The Cumberland River flowing through downtown Nashville.

11 Most Charming Cities In The Southern United States

It isn't all crawdads and alligators the closer one steps to the equator; in the great American South, there are hubs that act as a convergence for the most admirable of the Cheerwine people. These destinations are legendary for their contributions to music, cuisine, and history (both good times and hard times). One way or another, there is a distinctive ambiance that is widely defined as "Southern Charm," and each of these pleasant cities embodies it.

Charleston, South Carolina

The beautiful city of Charleston, South Carolina.

A city of Antebellum architecture and cobblestone streets, Southern charm is the bread and butter of Charleston. It is also home to the historic Battery Park, a defensive seawall and promenade that provides some surprisingly lovely views of Charleston Harbor. Rainbow Row, a series of thirteen colorful historic houses, is another iconic sight. The houses date back to 1740, and after a homeowner decided to paint one pink in 1931, it became a neighborhood trend. Regarding cuisine, seafood enthusiasts will be drawn to the city's Lowcountry cuisine, which blends traditional Southern, French, and West African flavors; it is aptly named after its geographical origin in Georgia's coast and the South Carolina low country. For history buffs, a visit to Fort Sumter (where the first shots of the Civil War were fired) is a must.

Savannah, Georgia 

The riverfront in Savannah, Georgia.
The beautiful riverfront in Savannah, Georgia.

City squares and moss-draped live oaks are impossible to exhaust, and Savannah certainly made the most of their city planners and arboriculturists. There are other spots that are lovely to walk through, such as the Historic District's well-preserved 18th and 19th-century facades and green public spaces. The hauntingly beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery, with its Gothic tombs and ethereal Spanish moss, is an unusual but captivating attraction; it is best to visit in the light of day before the phantoms come out. The city's darker history is unveiled through the cemetery's popular ghost tours, revealing tales of hauntings and Southern Gothic lore. One last hot spot that epitomizes Savannah's personality is Forsyth Park, which possesses a resplendent white fountain while offering a tranquil retreat amidst the city hustle.

Asheville, North Carolina 

Aerial view of Asheville, North Carolina.

Burrowed into the Appalachian Mountains, Asheville is known for the grandiose Biltmore Estate, America's largest home, and the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, often referred to as "America's Favorite Drive." Before all that, the city was settled and founded around 1785, and the oldest building it possesses is the Smith-McDowell House from 1840. Besides history, the city is a haven for artists, with its River Arts District housing numerous studios and galleries. Asheville's vibrant craft beer scene, with more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city, is a significant draw. In summary, the city holds appeal for all types as nature lovers can explore the surrounding mountains while foodies can indulge in locally-sourced Appalachian cuisine.

Nashville, Tennessee 

The Cumberland River flowing through downtown Nashville.
The Cumberland River flowing through downtown Nashville.

Nashville, the heart of country music, is the bedrock of legends like Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, Johnny Cash, and countless others. The Grand Ole Opry, a weekly country music stage concert, has shaped the industry since 1925. Nearby, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum showcases the genre's history through two expansive floors of exhibits. Nashville's music scene isn't just country, though; blues, rock, and pop can be heard emanating from the honky-tonks (dance halls) lining Broadway. Additionally, foodies should try the city's signature hot chicken, and civil-war era enthusiasts ought to visit the Belle Meade Plantation; bear in mind this is a place that should be treated as a memorial for the enslaved.

Austin, Texas 

Aerial view of Austin, Texas.
Aerial view of Austin, Texas.

The "Live Music Capital of the World" is another name for Austin, a city that embraces its weirdness. The root of that weirdness stems from the diversity of its culture, which is essentially a collection of liberals and progressives in the midst of an extremely conservative state. Furthermore, Texas is home to significant landmarks like the Texas State Capitol, one of America's most distinguished statehouses, and Zilker Park, a 350-acre haven for outdoor activities. Music lovers can explore countless venues or attend renowned music festivals like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits. The city's food scene ranges from gourmet food trucks to Tex-Mex restaurants. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy the natural beauty of Barton Springs Pool, a spring-fed swimming hole, or take a sunset bat-watching cruise to see the world's largest urban bat colony.

New Orleans, Louisiana 

The Mississippi River in New Orleans.
The Mississippi River in New Orleans.

A vibrant mix of French, African, and American cultures exists in the city of New Orleans, thanks to its wild history of international cohabitation. The French founded the city in 1718 and switched hands into Spanish control, then the French again, and finally, America bought it in 1803. The city's historic heart, the French Quarter, is famous for Bourbon Street's raucous nightlife, jazz music, and unique architecture. For a taste of tradition, try the beignets at Café du Monde or gumbo in any local restaurant. Explore the hauntingly beautiful above-ground tombs at the St. Louis Cemetery, or immerse yourself in the city's supernatural folklore on a ghost tour. Don't miss the lively music scene; after all, this city is the birthplace of jazz.

Richmond, Virginia

The James River in Richmond, Virginia.
The James River in Richmond, Virginia.

Virginia's capital, Richmond, is famous for its collection of museums and churches and its status as the capital of the Confederate States of America (albeit for less than five years). Moreover, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts houses an impressive collection spanning 5,000 years, while Hollywood Cemetery, a resting place for two U.S. presidents, has some unrivaled views of the James River. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the James River Park System, which includes whitewater rafting and quiet nature trails. Richmond's history is on display at the American Civil War Museum, and its flourishing food scene, with a particular focus on farm-to-table restaurants, is a great place to try out incredibly fresh platters. Don't forget to explore Carytown, known for its peculiar boutiques and the historic Byrd Theatre.

Birmingham, Alabama 

Aerial view of downtown Birmingham, Alabama.
Aerial view of downtown Birmingham, Alabama.

This seat of Jefferson County, Birmingham, is fascinating because many regard it as the birthplace of heavy metal. Other periods in its multifaceted history are displayed at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which provides an immersive journey through the struggles and triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement. Another oddity worth stopping by and visiting is the Vulcan Statue, the world's largest cast-iron statue, symbolizing Birmingham's roots in iron and steel production. Additionally, a trip to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is a must for motor enthusiasts, while food lovers can sample Southern barbecue and soul food at local favorites like Saw's BBQ. Last, hipsters engaged with the craft beer scene flock around breweries like the Good People Brewing Company.

St. Petersburg, Florida 

Aerial view of the marina at St. Petersburg, Florida.
Aerial view of the marina at St. Petersburg, Florida

St. Petersburg, known for its year-round sunshine and beautiful beaches, is a mark of pride for those who live on its adjacent coasts. The Dali Museum, housing the largest collection of Salvador Dali's works outside Europe, is rightfully attended by international pilgrims. For the more nature-inclined, Fort De Soto Park offers pristine beaches, kayak trails, and glimpses of wildlife. The city's modern-day art scene is evident in the Central Arts District, where one can explore numerous galleries or admire endless street murals. The Sunken Gardens, a century-old botanical paradise, is listed as one of the oldest roadside attractions in the United States. One last adventurous hub to check out is St. Pete Pier, a newly renovated waterfront district brimming with restaurants, shops, and Tampa Bay views.

Lexington, Kentucky

The beautiful Kentucky city of Lexington.

Horse racing and bluegrass are the heartbeats of Kentucky, and those obsessions come into full-figure in Lexington. The Kentucky Horse Park, a working horse farm and educational theme park, and Keeneland Racecourse, a world-renowned race track, are major attractions for that very reason. However, a day of races and betting would be incomplete without Lexington's nearby Bourbon distilleries, including the historic Buffalo Trace Distillery. Most of these distilleries offer tours and tastings that easily help explain why Kentucky Bourbon is "America's Official Native Spirit." Furthermore, a drive along the Old Frankfort Pike will reward participants with views of rolling bluegrass landscapes and historic horse farms. Last, the city's revitalized downtown area, with its Lexington Farmers' Market, offers a taste of local flavors and crafts.

Chattanooga, Tennessee 

Aerial of Chattanooga Tennessee TN Skyline
Aerial view of the skyline of Chattanooga, Tennessee, across the Tennesseee River.

Chattanooga is a regional hub nestled between the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau. The Tennessee Aquarium, featuring both freshwater and ocean ecosystems, is one of the world's largest freshwater aquariums. A trip up to Lookout Mountain offers a nice set of panoramic views, as well as attractions like Rock City's winding trails and the underground waterfall at Ruby Falls. For a breath of fresh air, many like to stop along the Chattanooga Riverwalk, a 13-mile greenway along the Tennessee River, which offers opportunities for walking, biking, and picnicking. The revitalized Southside District is also beloved because it provides a glimpse into the city's creative spirit - one can find family-owned restaurants, nightclubs, and comedy clubs here. Last but not least, the city's explosive Civil War history can be explored through the Battles for Chattanooga Museum.

From the coastal glories of Charleston and St. Petersburg to the mountain havens of Asheville and Chattanooga, the Southern United States is undoubtedly a region of diverse charm. Each city, with its unique rhythm and identity, contributes to its legendarily friendly reputation. Whether it's the melodic strum of a guitar in Nashville, the tantalizing aroma of barbecue in Birmingham, or the harmonious blend of cultures in New Orleans, each city has its own captivating narrative. So be careful; if you stop through, you might just find yourself permanently settled in an authentically American happy-ever-after.

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