Five “Southern” Cities That Never Get OldPhotos of Huntington Beach and New Orleans courtesy of Pixabay Travel Lists get out there
“Get Out There” is a new column for itchy footed humans written by Paste contributor Blake Snow. Although weird now, travel is still worthwhile—especially to these open borders.
Upon hearing “The South,” most Americans think of the corner pocket states in the Southeast of the country — sometimes even Texas. Geographically, though, the South stretches from the Atlantic all the way to the Pacific, and there’s a lot of charismatic cities along the entire Southern border of the nation that deserve your consideration. From sea to shining sea, here are five in particular that are downright charming. Having visited all five (80% during pandemic even), I can personally vouch for everything you are about to read. Get out there!
Huntington Beach, California
Compared to other SoCal cities, here’s what Huntington gets right: 1. Excellent year-round breaks and weather, hence the nickname “Surf City.” 2. An epic 10 mile boardwalk to cruise, people watch, and access bonfire pits from. 3. A more laid back vibe that’s just 20 minutes from the equally laid-back John Wayne Airport.
My favorite things to do included surfing the pier with Rocky McKinnon (and renting a board myself the next day), enjoying the free bikes, beach gear, and surreal views from Pasea Hotel, and eating two of the best meals I’ve had in years at Ola Mexican Kitchen and world famous Duke’s. Playing an affordable round of disc golf at Huntington Central Park was pretty cool too.
Although it lives in the shadow of the much larger but less exciting Phoenix, Tucson is the better destination, flanked by mountains on three sides, giant cacti national parks on two sides, and some amazing Tex-Mex in between. Highlights include Saguaro National Park, which National Geographic once rated as the best in the nation (seriously, these protective, 40 feet humanoid plants look like they could almost move), one of the best “dude ranches” and cowboy cookouts in the country at Tanque Verde, and driving a street legal Formula 1-like convertible up scenic Mount Lemmon.
Also consider the non-boring Desert Museum to appreciate survival in this harsh environment, and the massive Pima Air Museum for a glimpse at the largest airplane “boneyard” in the country.
San Antonio, Texas
Like Tucson, San Antonio is dwarfed by a larger instate city but is actually the better place to visit. The Riverwalk in downtown is the biggest reason. Dubbed the “#1 attraction in Texas,” this 15-mile stretch of river is lined with meandering sidewalks on both sides, covered by tree canopy and patio lights, and filled with shops and restaurants. You can walk it, take a boat taxi through it, or even enjoy a dinner cruise on it.
Remarkable both day and night, The Riverwalk can also get you to the mission and museum districts, notably The Alamo and Mission San Jose. But even if history annoys you, I’m confident you’ll love this picturesque Texas city.
New Orleans, Louisiana
What I’m about to say will likely offend a lot of New Yorkers, but it’s true: New Orleans has the best and most original American cuisine in the entire nation. Consider every dish that’s been invented here, which you can enjoy on an informal or guided food tour: Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee, Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, Muffalettas, Po-Boys, Beignets, Bananas Foster, Pralines, and all things cajun.
My favorite activities include biking the French Quarter, the St. Charles streetcar, Fritzel’s Jazz Club, steamboating the Mississippi, this cooking class, the Garden District, and brunch at Jack Rose. For the perfect place to stay, consider the adorable Maison De La Luz or classic Pontchartrain Hotel.
Charleston, South Carolina
Like most tourist destinations, Charleston was hit hard by the pandemic. But it’s still alive and kicking, and just as charming as before. For nearly a decade, the city has ranked as the “best American city” for its distinct Deep South good looks, amazing restaurants, excellent shopping, and extravagant mansions like this $10 million dollar looker.
Popular attractions include classic carriage tours, food tours, Boone Hall Plantation, The Charleston Market, and historic Fort Sumter. To feel like a million bucks, my wife and I stayed at the pricey French Quarter Inn, which has consistently ranked as the highest rated hotel in the entire country. As a bonus, we used their free bikes to get around town and even cross the famous Ravenel Bridge.
Blake Snow contributes to fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies as a bodacious writer-for-hire and frequent travel columnist. He lives in Provo, Utah with an adolescent family and their “bullador beagle.”