The Most Comprehensive List of Things to See and Do in the Southeast

April 1, 2024

Prepare to be swept off your feet as we embark on a thrilling journey through the Southeastern United States, where every corner is bursting with excitement, beauty, and adventure!

From the mystical mountains of North Carolina to the sun-kissed shores of Florida, this region is a playground for the senses, offering a kaleidoscope of experiences that will leave you breathless with wonder.

So, grab your sense of adventure and get ready to immerse yourself in a world of outhouse races, bear-shaped shadows, and cow-cuddling escapades. Buckle up for the ride of a lifetime as we uncover the hidden gems and exhilarating thrills that await around every corner in the Southeast!

An amazing sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina during autumn.

North Carolina: Land of Mountains and Mysteries

1. Outhouse Races

Imagine groups constructing and decorating their own outhouses, then racing them down a mountain in Western NC in February, amidst the snow. It may sound quirky, but the Outhouse Races are a hilarious spectacle worth witnessing. Cheer for your favorite outhouse and join in the laughter with locals and visitors alike.

2. Shadow of the Bear

Twice a year, in November and February, witness a natural phenomenon in the mountains of Western NC. At sunset, the shadow of Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC, resembles a bear. While some may debate its resemblance, the experience of watching this shadow dance across the landscape is truly mesmerizing.

3. Linville Caverns

Delve half a mile deep into the earth and explore the fascinating underground world of Linville Caverns near the Linville Gorge. Learn about the area’s history and maybe even catch a glimpse of a bat. It’s an adventure that offers a unique perspective on North Carolina’s geological wonders.

Fireflies in the forest of the Great Smoky Mountains

4. Blue Ghosts & Synchronous Fireflies

Experience the magic of nature during late May and early June as the Blue Ghost and Synchronous fireflies light up the night. Walk amongst these luminescent creatures at the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah Forest or enter the lottery for a chance to witness the synchronized dance of fireflies in the Smoky Mountains.

5. Outer Banks

With over 100 miles of pristine shoreline, the Outer Banks beckons beach lovers and history enthusiasts alike. Explore historic lighthouses, stroll along sandy shores, and immerse yourself in the rich maritime heritage of this coastal paradise.

6. Polar Express at Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Step into the pages of a beloved holiday tale aboard the Polar Express at Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Complete with hot chocolate, Santa sightings, and cozy pajamas, it’s a magical journey that will enchant the whole family.

7. Caboose Rentals at Buffalo Creek Vacations

Experience a unique stay at Buffalo Creek Vacations in Clyde, NC, where you can sleep in a real decommissioned caboose on a buffalo ranch. Wake up to stunning views of grazing buffalo and immerse yourself in the rustic charm of the North Carolina countryside.

A large mansion under a cloudy sky.

8. Biltmore Estate

Explore the grandeur of the Biltmore Estate, America’s largest privately-owned home, nestled in the mountains of Asheville. Tour the opulent mansion, wander through breathtaking gardens, and sample award-winning wines at the estate’s vineyard. With its blend of history, architecture, and natural beauty, the Biltmore is a must-visit destination in North Carolina.

9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Discover the beauty and biodiversity of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. Hike through old-growth forests, marvel at cascading waterfalls, and spot diverse wildlife, including black bears and elk, in this amazing wilderness sanctuary.

10. Chimney Rock State Park

Ascend to new heights at Chimney Rock State Park, home to iconic rock formations and panoramic vistas overlooking the Hickory Nut Gorge. Embark on a scenic hike to Chimney Rock, explore underground caverns, and soak in the natural splendor of this mountainous landscape.

11. Brevard Music Center

Immerse yourself in the sounds of classical music at the Brevard Music Center, nestled in the scenic mountains of Western North Carolina. Attend world-class performances by renowned musicians, participate in educational workshops, and experience the magic of live orchestral music in a picturesque setting.

A long exposure of the Linville Falls of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC.

12. Linville Falls

Marvel at the majestic beauty of Linville Falls, one of the most photographed waterfalls in North Carolina. Hike along scenic trails to viewpoints overlooking the plunging cascades and rugged gorge, and immerse yourself in the tranquility of this natural wonderland.

13. North Carolina Arboretum

Explore the botanical wonders of the North Carolina Arboretum, located in Asheville’s Pisgah National Forest. Wander through themed gardens, stroll along tranquil trails, and discover a diverse collection of plants from the Southern Appalachians and around the world.

14. Blowing Rock

Experience the enchanting charm of Blowing Rock, a picturesque mountain town known for its stunning vistas and outdoor adventures. Visit the namesake Blowing Rock, where gusts of wind cause an upward draft, explore quaint shops and galleries, and embark on scenic drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

15. Sliding Rock

Cool off with a thrilling slide down Sliding Rock, a natural waterslide nestled in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard. Plunge into the refreshing mountain waters and enjoy a fun-filled day of swimming and splashing amidst the scenic beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.

Check out all the North Carolina KOAs here

Pink flowers along a mountain trail with foggy mountains in the distance in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Tennessee: Where Adventure Awaits

1. Lost Sea Adventure

Embark on an underground adventure at Lost Sea Adventure near Knoxville, TN. Explore massive caverns, learn about geology, and glide across an underground lake on a boat tour. It’s an exhilarating experience that offers a glimpse into the hidden wonders of Tennessee’s subterranean world.

2. Roan Mountain

Ascend to new heights at Roan Mountain, where sweeping vistas and vibrant rhododendrons await. Whether you visit in early summer to witness the blooming of these colorful flowers or any time of year for breathtaking views, Roan Mountain promises outdoor adventures and natural beauty at every turn.

3. Rock City

Located in Chattanooga, TN, Rock City boasts an enchanting landscape of natural rock formations, scenic lookouts, and whimsical gardens. Wander along the winding paths, cross the iconic rope bridge, and marvel at the beauty of this geological wonderland.

4. Dollywood & Dollywood Splash Country

Experience thrills and entertainment at Dollywood, a theme park nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. From exhilarating roller coasters to family-friendly attractions, there’s no shortage of fun to be had. And when the heat rises, cool off at Dollywood Splash Country with water slides, lazy rivers, and splash zones for all ages.

Aerial photo of Gatlinburg, Tennessee with low-hanging clouds at dusk.


5. Go Lodge

Indulge your inner gamer at Go Lodge, a mansion in Gatlinburg, TN, where each room is themed after a famous game. From Clue-inspired living rooms to Pac-Man bedrooms, it’s a paradise for gamers of all ages. Get ready for a gaming getaway like no other.

6. LeConte Lodge

Challenge yourself with a hike to LeConte Lodge atop Mt. LeConte in Gatlinburg, TN. Accessible only by foot, this remote retreat offers stunning views, warm hospitality, and a sense of accomplishment for those who conquer the mountain. It’s a bucket-list experience for avid hikers and nature lovers.

7. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Climb aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City, TN, for a scenic journey through the majestic landscapes of the Smoky Mountains. Choose from a variety of excursions, including themed train rides, scenic tours, and special events, and experience the beauty of the region from the comfort of a vintage train car.

8. Cades Cove

Step back in time at Cades Cove, a historic valley nestled within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Explore the preserved homesteads, churches, and barns of early settlers, embark on scenic drives or bike rides along the loop road, and keep an eye out for wildlife, including deer, black bears, and wild turkeys.

A waterfall inside a cave lit with blue lights.Brevort

9. Ruby Falls

Discover an underground wonderland at Ruby Falls, an awe-inspiring waterfall located deep within Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, TN. Descend into the caverns, marvel at the illuminated rock formations, and stand in awe as you witness the breathtaking beauty of the 145-foot waterfall cascading into a crystal-clear pool below.

10. Jack Daniel’s Distillery

Experience the rich history and craftsmanship behind one of Tennessee’s most iconic spirits at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN. Take a guided tour of the distillery, learn about the whiskey-making process, and sample some of Jack Daniel’s finest creations. It’s a taste of Tennessee tradition you won’t soon forget.

11. Ober Gatlinburg

Soar to new heights at Ober Gatlinburg, a mountaintop amusement park and ski resort overlooking Gatlinburg, TN. From skiing and snowboarding in the winter to tubing and ice skating in the summer, there’s year-round fun for the whole family. Plus, enjoy panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains from the Aerial Tramway, the longest aerial tramway in the United States.

12. Tennessee Whiskey Trail

Embark on a journey along the Tennessee Whiskey Trail and explore the state’s rich whiskey-making heritage. Visit renowned distilleries like George Dickel, Nelson’s Green Brier, and Tennessee Legend Distillery, and savor the flavors of Tennessee whiskey while learning about the art and science behind the craft.

13. Beale Street

Experience the vibrant music and culture of Memphis on Beale Street, the historic heart of the city’s entertainment district. Listen to live blues music pouring out of iconic juke joints, sample Southern cuisine at local restaurants, and soak in the lively atmosphere of this legendary street.

14. Great Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Community

Discover the creativity and craftsmanship of local artisans at the Great Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Community in Gatlinburg, TN. Browse through galleries and studios showcasing handmade pottery, jewelry, woodwork, and more, and take home a piece of Tennessee’s artistic heritage.

Check out all the Tennessee KOAs here

Sunrise over a white sand beach.

South Carolina: A Tapestry of Natural Wonders

1. Lake Jocassee Wild Child

Embark on an educational and adventurous journey on Lake Jocassee with the Jocassee Wild Child program. From kayaking clinics to hands-on nature experiences, it’s a fantastic way to explore the beauty of this pristine lake and its surrounding wilderness.

2. Vanishing Island Dolphin Tours

Set sail on a dolphin tour with Island Explorer in Hilton Head and discover the magic of these graceful creatures in their natural habitat. Search for sand dollars on Vanishing Island and create unforgettable memories with your family.

3. Boneyard Beach on Bulls Island

Immerse yourself in the haunting beauty of Boneyard Beach on Bulls Island, part of the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge in Charleston, SC. Wander amidst weathered trees strewn across sandy shores and experience the raw, untouched beauty of nature.

Live covered in Spanish moss line a dirt road on Daufuskie Island.

4. Daufuskie Island

Escape to the tranquil paradise of Daufuskie Island, accessible only by boat and devoid of cars. Explore the island’s charming villages, pristine beaches, and lush landscapes by bike or golf cart, and unwind amidst the serene beauty of the Lowcountry.

5. Moo Cow Farms Cow Cuddling

Experience the joy of cow cuddling at Moo Cow Farms in Simpsonville, SC. Interact with gentle cows and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of animal companionship in a serene farm setting. It’s a heartwarming experience that’s perfect for animal lovers of all ages.

6. Whitewater Rafting on the Chattooga River

Seek adventure on the Chattooga River, renowned for its challenging whitewater rapids and stunning scenery. Join a whitewater rafting excursion with Wildwater Rafting and experience the thrill of navigating the rapids in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountain region.

7. Ghost Tours in Charleston

Discover the spooky side of Charleston with a ghost tour exploring the city’s haunted history. From eerie tales of restless spirits to chilling encounters with the unknown, it’s a fascinating journey into the paranormal world of the Lowcountry.

Sunset viewed through trees with Spanish moss.


8. Hunting Island State Park

Experience the natural beauty of Hunting Island State Park, home to pristine beaches, maritime forests, and iconic lighthouses. Hike along scenic trails, swim in the refreshing waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and climb to the top of the Hunting Island Lighthouse for panoramic views of the coastline.

9. Congaree National Park

Immerse yourself in the untamed wilderness of Congaree National Park, home to one of the largest intact tracts of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States. Explore the park’s network of hiking trails, paddle along the scenic Congaree River, and marvel at the towering trees and diverse wildlife that call this pristine ecosystem home.

10. Brookgreen Gardens

Discover a world of art and nature at Brookgreen Gardens, a stunning sculpture garden and wildlife preserve located in Murrells Inlet, SC. Wander through beautifully landscaped gardens, admire over 2,000 works of art by renowned sculptors, and encounter native wildlife in their natural habitats.

Check out all the South Carolina KOAs here

Palm trees over a boardwalk to a sandy beach in Key West.

Florida: Sunshine State Adventures

1. Castillo de San Marcos

Step back in time at Castillo de San Marcos, a historic fort in St. Augustine with a fascinating past. Explore the fort’s ancient walls, immerse yourself in the Junior Ranger Program, and uncover the secrets of Florida’s colonial history.

2. Blue Spring State Park

Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Blue Spring State Park and discover a world of underwater wonders. Snorkel, tube, or dive amidst vibrant marine life and encounter gentle manatees during the winter months. It’s a breathtaking natural oasis in the heart of Florida.

3. Bioluminescent Kayaking Adventure

Embark on a mesmerizing kayaking adventure off the Space Coast near Cape Canaveral and witness the magic of bioluminescence. Paddle through waters illuminated by glowing plankton, creating a surreal seascape straight out of a fairy tale.

4. Kennedy Space Center Launch

Experience the thrill of a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center, where history and innovation collide. Witness the awe-inspiring spectacle of a rocket blasting off into the cosmos and marvel at humanity’s journey to the stars.

5. Everglades National Park

Immerse yourself in the untamed wilderness of Everglades National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest tropical wilderness in the United States. Explore vast marshlands, mangrove forests, and sawgrass prairies teeming with diverse wildlife, including alligators, manatees, and exotic bird species.

6. Key West

Discover the vibrant island paradise of Key West, located at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys. Wander through colorful streets lined with historic architecture, soak up the laid-back atmosphere, and enjoy world-class snorkeling, fishing, and sunset cruises along the sparkling turquoise waters.

7. Miami Beach

Experience the glitz and glamour of Miami Beach, a trendy coastal city renowned for its vibrant art deco architecture, white-sand beaches, and pulsating nightlife scene. Indulge in upscale shopping on Lincoln Road, stroll along the iconic Ocean Drive, and soak up the sun on South Beach’s bustling promenade.

A view of Fort Jefferson and the moat, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida.

8. Dry Tortugas National Park

Embark on a seafaring adventure to Dry Tortugas National Park, a remote archipelago located 70 miles west of Key West. Explore pristine coral reefs, snorkel in crystal-clear waters, and marvel at the historic Fort Jefferson, a massive coastal fortress surrounded by turquoise seas.

9. St. Petersburg

Discover the cultural hub of St. Petersburg, where art, history, and outdoor adventure converge. Explore the renowned Salvador Dali Museum, stroll through lush botanical gardens, and kayak along tranquil waterways in search of dolphins and manatees.

10. Orlando Theme Parks

Experience the magic of Orlando’s world-famous theme parks, including Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando. Embark on thrilling rides, meet beloved characters, and immerse yourself in immersive-themed attractions for an unforgettable family adventure.

Check out all the Florida KOAs here

Georgia: Where History Meets Hospitality

1. Georgia Aquarium

Dive into an underwater world of wonder at the Georgia Aquarium, one of the largest and most renowned aquariums in the world. Encounter a diverse array of marine life, from graceful dolphins to majestic whale sharks, and embark on a journey of discovery and exploration.

2. Jekyll Island

Escape to the idyllic shores of Jekyll Island and discover a tranquil paradise where relaxation reigns supreme. Wander along pristine beaches, explore historic landmarks, and immerse yourself in the serene beauty of this coastal gem.

3. Providence Canyon State Park

Marvel at the stunning beauty of Providence Canyon, a geological marvel created by centuries of erosion. Hike through vibrant canyon walls, explore scenic overlooks, and witness the breathtaking landscapes of this natural wonder.

Cypress trees reflected in water in the Okefenokee Swamp Wildlife Refuge, Georgia.

4. Okefenokee Swamp

Begin your journey into the heart of the Okefenokee Swamp and discover a world teeming with wildlife and natural wonders. Take a kayak tour, embark on a guided boat excursion, or ride the scenic railway through this mystical landscape.

5. Savannah Historic District

Step back in time as you wander through the cobblestone streets and moss-draped squares of Savannah’s Historic District. Discover beautifully preserved antebellum architecture, charming boutique shops, and quaint cafes nestled amidst lush greenery. Don’t miss iconic landmarks like Forsyth Park and the Mercer-Williams House.

6. Callaway Gardens

Natural beauty of Callaway Gardens, a picturesque resort nestled in the rolling hills of Pine Mountain. Explore lush gardens, scenic trails, and tranquil lakes, and enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and zip-lining amidst stunning botanical landscapes.

7. Tallulah Gorge State Park

Venture into the dramatic depths of Tallulah Gorge State Park, home to one of the deepest canyons in the Southeast. Hike along rugged trails, cross suspension bridges, and marvel at cascading waterfalls as you explore this breathtaking natural wonder.

A view of Helen, Georgia, at Helen Square - a Bavarian-themed village.

8. Helen

Experience a taste of Bavaria in the heart of Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains in the charming town of Helen. Stroll along cobblestone streets lined with Alpine-style buildings, enjoy authentic German cuisine, and immerse yourself in outdoor adventures such as tubing, hiking, and wine tasting.

9. Stone Mountain Park

Discover the iconic beauty of Stone Mountain Park, home to the world’s largest exposed granite monolith. Take a scenic tram ride to the summit for panoramic views, explore the park’s extensive trail network, and enjoy family-friendly attractions such as the SkyHike adventure course and the Laser Light Show.

10. Dahlonega

Explore the historic town of Dahlonega, nestled in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains and renowned for its rich gold-mining heritage. Visit the Dahlonega Gold Museum, pan for gold along the Chestatee River, and sample award-winning wines at local vineyards along the Georgia Wine Highway.

Check out all the Georgia KOAs here

As we wrap up our journey through the Southeastern United States, it’s pretty clear that this place is like a treasure chest bursting with epic experiences. From the misty mountains of North Carolina to the sunny vibes of Florida’s beaches, each state brings its own awesome flavor. Picture yourself racing outhouses down a mountain or chilling with cows on a farm—seriously, it’s wild!

So, let’s grab our sense of wonder and dive into our own Southeastern adventure. Who knows what cool stuff we’ll stumble upon along the way?

Leslie K Hughes

Leslie is a travel writer, copywriter, and web designer who gets butterflies from telling stories through words and visuals.

Her voice comes from a place filled with passion, dreams, and lots of sugar. “Cake over steak” is her go-to motto.

With over 10 years of experience in crafting words, and years of embarking on travels that have taken this Montana girl to some incredible places, Leslie loves the adventures of both body and mind her writing takes her on.

To see what Leslie’s up to in the writing and design world, visit her website here.



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