2013 is here, and while you might be busy planning your New Year’s resolutions (and promising to keep
them), don’t overlook making some travel ones.
Here are 13 things to do in the South that you want to have checked off your list by the time 2013 comes to an end:
1. Take home local
: Postcards and ornaments may make great souvenirs, but make it a point this year to beyond the standards when bringing home some tangible memories from your trip. For instance, purchase a box of candy home made from local candy makers or grab a bottle or two of wines from a local winery. Other suggests include if you are visiting Chattanooga, Tenn., take home your favorite flavors of soda from Pure Sodaworks
to be Gatlinburg for a weekend? Impress everyone at home with a jar of moonshine from Ole Smoky Moonshine
. Stopping in Biloxi, Miss. for a quick visit, then don’t forget get some Lazy Magnolia beer
. In Kentucky, you can go wrong with a bottle of bourbon from any of their distilleries
2. Stay Unusual
: Let 2013 be the year you adopt the thought of ‘never be ordinary’ when it comes to hotel stays. Enjoy a safari-lite experience at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
in Glen Rose, Texas. There are many opportunities to view animals from the Lodge, Foothills Safari Camp (tents) or Wolf Ridge Nature Camp (cabins.) Relax in apartment-like settings above Ground Zero Blues Club
in Clarksdale, Miss. Never know, you might get to overnight Morgan Freeman’s room. Be sure to sign a wall before you leave. Celebrate Christmas year-round at Inn at Christmas Place
in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Rooms are adorned with holiday decorations. When you opt for either a king mini-suite or a two-room themed suite, you can gaze at the fully decorated mantel and in-room Christmas Tree. Sleep with the fish (in a good way) when you stay underwater at Jules Undersea Lodge
in Key Largo, Fla. Don’t worry if you aren’t a certified diver, because the facility offers a discover SCUBA course that once passed allows you to stay overnight.
3. Eat Well
: We in the South love our food, and take our meals very seriously. Treat yourself a few times this year to places like High Cotton
in Monroe, La., or Epic
in Columbus, Ga. Taste regional fare along Southwest Alabama’s Culinary Trail
or the Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail
4. Rediscover “Old”:
What’s old is new again when it comes to destinations and places. This year, the state of Florida is celebrating its 500th anniversary
with various celebrations and events. Also, 2013 is the final year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial
. Grove Park Inn
in Asheville, N.C., is celebrating its 100th birthday this year as well.
5. Take a Tour:
From culinary tours to historic tours to ghost tours and more, there is truly a tour (either guided or self-guided) in the South for every interest. If you are looking for something a little different, consider one of North Carolina’s pirate tours
or the educational and
fun, “Where Hollywood Meets History
” Richmond (Va.) Film Tours.
6. Enjoy a Festival (or Two)
: Much like eating, southerners also enjoy celebrating and try to find any reason to throw a party. Throughout the year, during many weekends, you probably aren’t too far from a festival or two. The tough choice you have is deciding which one (or ones) to attend.
7. Learn Something New:
Taking a class or building on skills is perhaps one of the more popular (and often repeated) resolution. Stick to it this year by adding a element of fun. For instance, you can participate in a cooking class offered through Viking Cooking School
(Baton Rouge, La., Greenwood and Ridgeland, Miss., Atlanta, Franklin and Memphis, Tenn.) or learn how to drive a NASCAR race car through Richard Petty Driving Experience
(Texas Motor Speedway, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Bristol (TN) Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Orlando/Walt Disney World Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.) Let Colonel Michael Masters teach you the nuances of bourbon with a bourbon tasting
at Chapeze House in Bardstown, Ky. Learn how to distill moonshine with a Moonshine Distilling Class at Dark Corner Distillery in Greenville, S.C. Get adventurous by learning how to rappel
or rock climb
through classes with True Adventure Sports in Fort Payne, Ala.
8. Explore the Outdoors:
The region provides of wealth of ways to enjoy and explore the
outdoors. Hike a portion of the A.T. (that’s the Appalachian Trail) off the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
, or you can choose another way get outdoors in the Smoky Mountains. Go horseback riding at Hilltop Riding Stables
in Fort Gordon, Ga. ( near Augusta, Ga.) Like to kayak? How about paddling the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail
. Go YOLO boarding
on Western Lake in South Walton, Fla.
9. Push Yourself:
Get out of your comfort zone this year by trying something new. Go zip lining, there are a number of places in the South to try it. And remember, you can start small and work your way up. Take a biplane ride
at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Fla. Helicopter over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or other parts of the area with Scenic Helicopter Tours
in Sevierville, Tenn. Explore caves like the Caverns of Sonora
Texas, Cathedral Caverns
in Woodville, Ala., or Linville Caverns
in Marion, N.C.
10. Go Beyond
: This year, don’t settle by always finding a way to further an experience. When the opportunity presents itself, go with it. Swim with manatees at Plantation on Crystal River
in Florida, or dolphins at Gulf World Marine Park
in Panama City Beach, Fla. Go behind the scenes at Georgia Aquarium
in Atlanta or Gulf Breeze (Fla.) Zoo
. For history buffs, don’t miss going where not many have gone before at the Biltmore House
in Asheville, N.C., or Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
in Charlottesville, Va.
11. Small Towns:
Filled with charm, unique characters and many stories, small towns are special in the South. Find this out for yourself over one Saturday or one weekend.
12. Get Lost
: Think you know everything about your favorite destination? Think again. Why not get lost (safely, of course) and explore that side road, or find out what’s on the backroads. You just might be surprised.
13. Take a Road Trip
: Find out how many new places can you visit in 2013. All you need are free weekends, a map (or GPS), your keys and a sense of adventure.
photos: private collection