A friend of mine – not from the South – recently asked me, “If I were a Southerner, what are the things you would recommend I do? Those ‘musts’ that every Southerner should not miss out on...”
I thought about it, and decided to google. Lo, and behold, Southern Living magazine beat me to it. So, with their permission, here’s some of the 40 things they list...space doesn’t permit us to list them all. But I picked the best of the best...at least, in my opinion. Enjoy...
• We all know that icy concoctions are the toast of the South. Atlanta gave us Coke (pronounced Co-Cola);Waco, Texas, taught us how to "Be a Pepper" and on beaches or piers in the summertime, Mountain Dew flows like suntan lotion. Still, as they pointed out in Steel Magnolias, the "house wine of the South" is sweet tea. Extra lemon, please...and enjoy it everywhere.
• Summer temperatures steer Southerners toward rivers. Texans play in the currents of the Guadalupe. Hardcore adventurers tackle the Class V+ rapids of the Gauley in West Virginia. The more sedate are content to tube the gentle flow of Florida’s Ichetucknee.
• We Southerners are dancin’ fools. In Myrtle Beach, South Carolinians have perfected that funky move called the Shag. Down in Miami, salsa steps heat up the nights. Texas, however, claims the best moves of all. Scoot a boot, and master the two-step at Gruene Hall in the Hill Country.
• The region boasts some of the most magnificent stretches of sand and sea that the nation has to offer. Some folks are partial to the solitude of remote Ocracoke, N.C., while others prefer to drive their car right on the sand at Florida's Daytona Beach. Extroverts who like action as much as the Atlantic swear by the boardwalk experience of Ocean City, Md.. Still, it's hard to top Siesta Key in Florida, home to the whitest sand and prettiest sunsets on the planet.
• Plenty of award-winning movies have explored the stories of the South. “Giant” revolved around oil and ranch life in Texas, while “To Kill a Mockingbird” examined the conflicted heart of the small-town South. “Steel Magnolias” and “Forrest Gump” both offer more contemporary Southern settings. For scope, plot and tear-jerking drama, though, you’ve gotta see “Gone with the Wind.” Yes, it’s old school, but viewing it on the screen of one of our region’s grand old movie theaters will positively give you the vapors.
• Most Southern gardeners brighten their yards with camellias in winter and with brilliant azaleas and flowering dogwoods in the spring. Each summer they tend hydrangeas and crape myrtles. But for profuse color that can last from midspring until first frost, plant daylilies. No Southern garden is complete without them. Take a tour of a public or privately-owned garden.
• There’s no denying the past – however dark – has made us what we are today. Its lessons are both poignant and sobering. Manassas National Battlefield, where two armies of brothers first clashed, and Appomattox Court House, where the cruel conflict finally ended, bookend the horrific story of Civil War. Every year motorcyclists gather in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma to follow and commemorate the Cherokee’s tragic Trail of Tears. Everyone, though, should tour the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn. Its films, pictures and artifacts eloquently convey the struggle for equality.
• Want to take a walk on the literary side? Visit the Florida home and farm that inspired Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings to write “The Yearling,” or smell the flowers in Eudora Welty’s family garden in Jackson, Miss. You can invite yourself into William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak in Oxford, or sit on the porch of Alex Haley’s boyhood home in Henning, Tenn. But for the ultimate literary experience, attend a performance of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the courthouse in Monroeville, Ala.
Hopefully these have inspired you to maybe consider getting to know the South a little better this summer as you set out on your vacation.
And if you can’t afford to go anywhere, think about what we’ve got right here in Gadsden County. Lakes, rivers, outdoor trails, art, music...we’ve got a lot to do right in our own backyard.
Enjoy your travels...wherever you go!