If there is one thing (and trust me, there's more than one thing) I've discovered in my two months interning in Southern Living travel headquarters, it's that these people know the South. Seriously--any one of the editors can rattle off where locals dine on the freshest seafood, the personality of City A compared to City B, and how on earth to pronounce that little island of the coast of Carolina.
These erudite scholars of the South were prime suspects for assistance in compiling a Southern Bucket List. Here's their Top 40 Things to Do in the South Before You Die.What have you done? What would you include on a Southern Bucket List?
Not for the faint of heart1. Try hang-gliding at Jockey's Ridge in Nag's Head on the Outer Banks area of North Carolina.
2. Take an adventurous whitewater rafting trip down West Virginia's Gauley River.
3. Hike the Appalachian Trail--or at least part of the 2,000 mile trail.
4. Compete in the Texas Water Safari, the world’s toughest canoe race—"even if you only make it to the first rapids," Les Thomas says.
5. Brave the zipline adventure at Historic Banning Mills, GA.
6. Raft in Olympic glory down the Ocoee River in southeast Tennessee.
7. Swim across the Mississippi River.8. Hike to Laconte Lodge in the Smokies. "It’s a lodge that you can only get to by a pretty intense hike," Taylor Bruce says.9. Island hop as you sail down the Carolina coast. Simply southern10. Sit on a screened porch on a summer night and "just listen to the music made by the bugs and the night birds," Nick Patterson says.
11. Stroll the Alamo plaza on a moonlit night or the River Walk as the sun rises in San Antonio, TX.
12. Experience Washington D.C. in its element on the Fourth of July. "Watch fireworks, hear speeches, witness parades and feel the patriotism," Joe Rada says.
13. Catch an iconic southern sunset.
- Key West, FL
- Ocracoke, NC
- Davis Mountains, TX
- On the western steps of the U.S. Captol in Washington D.C.
- On the east bank of the Mississippi River in Natchez, MS or Memphis, TN
Shout from the stands16. Watch southern teams tear up the NCAA college basketball charts. "See the University of Memphis men's or women's basketball team win a national championship," Richard says. "Go Tigers!"
17. Trek over to Tampa during February, March, or April to soak up MLB spring training. Take a page from the little boy I babysit and bring a couple of pens and baseballs--you're going to in the presence of greatness.18. Tailgate at a SEC football game. Make sure you've got all you need so you can focus on tossing the pigskin or shaking that (orange-and-blue) shaker. War eagle!
Shore things19. During the heat of the day at Padre Island, take a break and watch a release of youth Ridley's Sea Turtles--the rarest sea turtles in the world. 20. Take a seaplane ride to the Dry Tortugas—the southernmost point in the continental U.S.
21. Dive into Rainbow Springs on the hottest day of the summer in Florida's Rainbow Springs State Park.
22. Hang ten in North Carolina. Read about Amy Bickers and her son Jacob's five days at WB Surf Camp in Wrightsville, NC.23. Ride along 30A to see the snowy sands of the Florida Panhandle. "I grew up thinking snow was cold and wet," Carolanne says. "Now I know snowy sand is simply the coolest and those lapping waves the prettiest I’ve ever seen." Rosemary Beach, Seagrove, Seaside, Alys Beach, Watercolor, and Grayton Beach are simply idyllic. Get cultured24. Discover more of the South's great music. An area that launched numerous genres and artists, the South's music scene is still hoppin'. Check out concert listings and musical festivals near you.25. See fabulous art. Whether it's at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, or at Duke University's Nasher Museum of Art in Durham, NC--spectacular art facilities dot the map.26. Own an southern souvenir. Traditional folk art and crafts in the South include sweetgrass baskets from the Lowcountry, blown glass pieces from Blenko Glass Company in Milton, WV; pottery from Seagrove, NC, and quilts from Gee's Bend, AL. Check here for more about the folk art scene in the south.27. Witness the Osborne Light Spectacular at Disney World. "For Lower South Southerners who don't see much snow at Christmas, the fake flakes are sheer delight," Carolanne says.28. Among all the sights to see in D.C., sit at Abraham Lincoln’s feet and look out on the national mall from the Lincoln Memoral.29. Three words: Spoleto Festival USA.
30. Visit an iconic sculpture in the South.
- Castings in the battlefield at Vicksburg, VA
- Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA
- The Vulcan in Birmingham, AL "I live in Vulcan's shadow and know his personal charm, his park, his awesome view at night, and what he means to the history of Birmingham," Carolanne says.
31. Enjoy a cup mango ice cream at the Menger Hotel, a San Antonio, TX delicacy for more than 100 years.
32. Finish Louisville's Urban Bourbon Trail.33. Sip a frozen margarita while you bask on the cantina style patio at Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth, TX.
34. Eat an autumn apple you picked from a tree in the Catoctin Mountains, MD.35. Take down a Big Orange at Tanner's Big Orange in Greenville, SC.
36. Drink a Lone Star longneck in the general store at Luckenbach near Fredericksburg, TX--in operation since 1849.
37. "I want to teach my son how to cook barbecue shoulder over a charcoal-filled hole in the ground," Richard says.38. "Cast a net for my own dinner of shrimp," Taylor said. Look out for Joe's October issue story on this very topic.39. Eat a dish in its native habitat.
- Sample crab cakes in Baltimore, MD.
- Peel shrimp in South Carolina.
- Try etoufee in New Orleans, LA.
- Swallow oysters in northwest Florida.
- Grab some brisket in Texas
- Bite into Mississippi catfish.
- Dine on ham in Virginia
- Feast on North Carolina pork barbecue.
- And of course, eat grits in any deep south state.
A few of you were quick to Twitter more must-do's:
Eliz_Mahaney says to check out To Kill a Mockingbird in Monroeville, AL; hit up an SEC football tailgate at The Grove in Oxford, MS; and spend some time at The Cloister in Sea Island, GA.
My friend Juliabiebs reminded me that Priester's Pecans in Fort Deposit, AL has delectable and renowned candy.
Danieldreher mentions that a weekend at Lake Martin near Alexander City, AL is a must-do as is a golf trip at the Peninsula Golf Club in Gulf Shores, AL.
RobbieChampion piped in, reminding us to tour the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, TN.
Follow me on Twitter (EAStallings) or comment below and let me know what tops your Southern Bucket List!