The South is a blanket of diverse cities that are unique in their offerings. These dynamic southern cities are full of adventures, from cultural gems like museums to food tours that’ll satisfy. The South is full of surprises in every metro area, and we’re sharing the best Southern cities to visit in 2024 that will surprise you. They’re up-and-coming destinations that will keep your travel itinerary full.
21 Best Southern Cities To Visit in 2024
Most people don’t realize how much the South has to offer. Cities are full of history, and there are different landscapes to enjoy—everything from mountains to beaches included. A melting pot of cultures means there’s a fusion of food to pick from too. The largest Southern cities are ever-evolving, and there are smaller towns that’ll surprise you. 2024 is the year to discover a fresh Southern city to charm you.
1. Charleston, South Carolina
Colorful architecture, fascinating history, and harbor views will wow every Charleston visitor. It’s nicknamed “The Holy City” for the number of church steeples on the skyline. Walk along King Street and window shop boutiques, or ride in a horse-drawn carriage to see colorful historic houses (like Rainbow Row). Daytime is perfect for exploring on the water, and save your evenings for infamous Charleston ghost tours. Charleston is ready to swoon travelers in 2024, and we’re ready for it.
2. Key West, Florida
Set your sights on the southernmost vacation destination in the continental U.S. when you plan a visit to Key West, Florida. It’s a popular cruise port and now even easier to access with the new Go Brightline train running from Orlando to Miami. The island is a quick ferry ride away once you’re in Miami. With its picturesque streets, nightlife, and countless watersport adventures, Key West has it all. While the island might be small, they make up for it in excitement. Tour the Ernest Hemmingway House, eat Key lime pie on a stick, and take a sightseeing trolley ride.
3. Greenville, South Carolina
On the smaller end, Greenville is a city that has a growing reputation for unique attractions. It feels like a smaller town, but Greenville has a great urban vibe. Greenville has a waterfall running directly through the downtown area, a hot food scene, and abundant hiking and biking trails, making it a must-visit. Chef-owned restaurants line the downtown street, enticing guests with decadent desserts, craft cocktails, and hearty breakfast fare. It’s an accessible city to explore on foot, and you’ll never get bored of Greenville’s diverse things to do.
4. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is the Southern mountain city of which dreams are made. Discover waterfalls, hike to mountain vistas, or walk the city for more kitschy tourist fun. Head to Gatlinburg SkyLift Park to ride the chairlift, walk along the SkyBridge, or hike the SkyTrail. Adults can sip on—and learn more about—the region’s signature drink, moonshine, by signing up for a tasting tour. Gatlinburg is one of our favorite Southern cities to visit in 2024, and we highly recommend a fall visit during the leaf-peeping season.
5. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is the ultimate city for Southern charm. Think of picturesque squares, cobblestone streets, and river views. With a drink in your hand, spend the afternoon walking along River Street to take advantage of the city’s open container laws. Explore the Historic District via sightseeing trolleys or horse-drawn carriages. Enjoy the city’s striking architecture, large oak trees, and the green area in Forsyth Park. While Savannah is not on the beach, it’s a quick drive from Tybee Island to get the best city and beach life in one trip.
6. Orlando, Florida
If you’re looking for thrills, Orlando is one of the best Southern cities to visit in 2024. The city is famous for its nightlife, amusement parks, and shopping, but there’s always something new popping up in Orlando. Universal Orlando Resort will debut an all-new themed land featuring DreamWorks Animations’ animated characters in an immersive and interactive experience in 2024. Epcot at Walt Disney World is debuting a brand-new park transformation, and SeaWorld Aquatica Orlando is opening a new immersive waterslide, the Tassie’s Underwater Twist. Those are just a few new Orlando offerings that will thrill guests in the New Year.
7. Birmingham, Alabama
As Alabama’s largest city, Birmingham offers something for every type of traveler. Tour the most significant Civil Rights Movement landmarks, such as Dynamite Hill, Bethel Baptist Church, the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, and the Civil Rights Institute. If that’s enough to work up an appetite, Birmingham has a flourishing food scene with seven restaurants honored with past James Beard awards. If you want more casual cuisine, visit the city’s many BBQ joints and try the famous Alabama White Sauce. Birmingham is a food-lover’s dream city.
8. Roanoke, Virginia
Virginia’s Blue Ridge includes the largest metropolitan area in the state’s Western portion–Roanoke. It’s considered the “Star City of The South,” and it certainly lives up to its name with so much to do. The area is famous for outdoor adventures but has plenty of laid-back fun. Take a scenic drive through Blue Ridge Parkway, hike up Mill Mountain to see the famous Roanoke Star, or visit five museums in one building at Center in The Square. A great multi-generational attraction is The Virginia Museum of Transportation, where little ones can climb aboard trains and adults can step back in time for a nostalgic visit. Roanoke is one of the best southern cities to visit in 2024 if you want a mix of cultural and outdoor fun.
9. Asheville, North Carolina
With scenic mountain biking trails, craft breweries, and an eccentric art scene, Asheville will surely wow every visitor in 2024. It’s already one of the most popular southern cities to visit because it’s a great weekend destination from many metro areas. Must-do’s include the grand Biltmore Estate, foodie walking tours, and the award-winning spa at the Grove Park Inn. Asheville is a great city for couples who want a romantic city escape.
10. Lake Charles, Louisiana
With cajun flair and big-city entertainment, Lake Charles is a playground for adults looking for Southern fun. The casino resorts take gambling to new heights, with over-the-top pools to splash in, mile-long buffets, and golf courses to play on. Don’t miss the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road for an adventure in your own vehicle. You’ll see alligators and numerous bird species that call Louisiana’s coastal marshlands. When you’ve worked up an appetite, nosh on Jambalaya, gumbo, spicy crawfish, boudin, and bread pudding. Louisianna is an excellent state for food, but Lake Charles is the state’s up-and-coming city for fun.
11. Natchez, Mississippi
A quaint downtown area with lavish pre-Civil War mansions makes Natchez, Mississippi, a charming southern city to visit in 2024. Take a classic cruise of the Mississippi in a ginormous steamboat, or walk along the downtown area for a bit of history. As you sightsee your way through the city, be sure to carve out time to stop at historic attractions such as the Forks of the Road National Park (a former slave market) and the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture. It’s riveting history that’ll move you to your core, the type of travel that changes you.
12. Nashville, Tennessee
If you’re looking for a honky tonk adventure, look no further than Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a favorite for bachelorette and bachelor parties because you will have a good time. Broadway is the street you want to be on for 24/7 music, multi-story bars, and celebrity-owned restaurants. Attend a live show at the Grand Ole Opry, where Nashville’s most famous artists have sung, or venture onto Tennessee’s Whiskey Trail to quench your thirst. It’s a city that offers around-the-clock fun.
13. Austin, Texas
The capital of Texas is catching travelers’ attention for mouthwatering tacos, art, and country music. You’ll stumble across pop-up dance lessons on the streets, where you can learn the two-step. It’s got a laid-back vibe that visitors love, but there are a few ca n’t-miss things we love. Fill your Instagram feed with photos of Austin’s murals, kayak on Lady Bird Lake, and grab street tacos while walking downtown. If you want something that won’t break the bank, head to Blanton Museum of Art, where admission is free every Thursday.
14. Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville is nicknamed “bourbon country” because it has the largest bourbon production than anywhere else in the world. It’s a city full of museums, baseball, outdoor adventures, and art. They’re proud of their horse racing heritage, hot brown sandwiches, and bourbon. Combine all of it, and it’s one of the most sought-after Southern cities to visit in 2024. We recommend scoring a ticket to the Kentucky Derby and planning a visit during the famous race weekend in May.
15. Tampa, Florida
Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa is a growing hot spot in the Sunshine State. The historic Ybor City neighborhood, developed by Cuban and Spanish cigar factory workers at the turn of the 20th century, is an extremely popular dining and nightlife destination for adult travelers. If you’re visiting with kids, check out Busch Gardens amusement park, which offers a mix of thrill rides and zoo areas. Of course, everyone will love a day on the water in Tampa Bay, whether you pick a dolphin cruise or a pirate cruise.
16. Atlanta, Georgia
The lines of where Atlanta begins and ends are a never-ending debate as the city grows further into the metropolitan areas. Atlanta has three different neighborhoods. Downtown is home to The World of Coke, Georgia Aquarium, and the Atlanta Civil Rights Museum. Buckhead is the city’s premier neighborhood for luxury shopping, and Midtown is known for the High Museum of Art and the Fox Theatre. Pick a neighborhood that suits your travel desires and walk to the attractions. It’s the best way to avoid Atlanta traffic.
17. Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville is affectionately known as “Rocket City,” but it offers much more than the space exploration exhibits at The U.S. Space & Rocket Center. This northern Alabama city is becoming a hot spot destination as corporations move in. The Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment is a hub for arts and creativity. It’s a place where you can grab a bite to eat, watch the creative process of local artists, and listen to live music. There’s also a bubbling brewery scene in Huntsville that’s attracting consumers of fine hops. It’s a diverse city that offers equal amounts of fun and culture.
18. Little Rock, Arkansas
Located on the Arkansas River, Little Rock offers plenty of recreational outdoor activities. It’s the state capitol and home to the Clinton Presidential Center, which houses one of the largest archival collections in presidential history. The River Market District is filled with restaurants, bars, and museums. During the day, it’s a great place to walk around (especially at the weekly Farmer’s Market), but it comes to life at night with entertainment. Explore the 14 miles of riverside trails of Little Rock for amazing views and a workout. Or get on the river and see the city via kayak.
19. Dallas, Texas
Of all of the southern cities to visit in 2024, Dallas might be the one that lives up to its stereotypes. The city goes big for everything, and don’t hold back. It’s the home to the flagship Neiman Marcus store, the giant Dallas Museum of Art, and the George W. Bush Presidential Library. The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is 66 acres of green space in the middle of the city, making you feel miles away. Go to Dallas for margaritas and tacos, but enjoy the numerous attractions that live up to the words: Everything Is Bigger In Texas.
20. Tallahassee, Florida
Not many cities still represent Old Florida, but Tallahassee does. It’s the state capitol and home to Florida State University. Blending college town vibes with state capitol staples, Tallahassee offers nightlife amongst museums and parks. Head to Mission San Luis to witness history come to life and see how Florida’s settlers once lived. Soak up the sun at Wakulla Springs State Park and cruise to see more alligators than you can imagine. Round out your Tallahassee itinerary with a Seminole game, and you’ll get the city’s best in one trip.
21. Chattanooga, Tennessee
The mountains of Southeast Tennessee will put a spell over you when you visit Chattanooga. The city has been revitalized over the past decade and now offers various attractions that families will love. Kids will be in awe of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, Tennesee Aquarium, and Rock City Gardens. For a different perspective, see the city on water by venturing up the Tennessee River. The food scene features delicious BBQs that can be washed down with whiskey from one of the local distilleries. Chattanooga is undoubtedly an up-and-coming city to watch for travel.