The Greatest Day Trips To Take In Every Southern State

Myrtle Beach Marshwalk
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

Blessed with mountain ranges, breezy beaches, cool cities, charming small towns , sprawling natural parks, and historical landmarks, the South comes with an impressive bucket list of places to entertain any family, couple, or group of girlfriends from now until forever. In fact, every Southern state has at least one scenic highway to meander on any boring weekend, as well as a unique handful of top attractions and sights worth making a fun-filled day trip. Pack up the pimiento cheese and crank up the classics on the car radio—because we've rounded up the best day trip ideas in every Southern state, ranging from national parks to cultural landmarks to scenic vantage points. Whether you're jumping over state lines or sticking closer to home, these Southern day trips are bound to add a touch of adventure to any humdrum Saturday.

01 of 13

Alabama: The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Take a day drive down to Montgomery, Alabama's capital city enriched with Southern history, where you'll find groundbreaking new site, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and its accompanying Legacy Museum that both serve to educate, remember, and inspire those who walk the grounds. (When first opened, the national memorial attracted 100,000 visitors in its first 10 weeks, if that says how amazing it is.) Back downtown, you can see the bus stop where Rosa Parks waited for a ride that sparked the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the church Martin Luther King Jr. pastored.

Read more: The New National Monument You Must See in Montgomery, Alabama

02 of 13

Arkansas: Hot Springs National Park

Hot Spring, Arkansas
Art Meripol

This super unique national park deserves a spot on the bucket list, not only for the hot spring waters known to have medicinal properties ( according to old Native American legend ), but also for the pretty hiking trails and views that can be found on the neighboring Ouachita Mountain range. In downtown Hot Springs—the aptly named Arkansas town—you'll find quaint, historically-preserved blocks lined with boutiques, eateries, and bathhouses to fill the rest of your time. Have a soak and consider yourself cleansed and ready for the ride home.

Read more: Why Hot Springs, Arkansas, Belongs on Your Bucket List

03 of 13

Florida: Everglades National Park

Wow Factor: This 1.5-million-acre "river of grass" is the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere. It's been designated a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve.You'll Love If: You dug Wild Kingdom.Explore It: Take a tra
Photo by Robbie Caponetto

Located in South Florida, this national park consists of over 1.5 million acres of wetland just waiting to be explored. Take a short walk on the Anhinga Trail to spot cool wildlife like turtles, herons, and alligators; climb up Shark Valley's 65-foot observation tower for a perfect viewpoint of the famous Everglades; or paddle amongst the mangroves on Nine-Mile Pond. You might even come across one of Florida's beloved manatees. Many Southerners forget about this national park, but it's actually the largest subtropical wilderness in the country. So basically everywhere you turn, there is something really unique to discover.

Read more: The Florida Everglades Are America's Largest Subtropical Wilderness

04 of 13

Georgia: Atlanta Botanical Garden

Atlanta Botanical Garden
Alison Miksch

Peruse the most beautifully kept grounds in all the state of Georgia at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Located near Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta, this 30-acre destination is not only home to impressively groomed formal, rose, and Japanese gardens, but also the Kendeda Canopy Walk, which is a 600-foot-long skywalk that allows visitors to tour one of the city's last remaining urban forests from around 40 feet in the air through the treetops of the Storza Woods. Hint: It's even more stunning when draped in thousands of twinkling lights during Christmastime.

05 of 13

Kentucky: Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace
Art Meripol

This landmark Kentucky distillery has been around since its founding in 1792, which means it's got some serious bourbon history under its belt. So if you've ever wondered about the tradition and hype behind Kentucky bourbon, this is the place to visit. When able, register for one of the intimate complimentary tours—from their signature tour to bourbon fanatic-focused bourbon barrel tour—meant to show off the impressive Buffalo Trace grounds and teach visitors about how real Kentucky bourbon is made. No matter where you're coming from, you're bound to see some rolling hills and horse farms along the ride.

06 of 13

Louisiana: Steel Magnolia House

Steel Magnolia House in Natchitoches, LA
Robbie Caponetto

This iconic home featured in everyone's favorite movie about strong Southern women, Steel Magnolias , isn't just sitting idle and forgotten. It's now been converted to a charming bed and breakfast still reminiscent of the 80s dramedy. Inside, there are six suites named after the characters from the film, like the Shelby Room, which is outfitted in Shelby's (Julia Roberts) "signature" pink complete with a private bath featuring the same tub from one of the opening scenes. Visitors can also count on plenty of antiques and Steel Magnolias memorabilia—from costume sketches to behind-the-scenes photos—to make the trip to Natchitoches extra special. (Make sure to get a famous meat pie before you leave town.)

Read more: Why You Should Plan a Trip to the Steel Magnolia House B&B This Season

07 of 13

Maryland: The United States Naval Academy

Bancroft Hall of United State Naval Academy
Getty Images/gregobagel

Making your way to the breezy coastal town of Annapolis, Maryland, is a fun day trip in its own right. You can meander along centuries-old cobblestone roads, visit historic sites drenched in American history, and grab yourself a crab cake while you're at it. But hands down, the most stunning spot to hit when you're this far up the Eastern seaboard? The Naval Academy. The campus itself is so steeped in history that it's a bonafide National Historic Landmark in its own right. You're able to access the grounds to join a guided tour—or explore on your own—all the larger-than-life classical buildings that await around every corner, like Bancroft Hall (the largest dormitory in the world; and the prettiest, in our opinion) and the Naval Academy Chapel (which is still home to the crypt of the long-lost John Paul Jones).

Read more: Experience The Coastal Charm of Annapolis, Maryland, This Summer

08 of 13

Mississippi: Elvis Presley Birthplace

22. The King Still Reigns in Tupelo

Part of the Mississippi Blues Trail—which already solves all of your road trip planning—this historic museum site is located in Tupelo, Mississippi, birthplace of the king of rock 'n' roll himself. The pitstop includes the shotgun home where Elvis Presley was born in 1935, a museum, a chapel, the church he and his parents worshipped in when he was young, and bronze statues on the grounds that have a likeness to Elvis when he was both a child and at the height of his fame. Even if you're not a huge fan, it's surreal to see a slice of the humble history behind one of the music industry's biggest stars.

09 of 13

North Carolina: Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate House and Pond
Biltmore Estate

This day trip attraction is too big to overlook, which is exactly why it tops North Carolina's list. Originally a mansion belonging to the Vanderbilt family, the Asheville estate was built at the height of the Gilded Age in the 1800s and is now a living museum, inn, winery, and tour destination. (The 8,000-acre backyard is quite the day tour for those driving through town.) Visitors don't need to be staying at The Inn on Biltmore Estate to take in all the beauty and fun things it has to offer. Plus, plenty of hiking trails in the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and cute spots to shop and eat back in downtown Asheville make any quick trip well worth it.

10 of 13

South Carolina: Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade

Myrtle Beach Marshwalk
Robbie Caponetto

If you've never been to the birthplace of the Shag, now's the time to get yourself educated—and learn how to do the dance to real beach music. This classic Southern beach town is home to a 1.2-mile-long boardwalk full of ocean views, beach shops, good eats, and more. Once everything is back in the normal swing of things, head to The Bowery, a Myrtle Beach icon since its opening in 1944, for great live music. Nearby, Huntington Beach State Park makes a natural beach detour to round out the day. Grab a shell or two to take home as a souvenir.

Read more: The Best Things To Do in Myrtle Beach

11 of 13

Tennessee: Gatlinburg SkyLift Park

Gatlinburg SkyBridge
Marcus Watson

The South's first four-season scenic skylift, this Gatlinburg attraction is only one of the reasons that folks are flocking to the classic mountain town in the Smokies. Visitors can be taken from the heart of town 500 feet up to the top of Crockett Mountain, where the new SkyDeck waits with the best views of the Smoky Mountain vistas, as well as the iconic SkyBridge that lets visitors walk the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. Trust us, it's a photo worth framing. In the summer, this day trip destination offers blue skies and fun hikes; in the fall, you get sweeping fall color; and come Christmastime, the entire SkyBridge gets lit up with thousands of twinkling holiday lights. So basically, there's no bad time to visit.

Read more: Experience the Magic of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the South's Best Mountain Town 2020

12 of 13

Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg

College of William and Mary
Dennis Johnson/Getty Images

Consider your boredom solved with this day trip to the largest outdoor living history museum in the country. From fun family activities like walking amongst hundreds of restored (or recreated) 18th-century buildings—like the Raleigh Tavern, the Capitol, the Governor's Palace, and the Courthouse—Colonial Williamsburg is an adventure just ready to be taken. All you have to do is get in the car. If you're lucky, you might even catch some costumed Colonial reenactors doing their thing around the grounds. One thing's for sure: You won't get bored.

Read more: Discover the Charm of Williamsburg, Virginia, the South's Best Small Town 2020

13 of 13

West Virginia: New River Gorge Bridge

West Virginia River Rafting
Robbie Caponetto

Perhaps the most well-known sight in all of this nature-filled Southern state, the New River Gorge Bridge is just one photo-worthy opportunity found in the 70,000-plus-acre park. The bridge was originally constructed over 40 years ago to reduce a winding 40-minute drive down the mountain roads to less than a minute, and West Virginians and visitors alike are always grateful for the shortcut. We suggest taking advantage of the vast outdoor activities on your day trip, like hiking, canoeing, fishing, and picnicking. It's time for a wild West Virginia adventure.

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