Marietta, Georgia 

13 Most Charming Small towns in the American South

The southern US encompasses the loveliest natural sights, where rivers meet the ocean with beaches and lighthouses, while mountains exude a special vibe under persistent sunshine. The scenic enclaves along the coast and towns in the foothills are the epitome of the state's authentic flair. These small southern US towns offer popular anytime escape from the city into natural sights and unique attractions like scenic cruises and inland ventures through luscious parks. Make each day of vacation count by enjoying simple things in life and celebrate alongside locals at liquor-soaked events with traditional live Cajun music. The culture and hospitality will leave a soft spot in your heart and a nostalgic pull to the southern scape with the unique flavor of each vibrant town.

Abington, Virginia

Abington, Virginia
The beautiful town of Abington in Virginia. Image credit: J. Hendron/Flickr.

The ambient town of Abingdon rests idyllically in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Explore the charming streetscape sprinkled with scenic sights from the deep past amidst fun attractions for all ages, groups, and tastes of pursuit. The Abingdon Muster Grounds reveals secrets from colonial times through the American Revolution of the backcountry in Southwest Virginia. Visit the magnificent 18th-century restored White's Mill and buy some freshly stone-ground cornmeal.

The historically-charming scape is a joy to peruse under an artsy vibe and hotspots like the Barter Theatre at the Moonlite Drive-in. Delve into surrounding natural wonders via many hiking trails and camping opportunities underneath the peaking range. Take a glorious morning stroll amidst fresh-faced nature, or complete a day hike with a relaxing picnic. The impressive music series at the Abingdon Vineyards are even more fun over wine tastings. 

Aiken, South Carolina

 Aiken Spring Steeplechase
Aiken Spring Steeplechase in Aiken, South Carolina. Editorial credit: Hedley Lamarr /

Aiken is a charming equestrian community in South Carolina with a quaint downtown area and wooded trails all around. The small scape impresses with a glut of historic estates and archways, along with over a century-old Aiken Horse Show. Feel enrobed in southern authenticity and down-to-Earth hospitality amidst a vibrant culture of horse lovers. Choose from countless bed-and-breakfasts or a gracious inn along the picture-perfect scape for a base into the splendor of lush parks around.

Saddle up and go on a trail ride to the Hitchcock Woods, the Henderson Heritage Preserve, Aiken Arboretum Trail, or around the Boyd Pond. Stop by one of the several grand live oaks for a relaxing picnic with the horse. Let the animal rest and take the charming Aiken trolley for a perfect scope-out of everything the town has in store. There is the Aiken Art Annex, DuPont Planetarium, and the Center for African American History, Arts, and Culture.

Beaufort, South Carolina

Beaufort, South Carolina
Aerial view of Beaufort, South Carolina.

Southern Living's "The Small Town We Love" is set idyllically where inland rivers flow into the sea. Beaufort is the second-oldest city in the state, surrounded by tidal marshes with unique wildlife. Satisfy your lust for nature along the scenic Spanish Moss Trail with the best water views all around, or explore the seascape on a cruise with dolphin viewings. 

Beaufort boasts a scenic downtown area replete with historic sights amidst maritime scenery and riverfront dining. Succumb to your food gluttony any day with sea-to-table cuisine or at the Shrimp Festival in October. You can walk it off along the quiet streets lined with live oak trees and antebellum mansions or dance away at the Water Festival in July with energetic festivities.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Breaux bridge, Louisiana
The public library building in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Editorial credit: Victoria Ditkovsky /

The small town at the heart of Cajun country is the "Crawfish Capital of the World," with scenic dining down by the bayou. Only an hour away from Baton Rouge, Breaux Bridge lures visitors with legendary night-time Pont Breaux's food and traditional live Cajun music. Stroll through the 17,000 square feet Lagniappe Antiques Market to fill up on local culture, unique decor, and souvenirs. Revel in homespun Cajan and Creole food fare like liquor-soaked Zydeco brunches at Buck & Johnny's or flawless gumbo at Chez Jacqueline.

Extend your stay at the Maison Des Amis, a Caribbean-Creole property on the National Registry of Historic Homes, and take a day trip to the nearby Henderson and neighboring Lafayette. Nature fans love quick access to Lake Martin for splendid recreation at one of the country's ten best bird-watching spots within a gorgeous wildlife-filled preserve. Re-visit for the annual Crawfish Festival in May for food, drinks, and cultural sights amidst hundreds of thousands of attendees. Stay at the Maison Madeleine inn with cooking classes and bass fishing.

Dahlonega, Georgia

Aerial view of the Dahlonega Gold Museum in the central square of the town
Aerial view of the Dahlonega Gold Museum in the central square of the town. Editorial credit: Kyle J Little /

Nature played favorites with this charming town when Dahlonega literally struck gold in 1828 along its hilly scape. Set picturesquely at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town quickly prospered and continues thriving at natural mercy with wine tourism, pleasant weather, and outdoors at the doorstep. Take the scenic hiking trails to the mountains for rock climbing, or chase waterfalls around the area like the Cane Creek Falls. 

Dahlonega's "rich" history is alive along the vibrant streetscape and wonderfully laid out at the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site. Pan for gold with your family at the Crisson Gold Mine, followed by some adult time at the wineries and luscious vineyards around. The affordable wine tastings and free strolls feel luxurious for both poseurs and experts. Take a scenic ride around this giving area in Georgia via the Lumpkin-Union Loop.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Eureka Springs, Arkansas
A man playing a guitar in the downtown area of Eureaka Springs, Arkansas. Editorial credit: shuttersv /

The wistful town of Eureka Springs is an alluring hotspot within Southern Mountains in northwestern Arkansas. Explore the charming city center with Victorian flair flanked by winding mountainside streets and the entire downtown area listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Historic District captivates architects with a wealth of impeccable Victorian buildings and historic hotels; sight the wood and glass Thorncrown Chapel in the nearby hills.

While out and about, hike through the marvelous Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge on an excellent outdoor venture with various species sightings. Head to the beautiful Beaver Lake on a warm summer's day and enjoy waterside recreation along the banks, like boating, camping, fishing, and mountain biking.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

gulf shores, alabama
The gorgeous town of Gulf Shores on a bright sunny day.

The charming town of Gulf Shores is a scenic seaside escape at the state's southernmost rim in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a little coastal paradise in Alabama, with one of the nation's prettiest, Orange Beach. Bury your toes in Floridian-like white powder sands away from crowds and amenities at hand. The Wharf encompasses an entertainment complex with touring acts and a zip-line course. The popular honky-tonk, Florabama Roadhouse near the shore, offers five beachside bars and live music, including country music stars.

Try the Fisher's Upstairs Restaurant Orange Beach with James Beard nomination for "all things oyster," followed by an evening at the oyster dive bar with multistage music venue over Bushwacker ice cream-based cocktails. Enjoy a family-day at the historic Ft. Morgan, water and amusement park, or the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. There's also the pristine 7,000-acre Bon Secour National Wildlife refuge, while the Gulf State Park has a boutique feel amidst nature and pursuits like 2.5 miles of beaches, three lakes, and 27 miles of trails. 

Gulfport, Mississippi

Gulfport, Mississippi
Aerial view of the town of Gulfport.

The coastal Gulfport is famed for "mural Eden" along the eclectic Fishbone Alley, and the spectacular Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival during the holiday season attracts tens of thousands for dazzling illuminations and attractions. Enjoy fantastic food trucks, rides, and live performances along 40 acres of green-scape next to the majestic Gulf. Join the popular three-hour walking tour among five culinary establishments of downtown Gulfport.

Stay at the endearing Guest House at Gulfport Landing bed and breakfast from 1906 or the Almanett Hotel & Bistro with a cozy inn, private terraces, and dining over Mississippi Sound views. Beat the summer's heat with a small-batch icicle treat from the inventive Pop Bothers and visit the family-owned Triplett-Day Drug Co. soda fountain from the "Leave it to Beaver" glory days. There is also a ferry cruise to nearby barrier islands with historic sights like Fort Massachusetts from 1866 and idyllic, crowd-less beaches. 

Marietta, Georgia 

Marietta, Georgia 
Aerial view of Marietta, Georgia.

Marietta is a quaint southern townscape with rich history, just northwest of Atlanta. The community with deep southern roots welcomes warmly with a small but endlessly-charming Marietta Square and hospitable amenities. Dive into the wealth of boutiques, cafes, and wholesome pursuits like celebrating Gone with the Wind at the Gone at the Wind Museum.

Visit the 1845 cotton warehouse-turned-Marietta Museum of History with artifacts and displays about local lifestyles from the past. The Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is a great hike through history, with more nature treks through the surrounding parks, Kennesaw Mountain, and the nearby water park.

Mathews, Virginia

An old T Bucket in the Annual: Vintage TV's "Chasing Pavement Vintage Automotive Festival" in Mathews, Virginia
An old T Bucket in the Annual Vintage TV's "Chasing Pavement Vintage Automotive Festival" in Mathews, Virginia. Editorial credit: Barry Blackburn /

The Chesapeake Bay town is a charmingly-historic maritime community with vibrant scape and one-of-a-kind attractions. Check out the magnificent New Point Comfort Lighthouse, the third-oldest still-standing lighthouse in the bay, bluntly contrasting the sea and the sky. A local keeper manually operated the stark centerpiece before being connected to an electronic timer in 1950. 

Enjoy a morning stroll along the beautiful waterfront with spectacular sunrises typical of the bay. Stroll by the two awe-striking historic waterfront properties, once owned by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, according to local talk. Take a scenic boat trip for a new perspective of the town and picture momentous events that unravel along its undulating shores. 

Natchez, Mississippi

Old mansion in Natchez in Mississippi USA
A historic mansion in Natchez, Mississippi. Editorial credit: Bennekom /

The charming townscape is the oldest settlement right off the Mississippi, with more antebellum houses than any other in the US. Natchez is alight with true southern charm and the most famous historically grand antebellum mansions. Check out the Melrose Estate and the beautiful St. Mary's Basilica from the 1800s. Stroll through fresh-air Natchez National Historical Park, and visit the nearby Longwood unfinished manor from the Civil War. Grand Village of the Natchez Indians is just south-of-town with reconstructed Natchez house and ceremonial mounds.

Natchez is a popular weekend trip from New Orleans for the slow-paced ambiance of the olden days. The town, perched on a high bluff overlooking the river, aspires to enjoy life's simplicity like the locals do within spectacular vistas. Take a scenic drive down the Natchez Trace Parkway during the evening for sights and recreation at sunset, or a memorable steamboat ride along the peaceful river for another perspective of the lush town.

Natchitoches, Louisiana

 boat on the Cane River in Natchitoches
A cruise boat on the Cane River in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Editorial credit: Sabrina Janelle Gordon /

The small town with a wistful name is all about the French Creole culture. Experience over-the-top Southern charm, including the fun General Mercantile, Natchitoches' oldest general store. Explore the entire 33-block specter, on the National Historic Landmark District, with famous architecture amidst lovely townhouses and the Minor Basilica with stained glass windows.

You will travel through time periods in a kaleidoscopic galore of historic buildings from Queen Anne, Spanish Revival, Art Deco, Federal, Victorian, and French Creole architectural styles. Take a cobblestoned pathway along Federal Street and descend to the Cane River for the city's grand mansions and elegant townhomes along the delightful water's edge. 

Paducah, Kentucky

Paducah, Kentucky
Sailboat marina on the bank of the Ohio River in Paducah, Kentucky. Editorial credit: Angela N Perryman /

The southern town at the intersection of the Tennessee and Ohio rivers, with rumors of "something artsy in its waters," is a UNESCO Creative City. Paducah boasts the prestigious designation for meticulously preserving the history and industry of folk art and craft. Stroll through the creative scape's wealth of sights and attractions like galleries, festivals, art centers, and museums. 

The picturesque river town and hub for the creatives boasts a wander-worthy 20 downtown blocks of 19th-century architecture on the National Register of Historic Places. Enjoy a vibrant art stroll along the public Paducah Floodwall Murals along the city canvas with a series of local history jumping right off the walls. Stop by the National Quilt Museum, and catch an evening-time theater show or live music event. 

These charming towns encompass wholesome culture, outdoor pursuits, and fun activities for families on a getaway from the city. Visit with loved ones on a southern-themed road trip or through the coastal towns along the southern rim. Browse through captivating local markets and antiquing fairs, and visit in-time for vibrant festivals that define each town with energetic events, mingling, and big-time attractions along tiny scape. 

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