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The Southeast

The Southeast

“Hound Dog” – Elvis Presley (1935, Mississippi)

Learn more about the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Big cities

Jacksonville

State: Florida

Population estimate: 921.000

What it’s known for: Millennials

Jacksonville is not only the largest city by area in the continental U.S., but it is also becoming a destination for the younger generation (aka Millennials). 

Locals love: The Riverside Arts Market

Every Saturday locals and visitors come early to discover an eclectic mix of handmade crafts at this farmer’s and artist’s market.

Charlotte

State: North Carolina

Population estimate: 889.000

What it’s known for: Banking

Home to big companies such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and BB&T, Charlotte is considered a banking hub.

Locals love: NoDa (short for North Davidson)

This is a fun area of the city where you can find music venues, art galleries, and a popular local theatre.

Nashville

State: Tennessee

Population estimate: 679.000

What it’s known for: Country music

Nashville is known as the country music capital of the U.S. and is home to the famous Grand Ole Opry.

Locals love: East Nashville

If you’re looking for alternative music or just want to escape the touristy country music scene, all you need to do is go east.

Louisville

State: Kentucky 

Population estimate: 621.000 

What it’s known for: The Kentucky Derby

The Derby is the biggest horse race in the world and attracts millions of fans every May.

Locals love: Old Louisville

This historic district is where you can visit restored Victorian mansions and also enjoy a southern delicacy – barbecue.

Atlanta

State: Georgia

Population estimate: 501.000

What it’s known for: The Coca Cola Factory

Atlanta is home to the world’s most beloved soda, Coca Cola. Visiting the factory is more than just a tour. With a large tasting room, you can try more than 50 different international and domestic Coke products.

Locals love: Little Five Points

Spend the day in this bohemian neighborhood, where you can find street art, eccentric diners, vintage clothing, and record shops.

Louisville

State: Kentucky

Population estimate: 621.000 

What it’s known for: The Kentucky Derby

The Derby is the biggest horse race in the world and attracts millions of fans every May.

Locals love: Old Louisville

This historic district is where you can visit restored Victorian mansions and also enjoy a southern delicacy – barbecue.

Road Trip Worthy

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Tennessee & North Carolina

If you’re looking to get out and enjoy the wilderness, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect place. The Great Smoky mountain range is actually a smaller section of the larger Appalachian mountain range. The park is known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. It has the highest number of visitors out of any other national park in the U.S., and the best part is there is no entrance fee! 

 

Once inside the park there are many recreational activities you can do: hiking, horseback riding, fishing, wildlife viewing, waterfall viewing, camping, and more. The park also has many sites and buildings that highlight the long history of the Cherokee Native American tribes and the European settlers that made these mountains their home.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park -  Fort White, Florida

Six miles of river, natural springs, tree canopies and wetlands make up Ichetucknee Springs. This National Natural Landmark is the ideal place if you want to try canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding or tubing. If you prefer to leave the gear behind and swim freely that’s fine, too. With the crystal clear waters of the springs you may even be lucky enough to swim alongside a manatee or river otter.

 

Although the park is open year round, spending a day or two at Ichetucknee Springs is a perfect way to keep cool in the summer (the most popular time to visit). Another great feature about this park is that it’s not far from the oldest city in the U.S.—St. Augustine. But if you don’t feel like the extra drive, then stay awhile, relax, and go with the flow. The Ichetucknee River flow that is.

New Orleans, Louisiana 

The home of jazz and jambalaya, New Orleans is a unique city that has a rich cultural history. As a result of centuries of cultural blending, the city has distinct customs and traditions that are entirely its own. 

 

Around the world New Orleans is known for its music, food, and annual Mardi Gras celebration. It is a fun and lively city, but still very connected to its traditions. Visitors love admiring the Spanish, French and Caribbean inspired architecture; experiencing the delicacies of Creole and Cajun cooking; and of course learning about New Orleans Voodoo. 

 

The city’s historical past with Voodoo comes from African and Haitian influences during the years of slavery. The city folklore is so strong that the legend of Marie Laveau—Voodoo Queen of New Orleans—is still popular. She is so well-known that tourists often leave gifts and offerings by her grave, so be sure to make time for this during your visit.  

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah was established in 1733, making it the oldest city in Georgia. Due to the city’s location on the Savannah River, it was used as a very important port city during the American Revolution and the American Civil War. Many visitors share the common belief that when you travel to Savannah it’s like traveling back in time. When you arrive, it’s clear to see why. 

 

The city, with its cobblestoned streets, is full of horse drawn carriages and antebellum (pre–Civil War) architecture. The charming sights aren’t the only thing that attracts visitors here. Due to its dark past during the Civil War era, the city is also well-known for being haunted.

 

Ghost tours are very popular in this town, so if you like a good ghost story you’ll find plenty here. After you’ve heard enough supernatural history, visit one of Savannah’s many notable restaurants. But choose wisely. Many of these restaurants might be haunted as well.

Bonnaroo Music Festival - Manchester, Tennessee 

Bonnaroo is not just an annual summer music festival held in Tennessee. It is one of the biggest and well-known festivals in the Southeast. Known for having one of the most impressive musical lineups, it offers a wide variety of music genres with everything from rap to indie to classic rock. 

 

The Bonnaroo experience lasts four days with the option to campout on the festival grounds. Once inside the festival there’s a lot to see and do. There are activity tents set up as comedy clubs, silent discos, movie theaters, and much more. 

 

Another great thing about Bonnaroo is that organizers of the event are passionate about protecting the environment; all food and drink products are sold in recyclable materials. Bonnaroo is also known for supporting many charities by donating the profits it brings in from the festival. When you purchase your ticket, you can feel confident that your money is going to great causes.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Tennessee & North Carolina

Ichetucknee Springs State Park – Fort White, Florida

New Orleans, Louisiana 

Savannah, Georgia

Bonnaroo Music Festival – Manchester, Tennessee 

Words & Expressions to Know

  • Bless your/her/his heart: Means poor thing”, a phrase used to take pity on someone.
    • Bless his heart, he’s always falling down.

  • Fixin’ to: About to or preparing to do something.
    • “I’m fixin’ to leave for work.” 

  • Y’all: Short for “you all.”
    • “Did y’all go to the party?”

Regional Cooking

Flavorful, filling, and fried are some of the best words to describe cooking in the Southeast. The cuisine in this region is known as “soul food” or “comfort food” and has a heavy African influence, due to the region’s dark history with slavery. The region has also been heavily influenced by Native American, Scottish, French, Carribbean and Spanish cooking traditions. This cultural variety can be seen in different areas of the region, and can even be specific to some Southeastern states: 

  • Creole cuisine in Louisiana,
  • Lowcountry cuisine in Georgia and South Carolina, and
  • Floribbean cuisine in Florida. 

A common misconception about the food in this region is that vegetables are never included—but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact vegetables or “greens”, as locals like to say, play an important role in a good southern meal. Southerners pride themselves in knowing how to add a bit more spice, seasoning, and love to their dishes to make even your least favorite vegetable become your new found addiction. 

A few popular dishes that you can’t miss are:

  • Fried chicken: This supposedly simple dish are pieces of chicken that are coated with well seasoned flour or batter, and then fried either in a deep fryer or a pan. If done right, the result is a crispy, crunchy exterior with juicy and tender chicken on the inside.
  • Shrimp and grits: Although there is some debate around this dish being served for breakfast or lunch, there really is never a bad time for shrimp and grits. This dish is traditionally made with grilled or broiled shrimp, but the star of the dish is the grits. The grits are made by boiling cornmeal to a creamy consistency then adding butter and other seasonings. The flavors of this dish can vary, but in the end shrimp and grits are always savory and filling.

Fried chicken 

Shrimp and grits

Attractions

Biltmore Estate – Asheville, North Carolina

On Christmas Eve in 1895, George Vanderbilt opened the doors of the Biltmore Estate. Originally built as a summer home for the Vanderbilt family, it is now a National Historic Landmark. Today the Biltmore is a historic house museum that is known for being the largest privately owned house in the United States. The estate covers about 28 square kilometers of land which includes gardens, restaurants, a winery, a farmyard, and more. 

Guests have the option to stay overnight at one of the three hotels located on the property. But if you prefer to just spend the day there, you can find a variety of daytime tour options available. The Biltmore is a popular tourist spot all year round, so make sure to plan ahead (especially for weekend visits). The most expensive time to visit is around the holidays, but once you see those gardens and the house covered in festive decor and bright lights, it’ll be worth it. 

If you’re not in the holiday spirit, springtime is never a bad option as all the gardens will be full of color with the flowers in bloom. Really, the Biltmore Estate is a beautiful sight year-round!

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom – Orlando, Florida 

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is recognized as the world’s most popular theme park. Whether you are two years old or 20, there is something for everyone here at this unforgettable and truly magical amusement park. The Magic Kingdom is not Disney World’s only main attraction (there are three other theme parks), but it is the most popular.  

If you decide to plan a trip to Disney World, be prepared to be on your feet for long periods of time as there is a lot to see and do. In the Magic Kingdom, there are over 30 attractions and rides for children and adrenaline-loving adults. One of the many impressive features of the Magic Kingdom is the detailed scenery, shops, and themed restaurants. If at any time you need a break from the Florida heat, there are always cool places here to rest and relax. And with an extravagant light and firework show every night inside the park, the Magic Kingdom really does live up to its motto – “The Most Magical Place on Earth.”

Georgia Aquarium – Atlanta, Georgia

Opened in 2005, the Georgia Aquarium became the world’s fourth largest aquarium with  seven different exhibits and over 700 species. Beluga whales, Afrian penguins, and whale sharks are just some of the unique marine animals from around the world. 

The Ocean Voyager exhibit is another attraction that sets the Georgia Aquarium apart.  This exhibit will give you the feeling of swimming under water. You travel through a giant acrylic viewing tunnel where you can come face to face with an entire marine ecosystem. A visit to the aquarium is a perfect day trip, but if you have time to spare, you can also walk around to discover more of Atlanta’s attractions.

Climate

The Southeast region of the United States maintains a subtropical climate, meaning you should be prepared for humidity—and lots of it. You will find that summers can bring a lot of heat with some states having temperatures that reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The winters here are not known for being the coldest in the country, but you may experience the occasional cold-front. Spring and fall usually have the most moderate temperature. Not too hot and not too cold. 

Many states in the Southeast region are located on the coast touching the Atlantic ocean, so starting in late summer all the way to fall, you must be prepared for the Atlantic hurricane season. During this time, there can be heavy winds, rain, and tropical storms or hurricanes. Despite this, the weather in the Southeast is pretty enjoyable, so take advantage of it by joining the locals in popular outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, kayaking, whitewater rafting, and even surfing.  Below a picture of a nice afternoon in Churchville, Virginia.

Our Preferred Universities

We would like to present a list of our favorite universities located in the Southeast.  We have taken into consideration factors such as the quality of the education, the ratio of students/teachers, % of international students on campus, work on campus opportunities, etc..

University of North Carolina Wilmington

(UNCW)

Most significant Rankings:  #15 in Regional Universities South, #6 in Top Public Schools, and #5 (tie) in Most Innovative Schools

Number of students: 16.500

Statistics after graduation:  The Median Earnings 6 Years After Graduation is $41.600/ year. 93% of the students are Employed 2 Years After Graduation.

Insights and Advantages: In a recent survey of almost 100 students, the interviewer asked “What one word or phrase best describes your school?” 26% responded “Beach,” 20% “amazing,” and 12% “Strong Academic Focus.”

UNCW is a great place to study, offering so many different majors, minors, and programs for you to choose from. It is not very clicky so this will allow you to make new friends very easily.

Morehead State University

Morehead State University

Most significant Rankings: #65 in Regional Universities South, #39 in Best Value Schools and #7 in Colleges with the Best Professors in Kentucky

Number of students: 9.995

Statistics after graduation: The median earnings 6 Years after graduation is $33.100/ year. 88% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.

Insights and Advantages: Despite the University opening its’ doors in 1887, Morehead State is one of the most advanced in the aerospace field. The university has proudly established a space tracking system in partnership with NASA. The second component of the Space Science Center features a research support facility.

University of South Florida

Most significant Rankings: #21 in Best Colleges for Information Technology, #124 in National Universities, #3 in Top Public Universities in Florida

Number of students: 31.772

Statistics after graduation: The median earnings 6 years after graduation is $43.500/ year. 91% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.

Insights and Advantages: USF is one of the 40 most diverse universities in the nation, with students representing every state, U.S. territory, and more than 130 countries. International students represent approximately seven percent of the USF student population. 

In a recent poll, students were asked to describe the school in one word. Common answers were: best education, beautiful setting, friendly and fun.

louisiana state university

Louisiana State University

Most significant Rankings: #104 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs, and #3 in Best College Athletics in America.

Number of students: 25.444

Statistics after graduation: The median earnings 6 years after graduation is $50.100/ year. 93% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.

Insights and Advantages: Louisiana State University, commonly referred to as LSU, is a big name in the world of college sports. They pride themselves on their athletes as well as their school spirit. LSU is also dedicated to providing students with a wide range of degree programs as well as using university resources to find solutions for economic, environmental, and social challenges.

Candler Library Emory University

Emory University

Most significant Rankings: #21 in National Universities, #9 in Colleges with the Best Professors in America, and #4 in Best Colleges for Nursing in America

Number of students: 6.937

Statistics after graduation: The median earnings 6 years after graduation is $66.000/ year. 92% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.

Insights and Advantages: Emory is a prestigious, private, Christian university. Although Emory University is very well known in the medical field, it also has an outstanding business school. The four most popular majors at Emory are: Business, Biology, Nursing and Economics.