Who doesn’t love spending a weekend in New York City? Yes, this is the city that never sleeps—people can see a Broadway show, choose from countless restaurants and have whatever cuisine they want for dinner, go shopping for hours, and maybe even run into a few celebrities. But let’s be real here—New York City is super expensive. We could easily spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars just spending a day or two there, especially when we factor in the cost of spending the night. What if we could have an awesome city getaway without breaking the bank? And maybe even enjoy some better weather while we're at it?
Well, if that’s the case, do not write off the south as a tourist destination. Business down here is booming because visitors can easily get the big city experience on a budget—it’s time to join in on the action! Down in the south, people can have delicious food (hello, soul food and Southern barbecue!), enjoy amazing weather, hang out at the beach, and hang out with super friendly locals—Southern hospitality is real! Here are 20 cities in the South that are way better than New York City.
20 Atlanta, Georgia
If you genuinely love New York, but you’re looking for something a little different, you need to plan a trip down to Atlanta! This city is great for the history buff who still loves the big city vibe. According to Lonely Planet, Atlanta is one of the best places in the United States to go if you want to learn about the Civil Rights Movement. Did you know that Martin Luther King Jr. was actually born here? Atlanta is also known for its amazing music scene, so if you have time to check out a live show, definitely do it!
19 Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is such a hot destination right now. This little city is really booming! And once you learn a little more about it, it’s easier to see why. According to Trip Savvy, Asheville is becoming such a popular travel spot because the city is super progressive, so it’s at the top of the list for millennials and older people who still embrace the hippie lifestyle! If you like farm to table restaurants, amazing thrift stores, great hiking and camping spots, and you always need almond milk in your latte, Asheville just might be the right place for you and your squad.
18 Miami, Florida
A vacation in Miami? Sign us up for spring break! Miami is kind of like New York City by the sea, but we have to admit, it’s even more fun for an awesome trip with your friends! According to the travel blog Alex in Wanderland, Miami has an amazing arts scene that simply cannot be beat. From street art and murals to galleries and art festivals, anyone with an artsy treat should absolutely visit Miami! Plus, you can hang out at the beach all day, get super tan, and then enjoy delicious Cuban food for dinner and go dancing at night!
17 Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is such a romantic city. This destination is absolutely perfect for a couples weekend. Plus, this is another city that is right on the beach, so you can head down to the water and take a dip when the temperatures get too hot! According to Travel Channel, Charleston is one of the most popular destinations in the South right now, and for good reason. Our recommendations to get the most out of your trip? Check out the historic homes, eat a hearty Southern diner breakfast, learn about the history of the area, and, of course, you’ve gotta hit the beach!
16 Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is basically the definition of an up and coming city. This Southern city simply has it all, and you cannot go wrong with a trip to Nashville! This city is one of our top travel recommendations for 2018. According to Visit Music City, this is THE spot for music fans. Even if you don’t like country music, you will no doubt be entertained in Nashville. Check out the Grand Ole Opry House, the Johnny Cash Museum, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Oh, and don’t forget to catch a few live shows for yourself to take it all in!
15 Austin, Texas
Austin is one of the coolest cities in America! You may think that Texas is all ranches and cowboys, but that is certainly not the case anymore. Austin is a huge tech hub now, and thousands of young people are moving there every year. According to Trip Advisor, there is a huge variety of things to do Austin to suit every traveler. There is a huge river running through the city, and you can spend hours kayaking down it. This is also home of the some of the best Southern barbecue in the country! Yup, sounds like it’s time to eat up!
14 Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is one of the most beautiful cities in Georgia. Yes, Atlanta is a lot of fun, but Savannah shows a whole other side to this state and its culture. According to Visit Savannah, this city has some of the loveliest green spaces in all of Georgia. You can stroll through huge, well-manicured parks while enjoying the sunshine on your shoulders. Have you ever wanted to take a horse drawn carriage ride through a historic city and imagine that you’re time traveling? Well, you can do that in Savannah! This is a great place to learn about Civil War history.
13 New Orleans, Louisiana
We probably don’t need to tell you that New Orleans is an amazing city to visit! Seriously, this city should be on every serious traveler’s itinerary. According to Nomadic Matt, this is one of the coolest cities in America, and we have to agree! Here are just a few of the amazing things you can do on a trip to New Orleans: spend a day in the French Quarter, listen to some jazz music, eat the delicious local food (gumbo, anyone?), stay in a historic hotel that will make you feel like you’re in another era…you get the idea!
12 Louisville, Kentucky
Surprised to see Louisville on a list of cities that stack up to New York? Well, in just a few minutes, you might be reconsidering and planning a visit instead! According to Go to Louisville, this city is perfect for the traveler who wants to enjoy some laid-back Southern comforts for a few days! You can enjoy the city’s most famous pastimes: horse racing and baseball! If you are a big sports fan, you will definitely want to check out the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory! The Louisville Waterfront Park is the perfect spot to relax for a few hours.
11 Gulf Shores, Alabama
When you think of awesome beach destinations, Alabama may not be the first place that comes to mind. But it pays to be open minded, because Gulf Shores is actually an awesome place to hang out! According to Lonely Planet, Gulf Shores is pretty underrated compared to the attention that other American beach destinations get. This is a beach that tons of young people flock to every year just to have a good time and relax. There are also lots of great concerts and music festivals that happen in this area, so music fans, this is another one for your list!
10 Gulfport, Mississippi
So, now that we’ve established that Alabama actually has some pretty nice beaches, you may be wondering where else you can in the South with a similar vibe. And good news, we’ve got just the place for you: Gulfport, Mississippi. According to Trip Advisor, Gulfport is known for its long, beautiful stretch of beaches that span along the Mississippi Sound for miles. And the coolest thing about this area is all the wildlife. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot bottlenose dolphins and even some friendly local seals! There are also some great museums in the area if you get a rainy day.
9 Fayetteville, Arkansas
Could a small city in Arkansas really be worth visiting like New York City? Our answer is yes—you would be surprised at what you find once you take the chance to stumble off the beaten path! Fayetteville, Arkansas is a small, laid back city located in northern Arkansas. According to Experience Fayetteville, this city has a youthful population because it’s a college town, giving it a different vibe than the rest of Arkansas—it’s a fun city! There are tons of interesting museums, Civil War monuments, a sprawling state park, the gorgeous botanical gardens, and the beaches along Lake Fayetteville.
8 St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Petersburg has been getting a ton of exciting buzz lately. People in Florida have known about this fun, creative city for ages, and it’s always been a popular spot, but more and more people are visiting nowadays. So, what’s the big draw for St. Petersburg? According to Lonely Planet, St. Pete (yup, that’s its cute nickname) is one of the nicest cities on Florida’s Gulf Coast. There are tons of art museums, waterfront parks, massive golf courses, botanical gardens, beaches, and lovely waterways for boating. We guarantee that any traveler could have a good time down in St. Pete!
7 Chattanooga, Tennessee
Yes, Nashville is a very hip destination right now—but there are plenty of other amazing areas in Tennessee that you should check out, too! Have you ever heard of a little city in Tennessee called Chattanooga? Well, if it’s never crossed your radar yet, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. According to Chattanooga Fun, this city is located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, giving it a cool, rustic vibe. And you know what that means—this city is a nature lover’s paradise! From climbing to caving to kayaking, this city has it all for those who love the outdoors.
6 Charlottesville, Virginia
Virginia may not have bustling, cosmopolitan cities exactly like New York, but there are certainly some hidden gems in this state that should not be overlooked! Charlottesville is one perfect example. According to Visit Charlottesville, this beautiful college town is home to the University of Virginia. When you visit here, you can stop by Thomas Jefferson’s home of Monticello, and you can also visit James Monroe’s former home—this city is perfect for travelers who love to learn about politics! It is also a great spot to stay while you are visiting Shenandoah National Park and seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains.
5 San Antonio, Texas
Another city to add to your Texas travel itinerary! If you thought Austin sounded cool, just wait until you learn about San Antonio. This city is growing by the day and is becoming a popular destination for travelers from all over the country. According to Travel Fish, San Antonio’s main attraction is the Alamo, a historic site that commemorates an important battle in the fight for Texan independence from Mexico. History buffs, this is the spot for you! The San Antonio river runs through the city, and you can rent a kayak and spend the day exploring from the water!
4 Wilmington, North Carolina
You may already be keen on visiting Asheville after reading about all of its cool attractions. But if you want to extend your North Carolina trip for a couple days, consider checking out the fun little city of Wilmington as well. You can’t go wrong with a few relaxing days in Wilmington! According to Trip Advisor, traveling through Wilmington is very affordable, and this cool port city has lots of wonderful beaches for tourists to enjoy. Plus, the seafood here is amazing—you can eat fresh, local fish at a restaurant right on the water while enjoying the amazing sunset.
3 Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Everyone knows that New Orleans is a super fun city to visit. What’s not to love? So if you’re already interested in heading down South to Louisiana for a vacation, you might as well tack a couple days in Baton Rouge on to your schedule! Baton Rouge is the capital and second-largest city of Louisiana. According to Visit Baton Rouge, there are a ton of fun things to do here. You can visit many historical sites like the government house and former plantations, there is an awesome water park for sunny days, and, of course, plenty of soul food restaurants!
2 Norfolk, Virginia
As we mentioned earlier, Virginia is often overlooked as a travel destination, but truthfully, this state is very affordable and has many underrated attractions that are well worth a visit! According to Visit Norfolk, Norfolk is a wonderful waterfront city with activities and sites that could appeal to any traveler. Aside from the lush botanical gardens, there is an entertaining zoo, nearby beaches, and a famous maritime museum. But the main attraction is the massive waterfront and the nearby beaches of the Chesapeake Bay. This city is the perfect balance between urban and natural, with plenty to satisfy any tourist.
1 Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale used to be a popular spring break destination, but it has fallen out of popularity due to the increasing number of students checking out big resort cities instead (hello, Cabo). However, this just means that the prices are a bit lower, which is a major bonus! According to Visit Florida, Fort Lauderdale is a fantastic destination if you want to take a leisurely river cruise, enjoy some high-end shopping, eat delicious Mexican and Cuban food, check out stunning art museums, oh, and of course, relax on the white sand beaches under the shade of the palm trees!