Along the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Coast, beach lovers will enjoy an abundance of water activities and plenty of sand for those morning strolls. Those who prefer mountains will appreciate the dozens of towns throughout the southeast that offer scenic hikes and bunches of outdoor options.
And then there’s the food and the beautiful memories it can create. From seafood specialties and wonderful barbeque prepared by James Beard award-winning chefs and downhome country kitchens, groups have a slew of delicious options to choose from. With a temperate year-round climate locally sourced ingredients are always available.
Tour operators in the U.S. and abroad are developing new itineraries around the 1950s and 1960s events that awakened the nation to the reality of racial injustice. There’s a new skills training center coming to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and the STS Domestic Showcase is scheduled April 17-20, 2023 in Huntsville (leisuregrouptravel.com/southeastern-tourism-society-domestic-showcase-coming-to-huntsville/). A new Italian Restaurant in Montgomery, Ravello Ristorante, has an outstanding menu.
On April 8, 2024, The Great North American Eclipse is coming and Arkansas is a great place to enjoy the historic event. Two-thirds of the state will be in the path of totality from southwest to northeast, including a range of larger cities including Jonesboro, Little Rock and Hot Springs. You don’t have to wait until the eclipse to visit Gangster Museum of America and its expanded 10,000-square-feet museum in Hot Springs.
The Jacksonville Naval Museum opened honoring veterans and Jacksonville’s naval heritage. The new Zubrick Magic Theatre, in St. Petersburg, is now open. Experience the new Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, one of the tallest, fastest, hybrid roller coasters in the country. ZooTampa at Lowry’s Park’s new Florida Wilds sanctuary for rescued animals is open. The world’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park has come to Winter Haven. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s new attraction is The Deep Spaced Launch Complex, which focuses on present and future projects. The Spa Palmera at The Boca Raton has been newly revamped, while The Spa at PGA National Resort is completing a $100 million revitalization.
In Atlanta, six new hotels from Midtown to Historic Bucksport and even more upcoming openings have taken place. The new Chattahoochee Food Works is now open in Atlanta’s Upper Westside, while another food hall, Politan Row, has opened in Colony Square. Georgia Aquarium, the largest in the Western Hemisphere, just got larger with a redesigned entry and new shark exhibit. In Savannah, catch a big-time performance at the new Enmarket Arena, or check out live theater with a ghost tour at Savannah Underground. In Tybee Island, the Tybee Island Marine Science Center has been relocated to a 5,000 square foot facility on the north end of the island.
Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort was recently awarded Level II arboretum accreditation. May 2023 is the expected opening date for a 122-room hotel in the NuLu neighborhood of Louisville. A bourbon-centric 49-guest room hotel with restaurant & bar and tasting room is planned for Frankfort.
Nine Louisiana Civil Rights Trail stops have been recognized on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. Three Louisiana Byways have received prestigious designations by the Federal Highway Administration. Bayou Teche Byway and Boom or Bust Byway were designated National Scenic Byways. The Louisiana Great River Road was designated an All-American Road, joining other Mississippi River states. New Orleans has new hotels, cultural attractions, and restaurants and the return of major events as we emerge from the pandemic. The Backstreet Cultural Museum has reopened in a new location. Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience is now open.
The Mississippi Writers Trail has expanded to 13 featured writers as the latest marker unveiled in Como honors Stark Young. Throughout Mississippi’s five regions there are new options to stay, play and eat. There are more than 90 Civil Rights landmarks and points of interest in Mississippi. Begin planning your Mississippi group tour with the 2022 Mississippi Itinerary Guide leisuregrouptravel.com/mississippi-itinerary-guide/.
After extensive renovations, the Billy Graham Library has reopened for Christmas at the Library. In Johnston County, the Ava 100 Festival celebrating Ava Gardner’s 100th birthday continues through 2023. Johnston County’s food scene debuts the first roadside food hall opening in fall 2022. In the Northeast corner of the state, tourism development offices from nine counties are joining together to celebrate African-American contributions of the region. In Durham, the Boxyard RTP is turning one-year old offering flavors, entertainment and local products in a backdrop of used shipping containers.
Set to open in early 2023, the International African American Museum in Charleston will feature nine galleries sharing how enslaved Africans and free blacks shaped economic, political and cultural development. The African Ancestors Memorial Garden reflects on the historic significance of Gadsden’s Wharf, one of the Charleston docks where enslaved Africans entered. Myrtle Beach has introduced the new Myrtle Beach Arts & Gallery Trail covering 14 unique communities of outstanding museums, galleries and art filled attractions like Brookgreen Gardens.
Tourism enjoyed a banner year in 2022 with new additions in accommodations, dining, attractions and of course music venues. Franklin saw the opening of the FirstBank Amphitheater and Southhall Farms with an inn, cabins a dining experience and spa. Memphis Zoo’s new Aquifur Splash Pad has opened. Taylor Nashville, a South Asian American dinner party-style restaurant, has moved to Taylor Place in Germantown. Pigeon Forge welcomed Guy Fieri’s Downtown Flavortown restaurant and experience. Sevierville will be the site of the world’s largest Buc-ees country store and gas station. Shiloh National Military Park renovations, including the Visitor Center, are underway.
Main photo: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.