The Best Barbecue Restaurants in the American South

The United States is a big country, and that means there are a lot of barbecue restaurants to choose from. But which ones are the best? Thanks to this excellently researched travel blog post from Southern Living that counts down the 50 best barbecue restaurants in the Southern United States, there’s never been a better time for a barbecue road trip. From Texas to Tennessee, these restaurants will satiate your cravings for slow-cooked barbecue, savory side dishes, and southern hospitality. So whether you’re looking for ribs, pulled pork, or brisket, be sure to check out this list before your next BBQ road trip.

There’s no denying that the South has some of the best barbecue food in the country. The following are just a few of the reasons why the South has the best barbecue in the United States. First, the proof is in its history. Barbecue has been a part of Southern culture for centuries, and it’s something that locals take great pride in. When it comes to barbecue, the South simply knows what they’re doing. Secondly, the flavor; southern barbecue is all about slow-cooking meats over low heat to get that perfect balance of smoke and flavor. This cooking method lets the natural flavors of the meat shine through, and results in some of the most delicious barbecue you’ll ever taste.

Thirdly, there are the excellent side dishes. No Southern BBQ meal is complete without a heaping helping of coleslaw or baked beans on the side. Lastly, the hospitality is simply unmatched. When you eat barbecue in the South, you can expect to be treated like family. Whether you’re at a casual roadside stand or a fine dining restaurant, southern hospitality will make you feel right at home.

If you find yourself in Texas wanting to seek out some excellent barbecue, you’re in luck. The state is home to some of the best barbecue restaurants in the country. Franklin Barbecue: Located in Austin, Franklin Barbecue is widely considered to be one of the best barbecue joints in Texas (and the country). The line to get food here can be long, but it’s definitely worth the wait. Elsewhere in Texas, be sure to check out the Pecan Lodge. A favorite restaurant of Dallas, the Pecan Lodge has won numerous awards for its delicious barbecue, and its notable brisket. Lastly, Texas has Killen’s Barbecue, which is located in Pearland (just outside of Houston). Killen’s Barbecue has been voted one of the best barbecue restaurants in Texas by multiple publications.

Mississippi has no shortage of excellent barbecue restaurants. In particular, one of the prides of the state and Ocean Springs, Mississippi is The Shed Barbecue & Blues Joint. This restaurant has been serving up some of the best barbecue in Mississippi for over 25 years. The Shed is known for their pulled pork, ribs, and chicken, and they also have a great selection of sides and desserts. Located in the Mississippi towns of Gulfport, Hattiesburg, and Ocean Springs is Murky Waters Blues and BBQ. This restaurant is also a vibrant blues club that serves up an authentic Mississippi atmosphere alongside its world-class smoker.

If you’re looking for some of the best barbecue in Arkansas, look no further than Sims Bar-B-Que in Little Rock. While the original restaurant was started in 1937, the modern-day Sims is still satisfying customers with its world-famous Sims Bar-B-Que Sauce. Check out Sim’s pork shoulder, as it’s slow-cooked to perfection and smothered in a tangy, slightly sweet sauce. Another can’t-miss barbecue destination in Arkansas is Whole Hog Cafe, also located in Little Rock. As the name suggests, this restaurant specializes in whole hog roast, and it’s definitely worth trying if you’re a fan of pulled pork. The meats are smoked over hickory wood for hours until they’re perfectly tender, and the resulting sandwiches are absolutely awesome.

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Swimming Holes To Visit in the American South

Are you tired of spending the summer months soaking in salty oceans or over-chlorinated pools? If so, you may want to consider this list of the best swimming holes to be found in the south from Southern Living Magazine.

Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy some cooling water in the summer months that doesn’t involve sand, beach parking, or pool chemicals. If that sounds ideal to you, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to travel too far to enjoy it, because there is an easy-to-reach beauty in your own backyard that you should check out: a natural swimming hole. After a day of hiking, biking, and climbing at nearby state parks like the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or Roan Mountain State Park, you’ll find these places are more than just great for outdoor recreation – they’re also located close to a refreshingly beautiful swimming hole in their own right.

Mississippi’s Black Creek in DeSoto National Forest

A great way to get out of the Mississippi summer heat and cool off is by visiting the swimming hole in DeSoto National Forest known as Black Creek. The Black Creek is a National Scenic River, meaning that this river is so remarkable in terms of scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, or historic value that the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service has designated it and given it our nation’s strongest form of protection for free-flowing rivers and streams. In addition to this designation, the Black Creek also features multiple sandbars along its expanse that create several natural swimming holes that are perfect for cooling off and relaxing after a day hiking the Black Creek Wilderness found within the DeSoto National Forest.

Tennessee’s North Chick Blue Hole

The North Chick Blue Hole is a beautiful, secluded collection of swimming holes located in the woods along Walden’s Ridge and the Cumberland Plateau near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The river gorge found here has several large boulders along the waters, disrupting the flow and thus creating several swimming holes all along the creek. Better yet, these boulders serve as excellent ledges that are perfect to jump off of into the waters below, making this the perfect spot for any outdoor adventurer seeking to keep cool this summer.

Texas’s Barton Springs Pool

One of the outstanding crown jewels of Austin, Texas is the Barton Springs Pool, a 3-acre, water-filled area nestled within the beautiful Zilker Park. This mineral-fed swimming hole is within the channel of Barton Creek and utilizes water from Main Barton Spring, the fourth largest spring in Texas. Open year-round and featuring gorgeous limestone formations that reflect its natural spring waters, this natural swimming hole has been a favorite of locals and visitors alike since its opening  in 1837 shortly after the city of Austin was incorporated. The Barton Springs Pool is incredibly popular due to it being open to the public for year-round swimming and consistently hovering between 68 °F and 74 °F throughout the entire year.

North Carolina’s Cashiers Sliding Rock

If you’re looking for a fun and quirky way to spend a day or weekend in the North Carolina mountains, you have to visit Cashiers Sliding Rock. Located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of Jackson County, not far from Highlands,Cashiers Sliding Rock is just one of many spectacular natural attractions that draw millions of visitors every year. At the bottom of this 10-foot slide you’ll find yourself in a uniquely beautiful setting. The water is crystal clear and cool, and while you’re sliding down you can enjoy the view of hundreds of babbling brooks that feed into the larger pool of water at the bottom.

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The Best Summer Vacations

While many travelers find comfort in revisiting their old favorites during the summer months, many others find that a lot can be gained from trying out an experience that is unfamiliar, exciting, and classically summer. That’s why this article from Travel + Leisure that’s gathered 20 classic summer vacations from its readership is truly the perfect solution to those wondering how they can best add a little something new to their Summer 2022 plans.

If you’re like most people, your vacations are probably pretty routine. You go to the same place every year and do the same things. There’s comfort to be found in the summer vacation routine, but for all of the solace that predictability brings, you’re missing out on experiences that could be the answer to a question that you never thought to ask. Surveying Travel + Leisure’s suggested list of nearly two dozen “classic” summer vacation ideas” might spark your imagination to venture out of your comfort zone and into your new niche for future vacations to come.

Taking a Road Trip along the Pacific Coast Highway

This first suggestion may seem to be the most obvious, but if you’ve never hit the open road on a multi-state road tripbefore, you are sure to be surprised by how much of an eye-opening experience it can be. For the purpose of venturing out of your comfort zone, it’s suggested that you plan a road trip around locaitions new, enticing, and close-in-proximity to you, and for most, that means heading along the United States’s West or East coast during your travels.

One perfect pathway for your road trip is to venture down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). The PCH is one of the most scenic drives in the world; running from San Francisco to Los Angeles, it’s a winding road that takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of California. As you travel along the PCH, you’ll pass through several beach towns, national parks and other beautiful places, but some of the stand-outs are: San Francisco, Big Sur, and Santa Barbara.

Taking in the Sights of Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia

Alternatively, if you’re more interested in visiting fewer separate sights and seeking out enriching experiences in two classic American cities, then you should consider road tripping on the Eastern coast of the United States from Charleston, a beautiful city on the coast of South Carolina that’s full of history and culture, to Savannah, another southern pinnacle that is supplied with an old world charm and a modern flair. If you’re traveling from Charleston to Savannah via Interstate 26, then be sure to check out Historic Downtown Summerville before heading out, as it offers plenty of shops and restaurants along with historic sites like Old Towne Hall as well as several parks throughout the town where you can relax and take in the scenery. Elsewhere, plan to visit the over 35,000 artifacts on display at the Charleston Museum or simply visit the Market, located in downtown Charleston. The Market is home to different shops and restaurants, including local favorites like The Grove, Sticky Fingers Bakery & Café and more.

Once in Savannah, you’ll be able to inundate yourself with the first place you should stop is Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens. This plantation is home to a beautiful 18th century mansion and an authentic working rice plantation. You can take a tour of the plantation or just walk around and enjoy the beauty for free. Secondly, you should consider taking a tour of Bonaventure Cemetery. Understandably, a cemetery might not be the most fun sight to see, but Bonaventure Cemetery contains many interesting sculptures, mausoleums, and gravestones and is also known as “America’s Most Haunted Cemetery.” Lastly, for a little more culture, be sure to check out the Telfair Museum of Art and Jepson Center, as these two art museums showcase works by famous artists such as Picasso and Monet and also host different events throughout the year such as Jazz Concerts.

Ride the Rails in Europe

Outside of an enticing road trip, Travel + Leisure also suggests that you inject some wonder and excitement into your summer vacations by traveling by train in Europe. While there are many reasons to travel by train in Europe such as cost effectiveness or environmental efficiency, the most obvious and alluring is that it’s a great way to see the beautiful countryside of this area of the world. While it’s possible to drive through Europe, there are many beautiful spots where you’re not allowed to stop and walk around, or even pull over and snap a picture.

Hop Aboard a Cruise Line

Another suggestion for summer vacations from the article is to hop aboard a cruise, as they offer a variety of activities and entertainment that will make your trip memorable, whether it’s with family or friends. Once on a cruise, every element from food to entertainment is elevated. The cuisine that’s found on board cruises is delicious and plentiful, allowing you to choose from fine dining at a restaurant with white linen tablecloths and waiters in tuxedos or casual dining at an open-air deck buffet– depending on the mood you find yourself in. Similarly, cruises have many entertainment options available including live shows performed by professional entertainers, dance performances, piano bars and discos. Outside of performances, you can also find plenty of things to do during your down time such as golfing or shuffleboard tournaments, proving that there’s something for everyone.

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Georgia Beaches Worth the Trip

With summer just around the corner, there’s never been a better time to start preparing, planning, and maybe packing for your next trip to the beach, the unmistakable, ideal destination of summer. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to travel impeccably far in order to enjoy a beach trip in the continental United States, because thanks to this article from Southern Living detailing the best beaches in the state of Georgia, your next beach excursion is just a drive away! While many Americans think of Florida as one of the premiere beach-supplied states in the country, they often overlook Georgia beaches.  While it  only has 110 miles of shoreline in comparison to Florida’s 1,350 mi., what that figure doesn’t account for is the many patches of marshlands and barrier islands that are found throughout the Peach State.

Southern Living’s article primarily focuses on the four beautiful barrier islands that are nestled atop the Georgia coastline between Savannah, GA, and Jacksonville, FL: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Island—as well as the mainland city of Historic Brunswick.  These barrier islands offer visitors pristinely kept stretches of marshland that are accompanied by small islands, colloquially known as hammocks. This interspersing of marshland, islands, and beaches creates the effect of appearing as though there is a single, continuous stretch of land that reaches out to the barrier islands, making for a truly unforgettable, breathtaking scene.

In speaking about the beaches to be found on one of the four barrier islands, Golden Isles CVB, a nationally-recognized resort destination aiming to promote the Golden Isles listed above, the Golden Isles press describes them as being “loved by visitors, all of these barrier islands feature stunning beaches on the seaward side, alongside attractions, restaurants, hotels, and more. Each island has its own unique personality, from the laid-back Jekyll Islandto the luxurious Sea Island.”

One of the stand-out hits of Southern Living’s list is the inclusion of the St. Simons Island Beaches and their ability to transport you backward in time in which a pristine coastline was undisturbed and free for you to explore. What sets this beach apart from the others is that the development around the perimeter of the beach is still moderate, making it possible to still explore a lot of the sandy coastline and natural surroundings just as it was many years ago.  Specifically, at the well-reviewed East Beach, the low tide regularly exposes the sand bars and tidal pools along the beach that give a postcard-adjacent aesthetic. The most popular beach among the St. Simons Island beaches is the East Beach, located at the Historic Coast Guard Station.

Outside of the Golden Isles barrier Islands is a beach that is often noted due to its “secretive” or “off-the-beaten-path” status. This is of course Tybee’s Back River Beach, which is hidden away at the end of Highway 80. This beach is often heralded for being a relaxing, quiet, and undisturbed beach that is perfect for families due to its shallow waters and gentle surf. This makes the beach perfect for kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming. If you’re feeling up to it, use Tybee’s Back River Beach as a launching point to make your way out to Little Tybee Island, a completely undeveloped neighbor that’s located just across the river.

Generally, as long as you find yourself within the Golden Isles and their encompassing barrier islands, you’re sure to be rewarded with an assortment of activities and beach memories. Due to the temperate climate and scenic backdrops of the destination, there are ample opportunities to enjoy activities along the beachfront and adjacent beach towns during your stay. Put on your sandals and feel free to peruse the quaint beachside shopping boutiquesthat are sprinkled along the Georgia coastline, enjoy some unique and first-class dining experiences with some of the freshest seafood you’ve ever eaten, and even learn about the communities and cultures that came together to make these beaches what they are today by going on a historical tour of the area. No matter what you choose to do or which beach to experience in Georgia, you’re sure to have a great, memorable time.

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Uncrowded Southern Mountain Destinations

As winter’s coldest days begin to be behind us, more and more travelers are looking towards the solitary peace that can be found in nature’s most majestic environment, the mountains. Though, if you’re looking for a mountainside retreat or escape wherein you’re not likely to run into swarths of tourists or buzzing crowds, then this list of the mountain destinations from Southern Living is sure to set you up for success.

Time to yourself is a commodity that cannot be taken for granted in our fast-paced, technology-driven world. That’s why surrounding yourself in the Southern United States’ mountain towns that have an immense amount of small-town charm, southern hospitality, and ample supply of fresh mountain air is the perfect way to spend your time away from home this year.

As a reminder, no matter where you’re traveling to in these uncertain times, it’s always a responsible move and a good idea to check local travel advisories, city ordinances, and state mandates that may have been implemented due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Travel safely and rest assured that you’ve done your due diligence by referring to CDC travel guidelines.

Galax, Virginia

Located at the foothills of the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains is the small town of Galax, Virginia, this mountain destination is a location that’s incredibly rich in history, tradition, opportunities for recreation, and unforgettable natural beauty. Once you find yourself in this town that has its southern roots so deeply buried in country music history, you’ll find yourself wanting to spend more and more time outdoors. After a day of shopping in Galax’s quiet downtown district, consider embarking on a tubing expedition down New River, a hike along the New River Trail, or a visit to the must-see waterfalls like Foster Falls and Chestnut Creek Falls. Other outdoor pit stops that you simply shouldn’t miss out on are found along the Blue Ridge Parkway, since (after all) the town of Galax is known as the scenic gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Along the Parkway is Mabry Mill, a water mill run by the National Park Service and complete with its own crafting center, a handful of self-guided trails, and restaurant, as well as Grayson Highlands State Park, the state park located adjacent to Virginia’s two highest mountains, Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain.

Jasper, Arkansas

Located along the Little Buffalo River in Northwestern Arkansas is the celebrated city of Jasper, Arkansas.  Consistently associated with words like “quaint” and “scenic,” the town of Jasper is surrounded by the beauty generated by America’s first national river, the Buffalo National River, and where it begins to flow. Offering ample outdoor activities such as canoeing, fishing, hiking, caving, rock climbing, hunting, horseback riding, and mountain biking, Jasper’s setting of the Ozark Mountains makes it the ideal outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Located only about 60 miles southeast of Eureka Springs, Jasper offers its visitors the most bountiful expanse imaginable in the 1.2 million-acre Ozark National Forest and the Buffalo River Corridor, making Jasper the Elk Capital of Arkansas. Because these majestic animals have a proclivity of roaming Erbie, Ozark, Pruitt, Newton County, Boxley Valley, and Steel Creek in herds of 450 elk, you would benefit from stopping into the ​​Hilary Jones Wildlife Museum & Elk Information Center or Ponca Nature Center to learn more about these creatures.

Other key mountain destinations locations, indicated by the full article as being the best mountain towns that are “under the radar” are Morganton, North Carolina; Mentone, Alabama; Frostburg, Maryland;  Dillard, Georgia; Alpine, Texas; Arcadia, Missouri; and Mountain Home, Arkansas.

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Hidden Destinations in the American South

As summer begins to come to a close, many look for a quiet getaway to escape to, and Southern Living has curated a list of the region’s hidden destinations to escape to this summer.

As always, due to local regulations, travel restrictions, and COVID-19 surges, it is suggested that travelers properly research all local guidelines and CDC recommendations in order to keep you and those you care about as safe and responsible as possible in these unprecedented times. Luckily, Southern Living’s list of “Hidden Southern Escapes” includes many isolated getaways, allowing for more social distancing and relaxation.

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

Once upon a time, nearly one million acres of desert habitat covered southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, and preserving that environmental marvel in Virginia today is the largest intact remnant of that desert habitat, the Great Dismal Swamp National Refuge. Originally opened as a result of a local forest products company’s sizable 1973 donation of 49,097 acres to The Nature Conservancy, this refuge encompasses over 112,000 acres of an environmentally, biologically, and historically important area. Visit Lake Drummond, the largest natural lake in Virginia, and take part in some one-of-a-kind birding or boating experiences in one of the most diverse and unique landscapes available in the American South.

Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, Oklahoma

In their curated list, Southern Living calls this destination the literal “home where the buffalo roamed,” and they’re not technically wrong because as the National Park Service reports this exact stretch of land in Oklahoma was originally inhabited by tens of millions of bison. Today, this preserve that encompasses 39,650 acres is the single-largest protected remnant of the tallgrass prairie habitat left on the planet earth today. Visit the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve to take part in excellent wildlife watching opportunities, since over 700 plants, 300 birds, and 80 mammals call this prairie home. One highlight of the preserve is quoted by the Nature Conservatory as allowing visitors to “experience the wide-open prairie and the patches of cross timbers forest by circling the 15-mile bison driving loop, hiking along designated trails and stopping to take in the views at various scenic turnouts.”

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

Second only to the majesty of the Grand Canyon is the Palo Duro Canyon State Park located in the heart of the Texas Panhandle. At this hidden destination, visitors of this massive, other-worldly expanse can explore the canyon as they see fit by foot, mountain bike, car, or horse. The park itself has over 30 miles of equestrian, biking, and hiking trails from which to view the canyon’s highs and lows as well as the wildlife. This State Park originated from a vast ranch owned by the legendary Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight before it was acquired by the State of Texas in the 1930s. The diverse landscape that embodies the park is a combination of sediment, rock formations, and canyon walls, but they are also contrasted spectacularly by the vibrancy of Texas plant life. This makes for a truly beautiful, picturesque expanse of land that was once so unique that it inspired the infamous painter Georgia O’Keeffe.

Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

The final hidden destination listed here in the name of isolation and hermit-try is South Carolina’s Daufuskie Island, a location only accessible by boat. Now occupied by local artisans is the Mary Fields School, a historic schoolhouse where classic author Pat Conroy taught. Conroy, who has written such literature as The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, was inspired by the students and outside, timeless island landscape on Daufuskie Island to write his 1972 memoir The Water is Wide. Take a self-described “remote retreat from modern life” and visit an island lost to time itself.

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