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Where to Go
The Outer Banks and the Coastal Sounds
Probably the most culturally unique area in this guide, the Outer Banks of North Carolina still harbor charming pockets of a centuries-old seafaring tradition all along its wave- and wind-battered beach strands. The nearby Coastal Sounds provide a relaxing, sheltered counterpart to the Outer Banks' heavy traffic during the high season.
Wilmington and the Cape Fear Region
The northernmost outpost of the antebellum rice plantation culture, classy little Wilmington has transformed itself into one of the most active film production centers outside California. The surrounding Cape Fear region features several beautiful, accessible beaches for family enjoyment.
Central North Carolina
This culturally and politically diverse area isn't only a big golf getaway and center of the stock-car racing universe; it featues the region's second-largest city, the financial powerhouse and ethnic melting pot of Charlotte, as well as the highly progressive, university-dominated "Triangle" of Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh.
Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway
A left-of-center oasis in conservative Appalachia, Asheville nestles a surprisingly large amount of progressive culture, great food, and live music into the foothills. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a pleasant, peaceful meander amid the mountains, wildflowers , and various state parks and campgrounds along its 250-mile length in North Carolina bordering thousands of acres of national forest.
Great Smoky Mountains
America's most traveled National Park, these deep mountains along the Tennessee border combine the culture of old Appalachia with friendly, kitschy tourist attractions. Skiers will enjoy the many slopes available in winter, and the warmer months offer plenty of camping, hiking, and nature-loving activities.
Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand
The 60-mile Grand Strand focuses on the resort activity of Myrtle beach and its adjacent, faster-growing sister North Myrtle Beach. Down the strand are the more peaceful areas of Pawleys Island and Murrells Inlet, with Historic Georgetown anchoring the bottom portion of the long, skinny peninsula.
One of America's oldest cities and an early national center of arts and culture, Charleston's legendary taste for the high life is matched by its forward-thinking outlook. The birthplace of the Civil War is not just a city of museums resting on its historic laurels; the "Holy City" is now a vibrant, creative hub of the New South.
Hilton Head and the Lowcountry
The Lowcountry's mossy, laid-back pace belies its former sttus as the heart of American plantation culture and the original cradle of secession. Today it is a mix of history (Beaufort and Bluffton), natural beauty (the ACE Basin), resort development (Hilton Head), military bases (Parris Island), and relaxed beaches (Edisto and Hunting Islands).
Columbia and the Midlands
The state capital and home of South Carolina’s largest university, Columbia is still a very manageable, fun place. The surrounding area, the “real” South Carolina, offers a look at a small-town way of life usually seen in Norman Rockwell paintings. A resurgent polo scene is bringing affluent but accessible Aiken back to its full equestrian glory.
Greenville and the Upstate
Fast-growing Greenville could teach many other cities a lesson in tasteful, efficient renovation. A short drive away are the treats and treasures of South Carolina’s Blue Ridge region—a more user-friendly, less expensive version of the trendy mountain towns over the border in North Carolina.
There’s always something to do in one of America’s most dynamic cities, a burgeoning multiethnic melting pot that also has a friendly flavor of the old South beneath the surface. For every snarled intersection, a delightfully bucolic neighborhood tantalizes with cafés, shops, and green space. Adventurous restaurants and quirky nightlife venues are particular specialties.
The Blue Ridge Mountains are the backdrop for this inspiring, scenic area full of waterfalls, state parks, and outdoor adventures for the whole family. The influence of the enormous University of Georgia in Athens reigns supreme in the rolling green Piedmont region.
Middle and South Georgia
From Macon to Columbus, the rhythmic heart of Georgia is the soulful cradle of the state’s rich musical tradition—and where its best barbecue is located. Its therapeutic value isn’t only found in the legendary Warm Springs that gave solace to FDR. Farther south is the state’s agricultural cornucopia and home of former president Jimmy Carter, along with the mighty and mysterious Okefenokee Swamp.
Georgia’s grand old city isn’t just full of history, though that’s very much worth exploring. It has found new life as an arts and culture mecca, with as many or more things to do on any given day than cities two or three times its size. Come prepared for high tea or a rowdy party; either way, Savannah’s got you covered.
The Golden Isles
History and salt-kissed air meet in the marshes of Georgia’s chains of relatively undeveloped barrier islands. The feeling is timeless and tranquil. The Golden Isles are one of the country’s hidden vacation gems and one of the most unique ecosystems in North America.