9 Southern Trips to Add to Your Retirement Bucket List

Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

You've done the daily grind. You've worked the hours. You've divvied up the vacation days. Now you're finished. You're retired . *cue popping the champagne bottle* What now? Even if you're someone who gets bored easily, there's something fabulous about having nowhere to be. Because when you go somewhere, it can be somewhere special. That's where these great retirement trips come in. We've got your newly-retired bucket list lined up, and now you've actually got the time to check off every destination. Walk the South's historic cobblestone streets, take a bite of the South's most iconic dishes , attend the South's biggest horse race (or rodeo!), or embark on a road trip that traverses mountain country or moseys along an old Florida highway. Just pick one of these trip ideas, and get moving. Carpe that diem.

01 of 09

Walk the South's Most Historic Streets

Charleston's Rainbow Row Homes
Peter Frank Edwards

Charleston, South Carolina

Anyone that's been to Charleston knows that this historic city—cobblestone streets, old churches, buzzy restaurant scene, waterfront views, and all—is something every Southerner should experience at least once. Maybe that's why our readers have voted it the South's Best City for three years running.

As our editor-in-chief likes to say, "Charleston is a city to be savored, not devoured." Peek into quiet gardens and courtyards, roam around historic church graveyards, take a ghost tour or two, smell the floral scent coming off the window boxes along Rainbow Row, and explore a city that's more than 350 years old.

02 of 09

Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
Robbie Caponetto

Blue Ridge, Georgia

Imagine driving through a kaleidoscope bursting in yellow, orange, and red—that's what awaits travelers winding their way down this iconic road in the North Georgia mountains during the fall months.

Stay in the cozy mountain town of Blue Ridge , and embark on a set of autumnal pursuits like apple picking at Mercier Orchards (which has been in business over 70 years), riding the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway , or hiking a nearby scenic stretch of the Appalachian Trail (talk about bucket list!).

03 of 09

Go on a Southern Food Tour

Oyster-and-Shrimp Po' Boys
Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Ginny Branch

New Orleans, Louisiana

Where do we start? Undoubtedly, it has to be the most perfect sandwich in the world , the New Orleans po'boy. From there, check off a list of dishes including (but not limited to) gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, crawfish étouffée, and boudin; restaurants like Commander's Palace, Arnaud's, Cochon Butcher, Dooky Chase's, and Willa Jean will make it easy.

End your tour with a basket of fresh-from-the-fryer, sugar-dusted beignets from Café Du Monde, and you've just tasted over 300 years of Creole and Southern cuisine.

04 of 09

Attend a Real Texas Rodeo

Attend a real Texas rodeo
Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

Fort Worth, Texas

If you haven't been to the Stockyards, get ready for a culture shock. Walking the streets, you'll pass a saloon, a saddle shop, a custom cowboy hat store, and a rodeo coliseum (dating back to 1908), and you'll think "Where am I?" In all seriousness, the Fort Worth Stockyards give a glimpse of Old Texas that people, distracted by the glitz and glamour of nearby Dallas, often forget.

Every Friday and Saturday night, folks saddle up to the Stockyards Rodeo inside the Cowtown Coliseum (yes, really) and watch cowboys compete in riding and roping contests. Once you're feeling nice and Texan, head to Billy Bob's Texas, the world's largest honky tonk.

05 of 09

Explore One of the South's Best Small Towns

Fairhope Alabama Dock at Sunset
Robbie Caponetto

Take your pick: Beaufort, South Carolina for slow, waterfront Lowcountry living; Fairhope, Alabama for Spanish moss-draped charm steeped in literary history; Columbia, Tennessee for an old-fashioned historic square feel; or Cleveland, Mississippi for Delta blues and world-famous tamales that can be found just minutes away.

The South is spilling over with small towns worth visiting, and there's no better time to start checking off the list than right now.

06 of 09

Get a Taste of Old Florida

Get a taste of Old Florida
Yvette Cardozo/Getty Images

Apalachicola, Florida

Apalachicola, part of Florida's Forgotten Coast, is famous for its wild bay oysters, but harvesting is temporarily shut down in an attempt to rebuild the population after environmental challenges. The good news is you can still fill up on Old Florida deliciousness, including shrimp, crab cakes, grouper, and farm-raised oysters. Local favorites include The Owl Cafe , Up the Creek Raw Bar , and Hole in the Wall Seafood.

With a quaint downtown and quiet beaches nearby like St. George Island and Cape San Blas, this trip is a bonafide beach retreat.

07 of 09

Pay homage to the King of Rock and Roll

Pay homage to the King of Rock and Roll
Stan Honda/Getty Images

Memphis, Tennessee

Graceland has come a long way: What started as a simple tour of Elvis' Tennessee mansion has now become an entire world showcasing Elvis' vintage cars, airplanes, memorabilia, and more. While in Memphis, be sure to tour Sun Studio , where Elvis recorded his first single, and of course it'd be a sin not to eat a plate (or two, or three) of Memphis' signature smoky pork barbecue. You can't go wrong at Central BBQ, one of our recent South's Best Barbecue picks.

08 of 09

Attend a Kentucky Horse Race

Zero George's Mint Julep
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Rachael Burrow

Louisville, Kentucky

And it doesn't have to be the Derby at Churchill Downs—though it is hard to pass up "the most exciting two minutes in sports" and its mint juleps and the parade of spectacular hats. Once the Kentucky Derby is crossed off the bucket list, you can head over to Keeneland in nearby Lexington for the Blue Grass Stakes race.

While you're traipsing across the Bluegrass State, don't forget to follow along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail , which features over 30 classic and craft distilleries.

09 of 09

Book a stay at The Greenbrier

The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV
Bill and Albanese

White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

Try finding a better opening line than " America's Resort since 1778 ." That can't really be topped, right? Guests from all over the South have been attracted to this classic resort for its mineral springs and stunning setting in the Allegheny Mountains—and a set of historic guests that includes U.S. Presidents and royalty have made it an icon. (Around 27 of our country's presidents reside on the guest list.) Round it all out with being home to one of the South's Best Restaurants by State , Prime 44 West, and we're sold.

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