Looking for fun weekend getaways in the South? Why not try one of these up-and-coming southern cities. Unlike New York or Chicago, these towns have great year round weather. Like those bigger, better-known destinations, these cities also have a wide variety of things to do and world-class restaurants, but it costs much, much less.
7 Absurdly Fun Southern Cities You Need to Visit
Whether you want a girls getaway, a romantic escape or a family friendly retreat, you can’t go wrong with any of these smaller Southern cities. Here’s why we like them, and what you can expect.
1. Weekend Getaways in the South: Mobile, AL
Did you know that Mobile is the site of the first Mardi Gras carnival festivities? Yup. New Orleans may be headquarters for wild parties, but Mobile was the first and its parades and balls are considered the family-friendly version of Mardis Gras.
If you can’t make it during Carnival, you can still visit the Mobile Carnival Museum to see the lavish attire donned by the courts of krewes. In addition, you’ll learn the process for getting those amazing floats ready for the big day. Pick up some masks at the gift shop and put on a ball of your own at home.
On the way back to the hotel, stop at the Dew Drop Inn for the specialty hot dogs. The Dew Drop is the oldest restaurant in Mobile, AL.
2. Weekend Getaways in the South: Birmingham, AL
In the 50s and early 60s, Birmingham, AL was considered the most segregated city in the US. Protests in 1963 turned the tide of the movement and focused the US and the world on the inequalities in the South.
Visit Kelly Ingram Park and download a free app with first-hand accounts from protesters. You can’t help but be moved as you listen to the stories of that summer and pass by and through statues depicting events. I found the walk-through piece with attack dogs on each side, teeth barred, especially disturbing.
But don’t just dwell in the past. Modern Birmingham is full of fun. Go cable water-skiing at Oak Mountain, or test your courage at the Beanstalk Forest TreeTop Challenge at Red Mountain. I felt pretty good after completing some of the more difficult challenges.
3. Weekend Getaways in the South: Huntsville, AL
A weekend in Huntsville will take you out of this world. The Space and Rocket Center is a must see. It chronicles the US space program. For the true space fan, you can also attend Space Camp and train on the same equipment as the astronauts who went to the moon. We attended family space camp and had a blast hopping across the ‘moon’ in the micro gravity (1/6th) moonwalk simulator.
For a more zen experience in Huntsville, AL, spend the day at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens. The Children’s Garden has a dino dig site, rainbow garden with a pot of gold, pollywog bog splash pool for hot days and even a child’s size labyrinth.
4. Weekend Getaways in the South: Lakeland, FL
A short drive from the theme parks of Walt Disney World is a totally different Central Florida experience. Find out what the area was like before Mickey with an airboat ride into the marshes or a tour of the citrus orchards. You can even pick-your-own fruit.
Of course if you have elementary school aged children, you may want to visit just one more theme park. LEGOLAND Florida has younger kid-friendly roller coasters, as well as a water park and themed hotels. My 8-year-old son recommends you don’t miss Brickbeard’s show on the water.
5. Weekend Getaways in the South: Charlotte, NC
Cabarrus County is ‘Where Racing Lives’ so be sure to visit Charlotte Motor Speedway on a visit to this great city. If you have the kids, you might want to stay at the Great Wolf Lodge and enjoy the huge indoor water park, although my 10-year-old loved the Magic Quest scavenger hunt just as much as the water park.
Top off a weekend visit to Charlotte NC with a visit to Rocky River Vineyard. You can even take the kids. They can sip non-alcoholic slushies while you sample the variety of wines.
6. Weekend Getaways in the South: Columbus, Ga.
Adventure awaits in Columbus at WhiteWater Express. Located in Downtown Columbus along the Chattahoochee River, WhiteWater offers guided river rafting trips, Stand Up Paddleboards, the Blue Heron Adventure Course (and zip line into Alabama), and bikes to ride along the 22-mile Riverwalk.
All that adventure makes you hungry. The perfect spot for a truly great meal in Columbus is 11th and Bay, just a few blocks away. Be sure to start your meal with the Southern caprese salad – grilled green tomatoes with homemade fried pimento cheese.
As my teens and I sat at the table, digesting more food than we thought we could eat, my middle son pondered, “I wonder how many stars this place has?” to which my oldest, without skipping a beat as he finished the last bit of my steak, says in between bites, “Not enough.”
7. Weekend Getaways in the South: LaGrange, Ga.
LaGrange, Ga. is one of those places that is full of surprises. Within a few miles you’ll find a Bible history museum, the grand Hills and Dales estate, a 90+ year-old cherished hot dog restaurant called Charlie Joseph’s, and a TLC Ultimate Cake Off winner (Cakes by Debbie).
Our favorite place to visit in LaGrange is the Biblical History Museum, a living history exhibit of life in biblical times. Regular tours can be long for kids, so be sure to check out the kids programs. My 10-year-old son enjoyed learning how to make bread and butter under an authentic Shepard’s tent.