|Best of the South||Jul/Aug 2012 Issue|
“Best” is a powerful adjective. It must be thoughtfully applied when describing anything.
Which is why our annual Best of the Midwest poll is special. Our magazine’s readers voice their opinions as to what is great about the Midwest.
The results have been tabulated and are presented to you. Editors thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and vote for what you love in the Midwest. We hope this will inspire you to revisit an old favorite or to try something new. Enjoy.
Best Large City for Weekend Getaway New Orleans • For the third year in a row, New Orleans is selected by readers as the best large city for a getaway weekend in the South. We love the Big Easy’s music, restaurants, attractions, and festivals, including the Satchmo SummerFest, Aug. 2–5, at the Old U.S. Mint. New Orleans CVB, (800) 672-6124, www.neworleanscvb.com
Best Small City for Weekend Getaway Natchez, Miss. • Plantation homes, the Mississippi River, Civil War history, wonderful places to stay, dine, and shop: Natchez is the town our readers like to visit when it’s time to slow down and enjoy life, Southern style. Events–such as annual spring and fall pilgrimages–draw thousands to Natchez, creating a celebratory atmosphere. Inns housed in gorgeous antebellum homes help create romantic weekends for weddings or other special occasions. Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 647-6724, www.visitnatchez.org
Best Large Hotel Hotel Monteleone • Travelers have many hotel choices in New Orleans’ French Quarter, but the clear favorite among our readers is the Hotel Monteleone on Royal Street. Here, luxury (AAA Four Diamonds) and history meld together to create memorable experiences. The great location is near the Quarter’s wonderful restaurants, boutiques, and attractions. When you’re finished exploring, relax in one of the 600 rooms or suites. The hotel also is pet friendly. Hotel Monteleone, (504) 523-3341, www.hotelmonteleone.com
Best Small Hotel Eola Hotel • The Eola Hotel on Pearl Street in Natchez, Miss., is a Southern architectural gem. Built in 1927, the 131-room AAA Two Diamond hotel is in the heart of downtown. Slow down the pace relaxing in the charming courtyard or take a carriage ride to nearby antebellum mansions. Walk to attractions, shops, and riverboat casinos. When you return, modern conveniences–like wireless Internet, refrigerators, microwaves, and whirlpool tubs–are ready to enjoy. Eola Hotel, (601) 445-6000, www.natchezeola.com
Best Bed & Breakfast Grand Victorian B&B • The Garden District in New Orleans is noted for stately homes that remind passersby of an era from the past. Mansions and streetcars are part of the landscape here, and it’s the location of our readers’ favorite bed and breakfast, the Grand Victorian on St. Charles Avenue. Eight units are spread out in the three-story AAA Three Diamond inn that was designed and built in 1893 by New Orleans architect Thomas Sully. Grand Victorian, (504) 895-1104, www.gvbb.com
Best Fall Color Spot Great Smoky Mountains National Park • It’s tough not to find a fall vista in the Smokies that will take your breath away. Waterfalls, old mills, varied wildlife, plus mountains painted with nature’s red, gold, orange, and yellow make driving through America’s most visited park an unforgettable experience. To avoid traffic congestion in October, consult with AAA Travel counselors who can help you plan a route. Get a mobile visitors guide for the iPhone at www.nps.gov/grsm.
Best Day Tour from Jackson, Miss. Vicksburg, Miss. • This was the city each army in the Civil War viewed as its key to final victory. History is thick here, with the impressive national military park, museums, tours, and re-enactments. You’ll also enjoy the varied cultural opportunities and special events. Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 221-3536, www.visitvicksburg.com
Best Day Tour from Little Rock, Ark. Hot Springs, Ark. • Generations of travelers have come to the Oauchita Mountain springs, initially to be healed, and then simply to relax. Experience historical bathhouses, such as the Buckstaff, in the national park here, or visit the spas at one of several hotels in town. Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 772-2489, www.hotsprings.org
Best Day Tour from New Orleans, La. Great River Road Plantations • Between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is a road that’s steeped in history, beauty, and romance. Plantations, like Oak Alley in Vacherie that’s pictured on the right, offer tours, as well as dining and overnight accommodations (AAA Three Diamonds). New Orleans Plantation Country, (866) 204-7782, www.neworleansplantationcountry.com
Best Civil War Battlefield Vicksburg National Military Park • Vicksburg, Miss., on the Mississippi River was vitally important for the Confederates to defend and for the Federals to capture. From March to July in 1863, the campaign for Vicksburg cost both sides dearly. The largest burial site for Union soldiers and sailors–17,000–is here. See cannons, buildings, and other sites on the driving tour. Don’t miss the USS Cairo Gunboat and corresponding museum. Vicksburg National Military Park, (601) 636-0583, www.nps.gov/vick
Best Fishing Weekend Gulfport, Miss. • If you want to catch the trophy fish, anglers know you have to go where the fish are biting, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, according to our readers, is the place. Some 50 charter boat companies are on the coast, or you can cast from the shore or a pier. After a day on the water, try your luck in one of the casinos, or grill your catch at the condo or beachfront home. Mississippi Gulf Coast, (888) 467-4853, www.gulfcoast.org
Best Heritage Trail Mississippi Blues Trail • It’s described as a museum without walls. Blues music is the soundtrack for the South, and fans know the roots go back to Mississippi. Markers (154 overall) are scattered across the state, as well as 10 outside Mississippi, and tell the story of musicians and their music. Birth homes, including B.B. King’s birthplace in Berclair, are part of the trail. There are museums, performance venues, and graves. For music buffs, following the Mississippi Blues Trail is a little like a holy pilgrimage. www.msbluestrail.com
News about the Blues Trail
Best Casino/Gaming Destination Mississippi Gulf Coast • With 12 casinos, including the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino (AAA Four Diamond hotel) that’s pictured above, Mississippi’s Gulf Coast has something for every gaming enthusiast’s taste. In addition to gaming action, visitors to the coast can enjoy headlining entertainment, fine dining, spas, shops, and more. Mississippi Gulf Coast, (888) 467-4853, www.gulfcoast.org
Best Attraction The National WWII Museum, New Orleans • Originally opened in 2000 as the National D-Day Museum, this attraction has grown to include a 4-D theater, restaurant, and a space for live performances, with an expansion on the way. The U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center is scheduled to open next year and will tell the story of America’s industrial capability during the war years. History is anything but dull here. AAA members save up to $2 on admission. National WWII Museum, (504) 528-1944, www.nationalww2museum.org
Best Spa Destination Hot Springs, Ark. • Readers love Hot Springs as a day tour from Little Rock, and this historical city also gets the nod as the South’s best spa getaway. With more than 40 thermal springs, historical bathhouses, and spas offering a variety of treatments and classes, Hot Springs has been a destination for healing and rejuvenation for centuries. Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 772-2489, www.hotsprings.org
Best Brunch Commander’s Palace • This AAA Four Diamond restaurant in New Orleans’ Garden District has a legendary jazz brunch, with the special menu including its signature turtle soup, plus eggs, champagne-soaked crabmeat, biscuits, and the eye-opening yellow tomato Bloody Mary. Commander’s Palace, (504) 899-8221, www.commanderspalace.com
Best Fine Dining Restaurant Galatoire’s • Committed to serving the finest French Creole cuisine for four generations, Galatoire’s (AAA Two Diamonds) is the New Orleans restaurant our readers like to visit to savor, linger, and celebrate. Thankfully, the menu is recognized by regulars, while first-time guests struggle with what to choose for perhaps their most memorable meal. Galatoire’s, (504) 525-2021, www.galatoires.com
THE RUNNERS UP
|Congratulations to these readers • Haley L. of Washington, La., will receive a 2012 AAA Atlas. • Steven P. of Ocean Springs, Miss., will receive a $50 gift card. Thanks to all our readers who voted in the 2012 Best of the South poll.||
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