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Everybody always road trips the western United States with its incredibly canyons, monumental national parks and hidden waterfalls. But there’s a whole other side of the country waiting to be discovered as well. Who ever said the dirty south was just for hillbillies? Ok, they have those to, but mixed in with a hint of crazy (the interesting kind), are some amazing tourist places in the southern United States that are all very much worth a stop.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Some count New Mexico as the south, others don’t. But for the sake of some amazing destinations that really belong on a list of awesome places in the southern United States, I’ll include this awesome state. White Sands National Monument is a pure white desert, whose dunes are made up of gypsum instead of quartz. Gypsum doesn’t heat up in the sun and thus, even during the hottest summer days, the sand is cold to the touch.
Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana
Oak Alley is an old sugar cane plantation on the Mississippi River near Vacherie, Louisiana that was built in 1839. You may have seen it in movies such as Django Unchained and Interview with a Vampire. The white mansion with its stately pillars is stunning, but what really makes this plantation stand out is the long, oak lined alley leading up to the house. The oak trees were planted in the 18th century, long before the plantation stood here and have had more than enough time to grow into huge gnarly shapes.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
One doesn’t necessarily associate Texas with beautiful national parks, but snuggled up in the far western corner of the state and bordering my own personal hell – West Texas – lies Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This is premiere hiking territory with trails leading through some seriously pristine wilderness. Wear long pants though, the prickly thorns of all sorts of cacti and succulents are out to get your juicy flesh.
The Swamps – All of Them
The south wouldn’t be the south without the swamps covering wide areas. They are fascinating ecosystems and accordingly, you should visit them in an eco-friendly way. After all, there is nothing more relaxing than floating through overgrown bayous in a kayak and trying to spot the wildlife between cypress trees and sawgrass.
But especially the Everglades in Florida
If you like swamps, the Everglades top them all and there are plenty of amazing spots to see alligators laying in the sun, birds stalking their prey through shallow water and the endless prairie of grass.
The French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana
Jambalaya, Po-boys, countless street musicians, but also plenty of seedy looking people: this is the New Orleans I came to enjoy. Of course there is way more to Nola than just the French Quarter, but the city’s oldest neighbourhood remains the most fascinating to me. Walking through the streets and looking at the beautiful historic buildings while a brass band rocks out next to you is simply an unforgettable experience.
The UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico
I came to Roswell expecting to see countless people wearing antennas, wandering the streets and searching for the infamous UFO crash site in rural New Mexico. The reality is a bit more sane though, there are lots of quirky alien-themed gift shops, the McDonalds resembles a flying saucer and the UFO museum in town is astonishingly informative. Let yourself be convinced by countless newspaper clippings, interviews, and eyewitness testimonials that little grey-green men did indeed crash-land here.
The State Capitol in Austin, Texas
Last time I posted this image I got tons of emails from freemason conspiracy theorists, some of which had copied the photo and drawn strange symbols into it. I’m still confused. Guys, I don’t know what the star means, I don’t want to join some order of the eastern star, I just like to take pretty photos. And let’s be honest, the Texas State Capitol in Austin might just be one of my favourite pieces of architecture ever. The underground extension is incredibly unique and it’s the tallest capitol in the United States.
The Louisiana and Mississippi Coastline
Two words: stilt houses! Highway 82 in Louisiana and highway 90 in Mississippi lead right alongside the ocean and white, deserted beaches. Along the way there are lots of small villages and communities, many of them completely made up of brightly painted stilt houses. All the buildings – from churches and schools to vacation homes and mansions – are somehow elevated on bricks, blocks or poles . The elevation protects the inhabitants from flooding and vermin, but I’m convinced they also do it because they know it looks completely awesome.
Key West, Florida
Key West is the United States’ southernmost city and belongs to the Florida Keys, a chain of small tropical islands interconnected by highway 1. The island was once home to Hemingway and his polydactyl cats, but today it is a big holiday destination where writing in peace and quiet could be a tad more difficult. But despite the touristy allure, Key West is still a great spot to visit. Head to Smathers Beach and grab lunch at one of the many food trucks or walk through the town and admire the architecture of conch houses and grand historic mansions.
Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Guys, it’s space, freaking space! Some of us were lucky enough to head to a NASA Space Camp as kids, but for the rest of us who have salivated over pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and want to learn more about the space agency and its operations, as well as see a real space shuttle (it’s the Atlantis!), there’s no better place to be than the Kennedy Space Center.