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The South's Best 2021

Here’s to the people and places that make this region—our home—nothing short of spectacular.
By Southern Living Editors
March 09, 2021
Woman walking dog down boardwalk to the beach on Sanibel Island, FL
Credit: Cedric Angeles; Styling Celine Russell/Zenobia; Model: Hoda/Wilhelmina; Cover-up: Echo New York; Hat: Mar Y Sol; Bag: Kayu; Sunglasses: J.crew; Location: Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, Sanibel Island, Florida; Dog: Allie Donlan

March 10th was one of those days our editors looked forward to in 2020. After months of planning, photographing, and keeping selections under wraps, we finally revealed the winners of our South's Best awards—which have traditionally been chosen by you, our readers. As the issues arrived in mailboxes and lists went live across our digital platforms, we could feel the excitement around the region as we declared our top travel destinations of the year. While it's always a memorable occasion, the 2020 edition was one we'll never forget. Just a few days after our accolades were announced, the world turned upside down. Instead of hitting the road for family vacations, spring breaks, and girlfriend getaways, we were instructed to stay at home for days, which turned into weeks, which ultimately became months.

When it came time to start plotting the 2021 South's Best awards, our team thought long and hard about how to approach our annual franchise. Should we just call it off? After numerous conversations (and too many Zoom calls to count), the answer seemed clear: The awards would go on but with a slight twist. We wanted to show support when our neighbors needed us most, especially after a year that hit our communities so hard. So, we nixed the survey, canceled the ranking system, and set out to share our editors' favorite hidden gems, from the full-service drive-in barbecue joint in Arkansas to the small town in Texas with antiques shops worth the 30-minute detour from San Antonio. You'll also notice that we introduced new categories to reflect how we've all been living: spending more time outdoors, connecting with nature, and appreciating the beautiful region we're proud to call home.

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Join us in celebrating the people and places that have kept the heart of the South beating during some of the toughest times of 2020 and 2021. We hope you enjoy this special section and use it to start dreaming of your next trip, whether to the majestic Smoky Mountains of Tennessee or the white sands along Florida's Gulf Coast.

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