The southern United States includes the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Florida and Texas. The region covers a vast distance and includes many different landscapes, cultures, and histories. Although it is one of the less visited regions in the country, there is much to offer those who take the time to explore. Many visitors limit their time to the popular states of Florida and Texas, but the region as a whole provides many unique travel opportunities.
The region's history is rooted in the American Civil War, when the southern states seceded from the Union. Although the roots of the Civil War are really quite complex, much of the motivation came from the growing sentiment against slavery. The south's plantations were heavily dependent on the work of slaves and after the election of President Abraham Lincoln, those states formed the Confederate States of America. Ultimately a five year war erupted and left the still intact union damaged and bruised.
The climate in the south is known for it's hot and humid summers when it is not uncommon for temperatures to climb into the triple digits. Winters are usually mild, but snow is not uncommon in some areas, particularly those with higher elevations. Fall and spring are excellent times to visit when the temperatures are pleasant, the crowds are less, and the natural beauty is at its peak.
Sights in the south are diverse and interesting. There are historic landmarks throughout the region that date back to the Civil War. There are also landmarks from the Revolutionary War and the Civil Rights movement. Florida is the most visited state in the region and is the notable home of the world renowned Disney World. In the nearby area you'll also find Sea World and Universal Studios as well as countless other amusement parks and entertainment venues. Beaches throughout the south are beautiful as well. Florida is famous for it's sandy beaches, but the Outer Banks in North Carolina, or the beaches along the Gulf Coast are all worth a visit. If you're interested in cooler weather, then head to the Appalachian Mountains which are particularly beautiful during the fall months when the leaves are changing colors.
Each state in the south has its own personality and character. Florida and Texas are both distinctly different from other regions in the south. Virginia, particularly Northern Virginia, is heavily influenced by its proximity to the nation's capital. North Carolina has the Outer Banks and the mountains, making it a diverse destination in and of itself. Georgia is the home of the cosmopolitan city of Atlanta and Kentucky is the host of the famed Kentucky Derby.
There are many activities throughout the region that energetic travelers can enjoy. Snorkeling in Florida, skiing in the Appalachian Mountains, rock climbing, or hiking are all great options. In the major cities there are museums, aquariums, concert halls, sporting events, and theaters that have world class shows.
Food and Dining
Southern food is really one of a kind. Dishes are delicious, filling, and artery clogging. Favorites throughout the region include fried chicken, fried catfish, and pretty much anything else that is fried. Barbecue is also a regional specialty. Each state has it's own version. North Carolina is known for their vinegar based barbecue while Texas makes an excellent beef brisket. Low country cuisine along the coast is also world renowned. You'll find dishes such as shrimp and grits, fish, and oysters.
Fast food is commonplace in the area as well. There are a variety of fast food restaurants that are local to the south. Favorites include Bojangles, Whatabuger, Biscuitville, and Cracker Barrel. If you're on a particularly tight budget, there are many major supermarket chains that offer ingredients and ready-made meals.
A car is essential to travel in the southern United States. Public transportation both within and between cities is limited or nonexistent. Gas is relatively cheap and the highway system is excellent, even in the most rural areas. It is possible to fly between cities, but flights are quite expensive and once you arrive, you will still need to rent a car. Amtrak does provide limited rail transport, but the routes are infrequent, slow, and expensive.
Renting a car is your best option if you do not have your own vehicle. Rental cars are reasonably priced and rental car agencies are available in most cities and airports. You will get the best price if you reserve your car well in advance.
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