We here at The Southern Weekend couldn’t think of a finer place to be than here in the South. It appears the readers of Travel + Leisure agree.
Southern cities were once again ranked the top three cities in the United States and Canada in the travel magazine’s World’s Best Awards 2015, released earlier this month.
The top of the list remained unchanged from 2014, with Charleston, South Carolina in the No. 1 spot, followed by New Orleans and Savannah, Georgia. This was the third-straight year Charleston was bestowed the honor of the best city in the United States and Canada by readers of the magazine.
Readers were asked to rate cities based on six characteristics: Sights/landmarks, culture/arts, restaurants/food, people/friendliness, shopping, and value. There were also options for romance and bars.
A fourth Southern city, Asheville, North Carolina, cracked the 2015 list at No. 10. All the winners will be showcased in the August issue of Travel + Leisure Magazine.
Looking to plan a trip to Charleston? Here are the things we love about the Holy City:
- The Food – Charleston’s reputation as a foodie city has never been higher. It has fine-dining James Beard Award-winning restaurants like Husk, Hominy Grill, and Fig, but also great places to grab quality innovative sandwiches like Butcher and Bee and Tattooed Moose. And, of course, some of the best soul food and BBQ you’ll ever find. No matter what you’re in the mood for, Charleston’s got it in spades.
- The History – Charleston was founded back in 1670, and many of its downtown homes from the 1700s are still standing today. That old South architecture, combined with each building’s unique story, makes Charleston a history buff’s dream. I mean, The Charleston Museum was the first museum in America! Sure, she’s not proud of all her stories, but there is plenty to be learned from them.
On a recent trip to Charleston, The Southern Weekend got a glimpse at Charleston’s haunted past, toured one of its local distilleries, and snacked on some of the best biscuits we’ve ever had. When planning your next Southern road trip, make sure Charleston is on the list.
“The Big Easy” mixes French, American, and African cultures to create a city unlike any other in America. Here is what you can’t miss when making a stop in New Orleans:
- The Music – Known as the birthplace of jazz, the New Orleans music scene in no way disappoints. The annual Jazz Fest is a celebration of New Orleans music and heritage that spans 10 days in the spring, with live shows spread throughout the entire city. The city’s love of music boils over to all genres as it also plays host to the massive Voodoo Music + Arts Experience and the Essence Music Festival. Just walking the streets of New Orleans, live music can be heard every night coming from any one of its dozens of jazz clubs. The city is also home to several hip hop stars, including Lil Wayne, Birdman, and Master P.
- The Culture – New Orleans is a city blanketed in culture and tradition. You can’t think New Orleans without thinking Mardi Gras, when the already party-packed Bourbon Street becomes something of a traveling circus filled with bright colors, outlandish costumes, and massive floats. The city’s French heritage is celebrated throughout the historic French Quarter. Voodoo rituals draw from its African influences. The Louisiana Creoles combined both those cultures to create an entirely different heritage, spawning their own unique language, musical style, and foods.
Last time The Southern Weekend was in town, we took a stroll down historic Frenchmen Street, stopped by a music venue for that authentic New Orleans sound, and melted over a savory French treat: Beignets.
Georgia’s oldest city is similar, if not a hipper version of Charleston. So it’s no surprise some of the great things we enjoyed about the Holy City carry over to Savannah:
- The Beauty – Savannah is a picturesque city that just screams “The South.” Many of its streets are lined with massive oaks full of Spanish Moss, with a few of those streets made of cobblestone. Downtown Savannah features 22 squares, which are large, beautifully landscaped greenspaces perfect for taking a stroll or relaxing. Named in honor of a historical person or event, most of the squares feature a statue, fountain, or some other type of historical marker. That’s a perfect segue to the next great thing about this city…
- The History – When your city dates back nearly 300 years, there will always be plenty of cool sites to take you back in time. The Savannah Historic District, the largest National Historic Landmark District in the U.S., covers the majority of the downtown area and includes the First African Baptist Church (claims to be the oldest congregation in America) and the Mercer-Williams House, which served as the location of the New York Times Bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Don’t forget to enjoy the squares!
We’ve got plenty coming on The Southern Weekend from our recent trip to this port city.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is completely different than the above mentioned Southern cities (just check out that picture!), and that is what makes it awesome:
- The Outdoors – Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this North Carolina city is the perfect destination for folks with a love for the great outdoors. Step out from the downtown area and you will be surrounded by majestic trees and rushing water in minutes. From hiking the Blue Ridge or zip-lining through it, to taking in the hundreds of waterfalls or kayaking the French Broad River, you will be hard pressed to run out of things to do outside in Asheville.
- The Beer – After working up a sweat, head back into the city and enjoy some authentic Asheville suds. This mountain city features dozens of award-winning breweries, making it a must-visit for beer enthusiasts. Heck, Asheville has been named Beer City USA four-times in an annual online poll from Examiner. Beer City USA! The rest of the nation has taken note, as big time breweries Sierra Nevada and New Belgium opted to build their East Coast operations here.
The Southern Weekend has already started planning our next trip to Asheville, and can’t wait to experience all it has to offer.
Did the readers of Travel + Leisure get it right? Or did your favorite Southern city miss the cut? Let us know! We are always looking for new places to spend out Southern weekends.
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