8 Exciting Road Trips to the American South

The southern United States is home to some of the most varied landscapes and even some of the most diverse populations the country has to offer, making it a fantastic place to take a road trip. Whether you’re looking for a quick weekend trip or a longer, more elaborate one, we’ve got you covered with these stunning routes:

8. Houston, TX to New Orleans, LA

This epic road trip can be started in any of these iconic southern cities and takes you through a part of the deep south rich in history and culture. This is definitely a trip for those who have a little more time on their hands as it is longer in distance and covers many cities that you may want to spend more time in:

Houston, TX: Visit the Space Center and get a glimpse into the scientific wonderland of NASA. Take a stroll along the Kemah Boardwalk, where you can gaze out over Galveston Bay and even grab a bite to eat locally, like gumbo, fresh oysters or hush puppies. Golden Triangle, TX: Made up of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, this vibrant area is home to the Gulf Coast Museum and the South Texas Museum of Art. Make a quick stop or stay a while, as the area is known for its delicious seafood.Lafayette, LA: This southern city is known for its historic towns, Vermilionville and Acadian Village, which are the best places to immerse yourself in culture through live music, dance and local crafts.Baton Rouge, LA: Don’t miss the Louisiana Art & Science Museum and the Baton Rouge Zoo while touring this vibrant city. Nearby is the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, which spans Louisiana’s iconic swampland. New Orleans, LA: Needless to say, Nola is on most of our bucket lists, and for good reason. Known for its vibrant music scene and awesome food, immerse yourself in the culture by strolling down Royal Street or taking a free walking tour of the Voodoo.

7. Nashville (TN) to Atlanta (GA)

Nashville’s famous Broadway strip

Another one of the longer trips on this list, this one will take you from the hills of Tennessee to the deep south. Get ready to see the landscape change as you embark on your journey:

Nashville, TN: This music city is full of stellar restaurants, bars and museums. Visit the original home of the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium and be sure not to miss the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Chattanooga, TN: This charming and certainly underrated city is a great place to enjoy the great outdoors. Enjoy a sunset on the Pedestrian Bridge or hike to Foster Falls in South Cumberland State Park.Franklin, TN: Known as Tennessee’s best-kept secret, this quaint town is known for its Southern charm and elegant atmosphere. It has quite a few Civil War sites and even a couple of whiskey distilleries that are definitely worth a stop.Birmingham, AL: A visit to Birmingham, whether long or short, wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Civil Rights District. There you’ll find the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, which includes the Civil Rights Institute, which has a wealth of exhibits and projects to explore. The city is also famous for its barbecue, especially at places like Dreamland and Saw’s. Birmingham is also the start of the Civil Rights Trail: Montgomery, AL: Also along the Civil Rights Trail, this city is a great stop for history buffs. The Legacy Museum is known to be one of the most important and influential places in the city.Atlanta, GA: Atlanta is a cultural center of the South, the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. and definitely worth spending time in. Visit the Center for Civil and Human Rights or take a tour of the King Historic District to learn about the city’s rich history.

6. Charlotte, NC to Jacksonville, FL

The colorful houses of Charleston

The trip from Charlotte to Jacksonville takes about 6 hours nonstop, but you can stretch it out as long as you can. These stops along the way highlight some of the best places in the south:

Charlotte, NC: The list of things to do in this bustling city is quite long, making it a great place to start a trip. Don’t miss the Billy Graham Library and the Mint Museum, both unique to Charlotte.Columbia, SC: On your way south, stop in Columbia and do some shopping at the Soda City Market before heading to nearby Congaree National Park for a scenic hike. Charleston (SC): Charleston, another Southern city on the bucket list, is charming and brimming with historic monuments, green spaces and good food. Take a house tour at Middleton Place or explore the Magnolia Plantation & Gardens to learn about the city’s architecture and history. Savannah, GA: Savannah is a southern icon, and for good reason. Explore the city on foot and enjoy its charming architecture. For more ideas on where to go and what to do, check out our Savannah Guide! Jacksonville, FL: As you make your way south along the coast, consider stopping at St. Simons Island or Fernandina Beach before arriving in Jacksonville. Soak in the beauty of the beach at Little Talbot State Park or Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park.

Jacksonville’s laid-back beach atmosphere is the perfect way to end this road trip after the hustle and bustle of these vibrant southern cities, which could be a travel destination on their own.

5. Tampa to Miami, FL

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Definitely check out the mangroves!

From coast to coast, driving from Tampa to Miami is a delight. Not only will you be able to soak up the sun on some of Florida’s best beaches, but you can also enjoy outdoor adventures in the Everglades.

Tampa: Take a stroll across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge before parking your car for a walk along the Tampa River Walk. There, you can take a river taxi to see the sights in an even better way.Sarasota: Head south to Sarasota and discover that this wonderful city has much more to offer than its famous beaches. Myakka River State Park is one of the oldest and largest state parks and a great place to see wildlife.Fort Myers: Another great place to enjoy nature, Fort Myers has a lot to offer for water lovers like paddleboarding, kayaking and snorkeling. Be sure to stop by Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, where you can learn more about local wildlife preservation efforts.Naples: This small beach town is known for its stunning ocean views and gorgeous parks. The Naples Botanical Garden and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary are popular attractions that capture the beauty of the area.Marco Island: Smaller and less crowded than most Florida beaches, Marco Island is the perfect place to relax. Head to Keewaydin Island, where there are no cars, roads or bridges, for a true taste of island life. At Marco’s southern beach you’ll find turquoise waters and pristine white sand: As you drive east toward Miami, you’ll pass through the Everglades. The park itself is full of wildlife and plant life to marvel at.Miami: Miami is a great destination in its own right, let alone a fun place to conclude an epic road trip like this one. Take in the iconic street art of Wynwood Walls and try a Cuban sandwich at Little Havana before heading out to salsa dance the night away.

4. St. Louis, MO to Jackson, MS

This southbound road trip to St. Louis is ideal for history and nature lovers. There are plenty of museums and attractions along this route, so buckle up for an intellectual road trip.

St. Louis, MO: St. Louis made our list of Midwest road trips, and it’s actually a great place to start a trip through the South as well. Get ready for your trip by visiting the iconic Gateway Arch and Forest Park, which was the site of the World’s Fair during the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904. Cape Girardeau, MO: If you’re heading south, stop here to see the Missouri Wall of Fame and the Cape Girardeau Nature Preserve. Yes, “throwed rolls” is literal here. It’s typical Southern food served in troughs and tossed through the air by trained roll tossers. It’s a sensory experience and worth a stop.Memphis, TN: A trip to this musical city wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the historic Sun Studio and Graceland museum. Another Memphis highlight is the National Civil Rights Museum, which offers visitors a comprehensive look at the U.S. civil rights movement. Jackson (MS): Here you will find the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum to continue your educational journey and experience on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail through the South. This historic city is home to many other incredible museums and has an impressive collection of distilleries to enjoy as well.

3. Austin to Corpus Christi, TX

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So many water options in Austin!

There’s a lot more to Texas than cowboy hats and giant truck stops, I promise. This trip will take you to some of the hippest and most diverse cities in Texas and even a couple of awesome outdoor spots.

Austin: This city is known for its abundant green spaces and proximity to many outdoor destinations. It’s a great place to start a road trip. Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center along with the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake or spend the day meandering around Mount Bonnell before starting your journey east.San Marcos: This is a quick stop, as the main attraction is the beautiful San Marcos River. Depending on your level of adrenaline-seeking, you can enjoy the river by floating down it in a tube, kayak or whitewater raft through its rougher sections.San Antonio: A city known for its eclectic mix of Southern and Mexican culture, San Antonio is a great place to catch a live music show, explore art galleries and sample some awesome food. The Natural Bridge Caverns are a must-see during your stay and don’t forget to take a stroll along the famous San Antonio River Walk.Three Rivers: Another quick stop on this trip, Three Rivers is home to Choke Canyon State Park. The park is a great place to get out for a swim, hike or even camp.Corpus Christi: Located next to the Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi is the ideal place to have a relaxing end to your trip. If you’re there in the summer, you’ll be able to see the hatching and release of sea turtles.

2. Oklahoma City, OK to Hot Springs, AR

A dirt road in the Ouachita National Forest.

This trip covers many things that make the South unique from the rest of the United States. It really covers all the bases of the South: Native American history, civil rights history, scenic drives, and outdoor recreation.

Oklahoma City, OK: Get into the spirit of the South at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum or the American Banjo Museum. You can also check out native plants at the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Will Rogers Park.Tulsa, OK: This city is a great place to learn about Native American history and culture. Don’t miss the Gilcrease Museum and The Cave House for an exciting trip back in time. While you’re there, visit the Gathering Place and have fun at the adult playground. Ozark, AR: Head to the Pig Trail Scenic Byway to enjoy the beauty of the forest. From there, you can stop at Byrd’s Adventure Center for a quick canoe or kayak ride on the Mulberry River.Little Rock, AR: Before heading into town, stop at Pinnacle Mountain State Park for a hike. From there, head into the heart of Little Rock and visit the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, which tells the story of desegregation in the U.S. and is part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.Hot Springs, AR: This quaint town has appeared on a couple of lists here on BMTM and for good reason. It’s home to Hot Springs National Park, which is the smallest national park in the US and has some nice short hikes and soothing hot springs.Ouachita National Forest: Just outside of Hot Springs, you’ll find the Ouachita National Forest. There you can camp, mountain bike, hike and much more.

Charlotte, NC to Nashville, TN 2.

Yes, there are two trips on this list that start in Charlotte – that’s because there really is a lot to do there! This time heading north towards Tennessee, this road trip will take you to some of the most beautiful scenic drives in the south that you won’t want to miss.

Charlotte, NC: Another great stop in Charlotte is the Levine Museum of the New South, where you can get a post-Civil War history lesson. If NASCAR is your thing, Charlotte is also home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.Asheville, NC: This southern city has become a magnet for young people looking for a hip place to call home. It’s known for its nearby natural wonders and thoughtful architecture, as well as its iconic folk music scene. Take a mountaintop hike at Navitat Canopy Adventures and visit the Biltmore Estate before you go.Nantahala National Forest: The largest forest in North Carolina, this one could keep you busy for days on end. Here you can go rafting, mountain biking or horseback riding before pitching a tent for the night.Knoxville, TN: Knoxville is a charmer, be warned. It’s known for its thoughtful mix of new and old, with places like the historic Tennessee Theatre, located near the ultra-modern Knoxville Museum of Art. Stroll through Market Square or take a tour of the Ijams Nature Center.Crab Orchard, TN: This town is worth a stop, as it’s home to the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area. Known for its scenic hikes and bird watching, it’s a great place to get out and stretch your legs before heading to Nashville.Nashville, TN: Just as it’s a great place to start a road trip, Nashville is also a stellar place to end one. Stay as long as you want and explore the music and food scene in this iconic city before heading home.

Each of these trips has something different to offer, making it an ideal place to start planning your next great road trip adventure. The South is brimming with history that is best learned through experience; strolling through the museums, visiting the historic sites, and taking in the place where it all happened.

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