So, put on the adventure gear and get ready to be captivated by the sheer beauty of the best southern vacation destinations that never fail to enchant and dazzle tourists.
10 Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina with mountains in the background
Situated in the western part of North Carolina, Asheville is one of the most beautiful places in the southern US; it’s a vibrant city nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The city is surrounded by breathtaking natural landscapes allowing visitors to explore the scenic hiking trails and waterfalls and indulge in outdoor activities such as whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and zip-lining.
Besides the natural beauty, Asheville is renowned as the craft beer capital of the Southeast and boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the United States. Beer enthusiasts can enjoy a wide variety of locally brewed beers and visit popular breweries in the area.
Popular Attractions in Asheville:
Appalachian Trail, Biltmore Estate, River Arts District, and Basilica of Saint Lawrence
9 Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia, offers plenty to do and see and is among the prettiest places in the southern US to visit. It is a charming city located on the Atlantic coast, which offers a delightful blend of history, culture and natural beauty. Savannah’s Historic District is one of the highlights of the city for its well-preserved architecture, oak-lined cobblestone streets, and beautiful gardens.
The city is also known for its spooky tales and ghostly legends. Tourists can take ghost tours that offer an intriguing way to explore the city’s haunted history through various haunted locations. Another popular tourist activity in the city is the Savannah River cruise which offers guests scenic views of the city skyline, live entertainment and a glimpse of the city’s rich history.
Popular Attractions in Savannah:
Forsyth Park, River Street, Bonaventure Cemetery, and Telfair Museums
8 Charleston, South Carolina
Skyline of Charleston, South Carolina over the Ashley River
The city of Charleston in South Carolina is a historic and picturesque city known for its well-preserved architecture, southern charm, and rich cultural heritage. One of the most notable attractions in the city is Charleston’s Historic District, a designated National Historic Landmark known for its cobblestone streets, antebellum mansions, and historic buildings.
Besides the historical heritage, Charleston is surrounded by stunning plantations and gardens, providing a glimpse into the city’s glorious past. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Middleton Place, and Drayton Hall are among the notable plantation sites open to the public.
Popular Attractions in Charleston:
The Battery, Fort Sumter. Charleston City Market, Waterfront Park, and Folly Beach
7 New Orleans, Louisiana
Historic buildings on Bienville Street in the French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
Located on the Mississippi River, New Orleans, Louisiana, is one of the best vacation destinations in the south US. It’s a vibrant and culturally rich city influenced by a mix of French, African, and American cultures that offers a one-of-a-kind experience. From the iconic shotgun houses to the elegant mansions of the Garden District, the city’s architecture is a visual delight.
The highlight of the city is the French Quarter, a historic neighborhood known for its lively atmosphere, charming architecture and vibrant music scene. Visitors can explore the narrow, pictureque streets, visit iconic landmarks, and enjoy the lively ambiance of Bourbon Street.
Popular Attractions in New Orleans:
Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, Garden District, and Mississippi Riverboat Cruise
6 Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located in Tennessee and extending to North Carolina, is among the most beautiful vacations in the South US; it’s a magnificent natural treasure renowned for its stunning landscapes, including the ancient mountains, lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and diverse wildlife that offer breathtaking vistas, especially during the fall when the foliage turns vibrant shades of red, orange, and gold.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a vast network of fantastic hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail, and Alum Cave Trail leading to the iconic Chimney Tops. Visitors can also enjoy camping, fishing, horseback riding, cycling and watching wildlife. The place also features various accommodation options such as campgrounds, lodges, and cabins, providing a serene vacation in the southern US
Popular Attractions in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
Cades Cove, Dark Sky Park, Mountain Farm Museum, Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and Grotto Falls
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is famous for its synchronous firefly displays, where thousands of fireflies synchronize their flashing patterns. So, plan a trip during the peak firefly viewing season in late spring to experience this majestic spectacle.
5 Destin, Florida
Aerial view of the marina along the Destin coastline.
Destin, Florida, is a popular vacation destination on the Emerald Coast, known for its crystal-clear waters. The main draw of Destin is its beautiful shores, some of which can rival the best beaches in the US. The soft, powdery white sand and turquoise waters create a pictureque backdrop for relaxation and water activities.
Some of the popular water activities in the area include swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, kayaking and paddleboarding. The area is also known for its vibrant marine life and the chance to spot dolphins and sea turtles. Visitors can charter boats for fishing excursions or join fishing tournaments held throughout the year.
Popular Attractions in Destin:
Henderson Beach State Park, Crystal Beach, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, and Destin Harbor Boardwalk
4 Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Harbor Town, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Located in South Carolina, Hilton Head Island is a renowned resort town with lots to do and see. It’s also a barrier island known for its pristine beaches, world-class golf courses, and natural beauty. The Island boasts 12 miles of stunning Atlantic Ocean coastline, offering a variety of beautiful sandy beaches.
The island is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering opportunities for biking and hiking along an extensive network of trails that wind through pictureque landscapes, including marshes, forests, and beachfront areas. Visitors can also enjoy boat tours, rent kayaks or paddleboards, or simply relax and take in the scenic views.
Popular Attractions in Hilton Head Island:
Coligny Beach Park, Harbor Town Lighthouse, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, and Folly Field Beach Park
3 Austin, Texas
Aerial view of Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas, is the capital city of the state and a vibrant cultural hub known for its music, outdoor spaces and diverse culinary offerings. The city is often referred to as the “Live Music Capital of the World” for its thriving music scene and festivals showing a wide range of genres.
Besides the music, Austin offers a plethora of outdoor recreation spaces, such as Zilker Park and the picturesque Lady Bird Lake, where visitors can go kayaking, paddle boarding, or take a leisurely walk along the various scenic trails.
Popular Attractions in Austin:
The State Capitol building, The Bullock Texas State History Museum, South Congress Avenue, and East Sixth Street
Learn how to get around in Austin, Texas, before visiting; it’s one of the most beautiful US cities in the South to visit, but it can also be a hectic city to navigate and travel around in.
2 Sedona, Arizona
A picturesque view of Sedona, Arizona
Sedona, Arizona, is also one of the most beautiful southern vacation destinations; it is a breathtaking desert town featuring stunning desert beauty, spiritual energy, and outdoor recreational opportunities. The town is renowned for its striking red rock formations, which create a stunning natural backdrop, offering a picturesque setting for hiking, photography, and awe-inspiring views.
Additionally, the Coconino National Forest in Sedona is famous for ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and off-road adventures. The region also allows Jeep and helicopter tours offering unique ways to explore the rugged landscape.
Popular Attractions in Sedona:
Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Butte, West Fork Trail, Devil’s Bridge, Chapel of the Holy Cross, and Oak Creek Canyon
Despite its arid desert landscape, Sedona is prone to sudden and intense flash floods, particularly during the monsoon season. So, plan your trip accordingly and avoid hiking or driving through low-lying areas, dry washes, or canyons during or after heavy rainfall.
1 KeyWest, Florida
Dock in Key West, Florida, USA
Key West, Florida, is another one of the most beautiful vacation spots in the southern US. It’s a stunning tropical paradise at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys, featuring a laid-back atmosphere with colorful architecture and vibrant culture, offering a unique blend of history, natural beauty and lively entertainment.
The highlight of the area is Key West’s Old Town, a charming and historic district filled with colorful Victorian-style homes, boutique hotels, art galleries, and vibrant shops. Another one of the best places in Key West to visit is Duval Street, which offers excellent nightlife. Plus, Duval Street is home to local restaurants, bars with happy hours, and food tours.
What’s more, Key West is famous for its vintage beach culture, the popular Key West Lighthouse (which people can climb), and various pristine beaches. The warm, clear waters are home to vibrant coral reefs, shipwrecks, and a diverse array of marine life, offering visitors to engage in a range of activities such as snorkeling, diving, kayaking, paddleboarding and fishing.
Popular Attractions in Key West:
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, Duval Street, Key West Aquarium, and Key West Conch Tour Train