We all know the American south is full of charm. And if you’re looking for the most charm, seek out the tinier towns—the ones with history, culture and some pretty phenomenal food. To kick-start your search, here are (in our humble opinion) the 13 most picture-perfect towns down south.
The second oldest town in South Carolina is just as sweet as you’d expect. Think: a tranquil waterfront, a historic downtown clad with art galleries and low-country restaurants and streets lined with live-oak trees and antebellum-style mansions.
Also a second-oldest city (but in Kentucky), Bardstown has another claim to fame: as the “Bourbon Capital of the World” and home to the Maker’s Mark and the Jim Beam distilleries. It’s a popular starting point for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. But booze aside, the town has plenty of allure with its picturesque and quaint courthouse square.
This vacation spot on the Gulf of Mexico is a quintessential beach town with white-sand shores, teal waters, sprawling golf courses and some of the best fishing in the country. Just make sure to take a break from the beach and pop into one of Destin’s many funky seafood shacks serving fresh grouper and mahi mahi.
Located smack-dab in the middle of Hill Country (think: fields of bluebonnets and local wineries), Fredericksburg is a German-influenced town that has maintained its roots. Visit on any given summer afternoon and you’ll find a lively scene of barbecues and beer, singing and dancing.
Sleepy and slow-paced, Natchez is a river town known for its incredibly gorgeous plantation homes still standing from the town’s antebellum founding.
St. Augustine, FL
At 451 years old, this northern Florida town on the Matanzas River has as much history as it does charm. Its Southern tradition meshes with a distinctly European feel to create a unique landscape of palm trees, cobblestone streets and Spanish Renaissance Revival-style architecture.
If you’ve ever seen Steel Magnolias, you’ll recognize the quaint town of Natchitoches, dubbed the "Bed and Breakfast Capital of Louisiana." With unique jazz music, Louisiana barbecue and architecture, it’s a distinct mix of French, Creole and Native American cultures. But Natchitoches’s main appeal is its huge annual Christmas festival when more than 300,000 lights and fireworks illuminate the Cane River Lake.
Fishermen cast lines off mile-long Municipal Pier, where you can take in panoramic views of Mobile Bay. Downtown in the French Quarter, public art and galleries line the streets, music plays in the cobblestoned courtyard and people dine on Creole-inspired dishes like shrimp and grits.
Blue Ridge, GA
As the name suggests, this Georgian town gets its character from the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. With a permanent population under 2,000, Blue Ridge is an idyllic vacation spot with all the allures of a small mountain town, like cozy cabins for rent, apple orchards and the great outdoors.
This Virginia town is the perfect mix of quiet country and quaint sophistication. Downtown, the epicenter of Charlottesville’s blossoming food and music scene, is studded with open-air cafés, plazas and historic brick buildings. But it's the University of Virginia’s neo-classical-style campus that really makes the architecture stand out.
Eureka Springs, AR
The picture-perfect center of Eureka Springs is full of Victorian bed-and-breakfasts--even though most of them are rumored to be haunted.
Just 14 miles outside Nashville sits Franklin, a sophisticated suburb with a friendly small-town feel. In Franklin, you’ll find a bustling row of brick sidewalks and Victorian buildings that house antique shops, restaurants and book stores. This self-proclaimed “Favorite Main Street in America” also hosts annual “Brewfests” and other festivals full of music, street vendors and food trucks.
This historic Blue Ridge Mountain community is located 25 miles south of the hip town of Asheville. Hendersonville is known as “The City of Four Seasons” for its pleasant summers, temperate winters and distinct seasons. It’s also a town where traditions are alive: Main Street hosts an annual NC Apple Festival to usher in fall, a Jubilee to welcome spring and a Holiday lighting before Christmas time.