The South is a remarkable land with a spirited history and a subsequent flair all its own. During America's infancy, the Old South was quite easily the epicenter and height of stability and prosperity within the American colonies and early Union. It reflected an appreciation of European grace, charm, and cultural values. It always stood for self-reliance and self-determination, but grew to become too dependent on the slave trade. The rise and fall of the Confederacy, its subsequent Reconstruction back into the Union, projected into its eventual economic recovery and growth to become what some call the New South. This shows the character and determination to overcome adversity and hardship to become the spirited powerhouse it is today.
The South is in the southeastern and south-central region of the United States. It begins at the Mason-Dixon line in the north of Maryland, and continues along state borders to west Texas. Here are some highlights of this noble and different kind of America.
Georgia's Legendary Cities
One of the principle cities in The South is Atlanta, Georgia, a city that has emerged with an eye to the future. Atlanta is a modern metropolis and gateway for travel and economy in the New South. Its sleek and contemporary architecture nicely frames the city and demonstrates a bold contrast to the quaint drawl often associated with Southern sleepy towns. Atlanta is a major U.S. hub of industry, and as such, offers many of the refinements afforded by such a metropolis. Along with Baltimore, Atlanta is also known as the growing capital of African-American prosperity.
Travel east from Atlanta to the coast and see Savannah for a fine and prideful example of the Old Southern. Grand trees spectacularly line Savannah's main thoroughfare. The city has a host of open courtyards and parks that punctuate the lavishly adorned Georgian and Victorian homes and buildings. I recommend a gentle stroll through picturesque Savannah.
Miami is an unapologetic city of several million people perched on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in southern Florida, a couple hour's drive north from Key West. The city has a huge Latin American population that is mostly Cuban. The cultural overlap is brazenly apparent on every corner, especially in the music, dancing, and food. The Latin American influence in Miami is pronounced and it gives the city and Miami Beach a distinct Latin American feel that is reflected in a uniquely exotic and vivacious draw. The Latin atmosphere and the fact that Spanish is so widely spoken that Miami seems more like Latin America than the United States.
Miami and Miami Beach, namely South Beach, have gained a pervasive reputation as an unremitting Latino party town and it has one of the most explosive clubbing scenes in the country. To locate the best places, speak with locals who run boutique clothing stores, young restaurant waiters, hotel concierges, and other tourists. Clubs come and go, they are renamed, relocate, and if they are new they will be very busy. ID is always checked, a passport is best, and many may limit or not allow those under 23, and many require a 50-50 ratio of girls to guys. Guys will be charged a cover far more often than a hot girl. Figure it out and have fun.
The Florida Everglades
The South lays claim to one of the most massive and diverse ecological environments in the United States. Throughout the southernmost states you can find swampy bayous, but in southern Florida you will find the mysterious and dramatic forests of the Everglades. The Everglades occupy a massive section of the lower half of the state and consist of a dense, slow-moving river and surrounding ecological systems.
Many are drawn to Florida for the incredible sand powdery beaches and pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico coast or the ever popular sandy beaches along the Atlantic coast. While others are drawn to the atypically American fantasy-lands of Disney World, Epcot Center, and Universal Studios Theme Parks in Orlando. But for a well-rounded excursion, include a short boat tour into the wetlands and swamps of the Everglades where you may encounter a lounging alligator, a mighty python or huge anaconda (it's wise to have an experienced tour guide along for the trip).
The Mississippi Blues
The Mississippi River juts through the southern plains like a great vein into the Mississippi Delta and deposits itself into the Gulf of Mexico. It was from this delta region that former slaves and their descendents transformed their pain and grief into the hauntingly beautiful melodies known as the blues. Their music eventually gave rise to rock n' roll, bebop, and jazz, all expressions of American music today, and they owe their heritage to the songs of those souls.
The dynasty of that music can still be followed all the way back, either by perusing the sounds of Nashville, Tennessee, a musical Mecca, or by following the trail of blues clubs and gin joints that flow along with the mighty Mississippi River. The rich deposits from the river have made the surrounding fields some of the most fertile in the South, explaining why this region gave rise to some of the largest agricultural plantations of the antebellum era. The mighty Mississippi also provided efficient water transportation of peoples and goods, and cultural trends travelled as well. It is still possible to take a steamboat cruise through this remarkable region while meandering slowly upstream in big-wheeled steamboats along the tree-lined embankment.
The yearly Mardi Gras carnival in February is one enormous celebration, a mad collective expression of sights, sounds, experiences and emotions flowing through the streets of The Big Easy, or New Orleans. But on any given day in the city, you will hear the sound of lively brass echoing the blues through the byzantine streets along with the smells of sweet spicy ribbons of Cajun food flowing through the air.
The laxidasical Louisianan accent is a fusion of Creole French and a uniquely slow southern drawl that somehow blends into the mood of this city, while every aspect of New Orleans reflects the unexpected, unusual, and the vibrant.
Strolling through the French Quarter is like stepping into the past, the gorgeous ornate ironwork verandas merge into one another, embraced by winding vines of ivy. Browse the Voodoo Shop windows and stop for some gumbo, and you will likely never forget immersing yourself in the spirit of the magical Big Easy.
You have surely heard the saying that everything is bigger in Texas. Well, it's almost true. Texas is a large state that is mostly arid but it has large swaths of grazing fields and the beautiful and picturesque Guadalupe Mountains. The Texan culture is bold with BBQ cuisine, country music and "line dancing" as a Texas pastime. Houston is the largest city in Texas and has a flourishing arts and culture scene with an impressive museum district. While in Texas, try and catch a rodeo, eat a basket of braised ribs, and see some live country music. You should find yourself smiling nonstop.