A Southern Bucket List 2016
photos left to right : © richardbarrow/fotolia, © lazyllama/fotolia, courtesy frogmore plantation
BY SHERRI SMITH BROWN | JAN 16, 2016
What’s there to do in the South? Plenty! From attending an opera performance at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston to throwing a dead mullet across the Florida-Alabama line, here are 55 To Do’s that make our 2016 Bucket List.
1. Drive the 109-mile Skyline Drive that runs the entire length of the Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Picnic and enjoy views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Piedmont at any one of its 75 overlooks. visitskylinedrive.org
2. Learn to hang glide at Jockey’s Ridge in Nag’s Head on the Outer Banks near where the Wright Brothers conducted their famous flying experiment. Take a 3-hour lesson from a licensed and experienced hang gliding school or trainer. outerbanks.com
3. Tour the Everglades National Park in Florida on trams, airboats, bikes, canoes, or hiking trails. Climb the observation tower to get a handle on just how many zillions of alligators lurk in the swamps of this “River of Grass.”
4. Purchase a sweetgrass basket from a roadside stand in the Low Country of South Carolina. This basketmaking tradition came to South Carolina in the 17th century by way of West African slaves brought to work on plantations.
5. Tour the architecturally stunning antebellum homes of Natchez, the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River. visitnatchez.org
6. Learn the history of Tennessee whiskey, the distilling process, and an interesting story or two about Mr. Jack, who learned his trade from a local moonshiner, at the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg. jackdaniels.com
7. Visit any one of Georgia’s eight major barrier islands—Sapelo, Cumberland, Tybee, St. Simons, Jekyll, St. Catherines, Ossabaw, Wassaw. Some are accessible by roadway, others only by boat. Each brings its own experience. All are beautiful. goldenisles.com
8. View a Mardi Gras parade from a balcony in the French Quarter. Better yet, become a member of a Mardi Gras krewe—a bucket list item for man New Orleanians. neworleanscvb.com
9. See the “living museum” that is Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia as actors in period costume depict day-to-day Colonial life in the streets, restored homes, and workshops. colonialwilliamsburg.com
10. Attend space camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, so you can sleep in bunks, spin in the Multi-Axis Trainer, and handle a crisis on simulated intergalactic missions. rocketcenter.com
11. Grab a seat and get a drink from the cooler at the Indian Pass Raw Bar as you wait for your dozen or two of the best oysters on the half shell ever. As they say “these oysters slept in the bay last night.” Steamed shrimp, gumbo, and more. indianpassrawbar.com
12. Travel the Southern Literary Trail, a project uniting homes of writers and literary landmarks into one tri-state pathway—Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia—from Natchez to Savannah. Authors include Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Harper Lee, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lillian Hellman, Margaret Mitchell, Flannery O’Connor, and Alice Walker to name a few. southernliterarytrail.org
13. Visit Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville. Tour the home and gardens, bike, hike, horseback ride, dine, shop, stay overnight, and more—all within the confines of this 8,000-acre property. biltmore.com
14. Eat gourmet food and listen to nightly performances of the Zac Brown Band and other notable musicians at the two-day Southern Ground Music & Food Festival in Charleston. charleston.southerngroundfestival.com
15. Spend a day in Dollywood, the kitschy, 150-acre theme park located in Pigeon Forge in the Smoky Mountains run by country music icon Dolly Parton and partners. Music, rides, food, waterslides, and all things Dolly.
16. Hike the Appalachian Trail–or at least the part of the 2,200-mile trail that traverses southern states—Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.
17. Ride a New Orleans Streetcar. Try hopping on at Canal Street in Mid-City and ride all the way down to the Mississippi. Then transfer to the St. Charles line and ride all along The Avenue and down Carrollton. norta.com
18. Visit the birthplace of The King of Rock and Roll. Now a historic landmark, the modest home where Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, is available for touring. evispresleybirthplace.com
19. Catch a sunset at Key West’s Mallory Square’s sunset celebration, beginning every day, two hours before sunset as visitors, magicians, jugglers, musicians, food vendors, and street artists converge to cheer the glowing sun as it kisses the Gulf goodnight. mallorysquare.com
20. Watch “Saltwater Cowboys” swim the Chincoteague Pony herd from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island. The event has been taking place out on Virginia’s Eastern Shore for over 90 years. chincoteague.com
21. Kayak the inlets and waterways that zigzag along the Crystal Coast, an 85-mile stretch of coastline in North Carolina that extends from the Cape Lookout National Seashore westward to the New River. Guide services available.
22. Stroll The Battery in Charleston to see its waterfront southern mansions, oak trees, palmettos, cannons, cannon balls, statues, and views of Fort Sumter. Combine this with a boat trip to tour Fort Sumpter, where the Civil War began. charlestoncvb.com
23. See Rock City and Ruby Falls, two of Chattanooga’s iconic attractions.
24. Walk through all of Savannah’s 22 historic squares. Make sure to see Chippewa Square where the famous bench scene in “Forest Gump” was filmed and Monterey Square where The Mercer House, the setting for the murder in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” is located. savannah.com
25. Go fishing in Cocodrie, Louisiana, an unincorporated fishing, shrimping and crabbing village in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Cocodrie, derived from a Cajun French word for alligator, sits at the edge of freshwater, offering a variety of fishing options—fly, deep-sea, inland, and swamp.
26. Cheer on your favorite team at Spring Training when 15 Major League Baseball teams, including the Braves, venture to Florida to train and play in the pre-season Florida Grapefruit League. floridagrapefruitleague.com
27. Explore Luray Caverns, believed to be the largest cavern system in the Eastern United States. These underground caverns, with cathedral-sized rooms 10 stories high and towering rock formations, were first explored by candlelight more than a century ago. luraycaverns.com
28. Take a guided dolphin cruise tour anywhere along the North Carolina Coast, but particularly around Nags Head where it is estimated that over 500 dolphins live during the summer.
29. Play at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina—SkyWheel, zip line, pirate adventures, miniature golf, parasailing, banana boat rides, a water park, haunted houses, concerts, street performers, shopping, carnival, maritime museum, fishing charters, casino cruises, and more. visitmyrtlebeach.com
30. Raft the Class III and IV whitewater rapids of Tennessee’s Ocoee River. Outfitters offer numerous experiences, including the Upper Ocoee, which was the site of the 1996 Olympic Whitewater competition. noc.com
31. Brave the Screaming Eagle zipline at Historic Banning Mills, Georgia. It is said to be the longest and largest zip line canopy tour in the world.
32. Bet on the horses on Thanksgiving Day, the opening of racing season at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, the third oldest continuously operating thoroughbred racetrack in the nation. A holiday visit is a time-honored New Orleans tradition. fairgroundsracecourse.com
33. Cruise the Mississippi River on a paddlewheeler. Depart from New Orleans or Memphis with ports of Call in Oak Alley, Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, Natchez and Vicksburg. Themed cruises include the Civil War, music, and culinary. americancruiselines.com
34. Relax for a weekend at Lake Martin near Alexander City, Alabama. Boating, fishing, camping, golfing, dining, and more. lakemartin.com
35. Glam it up at South Beach in Miami Beach as you enjoy top hotels, dance clubs, music venues, bars and cocktail lounges, white sand beaches, trendy boutique shopping, gourmet cuisine, and cool Art Deco architecture.
36. Visit Jamestown, the site of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas and the site of ongoing archaeology work. historicjamestowne.org
37. See performances in theater; dance; and opera, chamber, symphonic, coral and jazz music at the 17-day Spoleto, America’s premier performing arts festival that takes place in Charleston’s historic theaters, churches, and outdoor spaces. spoletousa.org
38. Tap your foot at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. Since 1925, the Opry had attracted country music greats from Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and the Carter Family to Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, and Carrie Underwood.
39. Participate in a guided Turtle Walk on the beach at Jekyll Island to learn about the journey of loggerhead sea turtles nesting along the Georgia coast and to search for nesting mothers.
40. Wait in line for a snoball at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz in New Orleans. Opened in 1939, the corner stand serves up its own special recipes from spring through fall. Try flavors like Honey Lavender, Satsuma, Ginger-Cayenne, Spearmint or Cream of Chocolate—and add some toppings! snobliz.com
41. Visit Vicksburg National Military Park to experience a civil war battle site. A 16-mile tour road parallels the Union and Confederate lines and features 15 designated stops at places from artillery battery sites to the Vicksburg National Cemetery—final resting place of some 17,000 dead. nps.gov/vick
42. Sign up for a NASCAR racing adventure at Talladega Superspeedway! Step into the driver’s seat, hit the gas, and feel the thrill of accelerating up to 165mph. A variety of racing experiences, from a 3-lap Ride to an 80-lap Drive, are offered. racingadventure.com
43. Attend the Florida Seafood Festival, Florida’s oldest maritime event, in Apalachicola, Florida. Seafood, music, oyster shucking contest, blue crab races, the 5K Redfish Run, and more. floridaseafoodfestival.com
44. Buy a quilt or sew a square or two at Gee’s Bend, a small, black community surrounded on three sides by the Alabama River, where the women have been piecing together some of the world’s most beautiful patchwork quilts and passing their skills down for generations. soulsgrowndeep.org
45. Honor America’s fallen warriors at Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans, and their families. Stop at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which stands atop a hill overlooking Washington D.C. arlingtoncemetery.mil
46. Boat amongst the wild Spanish Mustangs that inhabit the nine-mile long island called Shackleford Banks on the North Carolina coast. Abandoned by Spanish explorers, the horses have roamed and swam freely between the marsh islands for over 400 years. ncwildhorses.com
47. View seven states from Lookout Mountain—Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. lookoutmountain.com
48. Take a creepy hearse ghost tour through Savannah, the most haunted town in the nation. The driver will tell you ghostly tales while you tour the city in what was once a real hearse. hearseghosttours.com
49. Attend every day of the 7-day New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The Festival celebrates the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana, so you will everything—blues, R&B, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, country, bluegrass—and lots of jazz.
50. Camp, hike, fish, and explore the 5,000-acre Hunting Island State Park, a secluded semitropical barrier island off the South Carolina coast that is a nature and wildlife paradise. huntingisland.com
51. Attend the Bloomin’ Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival in Sevierville to witness the Tennessee State Championship Barbeque Cook-Off and enjoy lots of bluegrass music, food, and mountain crafts. bloominbbq.com
52. Take a boat ride through the Okefenokee Swamp, one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders and home to alligators, turtles, raccoons, black bears, and more. gastateparks.org/StephenCFoster
53. Take the “Cotton, Then & Now” tour at the Frogmore Cotton Plantation and Gins to experience the plantation's history from 1790 to today. You can even try your hand at picking cotton.
54. Take a seaplane or ferry to the Dry Tortugas—70 miles west of Key West and the southernmost point in the continental United States.
55. Throw a dead mullet over the state line of Florida and Alabama to see who gets the farthest at the legendary Interstate Mullet Toss & Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party at the Flora-Bama Lounge and Oyster Bar.
Lifestyles features a mix of entertaining stories covering the local food, style, art, people and events of Coweta and Fayette and the surrounding areas.
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