The Best Weekend Getaways for Every Type of Adventure

San Antonio River Walk Boat Cruise
Photo: Wynn Myers

Perhaps one of the best aspects of the South is how our region encompasses the beach, desert, mountains, and scenic plains all at once. In just a few hours drive across states like Alabama or North Carolina, you can wade in the ocean and hike in the hills. That's why it was hard to pick our favorite weekend getaways in the South. From the gorgeous autumn color along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the bustling streets and delicious food of the French Quarter in the New Orleans to the palm tree-lined boardwalks of the Low Country, these are our favorite weekend getaways for couples, girlfriend trips, or even solo adventures. No matter where you choose, you'll see the beautiful landscapes and generous people that the South is all about in these weekend getaway destinations.

01 of 10

The Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains
Carr Clifton/Minden Pictures/National Geographic Stock

Old-growth forests give these mountains a sense of wonder worthy of a fairytale. Footpaths wind through the lush green folds where waterfalls and creeks rush by bus-size rhododendrons. These are our nation's oldest mountains, and they continue to provide fresh experiences with each visit.

Insider's Tip: Take a car hike. Our favorite drives include the loop road around Cades Cove, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail out of Gatlinburg, and Balsam Mountain Road off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

02 of 10

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston SC
Peter Frank Edwards

The Historic District's cobbled streets feel as hospitable as the drawled accents of the shopkeepers. Craftswomen sell intricate woven sweetgrass baskets at the City Market, and carriages roll past storied restaurants. And, oh, the shopping along King Street!

Insider's Tip: Palmetto Carriage Works offers free downtown parking for customers. Arrive early and explore the Market.

03 of 10

Orange Beach, Alabama

Orange Beach, Alabama
Jim McKinley/Getty Images

Sugar-white sands, Gulf breezes, and a bustling coastal village. From amusement park rides, water parks, and lazy rivers to championship golf, world-class fishing, and big-name concerts, this spot blends action with a laid-back style.

Insider's Tip: Create your own souvenir at "Make Your Own Glass" classes at The Hot Shop at the Orange Beach Arts Center. orangebeachartcenter.com

04 of 10

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park Hiking and Cabins: Undiscovered Gem
Photo: Scott Suchman

Although it's only a little more than an hour's drive from Washington, D.C., this park gets a fraction of the visitors of the other two parks. That means you practically have it to yourself. Stretching for more than 100 miles through Virginia, it features gorgeous mountain vistas, winding trails, and tumbling waterfalls.

Insider's Tip: Of the four campgrounds, we like Loft Mountain best, especially the views from campsites A2-A10 on the west and A34b-g on the east.

05 of 10

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville Panoramic View of Skyline
Getty/Adina Olteanu / 500px

Though it's the home of country music, Nashville keeps the welcome mat out for new styles and new artists. It's a hotspot for dining and shopping, too, whether you like it fine or countrified.

Insider's Tip: Music City might be a bastion of "C&W," but some of the best music in town is Americana, which derives from a wide variety of American roots music. Visit americanamusic.org for more information.

06 of 10

Keewaydin Island, Florida

Keewaydin Island
Photo: Art Meripol

Hidden in plain view, this tropical retreat straddles the Gulf Coast between Naples and Marco Islands. No bridges connect it to the mainland, so you'll need to make like a local and go by boat to spend the day on this secluded beach.

Insider's Tip: The first weekend in May locals from Naples and Marco throw a beach party at Keewaydin, linking their boats around the south end of the island.

07 of 10

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Virginia Stops
Art Meripol

This 469-mile ribbon of asphalt connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Shenandoah National Park while sticking to the ridgelines. Every turn reveals something special—a split rail fence, an awe-inspiring vista, a stacked-stone bridge.

Insider's Tip: From the 360-degree four-state view from Waterrock Knob (milepost 451), you can see the Smokies, the Nantahalas, the Pisgahs, and the Cowee Mountains.

08 of 10

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans
Photo: Brad Ricker/Getty

This amazing city is a bundle of contradictions, from the brass of Bourbon Street to the grace of Royal. Once you've experienced the storied history and round-the-clock entertainment of this Creole-flavored party town, you'll never forget it.

Insider's Tip: For Jazz Fest, if you stay in or near the Quarter, take a taxi but be ready to pay cash. For the return trip, skip the long taxi lines and catch the bus. (Visit norta.com for details.)

09 of 10

Georgia Coast Road Trip

Day 2: Explore Darien
Photo: Chris M. Rogers

Scenic Highway 17 delivers three picture-postcard destinations across coastal Georgia—iconic Savannah and St. Simons Island, as well as a lovely, lesser-known find, historic Darien.

Insider's Tip: You'll find one of Savannah's most affordable dinners in the basement of one of its finest restaurants. Make a meal of the appetizers at the tavern (800-554-1187), downstairs at The Olde Pink House Restaurant.

10 of 10

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio River Walk Boat Cruise
Wynn Myers

San Antonio's distinctively Spanish accent makes it a family getaway like no other. And while River Walk lodging can be pricey, the rest of your trip will be easy on the budget.

Insider's Tip: Buy a water taxi ticket for 24 hours of unlimited on/off privileges at stops running the length of the River Walk.

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