A Year of Southern Travel

Must-visit Southern destinations for each month of the year

Photo: David Prince

You may have already skipped yesterday’s trip to the gym, but traveling more in the year ahead is one resolution you might actually want to keep. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of must-visit Southern destinations for each month of the year. Open your calendar, and start planning.

  • January

    Photo: David Prince

    Head to Marfa, Texas, the ranch town turned international arts hub in the high plains of the Chihuahuan Desert, and day-trip to Big Bend National Park for the opening of the way-cooler-than-it-sounds Fossil Discovery Exhibit, debuting January 14. Famed San Antonio architect Ted Flato designed the main building and open-air pavilions for the permanent exhibition, which explores Big Bend’s rich geologic record that spans a whopping 130 million years. Winters are mild in the desert, but temperatures can swing more than thirty degrees from morning to afternoon, so layer up if you plan to hike—and you should.

  • February

    Check out the South’s other Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama, which natives will quickly inform you was the country’s first. Like the Crescent City party, there are parades and balls aplenty, including the brand-new Dauphin Island parade. You can find the full schedule, here. On the route: Look for the Excelsior Band, a ten-piece brass ensemble that has been represented in Mobile’s marches since 1883.

  • March

    Photo: David Prince

    Washington, D.C. boasts a host of of reasons to visit in March beyond the famed cherry blossoms. If you’re after good food, some of the most creative chefs in the country have set up in the Capitol—guys like Jeremiah Langhorne of the Dabney and Aaron Silverman of Pineapple & Pearls and Rose’s Luxury. And the museum game is stronger than ever. The National Museum of African American History opened in September, and the Hirshorn debuts a blockbuster Yayoi Kusama retrospective (February 23-May 14). If you really need a flower fix, check out the forsythia dell at Dumbarton Oaks (expect a mid-March bloom), planted by Beatrix Farrand, the only founding woman member of the American Society of Landscape Architect.

  • April

    Explore Jackson, Mississippi’s wild side when the 2,700-acre Fannye Cook Natural Area, located along the banks of the Pearl River, opens this spring. Named for Fannye Cook, a pioneer conservationist and Mississippi scientist who fought for the creation of the state’s Game and Fish Commission and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, the refreshed urban green space—just minutes from downtown—will be a haven for paddlers, hikers, cyclists, and bird watchers.

  • May

    Photo: David Prince

    For music lovers, New Orleans Jazz Fest (April 28-May 7) consistently gets it right by drawing both established talent and notable up-and-comers. Equally worth seeking out: side festivals, such as Shorty Fest, a benefit concert for Crescent City musician Trombone Shorty’s foundation, which provides music education, and Chaz Fest, the Ninth Ward series showcasing the best of the local scene. Also, detour to the Bywater where you’ll find Music Box Village, a new collection of music-making shacks and shanties. Rooms fill up fast during Jazz Fest, but thanks to the city’s on-going hotel boom there are more options than ever, including stylish new lodging options like the Catahoula, the Pontchartrain, and the Ace—all of which opened within the last year.

  • June

    Photo: David Prince

    This month, Bermuda will host the 35th competition for the prestigious America’s Cup. The world’s fastest boats will vie for sailing’s oldest trophy and most high-profile prize on the island’s Great Sound. However, you hardly need a reason to visit Bermuda’s famous pink beaches and clear turquoise waters. Book a room at the 132-year-old Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club, which recently underwent a $100 million renovation and added an art collection that includes work by Jeff Koons, Ai Weiwei, Andy Warhol, and Damien Hirst.

  • July

    Photo: David Prince

    Nothing is more all-American than a weekend at the lake, and in the middle of a scorching Southern summer, a mountain destination can’t be beat. Dotted with historic boathouses, Lake Lure is just forty-five minutes from Asheville, and though forest fires threatened the area this fall, no buildings were lost. Bonus reason to visit: This summer marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the 80s classic, Dirty Dancing, much of which was filmed here. Want to attempt the movie’s famous lift scene? Come back in August for the Dirty Dancing Festival complete with dance lessons, an outdoor film screening, and a lake lift competition.

  • August

    For the first time in almost four decades, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the continental United States. It will darken skies on August 21 across a seventy-mile-wide diagonal sash from Oregon to South Carolina. At the very edge of the eastern U.S. path, Charleston will plunge into near total darkness for one minute and forty seconds between 2:45 and 2:48 p.m. Because August in the Holy City can feel hot enough to fry an egg on the cobblestones, pre-book a hotel in close proximity to beach breezes. Check out Kiawah Island’s Andell Inn, or the Sanctuary if you want oceanfront access.

  • September

    It’s going to be a banner year for music in the Music City. Nashville’s beloved Bluebird Café turns the big three-oh; the Ryman celebrates its 125th anniversary; and the Country Music Hall of Fame rings in fifty with a round of new exhibits, including a spotlight on the incomparable Loretta Lynn, who recorded her first number one hit 50 years ago. On September 23 and 24, in nearby Franklin, the Tennessee native Justin Timberlake will help produce the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival for the first time. Between shows, rest your head at the new Thompson or the 21c, slated to open in Nashville in May 2017.

  • October

    October is peak oyster season in Apalachicola, Florida, where the oystering industry has thrived since before the Civil War. The tiny fishing village is situated on the Sunshine State’s Forgotten Coast—this still-rural stretch along Highways 98 and 30A cries out for a road trip. When you hit town, pull up to old-time favorites like Boss Oyster or Papa Joe’s and order a dozen on the half-shell before exploring the historic (but still active) waterfront and downtown. Bunk in for the night—trust us, you won’t want leave—at the Gibson Inn or Riverwood Suites.

  • November

    Photo: David Prince

    Pack your brush pants and side-by-side and head to Thomasville, Georgia, the quail capitol of the U.S., for the Wildlife Plantation Arts Festival (November 17-19), a weekend filled with galas, concerts, field feasts, sporting art shows, and the rare chance to see some of the region’s most beautiful private hunting plantations. For the full-on field experience, schedule a guided hunt at Sinkola Plantation, one of the few Thomasville spreads open to the public. Small groups and wild birds coupled with the owner Gates Kirkham’s knowledge make for an unforgettable experience. Make time to explore downtown, too. The historic district is now brimming with independent shops. Not to mention, there’s a new amphitheater and park in the works.

  • December

    Photo: David Prince

    Get into the holiday spirit in Asheville, North Carolina. This month marks the 25th anniversary of the circa-1913 Grove Park Inn’s renowned gingerbread competition, where more than a hundred bakers from across the country (and beyond) construct sweet architectural feats. View their creations at the inn through early January. In 2017, updates to the property’s Sammons wing and spa will be completed, along with the addition of a new outdoor pavilion. Snag a spot on the porch, and sip on the Inn’s famous hot chocolate.