9 Southern Trips to Add to Your Retirement Bucket List
You’ve done the daily grind. You’ve worked the hours. You’ve divvied up the vacation days. Now you’re finished. You’re retired. *cue popping the champagne bottle* What now?
Even if you’re someone who gets bored easily, there’s something fabulous about having nowhere to be. Because when you go somewhere, it can be somewhere special. That’s where these great retirement trips come in. We’ve got your newly-retired bucket list lined up, and now you’ve actually got the time to check off every destination.
Walk the South’s historic cobblestone streets, take a bite of the South’s most iconic dishes, attend the South’s biggest horse race (or rodeo!), or embark on a road trip that traverses mountain country or moseys along an old Florida highway. Just pick one of these trip ideas, and get moving. Carpe that diem.
Walk the South’s most historic streets
Charleston, South Carolina
Anyone that’s been to Charleston knows that this historic city—cobblestone streets, old churches, buzzy restaurant scene, waterfront views, and all—is something every Southerner should experience at least once. Maybe that’s why our readers have voted it the South’s Best City for three years running.
As our editor-in-chief likes to say, “Charleston is a city to be savored, not devoured.” Peek into quiet gardens and courtyards, roam around historic church graveyards, take a ghost tour or two, smell the floral scent coming off the window boxes along Rainbow Row, and explore a city that’s nearing its 350th birthday.
Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge, Georgia
Imagine driving through a kaleidoscope bursting in yellow, orange, and red—that’s what awaits travelers winding their way down this iconic road in the North Georgia mountains during the fall months.
Stay in the cozy mountain town of Blue Ridge, and embark on a set of autumnal pursuits like apple picking at Mercier Orchards (which has been in business over 70 years), riding the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, or hiking a nearby scenic stretch of the Appalachian Trail (talk about bucket list!).
Go on a Southern food tour
New Orleans, Louisiana
Where do we start? Undoubtedly, it has to be The Most Perfect Sandwich in the World, the New Orleans po’boy. From there, check off a list of dishes including (but not limited to) gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, crawfish étouffée, and boudin; restaurants like Commander’s Palace, Arnaud’s, Cochon Butcher, Dooky Chase’s, and Willa Jean will make it easy.
End your tour with a basket of fresh-from-the-fryer, sugar-dusted beignets from Café Du Monde, and you’ve just tasted over 300 years of Creole-come-Southern cuisine.
Attend a real Texas rodeo
Fort Worth, Texas
If you haven’t been to the Stockyards, get ready for a culture shock. Walking the streets, you’ll pass a saloon, a saddle shop, a custom cowboy hat store, and a rodeo coliseum (dating back to 1908), and you’ll think “Where am I?” In all seriousness, the Fort Worth Stockyards give a glimpse of Old Texas that people, distracted by the glitz and glamour of nearby Dallas, often forget.
Every Friday and Saturday night, folks saddle up to the Stockyards Rodeo inside the Cowtown Coliseum (yes, really) and watch cowboys compete in riding and roping contests. Once you’re feeling nice and Texan, head to Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honkytonk.
Explore one of the South’s Best Small Towns
Take your pick: Beaufort, South Carolina for slow, waterfront Lowcountry living; Fairhope, Alabama for Spanish moss-draped charm steeped in literary history; Columbia, Tennessee for an old-fashioned historic square feel; or Cleveland, Mississippi for Delta blues and world-famous tamales that can be found just minutes away.
The South is spilling over with small towns worth visiting, and there’s no better time to start checking off the list than right now.
Get a taste of Old Florida
And by taste, we mean oysters. Apalachicola, part of Florida’s Forgotten Coast, is famous for its bay oysters, which boast a pleasing mellow taste and robust plumpness and are best served with an ice-cold beer. Imagine an oyster so good that plenty of Southerners would be willing to defend its honor, should it be required. That’s Apalachicola Bay oysters.
While years ago you could find these oysters in restaurants across the South, now you’ll only be able to find them right in the heart of Old Florida, due to increasingly scarce natural beds. (Sustainable farming practices are helping revive the local oyster culture.) With a quaint downtown and quiet beaches nearby like St. George Island and Cape San Blas, this trip is a bonafide beach retreat.
Pay homage to the King of Rock and Roll
Graceland has come a long way: What started as a simple tour of the Elvis' Tennessee mansion has now become an entire world showcasing Elvis’ vintage cars, airplanes, memorabilia, and more. Spend the day taking a rare glimpse into his world. While in Memphis, it’d be a sin not to eat a plate (or two, or three) of its signature smoky pork barbecue. You can’t go wrong at Central BBQ, one of our South’s Best Barbecue Joints 2019.
Attend a Kentucky horse race
And it doesn’t have to be the Derby at Churchill Downs—though it is hard to pass up “the most exciting two minutes in sports” and the mint juleps and the many-colored hats. Once the Kentucky Derby is crossed off the bucket list, you can head over to Keeneland in nearby Lexington for the Blue Grass Stakes race.
While you’re traipsing across the Bluegrass State, don’t forget to follow along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which features over 30 classic and craft distilleries.
Book a stay at The Greenbrier
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Try finding a better opening line than “America’s Resort since 1778.” That can’t really be topped, right? Guests from all over the South have been attracted to this classic resort for its mineral springs and stunning setting in the Allegheny Mountains—and a set of historic guests that includes U.S. Presidents and royalty have made it an icon. (Around 27 of our country’s presidents reside on the guest list.) Round it all out with being home to one of the South’s Best Restaurants by State, Prime 44 West, and we’re sold.