Ask the Experts

Southern Secrets

My group of friends here at school is great, and one of the cool things about us is that we’re all from different places. So I had the idea that we could start getting together over breaks in each person’s home region–a weekend in New York City with one friend, a trip out West for a week with another, and so on. Brilliant idea, right? My friends thought so, too, and they rewarded me by deciding I was going to bat leadoff on this one. I’m from the Southeast (Northern Georgia) and I really was not thinking of my own hometown when I came up with this idea. To be honest, I really have no idea where to take them. Any tips from your experts on vacationing in the scenic American South?

You’re pretty tough on your home region, and your concerns don’t seem totally justified. In fact, the American Southeast is stacked with top tourism destinations! According to one study, your home state of Georgia is is actually among the top ten most popular states for travel. And bordering your state is #1 (Florida), #7 (South Carolina) and #11 (Tennessee).

In North Georgia, you’ll have an easy time getting to Atlanta, where tourism is up 24.2 percent relative to last year. More rural locations abound, too, of course, and tourism pros from Henry County were quick to mention to us that the areas around Atlanta would help you split the difference between city-slicking and Southern relaxation.

If a larger geographic range is in play, you could try heading out to Tennessee. Nashville drew an incredible 13.9 million tourists last yearmillion tourists last year, and has become a hotspot for bachelor and bachelorette parties–something to keep in mind if someone in your friend group is ever tying the knot.

If you wanted to make things easier on your friends from points north, you could opt for something closer to the mid-Atlantic. There are plenty of beach towns all along the Atlantic Coast, as well as plenty of history. Washington, DC is an obvious choice, but you’ll also find plenty of historic sites in the smaller cities and rural areas surrounding it. In fact, heritage tourism is booming all across the American South. Historic sites and battlegrounds abound in cities as large as Raleigh and as small as Vicksburg, Mississippi, which has a thriving tourist trade all its own.

All in all, the experts can’t agree with your grim assessment of your region’s tourist attractions. You have big-city action in Atlanta, relaxing Southern charm all over your state, and an abundance of options in nearby states all across the South and Mid-Atlantic. So chat with your friends and get a sense of their preferences for big cities, beaches, or historic sites, and then choose from your many options!

“You can say a lot of bad things about Alabama, but you can’t say Alabamans as a people are unduly afraid of deep fryers.” — John Green

Martin J. Young is a former correspondent of Asia Times.