The Southern States, a title that will conjure up images of historical Confederacy, pecan pie, the rolling green hills of Virginia and the sweltering swamplands of Florida's Everglades. Trips to the USA have long been associated with the heady heights of the 'Big Apple', the bright lights of Vegas and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood but increasingly, the Southern States are becoming a first choice destination for many looking to experience a lesser-known side of American culture. The Southern States is a collective term that is typically applied to the Confederate states; Virginia, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and both South and North Carolina.
Charming towns, unique landscapes, exotic wildlife and a vibrant populace give the Southern States more than enough allure and charisma to appeal to almost all would-be adventurers. Meanwhile, with a long and tumultuous history, the area has much to appeal to anyone interested in acquiring a greater understanding of the South's affiliation with the longer US political narrative. That past cannot be reviewed without obvious distinction given to the States involved in the Confederacy secession of 1861 and the subsequent American Civil War.
Any historical tour of the South must begin in Charleston, the South Carolinian port city, as the Civil War itself did in April 1861. It was at Fort Sumter, a defensive fortification in the Charleston harbour mouth that the first cannon fire of the Civil War rang out. As a resupply ship attempted to bring supplies to the beleaguered Union Troops positioned at the Fort, Confederacy forces under Brigadier Gen. Beauregard began firing upon both the ship, and subsequently, the fort itself. After two days of violent and almost constant bombardment, the Union troops surrendered the Fort and the Civil War had begun in earnest.
The city of Atlanta, in Georgia, is home to the iconic Cyclorama Civil War Museum, arguably the best location to grasp any kind of understanding of the fundamentals of the Civil War. The highlights of the exhibition include the "Texas" steam locomotive, famous for being part of the "Great Locomotive Chase" during the conflict, and the eponymous Cyclorama, a vast cylindrical panoramic painting depicting the tragic Battle of Atlanta.
Of course it would be wrong to suggest Civil War history is the only thing on offer in the Southern States. Florida, synonymous with Palm Beach and Disneyland is so much more than the tourist hotspots. Increasingly, the landscapes of this state are becoming a premier destination for those looking for an uncommon holiday experience. Florida is home to one of the planet's most unique ecosystems, the Everglades, a network of tropical wetlands and sawgrass prairies. These swamplands are characterized by an array of diverse flora and fauna; from the iconic American Alligator, to the endangered Florida Panther and the primitive looking Gar fish.
The Floridian city of St. Augustine is the oldest European-established settlement in the United States. Its history stretches back to the 16th century, when it was founded by the Spanish, becoming the capital of Spanish Florida. The city, in some form, has changed between the hands of both the Spanish and the British throughout its history, before finally becoming American after the Revolution. It was in the 17th century that the famous fort, Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest in the US, was built in St. Augustine.
New Orleans, Louisiana, is the big, brash home of jazz music. The city is iconic, and like the musical genre it is so historically entwined with, it oozes style and vibrancy, from the delicious food to the almost daily musical festivities and celebrations, as well as the legendary Mardi Gras. The city has boomed in the past few years and much of the metropolitan landscape has now been rebuilt post after the devastating effects of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina. The city's unique taste in architecture and historical centre is still largely as it was and escaped the majority of the hurricane damage. The vivid French Quarter, dating back as far as the 18th century in some cases, is the highlight of any New Orleans visit and the beating heart of the Louisiana city.
The Southern States have much to offer, and their vibrancy, history and abundant culture are becoming a magnet for tourists seeking something a little more than the headiness of Disneyland Florida. Why not experience your own Southern adventure in the coming year.