Having spent my early years in the Deep South, I have been a long time advocate of the many great largely undiscovered vacation spots there. Better yet, prices are very affordable even for solos. Take a look at the 7 cities featured below.
Guest Post by Traci Magnus , Realtor
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who craves fresh air and an endorphin-dripping adventure, Southern cities shouldn’t be overlooked. While the South may not have the best reputation for health and wellness, there are plenty of hidden gems throughout the region that will please any nature lover or fitness goer.
Whether you prioritize hiking trails, watersports or wildlife viewing opportunities, you’ll have no trouble finding a Southern city to meet your specific criteria. Here are just a handful of Southern cities that are quickly becoming known as outdoor meccas:
1. Chattanooga, T.N.
For decades, Chattanooga’s impressive outdoor offerings were a well-kept secret among locals. Things quickly changed when the city was awarded the most prestigious outdoor award for the second time running in 2015. Deemed “Best Town Ever” by Outside magazine in both 2014 and 2015, Chattanooga was the first city to ever win the award twice.
Whether you’re looking for high-flying adventures or something low-key, Chattanooga offers both in spades. The “Scenic City,” as its aptly called, is surrounded by mountains providing both a picturesque view and easy access to hiking, biking, horse-back riding and (for the super adventurous) hang gliding. Ready to get your hang-gliding fix? Get lessons from the top flight school in the country and prepare to take flight off Lookout Mountain (just minutes from downtown Chattanooga).
2. Charleston, S.C.
If you’re looking for outdoor activities in Charleston, SC, you won’t need to look far. With miles of pristine, white sand beaches and nature trails, this charming coastal city offers an astounding array of recreational activities for the entire family.
Step away from the hustle and bustle of Charleston’s thriving downtown area and spend a relaxing day shucking oysters, fishing off the James Island County Park Pier or walking along one of Charleston’s idyllic beaches searching for seashells with the kids. Feeling more adventurous? Rent a kayak from one of its many outfitters and paddle down Shem Creek or take a few kiteboarding or surfing lessons and ride some waves on Folly Beach.
3. Asheville, N.C.
If scenic mountain views and adrenaline-filled adventures appeal to you, consider planning a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. Tucked away in the corner of the Appalachian Mountains, Asheville attracts a diverse range of personalities, all bonded by their love of natural splendor.
“The Land of the Sky” offers a vast array of outdoor activities, from riding along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway to SUPing on the French Broad River. Looking for an outdoor escape to rejuvenate the senses? Book a spa package at the historic Grove Park Inn and get a deep tissue massage or immerse yourself in the beauty of Asheville’s spectacular wildflowers.
4. Galveston, T.X.
One of the most popular island cities on the Gulf Coast of Texas, Galveston is an outdoor lover’s dream come true. This charming island offers 32 miles of white sand beaches with excellent opportunities for surfing, stand up paddleboarding, bird and dolphin watching, fishing and so much more. Go for a pleasant hike at the Galveston Island State Park or get out your kayak and take advantage of the park’s many paddling trails. After a long day out on the water, wind down with a craft beer from one of its many local breweries.
5. St. Petersburg, F.L.
Nicknamed “The Sunshine City,” St. Petersburg boasts an average of 350 days of sunshine a year, making it easy for walkers, runners and bicyclists to sneak in some exercise on any given day. If you’re a long-distance bicyclist, be sure to check out the Pinellas Trail, which allows bicyclists to ride across the state.
Thanks to its excellent city planning, St. Pete is also home to some of the best paddling in the Gulf. Take your kayak and explore the city’s many blue ways that take you along its scenic coastline, experiencing its diverse ecosystems as you paddle across its turquoise waters.
6. Birmingham, A.L.
While you might not expect a city in Alabama to be a hotspot for mountain bikers and hikers, Birmingham provides incredible opportunities for both. The “Magic City” isn’t short on hiking/biking trails, both inside and outside the city, and offers easy access to Moss Rock Preserve and Oak Mountain State Park.
Boasting 9,940 acres, Oak Mountain State Park is especially attractive to outdoor enthusiasts. The park features its own BMX course, a campground for equestrian campers, a golf course, watersport rentals, beaches, basketball courts and fishing opportunities, just to name a few.
7. Greensboro, N.C.
An outdoor adventure awaits around every corner in Greensboro, North Carolina. Known primarily for its funky art scene and fascinating museums, the city is also home to a diverse range of outdoor opportunities thanks to its varied landscape. If you enjoy paddleboard and fishing, be sure to check out Lake Brandt. The 816-acre municipal reservoir is the perfect place to paddle out and drop a line to catch largemouth bass or catfish.
For an outdoor excursion combining history and nature, take a stroll through Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. The park was established in commemoration of the battle of Guilford Courthouse and is now the perfect place to bike or walk while you explore natural ecosystems and the military museum.
For a more thrilling experience, check out the ziplining opportunities at Skywild or take a gravity-defying hike at Hanging Rock State Park. No matter what outdoor adventure you’re searching for, Greensboro is guaranteed to have something for every adventurer.
Finding Your Ultimate Outdoor City
Every state has cities that prioritize outdoor amenities, and the South is no exception. If you’re searching for a Southern city to plant your roots, the ones on this list will never leave you wanting for fresh air and green spaces. Best of all, many of the cities on this list are also affordable, which means that you can get your endorphin-dripping experience without the high cost of living you’d find in other U.S. cities.