The Ultimate Southern Adventure: See the Cities


Alabama

Follow I-65 through the heart of Alabama to explore the state’s three biggest cities: Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile. Birmingham’s former Dr. Pepper Syrup Plant and Bottling Company is reborn as Pepper Place, an industrial-chic entertainment and design hot spot. In downtown Montgomery, stroll the Alley, the state’s first entertainment district. From here it’s a short walk to Riverwalk Stadium, the historic train depot turned ballpark home of the Montgomery Biscuits Double-A baseball team. Mobile’s Lower Dauphin Street Commercial District, or LoDa, is the place to party, shop, and people-watch.

Best Bets: Saturdays April to early December, the Market at Pepper Place hosts a Rooted in Alabama Farmers Market featuring local products and live music. The Fitzgerald Museum is housed in the Montgomery home where F. Scott Fitzgerald, his wife, Zelda, and their daughter lived briefly in the early 1930s. Take a tour to see family artifacts, such as paintings by Zelda.

Insider Tips: Ribs and white bread get all the love at Dreamland Bar-B-Que in The Alley, but the single-serving banana pudding could be the best two bucks you’ve ever spent.

Don’t Miss: Birmingham’s twin trendsetter neighborhoods—Forest Park and South Avondale—border the southern edge of the city’s renovated urban oasis, Avondale Park.

Georgia

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Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods are where you’ll find some of Georgia’s hippest retail and entertainment hot spots. The Eastside Trail, the first completed section of the pedestrian Atlanta BeltLine rail-to-trail project, connects five of these buzzing neighborhoods: Virginia-Highland, Midtown, Poncey-Highland, Old Fourth Ward, and Inman Park. Step off the trail to meander around Ponce City Market, opened in 2014 in a restored 1926 Sears department store and distribution center. The 2.1-million-square-foot area (billed as the largest brick structure in the South) houses a bustling Central Food Hall and a growing list of artisanal shops, such as Citizen Supply and Elk Head Clothing.

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A cyclist passes by a mural in the Atlanta BeltLine, a revitalized corridor in the city.

Best Bets: Browse the vinyl collection at Criminal Records and see some of the city’s wildest street art, including the ginormous skull outside the Vortex bar in Little Five Points, Atlanta’s original bohemian-hip neighborhood. West Midtown is a former industrial area reborn as an upscale retail and dining hub. Visit the neighborhood’s Westside Provisions District, home to luxury retailers, including American designerBilly Reid and foodie-favorite eateries like Yeah! Burger.

Insider Tip: Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party in Candler Park is as Mad Hatter-fanciful as its name implies. Paper umbrellas hang from the ceiling, pastries and teas are served on mismatched vintage china, and floor-to-ceiling shelves are stuffed with books. To guarantee a space at one of the shared tables, make reservations for High Tea.

Don’t Miss: Stop at the old-school Sweet Auburn Curb Market, opened in 1924, and the retro-cool Krog Street Market, opened in 2014 in a restored 1920s warehouse.

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Cars park in front of a giant street mural of Abraham Lincoln painted on a building in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kentucky

Louisville, Lexington, and Bowling Green are three big reasons whyKentucky is tailor-made for urban explorers. In Louisville, the state’s largest city, East Market Street’s NuLu—or New Louisville—district is a hip haven lined with local-centric businesses. Make a game out of touring Lexington’s historic neighborhoods by taking the Lexington Mural Challenge or going on a “Big Lex” Scavenger Hunt. In downtown Bowling Green, a former department store houses the original Corsair Distillery. Sign up for a tour (Tuesday to Saturday) to see how small-batch spirits, such as Corsair’s Wry Moon rye white whiskey, are handcrafted and taste.

Best Bets: Shop for handmade jewelry, art, and other one-of-a-kind gifts at Revelry, a NuLu boutique and gallery promoting Louisville-area artists. Tour five restored railcars—including the Duncan Hines Diner named for the native son behind the famous cake mix—at the Historic Railpark and Train Museum in Bowling Green.

Insider Tip: Get a caffeine-and-creativity infusion at High on Art & Coffee, an artisanal coffee shop and local art gallery in Lexington’s bohemian Woodland Triangle neighborhood.

Don’t Miss: Louisville’s historically hip Butchertown Market is a retail and light-manufacturing space located in a renovated 1880 factory building.

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The sun sets over the Mississippi State Capitol buildling in Jackson.

Mississippi

The Magnolia State may be primarily rural, but the capital city, Jackson, has plenty of urban territory to discover. Billed as Jackson’s hippest neighborhood, Fondren is the place to shop and eat local at locations likeSneaky Beans coffeehouse and Walker’s Drive-In. Learn about Mississippi state history at the Old Capitol Museum and the Beaux arts-styleMississippi State Capitol. See Jackson’s notable Mississippi Freedom Traillandmarks, such as the 1963 Woolworth’s sit-in site and Medgar Evers’s house. Shop specialty retailers including Mississippi’s own Buffalo Peak Outfitters at Highland Village.

Best Bets: Before you go, read Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel The Help. See places mentioned in the book on The Help in Belhaven and The Help in Jackson Driving Tours.

Insider Tips: The climb-on “Exploring Mississippi” gallery map at theMississippi Children’s Museum helps kids learn about state geography, natural science, history, and culture while they