8 Small Southern Towns to Visit in 2018

Escape the city grind and enjoy small-town charm, stellar scenery and storied streets.

By Vanessa Caceres, ContributorJan. 18, 2018
By Vanessa Caceres, ContributorJan. 18, 2018, at 10:52 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

8 Small Southern Towns to Visit in 2018

7000-square-foot Victorian-Italianate structure built about 1852 in bend of Beaufort River, Tidalholm mansion, Beaufort, South Carolina, USA

From Texas to South Carolina, these storybook small towns offer dynamic culinary scenes, historic charm, up-and-coming wine trails and plenty of outdoor recreational pursuits.(Getty Images)

These small towns in the South may not be on your radar for 2018, but they should be. From scenic views to wine adventures to foodie finds to historic streets, there's something for everyone to enjoy in the South's picturesque small towns. Read on to discover nine can't-miss towns to cross off your travel list in 2018.

Staunton, Virginia

Check out Staunton, smack dab in the middle of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, for vibrant arts and music scenes. The town boasts the 300-seat Blackfriars Playhouse – one of only two authentic Shakespeare theaters in the world. And even though Staunton is a small town, you'll discover a progressive, urban feel as you explore around town. Music festivals abound, including the Staunton Music Festival and the Red Wing Roots Music Festival. Plus, restaurants, craft breweries and local vineyards will keep your belly full and your taste buds tingling. Speaking of taste buds, Wright's Dairy-Rite is a famous diner where you can indulge in milkshakes, foot-long hot dogs and homemade onion rings. As for accommodations, the town's Blackburn Inn, a 49-room hotel built by a Thomas Jefferson protégé, will reopen this spring. If you're looking to brush up on history, check out the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum or the Frontier Culture Museum.

Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia

While most of us think of Nashville when we think of country music, Bristol is actually country music's true birthplace. Bristol's location on the Tennessee-Virginia border seems appropriate for this trendsetting town. The town showcases its musical history at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. Feel free to dance along the town's main street, known as State Street, which straddles the two states. Or if you're looking to get moving another way, Bristol Motor Speedway has great seats for everyone in the family and hosts two NASCAR events each year. Experience a drive-in movie at the Twin City Drive-in Theatre.

Georgetown, Kentucky

Georgetown is one of the state's fastest-growing cities, but it keeps its small-town feel with a Victorian-style downtown. The town prides itself as the possible home of bourbon, and though not all may agree with that claim, you can still enjoy that heritage by sampling locally crafted spirits. At Georgetown's Toyota manufacturing plant – the company's largest manufacturing facility – take a tram tour and see a car constructed from the ground up. If horses are your preferred form of transportation, you'll enjoy Old Friends Farm, a thoroughbred retirement facility that's home to 100 retired horse racing champions.

Deep Creek Lake, Maryland

Yes, Maryland is south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and you can get your fill of fresh air any time of year when you visit Deep Creek Lake, Maryland's largest freshwater lake. Deep Creek Lake is located in rural, mountainous western Maryland, far from the bustling streets of the nation's capital and Baltimore. The biggest attraction is Wisp Ski Resort, Maryland's only four-season downhill ski resort. In addition to skiing, there are plenty of other outdoor activities to keep you busy, including snow tubing in the winter and kayaking, whitewater rafting and boating at other times of the year. Beautiful Muddy Creek Falls, located near Deep Creek Lake in Swallow Falls State Park, is the state's largest free-flowing waterfall. What's more, Spruce Forest Artisan Village and the Simon Pearce Factory Store and Glassblowing Workshop can give you a feel for local arts and craftsmanship.

Hendersonville, North Carolina

Located near the Blue Ridge Mountains, the quaint town of Hendersonville prides itself on its art, boutique stores, antique shops and dozens of independently owned restaurants. The town's love of art is seen in the 20 or so bear statues painted by local artists. Plus, art is on full display in the spring and the Music on Main events that take place during the summer weekends. Over Labor Day weekend, check out the North Carolina Apple Festival, where you can sample different apple types and choose your favorite. In fact, Henderson County is the seventh-largest apple producer in the U.S. Meanwhile, movie buffs will want to visit the nearby DuPont State Recreational Forest, where scenes from "The Hunger Games" franchise were shot.

Beaufort, South Carolina

The second-oldest city in South Carolina, Beaufort offers Southern charm and scenic Atlantic Ocean views. The town also has a Civil War history and a historic downtown with waterfront restaurants. Get to know the area with one of several walking tours or on a horse and carriage ride. Keep your eyes on the water with a dolphin-watching cruise or by kayaking, or try out restaurants that are part of the new Lowcountry Oyster Trail, focused on sea-to-table oyster experiences in South Carolina. Then, check out the nearby Point South KOA, a campground in Yemasee, South Carolina, where wine tastings are held every night, featuring tastes from local wineries. Round out your visit to Beaufort by admiring the famous mansion in the backdrop of classic films, such as "The Big Chill" and "The Great Santini."

Lakeland, Florida

Located within driving distance from Tampa and Orlando, Lakeland is the ideal place to visit when you want to take a break from the Sunshine State's theme parks and beaches. Come to Lakeland to visit Florida Southern College, which has an extensive collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architectural attractions. Your architecture-fueled walking tour (with lots of great photo angles for your social media feed) will include a view of scenic Lake Hollingsworth. In fact, Lakeland is aptly named, with more than 30 named lakes. Lake Morton in the downtown area is most noteworthy for its swans. If you swing by Lakeland during the weekend, visit its farmers market, featuring local vendors helping to showcase Florida's agricultural bounty. Got little ones in tow? The Common Ground Playground is a great place to let out some pent-up energy. This play area is ideal for kids of all ages.

Fredericksburg, Texas

Though close to both Austin and San Antonio, Fredericksburg in western Texas retains a small-town feel. Fredericksburg, tucked in the Texas Hill Country, is also known for wine. In fact, there are more than 45 wineries in the Texas Hill Country. Fredericksburg is also famous for its German feel, thanks to the German pioneers who settled in the area about 160 years ago. You'll find that German heritage in the town's architecture, food options (brats, anyone?) and special annual events like Oktoberfest.


50 Top Romantic Destinations Around the World

Vanessa Caceres, Contributor

Vanessa Caceres is a Health freelancer for U.S. News. She’s a nationally published health, ...  Read more

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

Recommended

World's Best Places to Visit in 2019-20

Using reader input and expert analysis, U.S. News identified the latest can't-miss vacations.

June 25, 2019

The 16 Best San Diego Tours

Take advantage of the adventures this coastal city has to offer with a guided trip.

Lyn MettlerJune 24, 2019

12 Top Napa Valley Wineries to Visit

Set your sights on these can't-miss wineries during your next visit to California's wine country.

June 24, 2019

The 6 Best Denver Brewery Tours

Discover the buzz about Denver's craft beer scene with these tours.

Holly JohnsonJune 21, 2019

The 10 Best Charleston Walking Tours

Experience true southern hospitality as you explore Charleston on one of these strolls.

Claire LawtonJune 20, 2019

The 15 Best Charleston Tours

See everything this historic South Carolina city has to offer on one of these guided excursions.

John RodwanJune 19, 2019

The 5 Best Kauai Helicopter Tours

See the Garden Island's far-reaching beauty from the air.

Holly JohnsonJune 14, 2019

The 6 Best Las Vegas Helicopter Tours

Get a thrilling look at the lights and sights of Sin City and its surroundings with one of these tours.

Holly JohnsonJune 13, 2019

20 Road Trip Essentials for Your Vacation

These road trip must-haves can help you save money, travel more comfortably and ensure you stay safe on the open road.

Holly JohnsonJune 13, 2019

13 Top Charlottesville Wineries to Visit

Sip a glass of Virginia's signature viognier as the sun sets over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

June 12, 2019