Southern hospitality, sweet tea, and beautiful landscapes are what you’ll find in the southern states of the US. With the help of some other travel bloggers, I’ll introduce you to some of the best weekend getaways in the South.
Many of these are hubs for outdoor adventure seekers but I’ve also included some big cities for anyone who enjoys city stays.
These weekend getaways are in no particular order – I just tried to organize them geographically. Have other suggestions? Leave them in the comments at the bottom of this post!
- Fun Weekend Getaways in the South
- More Weekend Getaways in the South
- The Perfect Weekend Getaways in the South
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Fun Weekend Getaways in the South
New River Gorge, WV
Recommended by Megan of Red Around the World
New River Gorge is the newest national park and the perfect weekend getaway in the south. It has tons of things to do to keep you busy for a whole weekend. Beckley is the best place to base yourself because it’s fairly centrally located to the main sights. The Clarion Inn is easy to get to and great for weekend stay.
While you’re there, be sure to visit the Canyon Rim Visitor Center and walk down to the view of the New River Gorge Bridge.
From here, you can easily drive the seven-mile Fayette Station Road, a scenic drive taking you down to the river below and back up on the other side of the bridge. Most of it is one way and any car should be fine driving it, but RVs and trailers may have a hard time.
Be sure to make a stop at the Grandview Overlook and do some hiking while you’re there. It’s one of the most iconic views in the park (after the bridge itself.)
Next, head over to Sandstone Falls and do the short boardwalk hike to see them from afar. If you’re comfortable walking on sometimes slick rocks, you can walk further out to the edge of the falls, but be careful as people do drown here. Don’t forget to stop at the Sandstone Falls Overlook on your way in.
Finally, if you want a longer hike, the Glade Creek Trail is perfect. It’s a little under six miles and it’s easy-moderate. You just walk along Glade Creek and can do a couple of side trails to other waterfalls as well.
You can do a lot of this in one day if needed, but it will be rushed. It’s all pretty spread out so a weekend is the perfect amount of time to experience it without feeling rushed. This is one of the best East Coast National Parks so you don’t want to miss it!
Recommended by Yours Truly of Stuck On The Go
Many people think that Snowshoe is just a winter destination. Did you know that they have activities through spring, summer, and fall?
While they are definitely the southeast’s best ski & snowboard destination, the slopes turn into bike paths in the summer. They also hold fun festivals and events from spring to fall.
Nearby the resort you can take a Cass Scenic Railroad ride, go fishing, or head to Droop Mountain State Battlefield.
If you don’t like to ski or snowboard then they have plenty of other winter activities! You can go tubing, drive snowmobiles, take a dinner sleigh ride, or check out the Village.
There are some great places to stay at Snowshoe and you can either rent directly through Snowshoe or on Airbnb or VRBO.
If you are a foodie (like me) then you have to check out all the best restaurants at Snowshoe. My favorites are Sunset Cantina for Mexican food and Appalachia Kitchen for fine dining.
Recommended by Erin of Go Hike Virginia
Situated in the foothills of Blue Ridge Mountains, there’s a lot to love about Charlottesville, Virginia, including historic landmarks, world-class wineries, public art, wildly scenic hiking trails, and of course, the University of Virginia.
Start at Monticello, home to our third president, Thomas Jefferson. Tour the main house, then wander outdoor spaces, like the flower gardens, fish ponds and vegetable gardens.
Mobile art and family scavenger hunts encourage visitors to traipse across the historic property and snap photos. From here, sample reds, whites and varietals along the Monticello Wine Trail.
The IX Art Park is a must while in Charlottesville. This walkable outdoor art park delights with vibrant, conversation-sparking murals and sculptures. An outdoor stage hosts concerts, performances and family-friendly events from time to time.
Get outside and get on the hiking trails across the Charlottesville area. From UVA, it’s an easy 30-minute drive to the trailhead for Humpback Rocks, which wows with 360-degree panoramas from atop the jagged summit.
Alternatively, make the 10-minute drive to Ragged Mountain Natural Area for a stroll around the 170-acre reservoir.
Make it a weekend with a stay at the art-inspired Quirk Hotel. This design-focused boutique interweaves chic, modern style with vintage inspired charm. A rooftop bar boasts playful cocktails and local beers.
For dinner, a favorite spot is The Local for modern takes on Appalachian dishes, like steak frites and crispy fried trout.
Grayson Highlands, VA
Recommended by Megan of Virginia Travel Tips
Virginia is brimming with places that will blow your mind regardless of the time of the year and one of the best weekend getaways in Virginia (and the south) is Grayson Highlands State Park in Southwestern VA.
There are plenty of exciting reasons to visit the Virginia landmark but one of the best is that the state park is home to Virginia’s two tallest mountains, Whitetop and Mount Rogers (the highest). The mountains are over 5,000 feet high, which by Virginia standards, is rather tall.
Shenandoah gets all the hype when it comes to Virginia parks but Grayson Highlands is an unknown and extremely worthwhile alternative.
Inside of the park that spans over 4800 acres, you will find access to the famous Appalachian Trail, mountain streams teeming with trout, and a lot of camping spots to unwind at during your weekend away.
Grayson Highlands was established in 1965 and there are tons of trails within the park. One of the top trails for beginner hikers is the Massie Gap and Wilburn Ridge Loop, a 2.3-mile loop that shows off the renowned Grayson Highland ponies!
The Twin Pinnacles Trail is also a novice hiker favorite. Don’t miss out on a chance to hike the Mount Rogers Loop Trail, a 19-mile moderate trail that offers some of the state’s best views, especially when trekking during the fall in Virginia.
There are many small towns in the region, but the best way to enjoy your stay in Grayson Highlands State Park is to camp there! The park has over 89 campsites with several amenities and you will also find yurts in the Hickory Ridge Campground.
Virginia Beach, VA
Recommended by Alex of Wander With Alex
Virginia Beach is a family-friendly resort city listed in the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest pleasure beach coming in at 35-miles long.
That’s 35-miles of swimming, sunbathing, fishing, parasailing, restaurants, bars, and an unimaginable amount more. And if you travel away from the ocean, you’ve got the Chesapeake Bay to play in! Hiking, biking, kayaking, camping—there are loads of adventures waiting to be had in Virginia Beach!
The Hilton Oceanfront offers fine dining on the water, while the Holiday Inn & Suites is a resort-style hotel with three pools, a lazy river, and a lagoon! Lastly, the Ocean Beach Club Resort is a Caribbean-style resort hotel with an adults-only infinity pool that includes a bar!
Once you’ve had time to relax and soak up the sun on the beach, check out what the rest of the city has to offer! From water parks and aquariums to dolphin tours and adventure parks, Virginia Beach has a little something for everyone.
If you’re adventuring the city with kids, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center is a must-visit. Or if it’s a couples trip, go kayaking to a private beach and have a picnic at First Landing State Park. There are tons of outdoor adventures in Virginia Beach!
Seafood and signature cocktails scream Virginia Beach cuisine. Check out Waterman’s Surfside Grille for an original Orange Crush cocktail, a drink unique to the region. Or if you’re wanting a little seafood, Bubba’s Seafood Restaurant and Crabhouse or Rockafeller’s Restaurant are both excellent dining choices.
Virginia Beach is filled with exquisite cuisine, gorgeous beaches, adventure, and tons more. This short list of things to do and see barely scratches the surface. Enjoy your weekend getaway to Virginia Beach!
Recommended by Yours Truly of Stuck On The Go
Home to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and the World’s Largest Living History Museum, Colonial Williamsburg. There is no shortage of things to do in the area.
If you love theme parks then you’ll want to spend a couple days at least in Busch Gardens. It’s by far one of the best theme parks in the US.
Buy a ticket to Colonial Williamsburg so you can tour the historic buildings and attend the different presentations. You can even take a tour with a costumed guide. If you like history then a visit to nearby Yorktown and Jamestowne are also a must!
Downtown Williamsburg is right next to Colonial Williamsburg and The College of William & Mary so you’ll find lots of shops, restaurants, and boutiques here.
Visit some of the beautiful wineries near Williamsburg for a relaxing day. Or if you want to get a hike in on your trip then go to York River State Park.
There are many delicious restaurants in Williamsburg – for breakfast I highly recommend the Tipsy Bean Cafe and for lunch go to the Gabriel Archer Tavern.
Stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites Historic District where you’ll be close to everything and it even includes breakfast.
Recommended by Sydney of A World in Reach
Located on the Ohio River along the Indiana border, Louisville, Kentucky is a city that often gets overlooked as a southern city. Despite its location at the northern end of the southern states, Louisville is home to plenty of southern charm.
In Louisville’s small but lively downtown, you’ll find some of the city’s best museums along with great restaurants and other fun things to do.
The city is home to the famous Louisville Slugger baseball bats, and visiting the museum and factory is a fun way to spend a few hours. Make sure to check out the nearby 21c Museum Hotel – there is a free art museum in the hotel that’s open to the public. This is also an excellent place to stay if you want to base yourself downtown.
NuLu, or “New Louisville,” is one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. The up-and-coming area is home to art galleries, unique boutiques, and some of the city’s best food. Don’t miss the delicious Cuban food at La Bodeguita de Mima or ice cream from Louisville Cream.
Louisville is home to the Kentucky Derby, which is held at Churchill Downs. You can tour the famed racetrack or even check out a race – they’re held throughout the year.
Louisville is also a great starting point for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which is a perfect 21st birthday trip idea. A few of the distilleries on the trail are located in Louisville, and some of the more famous distilleries like Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve are a short drive away.
Red River Gorge, KY
Recommended by Bernadette of Explorer Chick
For a taste of backcountry camping head to the Red River Gorge Geological Area in Kentucky. It is on the Red River and it is a canyon system found in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The gorge also features over a hundred sandstone arches, cliffs, rock shelters, and waterfalls.
Campers can hike deep into the forest and set up camp amongst trees and scenic views of the countryside. For a one-night backpacking trip, there is the Pinch Em Tight, Rough Trail, and Rush Ridge Loop that is a moderate hike with wooded trails.
At one point there is a rock formation to scramble up or down depending on the direction you are going. For a more advanced hiking trip, the Red Byrd Arch loop has waterfalls and a great camping site by Moonshiner’s Arch.
For newbies, they should definitely train for hiking since the trails are not flat and there will be hills and even rock scrambles. It is recommended to get used to walking uphill while carrying a heavy pack.
Also, take the time to break in any new hiking boots or trail shoes. The actual trip is not the time for this and could possibly ruin or cut the trip short!
Johnson City, TN
Recommended by Yours Truly of Stuck On The Go
Johnson City is a smaller town in Tennessee and often overlooked, but I’m here to tell you that it is the next big outdoor/adventure destination.
This is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway and even then you won’t have enough time in this quaint town. There are endless hiking options including Buffalo Mountain, Beauty Spot, Carvers Gap, and so many more.
If you love white water then make the 20-minute drive to Erwin and raft the Nolichucky River with USA Raft. The Class III-IV river will really get your blood pumping.
I’m not a mountain biker, but they are also moving up as a biking hub. Tannery Knob bike park has become super popular with the biking community.
In addition to the outdoor activities, there are tons of great restaurants in Johnson City and breweries in town. Grab dinner at White Duck Taco and beer from Yee-Haw Brewing in the same building.
Walk around town and enjoy some of their beautiful murals and shopping in unique boutiques. You’ll be surprised what you find here!
Make sure you stay in the Carnegie Hotel – the only 4 Diamond Hotel in the region. The rooms are luxurious but the price tag is affordable!
Recommended by Mary of Bucket List Places
Although its Tennessee neighbor Nashville gets most of the love, Knoxville is a bucket list place in its own right. Located on the Tennessee River, Knoxville is an ideal destination for an outdoorsy weekend getaway.
You can spend an entire weekend exploring the 1,000 acres of Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness. Included in this sprawling area are Ross Marble Quarry and Mead’s Quarry Lake; both are excellent spots to view natural elements which molded Knoxville’s history.
You can rent kayaks or paddleboards, or head to other areas in the Urban Wilderness for hiking, biking, and climbing.
To experience the Tennessee River up close, hop aboard the Star of Knoxville, an authentic riverboat which hosts themed dinner cruises year-round.
A more laidback meal can be enjoyed at the Tomato Head, known for organic and fresh fare. As a hub of community, you can also check out performances and events at the Tomato Head or view local art on display.
The most unique place to stay is hands-down Graduate Knoxville. Located in downtown, this stylish hotel features bold wallpapers, an on-site saloon, and endless Instagram opportunities.
The adventure activities in Knoxville really are endless… even just biking along local greenways is a breathtaking experience amidst colorful wildflowers and blossoming dogwoods.
As a bonus, it is usually cheap to visit Knoxville in the spring – ticket prices for a bus from Nashville to Knoxville are at their lowest in the month of April. No matter the season, Knoxville offers activities and scenery sure to please.
Recommended by Mary of Life Full of Light
Chattanooga has plenty of things to do for the outdoor adventurer or the city explorer.
Walk around downtown and you’ll discover great places to eat. Puckett’s Grocery Restaurant serves up some delicious Southern cuisine, and sometimes they even have live music!
A few blocks away you’ll find the Tennessee Aquarium where you can see ocean life as well as animals and fish from the nearby river areas. From outside of the aquarium, you can see the Market Street Bridge!
Some of the more famous attractions in Chattanooga are completely unique to the area. For example, you can take the Incline Railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world, up to Lookout Mountain for some amazing views of the city.
Visit Ruby Falls and take a cave tour to the 145 ft. waterfall beneath Lookout Mountain. Or explore Rock City and its many rock formations and caves.
If you want to stay close to downtown, the historic Read House Hotel has 1920’s glamour with all the comforts of modern day. Plus, right next door is a cute umbrella alley, which is great for photos!
Or if you’re more of an adventurer, try white water rafting on the Ocoee River! There are several great rafting companies to choose from less than an hour away from Chattanooga.
Recommended by Rachel of Means to Explore
Escape to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains for an unforgettable weekend away in Asheville. Whether you’re into art or the outdoors, history or breweries, Asheville is the answer!
This city surrounded by the mountains is an outdoor enthusiasts dream with white water rafting, hiking, zip lining, kayaking, Mount Mitchell, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park all within easy access.
Asheville has a rich history, too. It started out as a backwoods village for recovering tuberculosis patients, was put on the map when a Vanderbilt decided to build his enormous bachelor pad mansion here, and the city has thrived ever since.
The Art Deco architecture downtown is beautifully preserved, as well as many of the historic sites around town. Tour Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate, visit author Thomas Wolfe’s home, or stay at the famous Grove Park Inn, a luxury resort that has attracted the rich and famous for decades.
The North Carolina Arboretum is a quiet escape into nature, or maybe you’d prefer to check out the Asheville Pinball Museum, where you can play on the vintage machines!
There are plenty of cheap and free things to do around Asheville, even if a visit to the Biltmore is not in your budget! This is where you’ll find some of the best hikes on the East Coast which are all free!
Sit down for a delicious lunch at Pack’s Tavern, off the main square in downtown, and ask the owner if you can see the secret tunnel used to smuggle in alcohol during Prohibition.
Afterward, stroll around downtown and explore the many unique local shops. Asheville will capture your heart and have you planning your next trip as soon as you can!
Yadkin Valley, NC
Recommended by Yours Truly of Stuck On The Go
Often overlooked for the larger cities nearby, the Yadkin Valley offers a quiet getaway and access to dozens of different wineries and multiple North Carolina state parks.
Spending a weekend in the Yadkin Valley is a great introduction to the area. The best towns to stay in include Elkin, Mt. Airy, or Winston-Salem. Winston-Salem has a thriving downtown scene while both Mt. Airy and Elkin are smaller, quieter, and much more quaint.
You’ll be within an hour from Hanging Rock State Park, Pilot Mountain State Park, and Stone Mountain State Park. All offer great hiking trails and there are waterfalls at Hanging Rock and Stone Mountain. Great fishing at Stone Mountain too.
After a day out hiking, stop by one of the best wineries in the Yadkin Valley. The wineries here aren’t pretentious so it doesn’t matter that you’re a little sweaty and may not be dressed for the occasion. They just love seeing you.
There are tons of great restaurant options but I love eating at Generations in Jonesville, Old North State in Mt. Airy, and Angry Troll in Elkin. There are plenty of great restaurants in Winston-Salem as well.
The Fairfield Inn near Elkin offers some great prices and many wine tours will pick you up here. You could always rent a house in the country as well.
Recommended by Sam of Find Love & Travel
Mooresville is an under-rated gem in North Carolina and is perfect for a weekend getaway. Located about 25 minutes north of Charlotte, Mooresville acts as a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you enjoy spending time at the lake, this city is perfect for you!
One of the best things to do in Mooresville is to spend time around Lake Norman. Known as the largest man-made lake in North Carolina, you will find many locals love spending their time on the water. From wakeboarding, surfing, skiing, and tubing, to kayaking and swimming, Lake Norman has tons of water sports to enjoy.
Other ways to enjoy Lake Norman include taking a hike, biking, fishing, or preparing a picnic in Lake Norman State Park.
After enjoying time by the lake, head to downtown Mooresville to explore fun shops, murals, and great restaurants/breweries. One of the most popular breweries to visit is Beer Lab.
Known as Race City for its presence in NASCAR, it is only right for Mooresville to have a place to go racing! So if bumper cars that can go up to 55 mph sound like fun to you, head over to the GoPro Motorplex.
For dinner, head over to Eddies on the Lake. If you can get seated outside, you will be greeted with views of Lake Norman as the sun goes down. They are known for having great seafood.
The best place to stay is rentals around the lake. For a hotel, check out The Hampton Inn & Suites.
Outer Banks, NC
Recommended by Julia of The Cure for Curiosity
If you’re looking for a relaxing weekend destination, head to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Famous for being “First in Flight” and home to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, these barrier islands offer long stretches of stunning beach, along with plenty of other amazing opportunities.
Spend your time driving from one charming seaside town to another, stopping to check out the little shops and sights along the way.
You can find wild horses at Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, climb the tallest sand dunes on the Atlantic coast of the United States at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, and visit a number of picturesque lighthouses that dot the coastline, like the Currituck Beach and Bodie Island Lighthouses.
This area is filled with rental houses or you can find a hotel in the Outer Banks and stay just for the weekend. Treat yourself to a luxurious getaway in the beautiful town of Duck at the Sanderling Resort.
This oceanfront resort offers plenty of restaurants and activities to keep you busy and it’s located close to downtown Duck, which features an amazing boardwalk on the sound side of the island.
Duck is also home of the famous Duck Donuts where you’ll have to stop for breakfast! If you’re not a donut fan, swing by Treehouse Coffee Co. for a delicious Southern biscuit breakfast experience. It’s the perfect way to start your days as you explore the Outer Banks with its laid back, small town charm.
More Weekend Getaways in the South
Recommended by Disha of Disha Discovers
One of the best weekend getaways in the south is Charleston, South Carolina. It’s the perfect weekend escape because it’s easily accessible.
You can fly in and out of Charleston International Airport with incoming flights from a lot of cities in the United States. Plus, Charleston has a small-town feel to it so you can easily explore everything it has to offer in just a weekend. Lastly, this charming city has so much to offer in terms of sightseeing, restaurants, shopping, and more.
Known as the “Holy City,” Charleston is brimming with so many fun things to do. Snap a selfie with the infamous Pineapple Fountain. From there, head over to the Battery and stroll along the promenade.
You’ll see luxurious homes on one side and the sea on the other side. Afterward, explore Rainbow Row — a series of historic, colorful homes. This is one of Charleston’s most famous photo spots.
If you’re into history, you cannot miss a visit to Fort Sumter. Moreover, to get a better understanding of Charleston’s history, visit the Old Slave Mart and the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. Lastly, spend an evening on a spooky Charleston ghost tour to learn more about the city’s haunted past.
A must-do in Charleston is to sample Lowcountry dishes. Poogan’s Porch offers She-crab soup, hushpuppies, fried green tomatoes, and more. You can’t miss Poogan’s as it’s one of the best restaurants in Charleston.
There are so many fun things to do in Charleston for couples too!
One of the best places to stay in Charleston is The Restoration. Located on the iconic King Street, you can walk to many of the city’s attractions. Plus, this hotel is oozing with Southern charm and luxury.
Jekyll Island, GA
Recommended by Candice of CS Ginger
If you are looking for a coastal weekend getaway in the South, head to Jekyll Island, Georgia. It is an island rich in history with 10 miles of beautiful beaches.
The highlight of the island is definitely the Jekyll Island beaches along with opportunities to see dolphins and spending time at the Jekyll Island Club Resort. It is a small island making it the perfect place to explore over the weekend.
Jekyll Island is home to the famous Driftwood Beach. It is a beautiful beach with large pieces of driftwood found all over the beach. It is especially beautiful at sunset when the sky makes a beautiful backdrop to the large pieces of wood.
Other activities on the island are taking a tour of the island, playing a round of golf, and visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. It is a great facility that works to rehabilitate wildlife and educate the public about sea turtle rehabilitation.
The most historic place to stay on the island is the Jekyll Island Club Resort. It is a historic hotel that was popular through the early 20th century with families like the Morgans, Vanderbilts, and Rockefellers. The Jekyll Island Club closed during World War II and later opened as a public hotel.
Recommended by Erin of Savannah First-Timers Guide
Visitors travel from all over the country to explore Savannah’s charming Historic District. The area is small and flat, so it’s easy to stroll from square to square while checking out the city’s beautiful mansions and tree-lined cobblestone streets.
Once you work up an appetite, there are plenty of trendy restaurants and rooftop bars where you can get your fill of Southern food.
To get a good overview of the Historic District, this helpful one-day Savannah itinerary will take you past many of the city’s most photo-worthy landmarks. It includes stops at the famous Forsyth Park fountain, River Street, and the beautiful Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Bonaventure Cemetery and Wormsloe Historic Site are loaded with picturesque walking trails shaded by hundreds of centuries old oaks. Nearby Skidaway Island State Park has miles of biking trails, while Tybee Island is great for fishing, kayaking and jet skiing.
Savannah is considered one of the most haunted cities in America, so a ghost tour is practically a must when you’re in the area! The scariest options are the late-night walking tours, but you can also opt for a haunted pub crawl or an entertaining ride inside a creaky old hearse.
If you get hungry after a full day spent exploring, Treylor Park and Crystal Beer Parlor are two casual restaurants with plenty of Southern-style options on the menu. Plan to rest your head at The Marshall House since their staff is known for their incredible Southern hospitality.
Recommended by Elizabeth of The Fearless Foreigner
Everyone knows Atlanta, Georgia as Delta’s main hub. Many people fly through Atlanta without taking the time to explore the city. It is the perfect weekend getaway in the south. Not only will you be able to get a direct flight from most cities, but there is so much to do in Atlanta.
Save money by buying the Atlanta CityPass and visiting all the major sites for free. As a center for the Civil Rights Movement there is also a lot of history in the city. Make sure to visit the Atlanta History Center and tour MLK Jr’s childhood home.
One of the reasons I love Atlanta so much is because it is a beautiful green city full of parks. There are so many places to walk and go hiking near Atlanta. Arabia Mountain, only 20 miles from downtown, is a really unique spot to hike. As you are climbing the mountain it feels like you are on the moon!
All the hiking and walking you can do will work up an appetite. Luckily Atlanta has an amazing food scene. Folk Art is one of my favorite spots for a delicious southern brunch. You need to have BBQ in Atlanta and one of the most popular spots is Fox Bros BBQ.
Stay in Midtown and you will be close to everything. The Hyatt Centric Midtown Atlanta in Midtown has great reviews.
Sanibel Island, FL
Recommended by Lori of Travlinmad
When you’re looking to unwind for a weekend, one of the best tropical getaways in the South is Sanibel Island in southwest Florida.
Blessed with beautiful beaches and some of the best shelling in the world, Sanibel makes one of the best warm winter destinations in the US, although the summer months offer quieter beaches and excellent wildlife viewing.
Sanibel is a quiet destination with much of the island still intact the way Mother Nature intended. If you get tired of beach fun, there are lots of outdoor activities to enjoy. Rent a bike and pedal the dedicated bike path that runs from one end of the island to the other.
Along the way stop at the National Shell Museum. This is a great educational stop for everyone, and kids will especially love the interactive displays.
To immerse yourself in the beautiful ecosystem, go kayaking in the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and paddle through mangrove tunnels while watching for native wildlife.
While there are no fast food restaurants on Sanibel, you can’t beat The Island Cow for a casual and fun place to eat. For an amazing Italian-style dinner, head to Cielo.
For a great beachfront stay, the Sanibel Inn is excellent. No matter where you dine or stay, just before sundown head to Lighthouse Beach for a fiery Sanibel sunset.
Recommended by Rebecca of Whatever Packs Your Bag
Ocala Florida is located in Central Florida and is the perfect weekend getaway in the south. It is small enough to explore in a couple of days and has options for any type of traveler. Just a short 1.5 hours from Orlando, which is a major airport hub you can easily get here from anywhere.
You likely will have the best time if you stay in the historic downtown area, where everything is a bit more walkable. Get yourself some coffee or crepes, at Symmetry Coffee.
Once you are fully caffeinated, you can go to Silver Springs State Park. It used to be an old roadside attraction, and still has the historic glass bottomed boats to see the springs from the comfort of your seats.
If you are feeling more outdoorsy, rent yourself a kayak to see a manatee or an alligator sunning themselves on the bank (if you’re lucky).
You can also go exploring in the Ocala National Forest, it is a unique experience and has lots of trails and campsites if you are so inclined. There is even a Smokey Bear Sign you can take a selfie with, which is always a good idea.
If you are looking for something completely unique, the Guinness World Records holder for the largest flamingo collection is also in Ocala, it is located inside Dunlow’s customer frame shop and a little random.
The lady who runs the shop is super nice and will totally take your selfie with the collection. None of the items are for sale, but it is still fun to see a fun collection.
Recommended by Victoria of Guide Your Travel
The Everglades are the perfect weekend getaway if you’re spending some time in Florida. You can reach this beautiful national park in less than an hour from Miami so it’s very accessible.
The easiest way to reach the Everglades is by car. There are a lot of car rental options in the city. Stay somewhere around Carnestown if you’ll be spending the weekend at the park.
Alternatively, you can also book a hotel on the outskirts of Miami if you don’t mind driving for some time every day. The Ivey House Everglades Adventures Hotel in Everglades City is also a fantastic hotel option. The Camellia Street Grill is a great spot for a quick lunch or snack on your way into the park.
The Everglades are known for their incredible scenery, beautiful nature, and of course wildlife. A lot of tourists take an airboat tour but these tend to be very loud and even harmful to the delicate ecosystems.
A much more sustainable and environmentally friendly option are kayak tours which will let you experience the beautiful Everglades in a calm and peaceful way.
If you love to kayak then make your way south a bit into the Keys and go kayaking in Marathon!
See alligators, rare bird species, and of course the stunning mangrove forests. With so many things to do in Everglades National Park, it’s an unmissable experience!
Recommended by Stephanie of The Unknown Enthusiast
Huntsville, Alabama, known as “Rocket City,” has been very involved in developing space technology for NASA, having been instrumental in the first moon landing, and the upcoming moon landing as well!
As such, the city is an interesting melting pot of professionals from around the country and traditional southern culture.
With that in mind, a must do is touring the Space and Rocket Center. A full scale replica of the Saturn V rocket towers high over the museum and numerous aircraft, rockets, and missiles are on display outside.
Inside, an actual Saturn V rocket is housed in the exhibit hall and space-related exhibits rival any space museum in the US.
Just down the street from the Space and Rocket Center is the Huntsville Botanical Gardens. Highlights include the Damson Aquatic Garden, the Garden Railway, and the Children’s Garden.
There are also some great outdoor options in Huntsville. Head to Wildflower Trail for a refreshing hike in a shallow stream, Stone Cuts trail to hike through rock formations, or stroll a boardwalk over a marshy nature preserve at Beaverdam Nature Trail.
You absolutely must stay in the Village of Providence, a charming, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood! The Homewood Suites is an excellent option in this area.
For breakfast, you can’t miss Bigfoot’s Little Donuts. They sell boxes of mini-donuts, with tons of flavor options.
For dinner, head to our favorite BBQ joint, Chuck Wagon, for some of the best brisket and ribs you’ll ever taste! Don’t miss the fantastic breweries in Huntsville too!
Gulf Shores, AL
Recommended by Nikki of She Saves She Travels
One of the best weekend getaways in the South is definitely Gulf Shores, Alabama. An underrated destination with so much to offer, this gem on one of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast.
The beach is pristine, white sand met with the perfect turquoise color, winning over hearts for all who travel to Gulf Shores.
But the adventure doesn’t stop there! With activities for young and old, like mini golf, riding the Ferris Wheel at The Wharf at Orange Beach, ziplining, dolphin tours and more. Kayaking in Gulf Shores is very popular too.
For fun dining spots, be sure to check out Pink Pony Pub, YoHo Rum & Tacos, and if you love ice cream, The Yard Milkshake Bar is a must-visit.
Check out some of the best restaurants for breakfast in Gulf Shores too.
For spectacular views of the water and close proximity to restaurants, a stay at the Phoenix All Suites Hotel might be perfect for you.
If you’re looking to stay active during your weekend away, be sure to check out the 28 miles of hiking and biking trails on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails.
The trails weave in and out of the Gulf State Park, which has so much to explore! From beach views to forests, fishing, birding and more, this area is a perfect getaway in the South.
New Orleans, LA
Recommended by Gabby of The Office Escape Artist
New Orleans is the perfect weekend getaway, no matter what kind of trip you’re looking to take. With amazing food, a ton of history, beautiful architecture, and a world-famous party scene, New Orleans offers something for everyone.
The best neighborhood to stay in is the French Quarter. Nearly all of the tourist attractions are here, so you would be able to walk everywhere – and avoid the expense of a rental car.
Pro tip: look for a hotel a block or two off Bourbon Street. Bourbon Street gets rowdy at night, and you may not be able to sleep well.
For a really opulent weekend getaway, the Hotel Monteleone cannot be beat. The Carousel Bar (with a real, working carousel!) is a fantastic spot for high-end cocktails and people-watching.
For a uniquely NOLA dining experience, you can’t miss the Oceana Grill. It gets packed at peak dining hours, so try to visit at an odd time. The gator bites – both fried and blackened – are delish.
If you’re looking for a more active excursion, the Lower Ninth Ward Bicycle Tour is awesome. Hop on a cruiser and bike through the neighborhoods that were mostly destroyed by Katrina back in 2005. You’ll learn the devastating story of the Lower Ninth Ward and see how this community has rallied and rebuilt.
San Antonio, TX
Recommended by Yours Truly of Stuck On The Go
San Antonio is full of history, beautiful architecture, and fun things to do. I was able to visit for a few days when my brother graduated from basic training with the Air Force and was pleasantly surprised.
One of the most popular things to do here is to visit the Alamo. It is pretty neat to see even if you aren’t into history and the grounds are really pretty. Best of all, it is free!
There are other missions that you can see just outside of downtown that are part of the National Park Service. Swing by and get your National Parks Passport book stamped.
Check out The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum for a unique stop. You’ll find all kinds of animal mounts here plus the Texas Rangers Museum. Another can’t-miss attraction is the Riverwalk.
Explore Historic Market Square and visit Mi Tierra for some amazing Mexican food and pastries. There are also lots of shops and booths here.
I’m always a fan of a Hampton Inn so this is where I would recommend staying. It’s a few blocks from the Riverwalk and so much more!
Recommended by Lisa of Planning Away
Austin, Texas is one of the best weekend trips in the South. Austin is one of the most beautiful cities in Texas.
The University of Texas Austin is located downtown. There are plenty of activities for young adults to enjoy. Especially the night life. Austin is known as the live music capital of the world. There are over 250 live music venues.
Throughout downtown you can sometimes find over 100 venues on the same night offering rock, blues, jazz, hip hop, punk, Latino, and of course country.
There are also a lot of fun things to do in Austin with kids. The Texas State History Museum is awesome. You could head down to Zilker Park and enjoy the Barton Springs pool, the botanical gardens, the Austin Nature and Science Center or even watch a live play in the park.
Austin also has some amazing murals throughout downtown. This is a fun activity to drive around and take some great photo opps.
One of the best things to do in Austin is get outdoors. Lady Bird Lake is located downtown. You can kayak out to Congress Bridge and watch the amazing bat show. The bats fly out every night in between 7:45 pm – 9:00 pm. If you love to hike Mt. Bonnell offers an amazing view of the city!
You can end your night at one of the best restaurants in Austin. County Line on the Lake offers classic barbecue right on Lake Austin. It also has turtles that you can feed as you wait to be seated. It is well worth a visit.
Austin has something for everyone! It is a great city to explore.
New Braunfels, TX
Recommended by Denise of Chef Denise
If you’re looking for a fun weekend getaway in Texas, New Braunfels has something for everyone. In the warm weather, most people visit New Braunfels for the tubing.
Walking through the downtown area, you’ll see a constant stream of buses of people ready to navigate the rivers with a trailer full of tubes. Locals skip the trucks and walk the streets to the river with their tubes.
Both the Comal River and the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels have multiple options for starting and finishing your float. Which is better? It depends on your preferences—the Comal river is warmer and the Guadalupe a rougher ride.
After a day of tubing you’ll probably be hungry. Head to Muck and Fuss for some of the best food in New Braunfels. You’ll find great burgers, inventive southern fare, and craft beers.
If you prefer wine, there are a few options in town for wine tasting, or you can visit the nearby vineyards of Dry Comal Creek. Check their calendar for music and food truck events.
Night time is a great time to stroll through the historic Gruene district of New Braunfels. A few venues offer music outdoors like the Grove, and the Gristmill.
If you stay at the Gruene River Hotel, you can have a cocktail and then it’s just a 5 minute walk back to your room.
Big Bend National Park, TX
Recommended by Michelle of The Wandering Queen
Big Bend National Park is a great weekend getaway if you live in Texas. This incredible national park is one of two located in the state. It is an underrated area to explore and is one of the best places to hike in Texas.
One of the best places to stay is the Chisos Mountain Lodge because it is the only hotel in the park. The Mountain View Restaurant is located inside the lodge and is the only full-service restaurant in the park.
One of the best things to do in the park is to hike the Hot Springs trail for sunrise. During the day, the hot springs can get pretty packed and hot, so sunrise is the perfect time to enjoy the springs located right next to the Rio Grande.
Another great trail to do is the Lost Mine Trail. This is a great one to hike for sunset. The mileage is around 4.8 miles round trip. Another very popular area is the Santa Elena Canyon.
You can hike here as there is a straightforward hike that is only 1.7 miles with not much elevation. If hiking is not your thing, you can also try to canoe the Rio Grande. There are many spots where you can rent a canoe or a guide for your trip.
The Perfect Weekend Getaways in the South
I know there was a lot of ideas here and a lot of information to take in but I hope this sparked tons of inspiration for trip planning! These really are some of the best weekend getaways in the south.
The southern US has so many great opportunities for travelers and I love showcasing the region I live in, of course with the help of the other contributors.
If you love traveling in the south as much as I do then join my Travel the Southern States with Stuck On The Go Facebook Group. This is the place to share trip reports, ask for advice on future trips, and connect with other travelers.
Did I miss one of your favorite weekend getaways? Send me an email at anna (at) stuckonthego (dot) com and let me know!
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