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Take the Scenic Route: Three Drives not to Miss in the South

For your next road trip, slow down and take the scenic route. You won’t regret the decision. Celebrate the diverse landscape of the South and discover hospitable destinations with any of the three drives.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Connecting the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs 469 miles and winds through 29 counties in both states. Heralded as “America’s Favorite Drive,” visitors can enjoy over 100 hiking trails, the many overlooks and interpretive sites, and more.

Visit: Situated two miles north of Linville, North Carolina and one mile south of the Parkway is Grandfather Mountain. With an elevation of nearly 6,000-feet, it’s the highest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range. Interestingly, too, Grandfather Mountain is a recognized UN Biosphere Reserve.

Be sure to walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge, the country’s highest suspension footbridge. Providing access to Linville Peak, take your time and enjoy the spectacular 360-degree views.

Overnight: Situated in the High County region of the state, Boone, North Carolina, is a year-round destination. The city is also home to Appalachian State University, which keeps it lively.

Take a stroll through Daniel Boone Native Gardens, a three-acres collection of native trees, shrubs and wildflowers. It’s a great place to relax and reflect. A trip to Boone isn’t complete without stopping by Mast General Store in downtown. Make your sweet tooth happy by grabbing a treat or two from Stick Boy Bakery.

Did You Know? Boone is home to the outdoor production of Horn in the West. Recognized as the nation’s oldest Revolutionary War drama, it retells Daniel Boone and the mountain pioneers’ story and a crucial victory in the Revolutionary War.

Creole Nature Trail

The 180-mile Creole Nature Trail in southwest Louisiana is one of the oldest scenic byways. It was the first to be designated as a National Scenic Byway and then upgraded in 2002 as an All-American Road.

Traveling through Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes, the trail provides an intimate look at Louisiana’s Outback. Making its way around marshes, wetlands and 26-miles of Gulf of Mexico beaches, you’re able to view uninhibited wildlife and experience the naturalness of the area.

Visit: Learn the difference between a marsh and a bayou, check out a boudin stuffer, try crabbing and more at the Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point in Sulphur.

Through interpretive and interactive exhibits, the 5,000-square foot facility provides an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the culture, food, music and outdoor adventures found in Southwest Louisiana.

Overnight: No matter what time of the year you visit, there’s always something fun going on in Lake Charles.

Festivals and events aside, there’s plenty to do and see in the city. Visiting the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu and taking a self-guided tour of the Charpentier Historic District need to be on top of your itinerary.

As for dining, you’re in Louisiana, so you know you’ll eat well.

Did You Know? Bring your appetite as you work your way along the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail. Pronounced “boodan” or “boodeh,” it’s a finger food staple enjoyed any time of the day. The trail highlights mom and pop eateries, specialty meat shops, or grocery stores that serve the delicacy fresh or packaged.

Natchez Trace Parkway

The 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway winds through three states: Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, and more or less follows the “Old Natchez Trace” once used by Indians, settlers and others.

Today, the Trace a scenic route that offers recreational opportunities, historic sites and more.

Visit: Between Ross Barnett Reservoir and Natchez Trace Parkway in Ridgeland, Mississippi, is The Mississippi Craft Center. The facility is home to the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi and has a large gift shop featuring works by guild’s members and a permanent gallery. The center also offers summer camps, classes and demonstrations.

Overnight: It’s relatively easy to indulge in your interest or hobby while in Ridgeland. For example, you can kayak on the Barnett Reservoir through Pearl River Kayak Company, or take a jog along the multi-use trail. Brush up on your cooking skills with a class at Everyday Gourmet Cooking School, or find a one-of-a-kind item (or two) from shops on the Ridgeland Retail Trail. The possibilities to experience a weekend here based on your interests are endless.

Ridgeland doesn’t disappoint for dining, either. You discover a little of everything here, including tamales from Tony’s Tamales.

Did You Know? About 20 miles from Ridgeland is the town of Canton. Known as the “Movie Capital of Mississippi,” it has been the site of five feature films that include John Grisham’s “A Time To Kill.”

Canton offers both a self-guided walking movie tour that points as sites of interest and the Canton Film Museums, filled with props and settings from the movies

Photos from personal collection; (under Blue Ridge Parkway) Daniel Boone Native Gardens; (under Creole Nature Trail) boudin from Famous Foods in Lake Charles; (under Natchez Trace Parkway) permission for photos provided by The Mississippi Craft Center; Jake Brigance's office from "A Time to Kill" inside the Canton Film Museums.


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