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America’s Southern States offer an abundance of vibrant culture, stunning landscapes and quintessential country hospitality. With so much to see, eat and experience, it’s a destination perfect for a road trip, which is exactly what we did on our first ever visit to South USA. If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting for yourself or are in the midst of planning a trip, here’s a look at what we got up to and a few things I wish we’d had the chance to experience!
Our adventure began in the home of country music, Nashville, Tennessee. A destination deeply rooted in music, art and creativity, it served as the perfect starting point for our road trip.
1. Loveless Cafe has been serving up real southern food since it first opened in 1951. An easy 30-minute drive from the city, I recommend starting your day here enjoying their famous homemade biscuits and classics like chicken and waffle.
2. Make your way to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to explore memorabilia and tributes to music icons like Kacey Musgraves, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Be sure to peruse Hatch Show Print’s Haley Gallery, a colourful display from the design shop behind the music industry’s woodblock print posters for over 140 years!
3. Visit the Grand Ole Opry, a stage tasked with showcasing country legends and shaping the sound of country music since 1925. Graced by names like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson, it’s an incredible piece of history. If you can, take a guided a tour and catch a show
4. Show your love for the dazzling and distinctive city by snapping a photo in front of the ‘I Believe in Nashville,’ mural at The Basement East.
5. Indulge in another beloved Tennessee icon with a guided tour of Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. Learn how their distinct whiskey is loving crafted and treat your tastebuds to a sample or two. Want to delve deeper? Follow the Tennessee Whiskey Trail and explore 26 distilleries throughout the state.
6. From Nelson’s Green Brier, head directly to The Continental, for a delicious dinner. Here, award-winning chef Sean Brock showcases his love for American cuisine in an exciting menu boasting perfectly cooked prime rib, apple beignets and so much more.
7. Slip into your party shoes and head down to the Honky Tonk Highway, a dazzling display of neon lights, revellers and live music. Learn to line dance at the Wildhorse Saloon or sip on Tenneessee whiskey while listening to country crooners serenade you at a local spot.
8. See another side to Tennessee, bidding Nashville farewell as you drive 5-6 hours to the spectacular Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the mist-covered mountains are home to bears, elk, wild turkeys and abundance of walking trails to explore.
We only had time to visit to Nashville and the Great Smoky Mountains but there’s so much more to Tennessee! If you can, I recommend extending your stay to take in more of this incredible destination and include visits to:
9. Sevierville, home town of the legendary Dolly Parton, adventure parks and outdoor adventures, museums, galleries, boutiques and so much more.
10. Memphis, a city deeply rooted in America’s music history and the perfect place to tuck into mouth-watering BBQ. Sample charcoal ribs, brisket and pulled pork at famed local spot, The Rendezvous, serving up incredible eats since the 1940s!
11. Fedexforum to catch the Memphis Grizzlies face off on the court. Soak in the electric atmosphere, watching every block, dunk and alley-oop with a cold drink and hot snack in hand.
12. Gatlinburg, an arts and craft community nestled among the Great Smoky Mountains. Pursue works by talented local artisans, spend your days outdoors exploring waterfalls and hiking trails and traversing the Gatlinburg Sky Bridge.
As we crossed the border, our adventure continued into North Carolina where we delved deeper into South USA’s arts and crafts communities, historical sites and natural beauty. Making our way through the Great Smoky Mountains, we arrived in scenic Asheville, a wholesome town with a big heart.
13. Time your visit just right and you can immerse yourself in the Friday night drum circle, held in the centre of town from 5-6pm, offering the chance to truly experience the local spirit and sense of community.
14. Wake up on Saturday morning and mosey down to the colourful Asheville City Markets, a hub of fresh produce, delicious food, arts, crafts, cute dogs, clothing and artisanal goods. I recommend stocking up on local goodies for a picnic later in the day.
15. Explore the unique River Arts District, a series of warehouses and mills transformed into workshops for hundreds of artists including painters, glass-blowers, metal and wood-workers, jewellery artisans and potters.
16. Spend a few hours exploring Asheville on foot, pausing to enjoy a great cup of coffee or delicious bite to eat at one of the many local cafes dotted throughout town and snap photos of historic buildings like Pack’s Tavern.
17. Take a short drive outside Asheville’s city centre to the historic Biltmore Estate, America’s largest private home built at the turn of the century by George Vanderbilt. There’s a wide range of activities to fill a full day or afternoon, including tours, food and wine experiences, horse rides and animal encounters.
With so much to experience in this beautiful and diverse region, you could easily extend your time in North Carolina and include visits to:
18. America’s highest suspension footbridge, the Mile High Swinging Bridge, located in Linville and providing spectacular, 360-degree panoramic views of Grandfather Mountain.
19. Nanthala Outdoor Centre in Bryson City, home to exhilarating outdoor activities like zip lining, tubing, kayaking, white water rafting and over 120 river and land-based itineraries to choose from.
20. Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, to soak in all the noise, energy and heart-pumping excitement of NASCAR. Iconic American experiences don’t get much better than this!
21. Pinehurst Golf Club to slow down the pace, immerse yourself in nature and enjoy all nine courses followed by food and drinks at one of the many mouth-watering spots dotted around the Resort.
Saying goodbye to North Carolina, we hopped in the car and made our way to South Carolina, covering some 268 miles over 4 hours from Asheville to Charleston. It’s here we experienced a destination famous for its old-world charm, fascinating history and friendly locals.
22. On the way from Asheville to Charleston, make a stop at Ronnie’s Ribs. Serving up authentic South Carolina BBQ crafted by postmaster Ronnie Timmons, you’ll love the mouth-watering ribs, BBQ sandwiches and wings all served with Ronnie’s unique sauces.
23. Nothing can quite prepare you for the elegance and glamour of Charleston, a city founded way back in 1670. I recommend slowing things down and exploring on foot, wandering past pastel houses, horse-drawn carriages and magnificent oak trees. Make your way through the French Quarter and Battery districts, exploring The Battery promenade and Waterfront Park as well.
24. Wander through the historic Charleston City Market, established in the 1970’s. Located in downtown Charleston, it covers four blocks offering an abundance of unique artwork, homewares and artisanal goods, hand-crafted food, jewellery and so much more. Be sure to look out for sweetgrass baskets, a traditional Gullah craft originating in West Africa and passed on through generations.
25. Peruse the vibrant facades of Charleston’s iconic Rainbow Row, a string of brightly-coloured houses located along the waterfront. First constructed around 1740, history and beauty combine to create one of the city's most famous sites.
26. Dine at Hall’s Chophouse, famous for exceptional steaks, seafood and chops. For an unforgettable experience, time your visit to coincide with Gospel Brunch. Diners are treated to delicious food and a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience, graced by gospel singers filling the room with powerful, ethereal and joyful music you’ll not experience anywhere else.
27. Founded in 1681, a visit to Boone Hall Plantation is an important stop. Learn about the lives of African Slaves from descendants of Gullah people and take a guided tour through the slave cabins, a powerful opportunity to bear witness to history. It is a moving and emotional experience.
There’s no shortage of beauty in South Carolina and, honestly, I could’ve easily spent a few weeks slowly making my way through the state, taking in as much of it as possible. If you can extend your stay a little longer, you may like to include visits to:
28. Myrtle Beach, located along the coastline and offering some 60 miles of stunning beaches, entertainment, great food and sun-drenched fun. Ride the 187-foot Ferris wheel, explore The Market Common, explore Brookgreen Gardens and ride roller coasters at The Family Kingdom Amusement Park.
29. Skull Creek Boathouse and get cosy overlooking the water while tucking into delectable seafood like Alaskan King Crab, lobster tail, seared scallops, Jambalaya and the traditional southern low country boil!
30. Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk to explore the waterfront boardwalk lined with bars and restaurants offering delicious food, cold drinks and live music. Tuck into wood-fired pizzas, shrimp and grits, chargrilled steaks, slow-roasted prime rib and key lime pie.
Our time in South USA was nothing short of fantastic. A destination we’d dreamed of visiting for years, it far exceeded our expectations! Nothing can prepare you for the beauty and history waiting around every corner, all topped off with incredible food, unique experiences and country hospitality. If you’ve ever thought of visiting, don’t put it off any longer.
Together with videographer husband, Matt, Phoebe runs travel-based YouTube channel and blog, Little Grey Box. Their entertaining and inspiring videos share practical travel tips and great insights on the best things to see, do and eat in each destination they visit!
With over 6.4 million views on YouTube, Little Grey Box has serves up the very best travel guides perfect for anyone planning their next adventure. Make sure you check out the Little Grey Box YouTube Channel and Blog and follow their social pages below: