It's a new year, so that means it's time to do new things and create new memories. Challenge yourself as you travel throughout the South this year to see how many of these 16 things you can say you've done by the end of 2016.
1. Become airborne at Flyaway Indoor Skydiving
in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. After a 20-minute training class that goes over techniques and safety procedures, suit up and get ready to fly.
2. Take your cave experience to the next level. Go on a Wild Cave Tour
with Raccoon Mountain in Chattanooga, Tenn., or a Discovery Cave Crawl
at Lost River Cave in Bowling Green, Ky.
3. Get outdoors! Explore a state park or two or three. Hike along the trails
Magazine State Park in Arkansas. Check out the views at Monte State Park
in Huntsville, Ala. Take in the scenery while birding
at Torreya State Park in Bristol, Fla. Possibilities for outdoor engagement at any state park in the South are endless.
4. This year National Park Service's 100th anniversary
, and a perfect opportunity to #FindYourPark and find it in the South. Spend time in places such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
or Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
. Learn history at Vicksburg National Military Park
and Shiloh National Military Park
. Drive along Natchez Trace Parkway
. Play on the beaches along the Gulf Islands National Seashore
. And that's just a small sampling of what you can discover.
5. Chase waterfalls in places like Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. From Noccalula Falls
in Gadsden, Ala., to Amicalola Falls
in Dawsonville, Ga., to Issaqueena Falls
in Clemson, S.C., the South has plenty of waterfalls to see.
6. Take a guided tour of Poverty Point World Heritage Site
, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Pioneer, La. At over 3,000 years old, the massive earthworks site is more than 400-acres and is made of ridges and mounds.
7. Go horseback riding
at Salinas Park on Cape San Blas, Fla. Located in Gulf County, it is the only place along the Florida panhandle where you can ride a horse on the beach.
8. Rent a bike in places like Galveston, Texas
, New Orleans
or South Walton, Fla
., and explore the lay of the land on two wheels.
9. Unplug and relax in a house rental at Big Canoe
or Blue Ridge, Ga
. If you are more of a beach person, consider renting on Mexico Beach
or Cape San Blas, Fla
. for a different beach experience.
10. Eat, and eat well. No doubt about it, the South loves its food and loves to eat. In addition to the well-known culinary destinations, there are plenty of growing destinations like Lafayette, La
., Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
, Tuscaloosa, Ala
., Panama City Beach, Fla
., and Augusta, Ga
There is the regional and local favorites like the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail
, homemade pies from Lea's Lunchroom
in Lecompte, La., and ribs from Rendezvous
in Memphis, Tenn. Don't overlook cookies from Byrd's Famous Cookies
in Savannah, Ga., the Hot Brown Hop
in Louisville, Ky., and the Virginia Oyster Trail
, just to name a few.
11. Not sure where to begin when it comes to eating out in the South? Try out a destination's food scene before committing to a restaurant or two with a food tour, like Baton Rouge (La.) Food Tours
, Knoxville (Tenn.) Food Tours
, Blue Ridge Mountain Food Tours
in Blue Ridge, Ga., and City Walks
in St. Augustine, Fla.
12. Go the craft route. If it's beer you enjoy, take a tour to learn about the process and then sample suds from such places as Great Raft Brewing
in Shreveport, La., Bayou Teche Brewing
in Arnaudville, La., Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company
in Kiln, Miss., and Jailhouse Brewing Company
in Hampton, Ga.
Liven up your cocktail by visiting such places like Bayou Rum
in Lacassine, La., Chattanooga (Tenn.) Whiskey
, Corsair Distillery
in Nashville and Bowling Green, Ky., and Limestone Branch Distillery
in Lebanon, Ky.
Don't forget about moonshine found in Gatlinburg
and Pigeon Forge, Tenn
., and various places in West Virginia
Try something new with organic kombucha at Lenny Boy Brewing Co
., in Charlotte, N.C. Owner Townes Mozer and crew also brews up gluten-free craft beer as well.
There's also hard cider to sample (and purchase) at Mercier Orchards
in Blue Ridge, Ga., and Blue Bee Cider
in Richmond, Va.
13. Immerse yourself in nearly everything music with the Americana Music Triangle
. It highlights destinations along "Gold Record Road" instrumental in the development of different genres. Take in zydeco at Blue Moon Saloon
in Lafayette, La., visit the Delta Music Museum
in Ferriday, La., soak in some blues at Ground Zero Blues Club
in Clarkdale, Miss., learn about Elvis
in Tupelo, Miss., and see where the distinctive sound coming out of Muscle Shoals, Ala
., was developed.
14. And if it is music you are into, definitely check out Rock Candy Tours
in Macon, Ga. The guided walking tour introduces you to Macon's integral role in soul and southern rock history. Hear colorful stories about musicians, and the places they frequented and inhabited during their time in Macon.
15. Treat yourself to relaxing night (or two) at properties like The Alluvian
in Greenwood, Miss., The Duke Mansion
in Charlotte, N.C., The Quirk Hotel
in Richmond, Va., or The Greenbrier
in White Sulphur Springs, WVa.
16. Take the back roads when possible. You won't regret it, and you never know what you all you might discover.
photo credit: personal collection; (top) view from Pinnacle Overlook at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park; (upper right) view from Monte Santo State Park in Huntsville, Ala., (middle right) view from a Pristine Properties rental on Cape San Blas, Fla., (upper lower) Bayou Rum; (lower) room at Duke Mansion