Packed full of incredible places to explore, the USA has some epic spots to visit on holiday. This is no more true than with all the best cities in the south of the USA to visit; especially when there’s a treasure-trove of spots that are all so unique.
From the gorgeous streets of New Orleans, the history in San Antonio and the incredible music scene in Nashville – there’s a city in the south of the USA that’s perfect for you. Though, with so many to explore, the hard part is deciding which to visit on your trip.
We’ve visited the Southern States a heap of times over the years, and one thing that’s always stuck out to us is the diversity of culture and the makeup of the cities. They really are all totally unique.
Though, we both still can’t quite get our heads around grits for lunch. Sorry!
Anyway, before I rabbit on, I wanted to make things a little easier for your next trip and share some of our best spots from all across the southern states. Each one has its own charm and I’m almost certain you’ll find a fair few you’ll be itching to visit.
With that in mind, take a look (below) at some of the best cities in the south of the USA to visit. You’ll have an epic trip.
1.) Charlotte, North Carolina
Home to a heap of places to see; you’ll be able to whisk away a long weekend exploring spots like Carowinds which houses some of the state’s best rollercoasters. For some screams and sheer thrills, grab a seat onboard Fury 325. This beast of a rollercoaster has been regularly awarded one of the best rollercoasters in the world.
That being said, if you want a more chilled-out exploration of Charlotte; head straight over to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Here, you’ll find hundreds of acres of grasslands, meadows and heaps of flowers. Just be sure to take some antihistamines if you suffer from hay fever! Those pollen blooms can be strong!
Oh, and for some of the best meaty treats, hop into the Midwood Smokehouse (on Central Ave). It’s nothing fancy or even too expensive and their BBQ meats and tacos are just so good!
2.) San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is easily one of the best places in Texas to visit! Filled with oodles of history, the gorgeous Riverwalk and enough eateries to keep you stuffed – it’s a great city for a long-weekend break.
Of course, one of the first places you have to visit is the iconic Alamo. Perched right in the centre of San Antonio, it’s one of the most important historical spots in the city (where, back in 1836, the Battle of the Alamo took place).
As you stroll San Antonio, be sure to also pop into the San Fernando Cathedral. It’s totally beautiful and the architecture is well worth a gander inside.
Finally, slip on some comfy shoes and take a wander down the Riverwalk. This is one of my favourite areas of San Antonio and a totally perfect place to visit in the afternoon for lunch or even a pre-dinner stroll.
Along the Riverwalk, you’ll find heaps of little eateries, stores and lots of treat stops along the water’s edge.
We totally loved our visit to San Antonio and it’s easily one of the best cities in the South of the USA to visit.
Just remember, that Texas sunshine can be strong! Make sure to slap on that SPF protection and don’t forget to drink water.
3.) St Petersberg (St. Pete), Florida
On the Gulf Coast of Florida, St Petersberg (or, St Pete), is one of the best cities in the South of the USA and a total Floridian gem that can’t be missed.
If you love street art, St Pete has some of the best in Florida. Take a wander around the downtown and wider area and you’ll find a fair few favourites that line the city streets.
For ease, follow this definitive list, like the one that’s updated by the city itself. It’s super-helpful and a great way to not waste your precious time when trying to find them.
After seeing all that street art, head inside the Salvador Dalí Museum right in the city itself. It’s got an incredibly eclectic mix of art and is well worth a visit. That being said, if you’re not interested in art, you might wanna pop over to another one of St Pete’s gems; Fort De Soto Park.
It’s not too far from the downtown area itself but feels like another world.
Linked by road, these tiny little islands are a haven to visit for an afternoon trip and the coastline is totally beautiful.
For a spot to rest your head, check into the pink palace of the Don Cesar hotel. It’s right on the white sandy beach and something of an institution within the city.
Oh, and don’t forget to head into Bodega on Central for their totally yummy Cuban sandwiches in all of Florida. Trust me, they’re everything! Oh, and be sure to grab a side of their sweet and spicy slaw. So good!
4.) Greenville, South Carolina
Don’t be fooled by the relatively small size of Greenville in South Carolina; it’s one of the best cities in the South of the USA to visit and a pretty chilled city for a few day trips.
Whilst here, pop into the Greenville County Museum of Art and spend a good few hours in the Downtown area of Greenville itself. Here, you’ll get to wander along the riverfront, which is lovely to visit around lunchtime (when all the little eateries are open).
Plus, don’t forget, one of the best things about Greenville is its access to the gorgeous natural environment that surrounds it! Paris Mountain State Park is a totally beautiful area to visit and a great place to visit for a day trip (or even longer).
You’ll be able to test your boating skills, hike the trails and spot Camp Buckhorn Lodge.
Feeling peckish? Pop into The Trappe door which is a Belgian beer house that also serves up some tasty treats. Their buffalo-fried oysters and Carbonades Flamandes (a delicious beef stew) are just so good.
5.) Louisville, Kentucky
Sometimes overlooked for bigger-hitting USA cities, Greenville is an epic city to visit when exploring the wider South Carolina state.
Known for its walkable downtown and Main Street, it has a little bit of everything a visitor might want for a day trip. For a special dinner, pop into Jack Fry’s; their shrimp and grits and short rib is just too good to miss.
Of course, one spot you can’t miss is the Louisville Slugger Museum.
Here, you’ll get to learn all about the famous slugger and even grab one of your own, too. That being said, if baseball isn’t your thing then head over to visit Churchill Downs; an iconic racetrack in Louisville that’s popular year-round.
6.) New Orleans, Louisiana
Probably one of the more iconic cities in the United States, New Orleans has a history and heritage that’s too incredible to miss. It’s one of those cities that’s filled with beautiful cultural spots, museums, incredible nightlife and historic neighbourhoods that are just so unique.
Probably one of the most famous areas of New Orleans is French Quarter and an area that you really shouldn’t miss. Plus, you’ve got the iconic Bourbon Street which has that eclectic mix of Mardi Gras partying and iconic gems that are close by. Expect large and rowdy crowds and plenty of liquor to boot.
If that’s not your scene, be sure to grab tickets to the historic Preservation Hall instead. Here, you’ll find one of the city’s most iconic jazz venues that are as intimate as they come. Just be sure to book your tickets well in advance; tickets nearly always sell out.
As you wander New Orleans, be sure to stop at St. Louis Cathedral, explore the iconic City Park and visit the French Market for local traders and crafts that is lovely to visit.
Now, with all that walking around, you’ll likely be pretty hungry.
Get yourself straight over to Mothers, an iconic po’ boy spot right in the heart of New Orleans. Make sure to go for their yummy ‘Ferdi special’ and tuck into one of the juiciest, gravy-filled po’boys in all of Louisiana.
Just be sure to arrive really hungry as they’re absolutely huge!
7.) Natchez, Mississippi
Perched on the Mississippi River, Natchez is a historic southern city in the state of Mississippi. Yeah, it might not be one of those cities you need weeks to explore, but a perfect stopping point on a wider trip and well worth a little gander.
Considered the oldest city in all of Mississippi, Natchez has now been designated as a Preserve America Community due to the efforts of the people to preserve the community and local heritage for all to see. You see, it’s filled with historic properties like; Stanton Hall, Longwood, Rosalie Mississippi State Dar and Magnolia Hall.
Plus, Natchez has the Natchez Trace Parkways, and the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, which you can’t miss either!
Oh, and for a really special dinner reserve a table at Restaurant 1818. Not only is the seasonal creole and cajun menu totally yummy (try the gumbo) but it’s like stepping back a few centuries. It’s so quaint.
8.) Nashville, Tennessee
If you are a huge lover of music, Nashville will easily be one of the best cities in the South of the USA to visit. We loved it! Not only is there a heap of live music spots; but there’s also a shedload of incredible Nashville restaurants that are too yummy to miss.
That being said, there’s also loads more to Nashville, too! Here, you will find great museums, the Grand Old Opry, and a great riverwalk that’s totally lovely to explore on a sunny summer day.
Oh, and don’t forget to drive to the Loveless Cafe that’s around a 25-minute drive from downtown. We totally loved the menu and had the most amazing brunch ever! Just be prepared for some wait times as it can get pretty popular.
9.) Memphis, Tennessee
Another gem of a city we visited during our Tennessee road trip was Memphis. Within easy reach of Nashville bar car, it’s one of the best cities in the South of the USA to explore. We decided to tag Memphis along with Nashville and Knoxville and it was totally worth the hype.
Home to rock and roll and the blues; Mephis, Like Nashville, music is very much a part of the fabric of the city. If it’s live music and bars you’re after, head over to the famous Beale Street area of the city – which gets pretty lively in the evenings.
Alternatively, pop over to visit Graceland, the home of Elvis, which still stands proudly to this day. It’s incredible to see and well worth a visit whilst also checking out STAX – Museum of American Soul and the famous Sun Studio where many classics were recorded. We loved it.
It honours the legacy of Martin Luther King and his incredible efforts for equality.
9.) Atlanta, Georgia
Perched around 80 miles, or so, south of the Chattahoochee National Forest; Atlanta is a totally incredible city to visit for a few days’ trip to the city.
Whilst here, be sure to pop into some of the iconic museums and historic sites, which are pretty huge in Atlanta. Your first stop has to be the High Museum of Art which houses pieces by Monet and American artists like Henry Ossawa. Afterwards, and if you have time, check out the World of Coca-Cola which needs little explanation. It houses everything cola!
Oh, and don’t forget the Atlanta Botanical Garden on a nice sunny day. Here, they have acres of pathways, with their Canopy Walk being so gorgeous.
Finally, for a tasty bite to eat, hop over to Miller Union who has a seasonal menu including dishes like seafood chowder. Yum!
10.) Austin, Texas
If you’re all for outdoor fun, cool eateries and amazing restaurants, then Austin is the city for you!
This is the Texas Capital and easily deserves a place as one of the best cities in the South of the USA to visit. It’s got heaps to do and the perfect spot to spend 3-4 days chilling and really soaking in that Austin vibe.
After arriving, take some time to wander around the Texas Capitol Building and nosey inside the incredible Blanton Museum of Art. The latter is filled with pieces from all across the world and is totally beautiful.
That being said, if you want some time away from the streets and blocks; then head over to McKinney Falls State Park. Here, there are a number of easy trails to follow, including the much larger and historic El Camino Real de los Tejas (National Historic Trail).
If it’s the wine you’re after, then drive 30-minutes to the nearby Duchman Family Winery. Here, you’ll get to sample and purchase some of the tastiest wines in the region. Best of all, it’s a great little stopover to make as you drive between Austin and San Antonio.
11.) St. Augustine, Florida
One true gem in the south of the USA has to be St. Augustine. Not only is it the oldest city in the whole US (Established back in 1565 by the Spaniards), it’s also totally fun and beautiful to explore.
You see, St. Augustine still possesses the historic vibe and charm of the past and really embraces its heritage and historic sites. For instance, you really can’t miss Castillo de San Marcos, a National Monument that’s been around since the 1600s.
Plus, you’ve got the gorgeous St Augustine Lighthouse that stretches back in time to the 1800s. It’s all so beautiful. Oh, and don’t forget to take a gander around the Colonial Quarter, too.
Finally, for a gorgeous dinner, head to Harry’s Seafood Bar; they have the tastiest shrimp po’boys and Jambalaya.
12.) Berkley Springs, West Virginia
Okay, it’s technically a town (and not a city) but Berkley Springs is well worth visiting when travelling through West Virginia. You see, it’s the very first spa town in all of the United States and holds onto its charm to this very day.
Filled with independent galleries like Hsu Studios and the Ice House Co-op Gallery; it’s the perfect little town to stroll. Plus, you’ll find a heap of little eateries like the yummy The Beehive Cafe which is a perfect breakfast spot.
Oh, and don’t forget to plan your visit to the yearly Apple Butter Festival. It’s been running since 1974. Filled with music, parades and, of course, spicy apple butter – it’s a totally delicious time exploring. Typically, this happens in October but always check before planning your trip.