Favorite Cities in the American South

Cities to Visit in the American South

Or, how I learned to fall in love with a completely different part of my own country.

I’m a California girl, through and through. A Northern California girl, to be specific (after ten years in Southern California, the distinction is necessary.) The more I see of the world, the more sure of that I am.

When someone asks me where I’m from whenever I’m abroad, I reply without thinking: “California.” I realize, of course, that they’re looking to hear my country, not my state.

Most expect me to reply with “the United States.” And while I’m a proud American (well, most of the time,) I really identify so much more strongly with being a Californian and San Franciscan…and I’ve never been clearer on that than now.

I’ve also never been more aware that California is a bit of a bubble. So when I had the opportunity to road trip from Alabama to San Francisco (coincidentally, not long before the election last year) I pondered where outside my home state I wanted to visit. It was time (again) for me to see more of my own country.


Why was I so keen on pushing past my comfort zone in other countries and on different continents, yet unwilling to explore the expanse of land just to the right of me?

All pride aside, there is something about the South I’ve always been drawn to. Some cities I visited on my cross-country road trip, others I’ve made a priority out of visiting on their own. And though I maintain that if I couldn’t live in San Francisco, I’d move right to London or Paris, these fun, vibrant, and welcoming Southern cities right here in the USA give me pause, and make me feel a greater appreciation for the country I call home.

Whether you are American or Californian, or not, these places have a historic weight and well, charm, that is undeniable. They have some of the most beautiful architecture, culture, and food I’ve encountered anywhere in the world.

So while perhaps I should’ve ventured out sooner, now that I have fallen for these places…I won’t be so firm in my California roots that I forget to look around at the beauty and history beyond my state border. (I hope you won’t either.)

Here are my top five cities to visit in the American South…

cities of the american south



Perhaps the most charming city I’ve been to outside of SF, Charleston cuts through its thick, humid air and pastel houses right through to your heart. The burgeoning food scene and friendly locals certainly don’t hurt. Between historic homes and waterfront walks, Charleston is easy to love. Here’s why.

Charleston King Street

Carriage rides, Lowcountry cuisine, ghost stories, plantation homes, colorful streets, stately homes.
Don’t miss: FIG, Husk, Poogan’s Porch for brunch, The Ordinary, Butcher & Bee.
Here’s a list of hotels in Charleston. (I like Planter’s Inn and Zero George.)



I’m not a country music fan by any means (ok, I love me some Zac Brown Band and the occasional Carrie Underwood song but I digress…) and I still loved Nashville. Though it’s known for its honky-tonks and country music halls, there is of course so much more to this energetic city. From neighborhood strolls to hot chicken, here’s how to fall in love with the ville of Nash.

What Cities to Visit in the American South

Live music, cute boutiques, meat and threes, city vibes with small town feel, hot chicken.
Don’t miss: Hattie B’s or Prince’s (hot chicken,) Pancake Pantry, Bluebird Cafe (music,) Pinewood Social, Arnold’s Country Kitchen.
Check out these top Nashville hotels (I liked the Hutton Hotel.)



In full disclosure, I’ve been in the Atlanta airport far more than the city of Atlanta. But after visiting a friend (ok, the guy I was dating) there I came to appreciate ATL for more than just the proximity of Waffle House (though, Waffle House is legit.) These have been my favorite parts of Atlanta to date.

What Cities to Visit in the American South

Beautiful urban parks, dynamic culture, MLK history, sweet tea, and apparently beautiful skies!
Don’t miss: Gunshow, The Optimist, Miller Union, The Varsity, Busy Bee Cafe.  
Here are some hotels in Atlanta worth checking out (and checking in.)



Austin was the first place on this list that I visited and the one I’m most likely to return to next. What is it about the Texan capital that captures us all? It’s hard to put a finger on it, but breakfast tacos, barbecue, live music, and keeping it “weird” is certainly a start.

What Cities to Visit in the American South


Tex Mex, BBQ, more Tex Mex…but seriously also, Barton Springs, South Congress, murals, Rainey Street, and so much more.
Don’t miss: Frankin or La Barbecue (BBQ,) Torchy’s Tacos or Tacodeli (tacos,) Polvo’s (Tex Mex,) La Condesa (cocktails,) Central Market, Alamo Drafthouse, Easy Tiger.
I usually stay with friends, but loved the pool at the JW Marriott Austin. Check out more Austin hotels.


New Orleans

Ah, NOLA. I could go on and on about how much I adore this city — with its distinct culture, cuisine, cocktails, and cool vibes it feels almost like leaving the country. Rather than dream of jazz on Frenchman street, beignets hot from the oven, or late nights with a Sazerac in hand, I’d rather you just took my word for it and got on the next plane there.

new orleans cafe du monde

Food, cocktails, food…jazz, Garden District, Frenchman St., joie de vivre, beignets, and more cocktails.
Don’t miss: Cochon, Cafe du Monde, Commander’s Palace (25 cent martinis…,) Jacques-Imo’s, La Petite Grocery, Sazerac Bar, Carousel Bar, Antoine’s, The Spotted Cat, and so much more.
I stayed in a perfect Airbnb in the French Quarter which has since gone away :/ Here are some good hotels in New Orleans. I’ll probably stay at the Hotel Monteleone next time so I have downstairs access to the Carousel Bar, let’s be real.



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  1. I love your blogs!

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