The South’s Best Cities 2019
When we asked readers to name their very favorite cities in the South, their choices ran the gamut from a sprawling metropolis with nearly 6 million people to smaller cities in the 60,000 population range. We love our Music City and the capital of Texas, which we want to “keep weird.” Readers picked a mountain gem beloved by the Vanderbilts and a waterfront city in North Carolina loaded with historic charm. But the top three? You won’t be surprised. They’re perennial favorites—and not just because of their legendary food and historic architecture. All three are garden-loving cities with gorgeous parks and overflowing window boxes and lacy ferns swaying in the breeze. All three are aging well. And all three have what can only be described as Southern mystique. Blame it on the live oaks and Spanish moss, the wrought iron balconies and hidden courtyards, the fountains splashing and music drifting and gas lights flickering. These cities have stories to tell.
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1. Charleston, South Carolina
Even people who have never set foot in this dreamy Lowcountry city have romantic notions about it. They might not know why they think Charleston is wonderful—they just know they want to go there someday. From its historic rowhouses and hidden gardens to more good food than any single city should be allowed, Charleston lives up to the hype. Read more.
2. Savannah, Georgia
3. New Orleans, Louisiana
4. Nashville, Tennessee
Maybe Music City still makes you think of country music and the kind of bars that offer line-dancing lessons. But Nashville has become a sophisticated food city, with chefs like Maneet Chauhan and Tandy Wilson making their mark and attracting a whole new crew of visitors to town—those looking for inventive menus and craft cocktails. All that and live music in every direction.
5. Asheville, North Carolina
6. Atlanta, Georgia
As of 2017, U.S. Census Bureau stats positioned Atlanta as the third fastest growing metro area in the country, behind Dallas and Houston. And it’s easy to see why. Interesting neighborhoods like art-centric Midtown and “Beverly Hills of the South” Buckhead offer tremendous variety. Add major sports events year-round, more restaurants and nightlife than you could ever take in, and such world-class attractions as the High Museum of Art, and it’s no surprise that Atlanta is one of the top cities in America, not just the South.
7. Greenville, South Carolina
Pedestrian friendly with a beautiful Main Street, Greenville has just over 68,000 people, making it big enough to have plenty to do but small enough to relax and enjoy without freeway entanglements. Downtown Falls Park, with its cantilevered Liberty Bridge over the Reedy River, provides the urban greenspace of your dreams. And the city has a thriving restaurant and bar scene, from farm-to-table cuisine to area taprooms and wineries.
8. Wilmington, North Carolina
A beautiful waterfront city, Wilmington has a two-mile Riverwalk—loaded with boutiques, galleries, markets, and dining—along the Cape Fear River. The 230-block National Register Historic District features gorgeous Victorian and Antebellum architecture. And Wilmington is a short hop from three beaches: Carolina, Kure, and Wrightsville.