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SONGS FROM THE SOUTH: News and views from Travel South, Part II

The region below the Mason-Dixon Line, a traditionally observed demarcation point between the northern half of the eastern US and “the South” is more than simply geographical – it’s a mindset. Replete with culture, traditions, accents, and famous southern hospitality, it boasts a distinctiveness that has inspired 12 states to come together as Travel South for the purposes of collective tourism marketing.

Travel Industry Today attended the organization’s recent international tourism symposium in Louisville, Kentucky. Here is Part II of our recap from the event, where we asked state representatives to recount one main message or piece of news that they would most like the Canadian trade to hear.

(Note: In Part I, we covered Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Read it Below.)


And here’s the rest of the story:


“Don’t underestimate us,” Katie Blake says matter-of-factly of her state, which is often overlooked by Canadians – not least because it doesn’t fall on the typical route of migratory snowbirds. But from the jazz roots of St. Louis to the “best” barbecue in Kansas City, and the coach tour mecca of Branson, there is plenty for Canadians to discover. There’s also vintage Americana on display along route 66, Wild West atmosphere (Jesse James and Pony Express) in the northwest, Mark Twain history (and museum) in Hannibal, and, of course, amazing outdoor experiences in the Ozarks, which cover about half the state in an area that has gained fame, if not an accurate depiction, in the popular TV show of the same name.


Known for its coastal qualities, not least the Outer Banks (and Dr. Beach’s No. 1-rated Okacroke island in 2022), Margo Metzger of Visit North Carolina hails the Appalachian culture of North Carolina’s interior, including countless traditional music festivals held across the state annually. But she points in particular to Brasstown, a “total heaven gem” in the west, a six-hour drive from Raleigh. Located in a beautiful valley and ideal for “a week or a weekend,” the town boasts the unique John C. Campbell folk school, where students can be immersed in the culture of the region from farming to blacksmithing, and music to cooking – “anything you can dream of that is a tradition of the Appalachian way.” Metzger adds, “It’s unlike any place I’ve ever been.” Two hours from Atlanta, the school will send a shuttle to pick up guests at the airport. Pair a visit to Brasstown with a trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway, she adds.


Visitors to Charleston will be able to experience the city and the state’s “next big thing” as of January with the opening of the International African American Museum, which Brie Burnett of Discover South Carolina says will be even better than its counterpart in Washington DC. “If anyone is looking for a new place to visit, this is the one,” she adds. Historic Charleston already attracts many visitors interested in its plantation and Gullah (slave descendants) history and the No. 1 attraction in town is the Old Slave Market (now thankfully a museum).


Songwriters in Round, Nashville

Twang is not the only thang in Nashville, according to Tennessee Tourism’s Jill Kilgore, who notes that the music mecca is home to seven different musical genres, as reflected in the city’s new National Museum of American Music, opened in 2021; the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum is also a hidden gem. She admits a visit to iconic Broadway, aka the “Honky Tonk Highway, and the Grand Ole Opry is a must for a country music fix, but artists like Jimi Hendrix and any number of rock’n’roll and R&B stars cut their chops in the city. Similarly, fashion and food are big, and a host of new hotels and restaurants are opening to catch the zeitgeist as the city enjoys its “it” moment as a place to be. It’s also a great place for Canadians to score hockey tickets to a Predators game.


If there’s one thing for the Canadian trade to know, says Bri Bélanger-Warner, Canadian representative for Visit Virginia, it’s that “Virginia is a year-round destination, allowing their guests to extend the season for activities they enjoy but cannot do in Canada during certain months.” She cites cycling and motorcycling, whose afficionados can enjoy beautiful rides in late fall and early spring. And golfers can hop down to Virginia for a long weekend even in the winter months, as Virginia features 220-plus public and semi-private golf courses, most or which are open throughout the year. Another tip for Canadian beach-lovers, Bélanger-Warner says, is that the best period of the year for a vacation by the Atlantic ocean in Virginia is in September and October when the water is warm enough to comfortably swim, and hotel rates are lower than in the high season.


John Denver immortalized the slogan “almost heaven: West Virginia” – a notion that Lauren Hough is quick to avow. With 35 state parks, nine national forests, and four national parks, including the new US New River Gorge national park, the state tourism rep. says “the No. 1 thing here is outdoor activities. It’s out of this world.” From mountain biking to white water rafting, and rock climbing to bridge tours (with harness) on the New River Gorge Bridge, there is something for everyone, at all levels of competency. And in all seasons, she adds, noting that with its amazing colour palette, “You really can’t beat the Fall” – especially for driving those country roads that John Denver so loved.

First published at Travel Industry Today

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