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The 10 Most Underrated Destinations in the South

The South is full of hidden gems for the traveler looking for something special.

by
Chris Queen

Bio

July 26, 2014 - 7:00 am
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StPetersburg-FL-waterfront

Last week I shared my picks for the most overrated destinations in the South, and this week I’m presenting the flip side of that list. Here are ten destinations that don’t always make the list of great places to visit down here in Dixie. Hopefully some of you will consider these places when you book your next vacation. Enjoy!

10. St. Petersburg, FL

On the north side of Tampa Bay, on a peninsula bordering the Gulf of Mexico, sits St. Petersburg. Like its sister city, Tampa, St. Pete boasts beautiful beaches, vibrant attractions, and nightlife. But deep down, St. Petersburg is a funky arts and architecture town masquerading as a mid-sized city.

The architecture of this city encapsulates much of the 20th century’s notable styles, yet nearly all the buildings look like they belong in a city by the water – quintessentially Floridian. The arts scene in St. Pete is strong – museums and bohemian arts communities are nestled all over the city, and one museum in particular holds the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s works in North America.

With an exciting city core and a beach rated number one in America, St. Petersburg has a lot to offer its visitors.

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All Comments   (13)
All Comments   (13)
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That's a pretty good list, Mr. Queen. I especially like that you included San Antonio. I was born there. In fact, I was at the Hemisphere Tower on opening day, and some of the best concerts I've ever seen, including Elvis by the way, were at the Hemisphere Arena. Unfortunately, that arena no longer exists, it was torn down when the Alamodome was built, but it was a great venue for concerts. And the River Walk is still an attraction, with several very good restaurants. But, you know, just a short walk up Commerce Street from the River Walk there's Schilo's. It's an old German delicatessen that serves sandwiches and sour kraut and the like. Their homemade cheese cake is to die for, but it's their homemade kegged root beer served in frosted mugs that no one who visits San Antonio should miss. Best freaking root beer in the world, but you really have to try it to know.
But, I'm going to have to quibble with you, sir. There are many tourist sites in Texas, from El Paso to Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio, Corpus Christi and South Padre Island, even McAllen--we got the World Birding Center just north of Edinburg, which if you're a birder is the place to be.
However, if I were to recommend to an out-of-stater one place in Texas to visit for a vacation, it would be the YO Ranch in Kerrville. Talk about a blast from the past. This is rustic like you don't know. Cabins, horses, this is country living at its finest. But what makes it totally unique is the wildlife preserve. 500,000 acres where exotic animals roam free. There are antelopes, gazelles, giraffes, all kinds of wildlife. The YO provides guided tours on golf cart trains. It's like a trip to the Old West and an African safari all rolled into one.
Of course, if you're a tenderfoot, there's the YO Hilton just down the road. It's a very nice hotel.
If you're looking to escape for a weekend or a week, this is the place you want to go, because it offers an experience like no other. If you just want to be a tourist and do touristy stuff, like Sea World or Six Flags, then yeah come to San Antonio or Dallas. But if you want an adventure that you'll never forget, the YO is where you want to be.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
My favorite times in the South have involved visiting the various springs in the north of Florida - places like Ponce de Leon Springs, Crystal River, and Morrison Springs.

Jump into the 72 deg, crystal clear water on a 95 degree day and you too will feel rejuvenated.

My favorite city remains Pensacola. Great bay, beautiful beaches, interesting downtown, fun nightlife, and a fascinating history.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Pawley's Island, SC is quiet and beautiful. Almost the opposite of Myrtle Beach. Plus it's close to Brookgreen Botanical Gardens.
Of African-American historical interest is American Beach, FL, near Jacksonville.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm surprised all these lists have to do with towns and cities. They are boring by default. What happened to national parks, mountains, volcanoes, camping and trekking? But let's be honest: even those have long been overregulated and organized.

When I want to get away I want no signs, forest rangers, fees, waiting lists, restrictions, do this don't do that.

How about some lists of world-class destinations of spectacular nature where there's no one running up your backside, rules, fences, rangers, fees, or even anyone knowing you're out in the bush? No helicopter rescues, no cell phones, nothing.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yukon Territory, though it may have a fancier name these days. Western Ontario? How about Red Lake, Ontario, where the roads going North used to end? Or Vermillion Bay area, hundreds of lakes, some of them with no facilities of any kind and reachable only by pontoon aircraft? Naturally going in the summer months is recommended, but bringing mosquito repellant then is a must.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
I 2nd Tybee!
At the beach you see quite the variety of tattoos and the occasional Confederate flag bikini
Just redneck enough for me.....
(Where I hope to retire)
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
???

You forgot Chincoteague!



16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Chattanooga probably the most underrated city in south. Good inclusion. Uncertain if San Antonio is "the south" but it's my favorite large city in Texas. I'd remove a few beach locales and include:

Oxford (MS)
Corpus Christi
Tulsa and the eastern OK Ozarks
Fayetteville (AR)
Knoxville
Upstate South Carolina
Central Texas BBQ region
Civil War battlefield region of Virginia (if you're going that far north)
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
we live in gator crossing, ga. the biggest tourist attraction here is our new 'swim with the gators' attraction, as opposed to swimming w/ the dolphins at sea world. you can get in the water w/ the really big ones as you attempt to swim across a swamp. talk about an unforgettable experience that will really get the blood and adrenaline pumping, hopefully while its still inside your body. we are trying to get funding for a new attraction called 'swimming with the moccasins'. its seasonal, very exciting, and promises to be a real draw for big families w/ lots of extra kids. we don't have a hospital close by, but we have a lot of old moonshine runners employed who can get you to a free clinic in the big city in record time.

ya'll come on down and join in the fun waiting for you just below the surface. after being scared chitless here, you'll wonder why you ever went to any of those other places. we're a lot cheaper too.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
St. Petersburg, also affectionately know as "God's Waiting Room".

Stayed at the Hotel Detroit in the late 80's or early 90's. Unfortunately "Diamond Dave" was on hiatus from Van Halen and was playing the Club Detroit Lounge downstairs. Sleeping was impossible until 4 a.m.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Also, the beach in St. Pete cannot compare to Siesta Key near Sarasota. The sand there is blindingly white and the consistency is like confectionery sugar.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
I might also put in a bit of a plug for Mount Airy, NC here. It's not quite the idealized small town Mayberry you might remember from the Andy Griffith show; in fact, it never was. Nevertheless, it did get to be the template for Mayberry and Mayberry itself is a proverbial term for small town life for a reason. It's definitely worth a visit, though how much you'll find it to your liking probably depends on how nostalgic you are for the small town.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
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