Rent Car, Will Travel: Five Amazing Southeast Vacation Destinations

Visit one of these five places and encounter true southern hospitality with your family. Check out Alamo's travel tips to find great vacation ideas for your family.

While driving through the southeast United States, you’ll encounter Southern hospitality, the thrill of Southeastern Conference (SEC) football and warmer winters. Just outside of several of the region’s main airports are five destinations that will make you and your family very happy you flew south for vacation.

Horse Country, Kentucky

Although Churchill Downs in Louisville is home to the Kentucky Derby, the most popular horse race of the year, Keeneland in Lexington is just a five-minute drive from Blue Grass Airport and, some argue, is a far more beautiful racetrack. Pack up your car and get ready to tailgate with your family before one of Keeneland’s fall or spring race meetings, where you’ll watch horses from across the globe compete. And be sure to tour the national historic landmark’s grounds, which are open to the public.   

Horse Country

If you need a break from all the excitement, take a peaceful drive along the famous Old Frankfort Pike, one of America’s most scenic byways. You’ll pass incredible horse farms and experience new vistas with each turn. Hungry? Stop at Wallace Station deli and find out what makes an Inside Out Hot Brown sandwich so tasty. Keep driving 8.5 miles and you’ll end up in neighboring Woodford County, home of the Woodford Reserve bourbon distillery.

Chimney Rock State Park at Lake Lure, North Carolina

Chimney Rock State Park lies at the heart of the Hickory Nut Gorge between the towns of Lake Lure and Bat Cave. Families drive here from all over the state to hike up the 535-million-year-old monolith, Chimney Rock, and explore nearby attractions.

Visible from Chimney Rock is 720-acre Lake Lure, which offers beautiful views in any season. With almost 21 miles of shoreline, Lake Lure and the surrounding areas have plenty of places for families to park their vehicles and enjoy the scenery, go camping, golfing, fishing, boating, shopping or bird watching. Visitors can even enjoy some “fall off the bone” baby back ribs at Larkin’s on the Lake.

Chimney Rock


Athens, Georgia

Home to the University of Georgia, Athens is a classic college town rich with history, Southern charm and a great music scene. Birthplace of the B-52s, R.E.M., Widespread Panic, of Montreal and more,  Rolling Stone once named Athens the No. 1 college music scene in America.

If football is more your game, the Georgia Bulldogs take it seriously. Make the most out of your visit by going to a University of Georgia football game in Athens with your family. Even if you don’t have tickets to the game, tailgating in the SEC is an exciting experience.

The Bayou, Louisiana

Drive just outside New Orleans and experience the strange voodoo of the Louisiana Bayou by airboat, kayak or cruise. It’s as easy as scheduling a tour with Jean Lafitte’s Swamp & Airboat Tours near the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Witness the rich wildlife and sense the mysticism in the murky waters — and, if you’re lucky, you may even spot an alligator. But don’t let superstition get the best of you. On your way back from the airboat tour, be sure to stop at Jan’s Restaurant & Sweet Shop for authentic New Orleans fare like shrimp po’boys, gumbo and jambalaya.

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, Alabama

Known as one of Alabama’s best-kept secrets, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach comprise a 32-mile-long stretch of clear water paradise located on Alabama’s southern border on the Gulf of Mexico. Not only a place to relax, Gulf Shores offers ongoing entertainment. Check the area’s events calendar for upcoming musical shows and festivals. Orange Beach is also known for its great deep-sea fishing adventures along the country’s largest artificial fishing reef. The area also features historical locations like Fort Morgan, which was constructed in the early 1800s and named after Revolutionary War hero Gen. Daniel Morgan. The fort has played an important wartime role throughout U.S. history. Take a drive over to Orange Beach and your family can feast on great seafood offerings, embrace adventure with a variety of water sports and relax while staying at one of the area's many rental beach houses.

Gulf Shores

About the Author

Molly Crain is a writer and traveler who lives in Washington, D.C., but originally came from eastern Kentucky. Molly has lived in Ireland and visited Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. She attributes seeing most of the United States to her lovely grandparents, who put her and her older sister in the backseat of a Suburban for road trips during many of her childhood summers. Molly has previously been published on KyForward.com and BBC.com/Future. Follow her on Twitter.