Plan the ultimate Southern adventure in these edgy and dynamic hot spots.
Southern cities such as New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina, have long been on the radar of travel insiders. Each destination has its own quintessential charm, character and architecture. However, there are rising newcomers in the South worth exploring -- from Nashville, Tennessee, to Asheville, North Carolina -- that are garnering a lot of attention for their unprecedented growth and revitalization in older neighborhoods and are becoming destinations in and of themselves. Each of these booming cities also has a unique identity with a wide variety of activities, attractions and a focus on their local cultural diversity and culinary scene. Here are tips to plan your visit to these exciting cities this year.
This charming mountain town in western North Carolina has a funky bohemian vibe with its local food and craft artisans. The surrounding region is an outdoor lover's paradise, with seasonal mountain biking, hiking, whitewater rafting and fly-fishing. In recent years, beer aficionados have flocked to this beer mecca. The craft brewery community (one of the largest in the U.S.) features about 30 brewers, including two of the biggest producers in the country, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium Brewing. Plus, well-known chefs embrace Asheville's culinary community, so there's an incredible range of dining options, including some of the country's most acclaimed restaurants, along with a lively music scene and nightlife.
Where to stay and dine in Asheville
One of Asheville's best-loved attractions is the historic Biltmore Estate. The 8,000-acre resort features two hotels, the Inn on Biltmore Estate and newer Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate. After touring the mansion and visiting its winery, head to one of the revitalized warehouse districts such as River Arts or South Slope for local bites and brews. Newer and notable restaurants in town include Buxton Hall Barbecue, Gan Shan Station, Local Provisions and En La Calle. Grab lunch at The Rhu and handcrafted cocktails and small bites at Sovereign Remedies, where you'll find creative takes on classics made with local ingredients. If you love doughnuts, delight in the daily varieties at Hole in West Asheville.
Music City will always be known for its country music fame, but with the changing tune of the traditional music genre and rapid growth across Nashville, there's a lot more to see and do than visit the Grand Ole Opry. Nashville is all about its lively neighborhoods, and each one has its own distinct feel and personality. New Craftsman-style and minimalist architecture is finding a way to blend in with historic homes in Germantown and the older creative area of East Nashville, which is filled with musicians and artists. Most impressive is the hot new urban area, the Gulch, with its upscale hotels, boutiques, restaurants, breweries and flourishing nightlife.
Where to stay and dine in Nashville
Make plans to stay in the Gulch at the swanky new Thompson Nashville, home to one of the hottest rooftop bars in town, L.A. Jackson. For Caribbean-inspired tapas, book a table at the sleek new Little Octopus, and for fresh seafood in a lively environment, have dinner at Fin & Pearl. Or, if you're visiting between Wednesday and Saturday, head over to Bastion in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood for a signature cocktail and dinner at its hidden private dining room. For a one-stop beer tour of local brews, head to the Filling Station in East Nashville. Foodies also won't want to miss Proper Bagel in the Belmont area.
With new sports venues, world-class shopping, excellent dining, museums, an aquarium and plenty of history, Atlanta is all about big entertainment and shopping. Known as "ATLwood," Atlanta is also home to America's largest film studio project. You never know when you might run into one of today's biggest celebrities while visiting movie sets with Atlanta Movie Tours, or the CNN Studios at CNN Center for a behind-the-scenes look at how the news is produced. After your tour, head over to Atlanta's old urban centers and revitalized warehouse districts that are now home to thriving business districts and dynamic dining scenes, with each part of town offering a unique and culturally diverse experience.
Where to stay and where to dine in Atlanta
Not-to-be missed highlights in Atlanta include its two new museums: the College Football Hall of Fame and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. When hunger sets in, visit the lively food hall, Krog Street Market, on the city's BeltLine in Inman Park. For an afternoon of shopping and noshing on delicious food, visit the bustling Ponce City Market, which is housed in the storied Sears, Roebuck & Co. store. For a quiet evening in the city, make reservations at Staplehouse, which was recognized by Bon Appétit in 2016 as "The best new restaurant in America." The restaurant's inspiring backstory is reason enough to go.
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