If you thought nothing was open on New Year’s Day except gas stations, think again. The South no longer closes for business on January 1—and not everybody’s having hog jowl and turnip greens for lunch. (We know we should, but we’re not.) You can even welcome 2017 by visiting a theme park or touring a historic home. Here are just a few things to see and do as another year rolls in.
Go to Waffle House.
When the first Waffle House opened in Georgia in 1955, founders Joe Rogers, Sr., and Tom Forkner promised their community a restaurant that would serve them 24/7. And they weren’t kidding. Their tradition of remaining open on holidays, including Christmas and New Year’s Day, continues. You can park yourself in a booth by the counter, place your order, and marvel at the efficiency of the Waffle House griddle.
Get gussied up for Commander’s Palace.
The venerable Garden District icon has been around since 1893 and was taken over by the legendary Brennan family in 1974. Since then, Commander’s kitchen has been home to the likes of chefs Paul Prudhomme, Jamie Shannon, and Emeril Lagasse. Today, chef Tory McPhail is at the helm. The menu for Sunday brunch might include Turtle Soup, Shrimp and Tasso Henican, Tabasco & Sugarcane Smoked Salmon, Lally’s Praline Parfait—a far cry from bacon and eggs. It’s a splurge, but it’s something special. Find the dress code and reservation information here: commanderspalace.com/reservations
Have a play date with your kids in Dallas.
Day1Dallas is held on the same grounds (Fair Park) as the granddaddy of them all—the State Fair of Texas. A family-friendly event, Day1 offers tons of activities for kids and is open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on New Year’s Day, with evening fireworks and live music. Parking: $10; admission $15 for adults; $5 for kids 4-12; kids 3 and under admitted free. Find a map and a guide to activities here: day1dallas.com
Visit the Vanderbilts in North Carolina.
Biltmore House—a renowned architectural jewel in Asheville, North Carolina—is offering self-guided tours on New Year’s Day (reservations highly recommended). After you stroll the corridors of this amazing mansion, once home to George and Edith Vanderbilt, check out all the other attractions on the estate, including a first-class winery. You can even book a room at one of two hotels on the property and make a weekend of it. Find all the info you’ll need right here: biltmore.com
Take a dip in an outdoor pool.
Thinking brrrrrrrrr? Not to worry. When it’s cold and damp in the rest of the South, it’s sunny and balmy in South Florida. Book an escape to the Keys or one of the laid-back oceanfront towns on the southern tip of the state. visitflorida.com
Order up some “fancy fixins.”
Traveling on New Year’s Day? Make sure you’ve got that Cracker Barrel map in your glove compartment because this Tennessee-based stalwart is servin’ up some country cookin’ on January 1. (Breakfast all day, country music, and retail therapy, too? We’re not worthy!)
Sing it with us: “M-i-c-k-e-y . . . “
Walt Disney World is open on New Year’s Day—plus you can get discounts at Disney resorts this time of year. Find the details here: disneyworld.disney.go.com
Tell Dolly we sent you.
Tennessee’s a little nippy this time of year, so it’s too cold for Dollywood’s water park to open, but the theme park will be welcoming guests on January 1. While you’re in Pigeon Forge, swing over to Gatlinburg for some shopping. This enormously popular destination has shown Southern families lots of good times over the years, and now it needs our support as it recovers from the Chimney Tops 2 fire. Plan your trip here: dollywood.com; gatlinburg.com; mypigeonforge.com