Deep South Traveling

One of the most egregious mistakes people make about the South and Southerners is that residents of this corner of America are all the same. In fact, each Southern state has its own unique accent, cultures and traditions, with regions within each state sometimes vastly different from others. Historically the South consisted of mostly Protestants from the British Isles and African Americans brought in as slaves, with South Louisiana like an island with its Catholic French and Spanish ancestry and the New Orleans melting pot. But because of geographical differences and the influx of other immigrants, each region became unique.

The South as a whole can be divided into many sub-regions, the largest being the Deep South, once defined for the rich soil used for growing cotton. Today, Southerners consider the Deep South as that area hugging the Gulf of Mexico, a region filled with live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss that reaches over to the Atlantic and slightly up the East Coast. South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and parts of Louisiana fit into this category.

Appalachian Mountains

Appalachian Mountains

The Deep South has much to offer the traveler. Lovers of both early American history and the Civil War will want to visit Georgia’s many historic sites, from its Civil War battlefields to the hip college town of Athens, home to the University of Georgia, the oldest state-chartered university in the United States. Heading towards the coast is the historic and charming city of Savannah with its delightful town squares and ancient cotton warehouses. Nearby are miles of Low Country marshlands, islands and rivers with Charlestown, South Carolina, to the north, another charming Southern city seeped in American history.

Quartz from the Appalachian Mountains makes its way to the Florida Panhandle through rivers and streams and that’s why the “Emerald Coast” offers dazzling beaches of quartz sand along the Gulf. The deep-water “Fathom Curve” that exists close to Destin, plus the unique beaches, gives this area its name, for the waters are indeed breathtakingly emerald. Much of the Panhandle beaches have been preserved, so natural beach settings are coupled with beachfront destinations.

Bust of Rosa Parks Photo credit: Chere Coen

Bust of Rosa Parks
Photo credit: Chere Coen

Alabama offers a wide range of diversity, from Gulf Shores beaches to the northeast mountains to the innovations of NASA in Huntsville. One of the South’s most inspiring experiences is the Alabama Civil Rights Museum Trail. Visitors may walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, learn about the Montgomery Bus Boycott at the Rosa Parks Museum and follow in the Rev. Martin Luther King’s footsteps, from his Montgomery parsonage to his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Next door in Mississippi visitors can learn the origins of America’s music, visiting the birthplace of Elvis and the Delta, land of the blues. For years the state of Mississippi has been erecting markers honoring its music and visitors can experience these historic spots with the Mississippi Blues Trail and the Country Music Trail. Naturally, Mississippi is home to numerous music festivals as well.

Bend in the Mississippi River

Bend in the Mississippi River

It’s also been said that something in the Mississippi water produces great writers, for the state is home to literary greats Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Tennessee Williams and John Grisham, among others. The Deep South as a whole has more than its share of outstanding writers and visitors can view where they created in the Southern Literary Trail.

And what’s a trip to the Deep South without visiting New Orleans, that eclectic, charismatic city where care forgot? New Orleans has something for everyone, a playground for those looking to escape inhibitions, a food-lovers heaven, a unique slice of American history and fun for the entire family with its parks, festivals and award-winning zoo and aquarium.

The big question may be when to visit. Most of the year, Deep South weather is a joy — colorful springs, warm falls for outdoor fun and football and mild winters attracting snow birds (the people kind).

If you are interested in visiting southern states, check out our Charleston Vacation Packages and start planning your next vacation!

Cheré Coen is a Lafayette, La., travel writer and author, but a native of New Orleans. Her latest book is “Exploring Cajun Country: A Tour of Historic Acadiana.” Follow her at WeirdSouth.blogspot.com

 

Charming Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina, must be pretty special to be voted the “top city destination in the world” by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler. And it is special. From its antebellum architecture and historic attractions to a thriving dining scene, cultural treasures, nearby beaches and world-class golf, Charleston is one of a kind.

History is the major draw here. Founded in 1670, Charleston was the wealthiest seaport south of Philadelphia during Colonial times.  It has survived earthquakes, hurricanes, and attacks from the Spanish, French, Native Americans, pirates, and the British during the Revolutionary War. The Civil War began here when Confederate troops fired the first shots at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. (Fort Sumter is only accessible through boat tours, but it can also been seen clearly from dramatic viewpoints around the harbor such as Battery Park, Patriots’ Park, the USS Yorktown, and the colorful townhouses known as Rainbow Road.) Charleston’s prosperity was wiped out during the years of war and reconstruction. But the city has rebuilt its economy while preserving and restoring its rich architectural heritage.

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Cobblestone Street in Charleston

The best time to visit Charleston is spring (April through June), when blooming azaleas, magnolias and wisteria accent cobblestone streets and lush gardens. The weather is mild – the average daily high is 75 degrees and the low is 54, with 52 inches of rain annually. Spring and summer are the busiest seasons, but most summertime visitors hit the nearby beaches to escape the sticky heat. Fall is the shoulder season, so the streets are less crowded. While the weather varies widely in October and November, you can easily enjoy the city’s beauty before grey winter days arrive.

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Morris Island Lighthouse in Charleston

Charleston lies where the Ashley and Cooper merge at Charleston Harbor. But within a few miles are the sand dunes, sea oats and calm ocean waves of barrier islands such as Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island and Seabrook Island. Kiawah Island is an upscale retreat with pristine beaches, internationally-known golf courses and sweeping views of the low country marshes. Charming Folly Beach on Folly Island is a popular resort boasting vacation rentals, live music and fresh seafood.

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Fresh seafood

Speaking of food: The dominant local style is low country cuisine, which originated in the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia. Low country cuisine combines ingredients commonly found in the area (native seafood such as shrimp, oysters, and crabs, and vegetables including rice, potatoes and okra) through such cultural influences Cajun, Caribbean, Southern and African). She-crab soup, shrimp and grits, and the stew-like low country boil are among the best-loved dishes. Some of the top low country restaurants in the area include 82 Queen and Poogan’s Porch and Slightly North of Broad.

However, Charleston is more than low country cuisine, with a slew of nationally-recognized restaurants and chefs (including three consecutive James Beard award winners). Husk – named best new restaurant in America for 2011 by Bon Appetit – serves bold dishes made only with ingredients grown in the South. FIG was an early farm-to-table restaurant that defines contemporary Charleston with its fresh fish and local vegetables. For dessert, you can’t beat Cupcake, where the name says it all.

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Lush vegetation in Charleston

A city with so much history is naturally filled with museums, gardens and well-preserved homes. The Museum Mile is a section of Meeting Street that is home to six museums, five historic houses, four scenic parks and numerous public buildings. Several estates surround the city, such as Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, a former 17,000-acre cotton plantation with a formal garden nestled among moss-draped live oaks. Magnolia Plantation includes a guided tour of the home and a one-hour tram tour of the estate’s gardens, wetlands and marshes. Drayton Hall on the Ashley River is the only plantation to survive both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

Families will enjoy the South Carolina Aquarium on Charleston Harbor, the most visited attraction in Charleston. Nine major exhibit areas allow visitors of all ages to experience the natural environments and aquatic life found in estuaries, mountains and streams across the Palmetto State. At Charles Towne Landing, site of the first English settlement in the Carolinas, youngsters can visit “The Adventure”, a replica of a 17th century sailing vessel. The landing is also home to the Animal Forest, a natural habitat zoo that features animals such as alligators, black bears, wolves, puma, and bisons that are (or were) indigenous to the region.

The Charleston area offers a rare combination of history, outdoor recreation, Southern charm and cosmopolitan sophistication that will leave you agreeing with savvy travelers that Charleston should be on everyone’s “bucket list”.

Check out California Tours Charleston Vacations and start planning your vacation today!

Bobby L. Hickman is a freelance travel and business journalist based in Atlanta who specializes in the Southeast. His work has appeared in such publications as Southern Living, Georgia Trend, and TravelMuse.com. You can contact him through www.blhickman.com