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Sightseeing in Charleston, South Carolina

The Southern Gem Cities

Discover the best of Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston and Charlotte.

From the iconic architectural styles to the mouthwatering soul food and deeply important history, the Southern USA is a fascinating place for even the most seasoned travelers. This itinerary takes you on an excursion to the best-of-the-best, including world-class aquariums, attractions, tours and dining experiences you’ll remember forever.

Photographing Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia

Kick off your adventure in the city that’s got it all: Atlanta. From the rich Southern history found at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights to the spectacular Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Georgia Aquarium, there’s plenty to keep any type of traveler busy. Music fans will rejoice on this trip: Atlanta’s nightlife is rich with live music entertainment. Though you’ll find diverse and varied sounds across Atlanta, the city’s influence on hip-hop has been globally influential and recognized. Get ready to take in the rhythm of Atlanta, Georgia.

Where to Stay:

● Conveniently located by Centennial Park, Philips Arena and the World of Coca-Cola, the Glenn Hotel offers a boutique stay experience with a modern, upscale twist. You’ll enjoy the abstract art throughout the hotel as well as the SkyLounge rooftop bar.

● Ready for a stay in luxury? Enjoy one of the top-rated hotels in Atlanta: the Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead featuring an indoor pool, spa and private English gardens that look straight out of a magazine. Here, you’ll enjoy a stay on the finer side of life.

● Looking for accommodations with history? Enjoy the Candler Hotel, built in 1906 as Atlanta’s very first ever skyscraper and iconic at every turn. You’ll want photos on the sweeping large marble staircase and of the epic city views.

What to Eat:

● Want a true sampling of Atlanta’s cuisine? Head to Central Food Hall in Ponce City Market. With 39 eateries across 2 floors, it’s sure to leave you satisfied.

● Dine at Gunshow in Glenwood Park, a restaurant with a serious flair for entertainment. Enjoy delicious tapas wheeled around the restaurant for your choosing and cocktails made tableside; you’re in for a one-of-a-kind experience.

● In Atlanta, brunch isn’t just a meal; it’s a way of life. Head over to Milk & Honey at Cascade for a jumbo chicken biscuit, steak eggs or even lobster tails over cheesy grits.

What to See:

● The Georgia Aquarium is one of the best in the world – you can even scuba dive with whale sharks!

● History buffs will love an afternoon at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. See where the Civil Rights leader was born and raised, and walk in the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was once a pastor.

● Take in a beautiful outdoor day at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Then, stroll through 80-plus hectares of Piedmont Park, just adjacent to the gardens. The park hosts a Saturday farmers market and other seasonal events, so be on the lookout.

Posing on a cobblestone street lined by historic mansions and live oak trees in Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

An easy drive through tree-dense Georgia leads you to Savannah, nicknamed the “hostess city of the south” for its exceptional hospitality and love of visitors. Rich with history, a unique nightlife scene and some spooky ghost stories to boot, Savannah is full of surprising entertainment around every turn. (Insider tip: Savannah’s Historic District is the only area on this itinerary that has an Open Container Law. This means you are allowed to walk in public with an alcoholic beverage. Bars and restaurants will happily situate you with a to-go drink!)

Where to Stay:

● For a stay in the heart of the action, book yourself a room at The Bohemian Hotel. On-site restaurant Rocks on the River offers an upscale Southern comfort menu (get the shrimp and grits!), and rooftop bar Rocks on the Roof delivers an unforgettable river view.

● The Mansion on Forsyth Park makes for a spacious, luxury stay in a Victorian Romanesque mansion. You can enjoy the art gallery and spa, or even sign up for a cooking class – all across the street from Savannah’s iconic Forsyth Park.

● The Hamilton-Turner Inn dates back to 1873 and features eclectic, upscale period decor ranging from Victorian furniture to Art Deco accents. Its 18 unique rooms and location in the heart of the Historic District ensure that any stay here is sure to be a treat.

What to Eat:

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room is a mainstay of Savannah’s dining scene. Join for lunch or dinner, where you’re seated at large communal tables (that’s right; get ready to make some new friends!). Tables are served family-style, and guests get to know each other over a meal of fried chicken, okra, biscuits and more.

● Don’t miss the sandwich that Adam Richman called the best in the South at Zunzi’s. This South African-inspired stop is perfect for a fast, affordable and (most importantly) totally delicious meal.

What to See:

● Take a stroll through historic Forsyth Park, and get a photo at its iconic fountain. The massive, Spanish moss-draped trees make this area the perfect place for an afternoon picnic.

● Carve out time to explore a 2.5-kilometer promenade along the Savannah River. Brew pubs, restaurants and antique shops make this waterfront area a can’t-miss. While you’re here, try a world-famous praline at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen – trust us!

● Savannah is known as one of the USA’s most haunted cities, so pencil in a ghost tour. Whether you choose a walking tour, an underground experience or even one chauffeured by hearse, you’ll enjoy learning the spooky true tales and urban legends of this mysterious town.

A Gullah artisan posing with one of her sweetgrass baskets in Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina

Get your camera ready because you’re headed to one of the most picturesque cities in the USA: Charleston, South Carolina. Cobblestone streets, the glow of street lanterns and expertly preserved architecture make this city feel like a journey back in time. Dive right into captivating history, an island-hopping culture along the Atlantic Ocean coast and those special and legendary Southern flavors passed down from generation to generation.

Where to Stay:

● Stay mere meters away from Waterfront Park in the heart of Charleston at the French Quarter Inn. Here, guests are greeted with champagne at check-in and can enjoy a free gourmet continental breakfast.

● Enjoy a beautifully preserved piece of Charleston’s architectural history at 86 Cannon Historic Inn. Impeccable interior design and an expert concierge service will make you feel right at home. Please note: This luxury boutique is an “adults only property” and does not accommodate children under 16.

● Why not stay right on the water? The HarbourView Inn offers convenient walkability in the heart of Charleston and a rooftop terrace with spectacular views of the waterfront. You’ll even enjoy daily free afternoon wine and cheese receptions.

What to Eat:

● You’re in seafood country, so best pencil in a meal at Pearlz Oyster Bar. You can try everything from seafood gumbo to steamed mussels and, you guessed it, super-fresh house oysters.

● Get ready to experience upscale-down-south fare like never before at Magnolias. A staple in Charleston for over 30 years, Magnolias is the go-to spot for Lowcountry flavors with a modern twist, like spicy shrimp and sausage or fried green tomatoes.

● For those who live for the social media pics, check out Camellias at Hotel Bennett. This pink-all-over champagne bar serves high tea and is the perfect spot for bites, sips and photos.

What to See:

● Visitors interested in history and architecture won’t want to miss a guided walking tour. Explore the waterfront district and enjoy the many stories these buildings hold within their walls. You may even learn the unique reason why Rainbow Row is painted in such eclectic colors.

● Learn about the carefully preserved history and recognition of enslaved people at the McLeod Plantation Historic Site. Tours offer a better understanding of life during the Civil War and its impact on U.S. history as we know it.

● For those looking to enjoy the great Atlantic waters, book a sunset boat tour. You’ll get a stunning new perspective of this great city and may even spot some dolphins!

Zip lining with views of the rapids at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina

Welcome to Charlotte, known as the Queen City – and your final stop on this adventure! End your trip on a high note at Charlotte’s famous and fast-paced attractions: The NASCAR Hall of Fame’s pit stop simulator, Carowinds roller coasters and man-made rapids in the U.S. National Whitewater Center are sure to get your blood pumping.

Where to Stay:

● If you’re looking for a stay with elegance, book yourself a room at The Duke Mansion. The stunning property and exceptional service are sure to charm just about any traveler.

● Described as “Paris-meets-New-Orleans,” The Ivey’s Hotel delivers a modern and chic stay found in the heart of Uptown.

● Want a stay with all the bells and whistles? The Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel doesn’t just offer fashionable decor and stylings, but also delivers in-room spa services, a yoga deck and a truly impressive hotel fitness center.

What to Eat:

Mert’s Heart and Soul serves traditional soul food and Gullah-inspired dishes with a whole lot of – you guessed it – heart and soul. Don’t miss their world-famous Soul Roll Egg Rolls, complete with black-eyed peas and collard greens!

● A stay in North Carolina isn’t complete without a little bit of barbecue. Stop by Midwood Smokehouse for a classic menu done right. Don’t forget to order a side of pimento cheese fries and a local Carolina beer to wash it all down.

● For an on-the-go meal that feels gourmet, stop by locally loved Papi Queso food truck outside Optimist Hall. Decadent grilled cheese sandwiches filled with macaroni and cheese, pulled pork or even white truffle spread are definitely worth the trip.

What to See:

● The NASCAR Hall of Fame is part racing shrine, part high-tech museum – and fully entertaining for all who visit. Guided tours are a great way to learn the history of NASCAR. You can even try out the iRacing simulator or take the Pit Crew Challenge.

● The U.S. National Whitewater Center is the place to get outdoorsy and active in Charlotte. Covering more than 500 hectares where you can run, whitewater raft, paddle, ride and rock climb, it’s sure to deliver a day of fun in the sun.

● Those looking for a slightly slower speed will love the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Just a short drive from downtown, these gardens are sure to offer a spectacular afternoon for all who visit.