I recently had the opportunity to experience the southern United States (where I have spent the good majority of my life) through the eyes of someone who had never experienced it. Being from Colombia, his only perception of the south was what he had seen in movies, and I welcomed the opportunity to be his expert guide. I wanted to make sure he was able to experience those stereotypical aspects of the south, but I also wanted to show the more authentic, less advertised aspects of southern life as well. I had never been so excited to go back home to the US. To see your own country through the eyes of a wide-eyed foreigner brings a whole new perspective and appreciation to home. Also, it’s always better to travel with a local’s insight, right?
These are some of the best things to do in two of my favorite cities in the south, Atlanta and Charleston. Atlanta has the busiest airport in the world, which most people find surprising and it often has inexpensive flights from all over the world as well.
Go see the Atlanta Braves baseball game. Everyone who seen American movies has seen something about baseball, so the chance to see one of the best professional teams play is something not to be passed up. Neither is the foot long hot dog with al the fixins’.
Go to the Coco-cola museum: If anything is known worldwide, it’s Coca-Cola, so to see where it all started and how it all started it pretty interesting.
Visit the aquarium: Atlanta has the largest aquarium in the world. It has just about every animal you can think of and has a pretty impressive dolphin show included with the ticket.
Go to a blues concert at Blind Willies: the long-standing blues club is unpretentious and never disappoints with its blues concerts and has inexpensive door entry.
Walk the Beltline: The Beltline has been Atlanta’s massive revitalization project and its newest outdoor place to be. It used to be the railway around the perimeter of the city, and is now home to many outdoor bars, restaurants, and street art exhibits, and is a popular spot for biking and running.
- Eat at Fellini’s pizza: I have tried lots of pizza, but nothing satisfies my pizza craving more than Fellinis. It’s a simple place, with 7 locations, quick, cheap, delicious, and has beer on tap.
- Spend an evening on Buford Highway: Buford highway is where Atlantans go to step out of the US for a little while with amazing authentic food from all over the world at great prices. After having an incredible dinner at a Korean BBQ restaurant you can walk next door and get an hour-long foot massage (*best night ever).
- Check and see if there is something going on in Piedmont Park (because there usually is): Piedmont park is a beautiful places to go even if nothing is going on, but most of the year there is a greater chance of something happening in the park than not. It is the location of the famous Music Midtown and Jazz Fest.
- Eat: Trying as many amazing southern dishes as you can while in Charleston is just what the experience is all about. Shrimp and grits is a huge southern staple, as well as she-crab soup (my personal favorite), fried oysters, fried okra, and southern BBQ. Charleston is filled with fine dining and casual dining alike so competitively delicious that it forces restaurants to be a peak performance at all time or get taken over by the next hot restaurant willing to do better. Seafood in general is fantastic in Charleston.
- Go see a show at the Pour House: This smaller, off the beaten track venue has an array of music artists of all different styles of music, but if they are playing at the pour house, I am already confident I am going to enjoy it. No matter who they bring, from rock, to bluegrass, to electronic, I am always pleased. This particular trip we saw a folk band, which was especially unique for someone not from the United States, so it was a double success.
- Walk along the Battery: The Battery is famous for its huge antebellum houses along the water of the peninsula. The larger ones are jaw-dropping, but Charleston’s architecture in general is incredibly unique and beautiful, which typically have full front doors that open into an open side porch.
- Tour Boone Hall Plantation: This tour is a shocking experience for anyone, but especially for those not from the US that don’t have a true understanding of slavery in the south. The entryway is breathtaking, with a beautiful house at the end of a long oak tree lined driveway. To the left there are the original slave cabins that now function as a walking tour to tell stories about the lives of the slaves that once lived there.
- Spend some time on Sullivan’s Island: Sullivan’s is the perfect mix between a crowded public beach and a secluded private beach. It is the closest beach from downtown Charleston, is easy to park, and has beautiful long stretches of flat walkable beach. One street back from the beach sits a cluster of great restaurants and drinking spots and the island frequently blocks off the road for excellent street parties.
- Walk or bike over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (or at least drive over it): This Bridge was completed in 2005 and is able to withstand an earthquake of 7.4. Besides that though, it is a spectacular bridge. It provides great views of the city, and great breeze on hot summer days, and has wide paths for bikers and walkers.
This list is in no way exhaustive, as there are tons of incredible places to go in the southern US, but hopefully this article will peak interest to seek out many more of the great places in the south. I received rave reviews of my southern tour from my Colombian companion. He did things and visited places he would never had considered on his own. He has a much deeper appreciation of the types of experiences he can have when traveling to the US, and I enjoyed doing them more with someone with an outsider’s perspective.
About the Author
Cameron Matthews is an international nomad, preferring to stay for extended periods of time in foreign countries, but never having lived anywhere longer than 3 years in her entire life! She loves learning new languages and has learned to embrace feeling awkward in foreign situations. She loves going on shorter vacations, but her passion is connecting with the culture and seeing the world from a different perspective. She is still unsure of what exactly she wants out of this life, but she knows it will always involve travel. Check out her blog at www.sunscreenrecommended.com.