South (United States of America)
The South is a region of the United States of America.
These are some of the major cities in the South.
- Appalachian Trail
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
- Mississippi Delta
- Natchez Trace
- Outer Banks
- Shenandoah Valley
The South, or the Southern States, are those states that seceded from the United States prior to the American Civil War (with the exception of West Virginia, which was created when the westernmost counties of Virginia refused to secede and remained with the Union under a reformed government based in Wheeling) and joined together to form the Confederate States of America in the early 1860s.
Today, the South is defined as more of a cultural region than a geographical region, since the United States extends much further west now than they did during the War.
It is not true that Southerners remain loyal to any ideology separating them from identifying first and foremost as Americans due to the American Civil War which occurred in the mid 19th Century, although there are instances of the display of "rebel" flags around the region that amount to little more than social and cultural commentary.
One of the most important identifiers of the cultural South is the dialect with which its people speak. Southerners from Virginia to North Florida, and as far west as Texas speak with a very distinct accent that is different from the rest of the United States. The accent is typically described as having a "drawl" or "twang", this resembles the Old English.
Visitors might note that there is some sub-regional variation in the Southern accent and dialect. In general, the local accent/dialect changes as one passes through geographical regions (i.e., mountain dwellers speak a different dialect than those on the coast). Also, generally speaking, accents tend to be much heavier in rural areas. While Americans tend to speak about a single "Southern" dialect, there are actually a variety of dialects. Visitors (especially non-native English speakers) might have trouble understanding heavier accents or local terminology.
The pronoun "y'all" (a contraction of "you all") is a well-known identifier of the Southern dialect. Though often ridiculed in popular culture, it is quite useful in ordinary speech: it represents the second-person plural (equivalent to "vosotros" in Spanish, "vous" in French, or "ihr" in German). It is used frequently in casual conversation, but is usually excluded from formal speech. Though you might hear the word frequently, it is best to be careful if you attempt using it when visiting as you may appear mildly condescending toward the locals.
It is generally considered very rude to joke about the dialect unless you are from the area. There is a perception (possibly accurate) among people from the area that people from other regions look down on them as unintelligent and the southern drawl is sometimes held symbolic of this. In general, they are very proud of their accent and appreciate when it is spoken of positively.
Highway travel is by far the cheapest way to get around the South. Fast-paced interstate highways cover most of the region, and connect all major cities. Of course, there is also the option to fly from city to city; but in most cases this is considerably more expensive than driving. Similarly, there is a limited amount of rail transit available, but this is usually quite expensive and much slower than an airplane.
Do not expect to rely too heavily on public transit in most Southern cities. With only a few exceptions, cities in this region favor auto traffic. As a result, traveling beyond the core of a city is often difficult without an automobile. In all cases, it is best to do your homework before arriving.
The South abounds with historical sites, from colonial settlements, to Civil War battlefields, to Civil Rights landmarks. Visit Historic Jamestown in Virginia to explore the site of the earliest successful British settlement in North America (1607). Also plan to visit nearby Colonial Williamsburg, which presents a picturesque recreation of life in a colonial village, and includes 500 restored and reconstructed period buildings. From there, head down the road to Yorktown, where Lord Cornwallis surrendered to Gen. George Washington in 1781, effectively ending the American Revolutionary War.
Many Southern cities from the late colonial/early republic periods still retain much of their original charm. Notable among these are Charleston and Beaufort in South Carolina, Savannah in Georgia, and New Orleans' French Quarter in Louisiana. Many smaller towns boast quaint Neoclassical and Victorian historic districts, and many old boulevards in the Deep South are lined with ancient oak trees draped with Spanish moss. Antebellum plantations and famous presidential estates, such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, are popular attractions during the spring, summer, and fall. The nation's second oldest institution of higher learning, The College of William and Mary (1693), can be found nestled in the heart of Virginia's historic colonial district. Several of the USA’s oldest public universities can also be found in the South, including The University of Georgia (1785), The University of North Carolina (1789), and The University of Virginia (1819), a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The American Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in United States history, and in many ways, still defines the South up to the present day. Battles took place in every southern state, and many of the most notable battlefields are maintained by the National Park Service, including Manassas (Bull Run), Fredericksburg, and Appomattox in Virginia; Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing)in Tennessee; Chattanooga in Tennessee; Chickamauga in Georgia; and Vicksburg in Mississippi. Many wartime forts are still in good condition, and are open to the public. These include Fort Sumter near Charleston, Fort Pulaski near Savannah, and Forts Morgan and Gaines near Mobile, Ala.
Many of the most visible landmarks from the African-American Civil Rights Movement are also located in the South. These include Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas; Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 16th Street Baptist Church, and the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama; and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Georgia. Several interpretive centers have been set up to chronicle the struggle for equality, including the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Georgia.
Other historic sites in the region include the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center in Alabama.
Many parts of the South flourish with natural beauty, and offer abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation. The southern Appalachian Mountains stretch from Alabama to West Virginia. Hiking, camping, rafting, fishing, caving, and rock climbing are among the most popular outdoor activities in this region. Many public recreation areas can be found here, including the country’s most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on the Tennessee/North Carolina border, as well as Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The Appalachian Trail stretches the length of the chain, from Georgia through West Virginia, and offers backpackers a unique view of one of America’s most diverse ecosystems. There is also The Natchez Trace Parkway, which runs from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS. This is the old travel route that boatmen and traders took back North after bringing their trade to the ports in Natchez and New Orleans. The Natchez trace has Indian mounds and lots of historic sites along the way.
For those more inclined to enjoy the view from the road, the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia offers up stunning vistas from the comfort of your vehicle, and provides easy access to the colossal Biltmore Mansion, as well as such mountain towns as Asheville and Boone, NC. Other popular recreation areas include Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, as well as a multitude of rivers, lakes, streams, and marshes.
During the winter, ski resorts in North Carolina and West Virginia draw large regional crowds, usually with the help of artificial snowmaking devices. The ski trails aren’t as steep or as high as those in the Western US, but they’re still good for a bout of weekend fun.
The South’s coastal areas are among the most scenic in the country. Sunbathing, swimming, parasailing, and fishing are among the most popular activities here. The most popular seaside resorts include the upscale Hilton Head Island, as well as Myrtle Beach, in South Carolina; and Gulf Shores in Alabama. The region also boasts many barrier island chains, preserved in their natural state, many of which are accessible by ferry. These include Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia, Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi, as well as North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Most of the USA’s greatest contributions to popular music originated in the South, and this is reflected today in vibrant music scenes in many of the larger cities. Fans of American music can visit Beale Street in Memphis, Music Row in Nashville, or Bourbon Street in New Orleans for a taste of the South’s continuing musical legacy.
Fans of traditional American sports will also find plenty to do all across the region. College football is by far the most popular sport in the South, and sends mammoth crowds flooding into university towns nearly every Saturday during the fall. Stock car racing is also extremely popular, and NASCAR events draw large crowds to tracks for much of the year. The Kentucky Derby, held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, is an iconic American event, and brings in spectators from all over the world. NFL football, Major League Baseball, NBA basketball, and NHL hockey games are popular events to attend in the largest cities.
The South is well-known for its wide variety of regional cuisine. At the core of the diet is "standard" Southern food -- often known as "soul food" in other regions of the country. This typically includes local signatures such as collard greens, yams (or "sweet potatoes"), blackeye peas, okra, watermelon, and corn bread. Grits, a corn meal paste, is a popular breakfast side. Note: grits are intended to be served with seasonings, especially salt, pepper, and butter. Plain grits are virtually tasteless, so ordering them that way will not give you a good impression.
Due to its cultural diversity (especially at the coasts), the South is home to a number of unique culinary traditions. Perhaps the most famous is Cajun food, a zesty diet found on the Gulf Coast near Louisiana. The crawfish, a shrimplike shellfish, is a hallmark of this style of cooking. You may also encounter Lowcountry cuisine, which hails from the coastal area of South Carolina and focuses on seafood... particularly shrimp, crab, fish, and oysters. A more recent addition to the Southern palate is the advent of Latin food, especially in Florida and the region's larger cities.
For the most part, beverages in the South are the same as in any other American region. There are a few distinctions:
- Sweet iced tea is common in most parts of the region. In fact, in some areas a restaurant order for "tea" will be assumed to mean "sweet tea"; if you would like hot or unsweetened tea, you may need to ask for it specifically. The sugar content of a glass of sweet tea is about the same as a glass of soda, and it has a similarly sugary taste. It is also sometimes served with lemons or other flavoring agents.
- Many soft drinks originated in the South. Most notable is the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, including the Coke Museum associated with it. Coca-Cola's main rival, Pepsi-Cola, was originally produced in North Carolina, though it has since moved its headquarters to New York. Most dark soft drinks are generally referred to as "coke," and are rarely, if ever, called "soda" or "pop."
- The South is largely conservative by American standards, and many areas still retain blue laws -- longstanding ordinances against alcohol consumption. These vary widely from one community or county to the next, and range from a universal tolerance to an outright ban on alcohol sales. It is worth researching in advance to see if there are restrictions in the area you will visit. There is widespread hypocrisy with bootleggers and mail-order wine sales bypassing local laws. A telling innovation is the beer barn where drivers -- presumably from 'dry' towns and counties -- can drive into a large structure, out of public view, and fill their cars' trunks with beer and other forms of alcohol.
As is the case in other regions of the United States, common sense is enough to keep you safe. Be aware of situations that are obviously dangerous -- unlit or isolated locations, rough bars, and impoverished neighborhoods. If you are an international traveler, keep your passport secure and handy at all times; passport theft is uncommon, but identification is important if you need help from the authorities.
Gun ownership is relatively common in the South, especially in rural areas, but it is still unusual to see a gun in everyday life. The likelihood of encountering one is remote, but still a possibility. Gun owners are generally responsible with their weapons, however. Exercise caution in places like nightclubs, where shootings are not unheard of.
Outside of a few big cities, everyone will realize that you aren't a local. Whether you hail from Cleveland or from Uganda, some will stare in curiosity and wonder, especially in small towns and villages where visitors are rare. Relax.
The targeting of non-whites or ethnic groups for serious harassment is rare. If you feel threatened or intimidated, immediately seek assistance from the police. Use your best judgment to protect your safety along with your civil rights.
The South had been traditionally socially conservative when it comes to homosexuality. However, such negative attitudes towards gays and lesbians is changing and diminishing and now varies depending on where one travels (rural areas would hold more conservative views towards homosexuality). Regardless, the South is relatively safe for gays and lesbians, as violence against gays and lesbians is rare and South does offer a few gay friendly destinations (such as New Orleans and Nashville).
Traveling northward out of the Southern coastal states will bring you to the Mid-Atlantic region, a culturally distinct area stretching from Maryland to New York. Going northwest will bring you to the Midwest, and heading west will deliver you in the large state of Texas.
This page was last edited at 15:10, on 23 March 2009 by Eric Polk. Based on work by Peter Fitzgerald, Stefan Ertmann and Bennett Murray, Wikitravel user(s) Huttite, Dark Paladin X, LtPowers, EvilTacox4, Beenthere and Ypsilon, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.