10 Southern Trips You Need to Plan in 2020
Much more than an urban job hub, OKC is developing a reputation as a must-visit vacation destination. That’s thanks, in part, to a recent boom in the city’s arts and culture offerings, which include two new green spaces/event venues and a brand-new Contemporary Arts Center (including exhibition and performing arts space) opening in the spring. If you’re flying in, no need to rent a car: Oklahoma City’s new and expansive streetcar system makes navigating downtown a breeze.
While any election year makes our nation’s capital abuzz with activity, this year marks an especially important one: 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Learn all about this major milestone in a series of exhibitions displayed throughout the city, from the National Portrait Gallery to the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Florida’s Forgotten Coast
It’s been more than a year since this little slice of paradise was ravaged by Hurricane Michael, and residents have a message: We’re back in business. Help support cities from Mexico Beach to Apalachicola by paying a visit. While the hardest hit towns are still deep in rebuilding mode, many restaurants, shops, and rental companies have reopened, making long weekends easy and relaxing to plan. And, as always, the beaches here are very much open and as beautiful as ever.
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Louisville might play host to the state’s most famous Derby, but Kentucky’s other horse capital boasts some equestrian cred of its own. In 2020, Lexington’s Keeneland Race Course will be home to the Breeders’ World Cup Championships, a race which attracts competitors from six continents and more than 16 countries, and Equitana, the world’s largest equine fair. Another reason to visit our country’s bourbon capital? 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of Prohibition. So hit a distillery (or two) and be thankful you don’t have to go underground to do it.
Cape Canaveral, Florida
Not only was this white-sand gem recently flagged by Airbnb as one of the 20 hottest places to visit (along with only one other U.S. destination), Cape Canaveral is also poised to make headlines soon for other reasons. In 2020, the space-centric city and home to the Kennedy Space Center will celebrate some important milestones, including the highly anticipated launch of the Mars Rover and the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13.
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the observance of Earth Day, and while the annual event kicked off in Santa Barbara, California, Austin is home to one of the biggest celebrations in the South. Every year, thousands gather from across Texas and beyond to enjoy live entertainment and local food while learning about ways to make more sustainable choices at home. Can’t make it to the April 18 festival? Take a mini vacation (or staycation) to a beach or roadside cleanup in honor of the Earth’s big day.
Asheville, North Carolina
The South’s hippest mountain town has big things to brag about in 2020. Throughout the year, the city will celebrate the debuts of four new art centers, new craft breweries, and a new Art Déco Food Hall helmed by two James Beard nominees. Serious foodies, however, will want to mark their calendars for September, when Asheville’s newly minted Chow Chow festival—a culinary event showcasing flavors and makers unique to the city—returns for its second year in a row.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The Big Easy may have recently celebrated the big 300, but the city is showing no signs of slowing down. In 2020, travelers can expect a slew of new sights and experiences—starting right at the airport. Following its $1 billion makeover, Louis Armstrong International Airport reopened in November with upgraded concourses, fresh, local dining options, and live music within the terminals. Other can’t-miss newbies to the NOLA scene? The Sazerac House, a museum dedicated to New Orleans’ cocktail culture; the Louisiana Children’s Museum; and the Riverboat Louis Armstrong, a 3,000-passenger behemoth that will host weddings, conventions, parties, and concerts on the Mississippi.
For ardent Bulldogs and Southerners in the know, the allure of Athens might not be a secret. With an established indie rock scene (spearheaded decades ago by local bands B-52 and R.E.M), live music is a major draw for the college town. Next year, however, Athens just might get a little more crowded. Fodor’s Travel recently included the Southern city on its 2020 “Go List,” which rounds up the hottest destinations to visit in the U.S. and beyond. And their reasoning goes beyond Athens’ musical reputation to include the city’s creative culture as a whole, from its quirky shops to its thriving food scene.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
As the subject of a new podcast and a new TV series on Netflix, Dolly Parton’s reign as the queen of, well, everything is going strong. And for those who haven’t paid a recent visit to her namesake theme park, 2020 should be your year. The summer of 2019 saw Dollywood’s largest expansion come to completion. Dubbed Wildwood Grove, the $37 million addition includes a new roller coaster, swing ride, restaurant, and a trio of new costumed characters.