Happening Now

College Football Hall of Fame Debuts in Atlanta (August 2014)

Discover Alabama's Varied Culinary Side during Alabama Restaurant Week (August 2014)

Get Out and Enjoy Scallop Season (and Scallops) on St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County, Florida (August 2014)

Bringing the Past and Present Together in Rock Hill, S.C. with "75 Years, Still One Gear" (July 2014)

Four Reasons to Plan a Getaway to Sunny Isles Beach, Florida (July 2014)

So Many Ways in the South to Make This Summer One to Remember (June 2014)

Amp Up Your Doughnut Making (and Eating) Experience with Sublime Doughnuts' Kamal Grant's Cookbook (May 2014)

Streamsong Resort: A Golfing Resort Beyond the Ordinary in Florida (April 2014)

In the Kitchen with Chef Douglas Olsen (March 2014)

Celebrating Farmers and Farm Life with the Farm Star Living Website and App (March 2014)

In the Kitchen with Chef Sam Lodovico, The Resort at Glade Springs (February 2014)

Checking Out Charleston's Culinary Scene with Charleston Culinary Tours (February 2014)

Discovering Downtown Birmingham, Ala. with Alabama Road Trips (January 2014)

Season Two of "Emeril's Florida" Highlights Culinary Gems of South Walton (January 2014)

Chatting with Barbecue Champion and Restaurateur Melissa Cookston (November 2013)

"Cast Iron Chef" Competition to Heat Up the 3rd annual Brooks County Skillet Festival (October 2013)

Crowd Pleasing Recipes to Amp Up Tailgating (September 2013)

Discovering Georgia's Lake Oconee Area (July 2013)

Honoring the Man in Black: Johnny Cash Museum (June 2013)

Experience Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island (June 2013)

Build Your Own Memorable Experience in Columbus, Georgia (May 2013)

South Walton’s Art Culture: People Behind the Creations (May 2013)

Louisville, Kentucky Beyond the Derby (May 2013)

City Insider: Mark Wyant, owner, The Saint Hotel in New Orleans (February 2013)

Dining Out at Osteria Tulia (January 2013)

Discover Florida's Charm with Emeril's Florida (January 2013)

Taste Nostalgia (and Fun) with Pure Sodaworks (December 2012)

Find Serenity (and More) at Red Horse Inn (December 2012)

In Tall Cotton: Chef Cory Bahr and Restaurant Cotton (November 2012)

Under the Grand Chapiteau with Cirque du Soleil’s Totem (November 2012)

Feelin’ Presidential: Presidential Sites Throughout the South (October 2012)

Eight Cool Southern College Towns (September 2012)

Mark Your Calendar... Fabulous Southern Fall Music Festivals (September 2012)

In the Kitchen with Chef Eric Fulkerson (August 2012)

Visiting The Inn at Magnolia Oaks (August 2012)

Journey to New Orleans Plantation Country (August 2012)

Turn Your Vacation into an Experience at the Plantation on Crystal River (July 2012)

Dazzle Your Summer with Fata Morgana (July 2012)

Coming Home to Hightower Creek Vineyards (July 2012)

Exploring I-95 in the South with Barbara Barnes, Author of What’s Great About I-95: Maine to Florida (July 2012)

Timeless Experiences Await You at High Hampton Inn (June 2012)

Discover Cummins Falls, Tennessee's Newest State Park (June 2012)

See Savannah on a Segway Tour (June 2012)

Newest Addition to Biloxi, Mississippi - Margaritaville Casino & Restaurant (May 2012)

Coming Home: Chef David Guas set for New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (May 2012)

Experience Southern Sweetness with South Carolina's Firefly Distillery (May 2012)

The Running of the 71st Iroquois Steeplechase (May 2012)

100 Years and Counting: Riding the African Queen (May 2012)

Get Into the Wild with Safari Wilderness Ranch (May 2012)

Discover Another Side of Spartanburg with the Underground Guide to Spartanburg (April 2012)

Get Out and Explore National Parks During National Park Week (April 2012)

Glide Through Downtown Memphis on the Segway Experience of Memphis Tour (April 2012)

Congratulations to Our "Adventure Time Getaway" Winner (April 2012)

The Tennessee Aquarium, 20 Years Later and Still Going Strong (March 2012)

Fashion Weeks Show Off Stylish South (March 2012)

What to do When You’re Not Breathing Baseball During Spring Training in Florida (March 2012)

Tables are Set for Restaurant Weeks in the South (January 2012)

Congratulations to our Couples Comedy Getaway Winner (December 2011)

Discovering South Florida’s Three Distinctively Different Kimpton Hotels (November 2011)

Congratulations to our Back To Nature Getaway Winner (November 2011)

“Fall” for the Outdoors and More in Wilmington, North Carolina (October 2011)

Festivals, Football, Foliage and Fun: The Many Reasons Fall is Great in the South (October 2011)

The New Must-Do’s in Raleigh, North Carolina (September 2011)

Culinary Delights and Cultural Gems Await You Along SW Alabama's Culinary Trail (September 2011)

Exploring Seaside with the Seaside Walking Tour (September 2011)

Ending the Summer with a Bang: Labor Day Weekend Fun in the South (September 2011)

Celebrating Food and Music at The Shed in Ocean Springs, Miss. (August 2011)

Extend Your Summer with an Outdoor Concert (August 2011)

Discover Southern Charm and Hospitality at Fairview Inn in Jackson, Mississippi (August 2011)

Living History (and More) Awaits You at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill (August 2011)

Exploring New Orleans’ Culinary Scene During COOLinary (August 2011)

Celebrate Hampton Bear and Teddy Bears at High Hampton Inn (July 2011)

Fireworks, Parades and More: 25 Ways to Have a “Blast” This 4th of July Weekend in the South (July 2011)

Simply Southern...James Madison Inn in Madison, Ga. (June 2011)

Fun and Free (or Inexpensive) Ways to Celebrate Dad this Father's Day (June 2011)

Congratulations to Our Simply Delightful Getaway Winner (June 2011)

Discovering One of Florida’s Surprises: Paddling the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail (April 2011)

Rediscovering old Florida at the Florida House Inn (March 2011)

Sip and Taste at the 26th annual Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival (March 2011)

Congratulations to our "Savannah's Best" Getaway Winner (March 2011)

Let’s Play Ball! Spring Training in Florida (February 2011)

Getting Back to Nature: Touring Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge (February 2011)

Spotting Winter Wildlife (and Possibly Whales) in Virginia Beach, Virginia (January 2011)

Congratulations to our “Let’s Just Go” Getaway Winner (January 2011)

Finding “Treasures” on Jekyll Island, Georgia (January 2011)

Yo, Ho Ho: Exploring the Life of Pirates at the Pirate and Treasure Museum (January 2011)

It’s All About Experiences This Year in the South (January 2011)

Holidays are Hot at Hotels Across the South (December 2010)

It’s Nice on Ice–Where to Go Ice Skating in the South This Holiday Season (December 2010)

Congratulations to our Private Island Getaway Winner (December 2010)

Celebrating the Holiday Season in Williamsburg Virginia (December 2010)

Discovering Nu Wray Inn in Burnsville North Carolina (December 2010)

Thanksgiving Day Chef Competition at Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation (November 2010)

Many Reasons to Celebrate the Holiday Season at Gaylord Opryland (November 2010)

Discover the Birdhouse Trail in Monroeville Alabama (November 2010)

Congratulations to Our Casino Giveaway Winner (November 2010)

Get Out This Saturday for VISIT FLORIDA’s Great Beach Walk (November 2010)

Nathan Beaver set to Return to Perform in Madison Georgia (November 2010)

Fall for Fishing Along North Carolina’s Coast (October 2010)

Savor the Flavor in Polk County, Florida One Bite at a Time (October 2010)

Congratulations to Our Beach Giveaway Winner! (September 2010)

Discovering Mississippi's Culinary Trail (August 2010)

Going Coastal…Now is the Perfect Time to Visit the Florida Panhandle (August 2010)

Ways You Can Support the Recovery Effort in the Gulf (June 2010)

Get Out and Go to Alabama’s Gulf Coast (June 2010)

Soak in the Sun (and Fun) Along Florida's West Coast Beaches (June 2010)

It's New - The Titanic Museum Attraction (June 2010)

Celebrate Dollywood and Dollywood's Splash Country in 2010 (June 2010)

Tell Orlando (and the World) Why the City Makes You Smile (June 2010)

Fun Awaits You Along the Mississippi Gulf Coast (June 2010)

Staying Current on the Oil Spill in the Gulf (May 2010)

Where to Go for the Latest on the Nashville Floods (May 2010)

Keeping Current with the Oil Spill (May 2010)

Published: September 2012
Eight Cool Southern College Towns  

- reported by Samantha Lee Chancey

What does Austin, Texas, Oxford, Miss., Athens, Ga., Columbia, S.C., Chapel Hill, N.C., Knoxville, Tenn., Gainesville, Fla., and Charlottesville, Va. have in common? A lot more than just being college towns. Each one has its own take on music, food, history, and outdoors – and they all do it very well.

Live Music Scenes In...

- Austin, Texas. Austin is a city that loves live music, and music lovers will love it. Musicians perform just about anywhere, from grocery stores to outdoors toswanky venues. If good live music is essential for you, you may have found your new personal mecca. The city is home to such big music festivals as Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. In addition, there are lesser known but equally cool festivals like Pachanga Latino Music Festival, Urban Music Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest, and Chaos in Tejas. If you’re looking for an experience on a smaller scale, you won’t be disappointed. There are almost 200 music venues to choose from, ranging from cozy coffeehouses to upscale concert halls.

- Athens, Ga. Since its R.E.M days, Athens music has continued to gain attention and continued to grow. With hundreds of bands, several recording studios, independent record labels, and renowned venues, it’s a paradise for anyone who loves music. If you’re hoping to see a concert while you’re in town, there are two venues in particular that are must-sees: The 40 Watt Club and the restored Georgia Theatre. In addition to these two nationally renowned venues, you can find countless venues and bars featuring live music on any day of the week.

- Knoxville, Tenn. Luckily, you won’t be stuck inside when it gets dark, because Knoxville has some pretty great things going on once the sun goes down. There’s the music scene that offers up any genre you could think of. When you head to one of the nightclubs in the Old City and Market Square areas, live music is an essential part of every evening. The One Vision Plaza has live music every day during the week, and Market Square hosts free outdoor concerts and movies from the spring through the fall. You can also tune in to the local radio station, WDVX, which specializes in Americana and blue grass tunes.

History Lives In...

- Columbia, S.C. If you’d like to take a break from the current whirlwind pace of this college community and get a closer look at Columbia’s past, there are several historical landmarks that deserve a closer look. The Woodrow Wilson family home was built by Woodrow Wilson’s parents in 1872 and is still around today for those curious for a peek back into the past. The Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens was constructed in 1812 and has been called a "classic example of an elite planter's domicile," and remains very well preserved to this day. Then there’s the South Carolina State House, a sprawling historical building that managed to withstand Sherman’s 1865 march. To wrap up your tour through South Carolina history, visit the South Carolina State Museum, which holds an astounding 70,000-plus artifacts.

- Oxford, Miss. It may be a small town, but Oxford has seen major moments in Southern history. In fact, the town barely escaped being burned to the ground, unlike many Southern cities that Union Troops passed through during the Civil War. But if you take a look around Confederate Cemetery, you’ll see that the history has a darker side, too. The cemetery holds approximately 700 Rebel and Union soldiers who died during the 1862 battle of Shiloh. Fast forwarding to 1962, James Meredith was the first African American to integrate into the University of Mississippi, a previously all-white university, which led to major rioting but also marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.

Get Outdoors in...

- Chapel Hill, N.C. It’s a perfect time to take advantage of all of the opportunities for outdoor adventures around Chapel Hill while the weather is nice and warm.Hikers will love the Eno River Hiking, where you can blaze your own path through the woodlands or stick to the nature trails while taking in the beautiful Eno River State Park scenery. Chapel Hill is home to more than seven nature trails of various lengths so you can tpick out the one that appeals to you most. If you decide water is more your element, head out to University Lake, rent a canoe, and spend a day out in the water; or camp overnight at Jordan Lake.

- Columbia, S.C. Life outdoors in Columbia is just as vibrant as its entertainment districts. There are several playgrounds, rivers, parks and gardens to set up a picnic or spend a lazy day. Lake Murray is a scenic water playground that offers boating, sailing, canoeing, fishing, skiing, swimming, and camping. If you’re interested in seeing some amazing biodiversity, visit Congaree National Park, which is the largest remaining stretch of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States today. Then there’s Carolina Adventure World, another record breaker with the Southeast’s largest ATV-UTV and dirt bike riding park. You’ll also find rivers and trails scattered throughout the area, so a chance for adventuring is always near.

- Gainesville, Fla. There are endless opportunities to interact with nature in Gainesville, but one of the most highly recommended get-aways is the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History. With 6,400 square feet of subtropical plants and hundreds of beautiful butterflies, it would be hard to picture a dreamier destination. To keep up the spirit, take a trip to Alachua to pick fresh fruit or rent a canoe and spend a day on the river in High Springs. Gum Root Park’s floodplain swamp conditions make it a haven for birding and wildlife viewing as you explore the trails under a tangle of cypress and gum trees. For hiking or mountain biking, San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park has the perfect combination of solitude and picturesque woodlands. O’Leno State Park was one of the original Florida State Parks, and remains a great place to hike and watch for wildlife by the banks of the Santa Fe River, and River Rise Preserve State Park picks up where the Santa Fe River springs back up after going underground in O’Leno.

-Knoxville, Tenn. Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and the banks of the Tennessee River, Knoxville offers up beauty and adventure in spades. No matter what you choose to do, the message that the people dedicated to Knoxville’s recreation attractions are trying to send above all is get out and play! You’ll find dog parks, greenways, parks, rivers, flowery fields, quarries, and trails, so there’s no excuse not to get out of the hotel room and take advantage of Knoxville’s mild temperatures and beautiful sunny weather. There are constantly new events going on, like bike rides, disc golf, and ultimate Frisbee. If you’d like, you can take a ride on the Three Rivers Rambler train to take in the sights in a more leisurely fashion.

Eat In..

-Athens, Ga. Foodies are guaranteed to love this town as well, because it offers just about every dining experience you could want coupled with a progressive culinary scene. Farm 255, located downtown, blends all of the best things about Athens and offers local, seasonal food with the chance to see live music on their outdoor stage. With a menu that blends Mediterranean and Southern influence, not only does the food taste good, but you can feel good about where it came from. Athens Food Tours will take you on a three-hour walking tour through six to eight local restaurants and shops downtown to discover the best of Athens’ cuisine as well as a little local history.

- Chapel Hill, N.C. An essential part of any proper Chapel Hill trip is good southern food, and lots of it. Check out Mama Dip’s for country cooking if fried chicken and pecan pie call to you. Crook’s Corner, which has been called “a temple of Southern cuisine” by Raleigh’s News & Observer, is known for their shrimp and grits, and for those with more of a sweet tooth, their honeysuckle sorbet. Foster’s Market offers up a gourmet food market and café, combining old fashioned recipes with a modern twist. Best of all, everything on the menu is made from scratch and prepared in-house. You can also find local produce at the Southern Village Farmers Market every Thursday. If southern cooking isn’t your thing there are plenty of other options. Satisfy your pizza urge and pick up a slice at Pepper’s Pizza on Franklin Street. And no matter what, make sure to save some room to try the best biscuits you’ll ever have at the Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen.

- Charlottesville, Va. Even the gas station food is good in Charlottesville, No, really, the town is known for its gourmet gas stations that serve fresh deli-style sandwiches. If you’re looking for something convenient and tasty, you couldn’t do any better. But if you prefer a more traditional dining experience, there are a few places that locals and visitors agree are essential. For breakfast, lunch, or just a tasty snack, you’ll want to visit Bodo’s Bagels. It’s very popular, reasonably priced, and a delicious essential part of the local dining experience. There are two pizza places that put all of their competition to shame, and those are Christian’s Pizza and Crozet Pizza. If going out for exotic pizza with gourmet toppings sounds good to you, you’ll want to visit Christian’s pizza. If you prefer calling in, give Crozet Pizza a try – people actually used to have to call in their orders days in advance because of its run-away popularity. The White Spot is a classic diner that’s more than fifty years old and a magnet for local students with its deliciously unhealthy fare like burgers and ice-cream topped fried treats. To satisfy your dessert craving, try Spudnuts, a famous local doughnut shop that has been owned by the same family since it opened in 1969.

Unique, Unusual and Different...

- Charlottesville, Va. In the midst of picturesque Charlottesville, there are several aspects that make it especially unforgettable and maybe even a little on the quirky side. One of these special features is the hot air balloons. Don’t be surprised if you see one or two drifting around on a nice day, and if you’re not afraid of heights, you can even try one out for yourself. Another exciting aspect of Charlottesville life is the chance to spot celebrities like Dave Matthews or John Grisham milling around town. The town actually has the second-highest concentration of authors of any metropolitan area in America, turning out famous writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Roger Mudd, making it a perfect destination for both readers and writers. And for a little extra odd town trivia, the place where all of the crash dummy footage is filmed, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, is also located in the area.



- Oxford, Miss. Oxford is home of Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s retreat, where he penned the classic novels As I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom! Head to the famous Square to explore Square Books. Bookworms, beware! You can get lost for hours in here, because it’s stocked with thousands and thousands of books. You’ll also find works autographed by their famous southern authors,including Eudora Welty.ˆ

- Austin, Texas: Austin knows weird – and supplies it in abundance. Some of it you’ll have to seek out and some of it may just walk past you on the street – like Lizardman, a local who has undergone extensive body modification (including head to toe tattooing) to look like his reptilian namesake. If you’re looking for places to explore, a donation will get you into the Cathedral of Junk, which is exactly what its name would suggest, a glorious amalgamation of all kinds of interesting junk. The Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemerata is a museum dedicated to things that may or may not exist (really) with new collections always making their way in and out.

photo credits: (top left) music/guitar, Austin Texas CVB; (top right) State House, Columbia S.C. CVB; (middle left) University Lake, Chapel Hill, N.C. CVB; (middle right) Three Rivers Rambler, Knoxville, Tenn. CVB; (bottom right) Crook's Corner, Chapel Hill, N.C. CVB; (bottom left) Rowan Oak, Oxford, Miss., personal collection

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