The American South is a place of hospitality, literary lore, and culture. Comprised of the nation’s southernmost states, this region is home to pristine coastlines, towering mountains, rolling plains, and thick forests. It’s the birthplace of country and blues music, American democracy, and a diverse patchwork of culture. Explore the best that the southern states have to offer with this guide!
- Capital: Montgomery
- State population: 4.83 million
- Abbreviation: AL
- Nickname: The Yellowhammer State
Bordered by Tennessee in the north, Georgia in the east, Florida in the south, and Mississippi in the west, Alabama is a southeastern state with a deeply rooted history in America’s Civil Rights Movement. The 16th Street Baptist Church (a former headquarters for civil rights activists), the Rosa Parks Museum, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s home can all be found in Birmingham. Also home to Gulf State Park, Cheaha State Park, and Noccalula Falls Park, Alabama is rich in natural and cultural sites.
- Capital: Little Rock
- State population: 2.98 million
- Abbreviation: AR
- Nickname: The Natural State
Surrounded by Oklahoma, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, Missouri, and Louisiana, this state’s location on the Mississippi River positions it perfectly for wilderness enthusiasts. Head to Lake Ouachita for recreational camping and fishing, Hot Springs National Park for natural mineral springs, or the Ozarks region for hiking, climbing, and traversing limestone caves. Political buffs will also enjoy the Clinton Presidential Center, located in the state’s capital of Little Rock.
- Capital: Tallahassee
- State population: 20.61 million
- Abbreviation: FL
- Nickname: The Sunshine State
The United States’ southernmost state, Florida divides the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, making it the perfect locale for beach-lovers. With an abundance of unique cities — which include the Latin-American influences of Miami, the Disney enchantment of Orlando, the sports hype of Jacksonville, and the sophistication of South Beach — Florida has something for everyone. Home to varied coastlines and the stunning marshes of the Everglades, Florida is not to be missed!
- Capital: Atlanta
- State population: 10.31 million
- Abbreviation: GA
- Nickname: The Peach State
Surrounded by Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee, Georgia has a truly staggering diversity of landscapes. From rolling farmland (Georgia peaches, anyone?), to stunning coastlines and jagged mountains, this southern state has it all, with spades of charm. Head to Savannah for 18th-century architecture and charming paths lined with oak trees draped in Spanish moss. Or, venture to Atlanta and take in the mainstream hub and home of a number of state’s greatest attractions, including the Georgia Aquarium, the Botanical Garden, and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
- Capital: Baton Rouge
- State population: 4.68 million
- Abbreviation: LA
- Nickname: The Pelican State
This boot-shaped state surrounded by Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama opens onto the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana is home to a unique and distinct culture, thanks to its mix of French, American, African, and French-Canadian influences. Creole and Cajun food and traditions abound in this state, and nowhere are these more evident than in its largest city, New Orleans. Visit for the delicious seafood, the Mardi Gras festival, the legacy of jazz, the National WWII Museum, the Aquarium of the Americas, and St. Louis Cathedral.
- Capital: Jackson
- State population: 2.98 million
- Abbreviation: MS
- Nickname: The Magnolia State
This easy-to-spell state is bordered by Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Louisiana, and touches both the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Hailed as the birthplace of the nation’s blues music, the Mississippi Delta region honors its melodious history with the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale. The state is also home to the Vicksburg National Military Park, which honors a critical Civil War Battle, and features the birthplaces of Elvis Presley and Jefferson Davis. If you’re a beach-lover, you’re in luck. Mississippi is home to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a stunning stretch of crystal-blue coastline.
- Capital: Raleigh
- State population: 10.15 million
- Abbreviation: NC
- Nickname: The Tar Heel State
Surrounded by Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina, North Carolina is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. From beautiful coastlines touched by the Atlantic to the towering mountains that comprise Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the state is also home to the Blue Ridge Parkway — a stunning route that epitomizes autumnal glory. While you’re there, visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the gorgeous beaches of the Outer Banks, and the famed Biltmore Estate.
- Capital: Oklahoma City
- State population: 3.92 million
- Abbreviation: OK
- Nickname: The Sooner State
Sandwiched between Kansas, Arkansas, and Texas, Oklahoma was once a settlement area for a large number of Native American tribes. The landscapes of Oklahoma vary from the fertile fields of its Great Plains to its forested mountains and valleys, and its crystalline streams. Home to Myriad Botanical Gardens, the Oklahoma City Zoo, and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma is a state characterized by bustling cities and vast, sweeping landscapes.
- Capital: Columbia
- State population: 4.96 million
- Abbreviation: SC
- Nickname: The Palmetto State
Located directly beneath North Carolina, occupying a fair bit of coastline, South Carolina is the perfect destination for those who gravitate toward the ocean. Its stunning beaches and many tiny islands make it a popular destination for sun-seekers. Charleston, known for its historic role in the Civil War, is a gorgeous city characterized by its pastel houses, quaint streets, and burgeoning food scene. Visit and relax in the town of Myrtle Beach, venture to Patriots Point Military Museum, and enjoy the Waterfront Park.
- Capital: Nashville
- State population: 6.65 million
- Abbreviation: TN
- Nickname: The Volunteer State
Entirely landlocked by Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina, Tennessee is home to some of the most beautiful mountains in the United States. The Great Smoky Mountains are the state’s most popular attraction, though its capital city of Nashville comes in at a close second. Oft-referred to as the heart of country music, Nashville is home to the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and an abundance of honky tonks. While you’re there, visit Elvis Presley’s magnificent Graceland, the Parthenon, and the blues scene on Memphis’ Beale Street.
- Capital: Austin
- State population: 27.86 million
- Abbreviation: TX
- Nickname: The Lone Star State
Texas’ enormity can’t be understated — this massive state is home to many unique and quirky cities, as well as a rich history of cowboy culture. Bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, the Texan landscape include the arid vistas of Big Bend National Park, the verdant banks of the San Antonio River, and the sandy shores of Padre Island. When in Texas, be sure to visit the Museum of Fine Arts, the Space Center, and the Alamo Mission fort
- Capital: Richmond
- State population: 8.41 million
- Abbreviation: VA
- Nickname: The Old Dominion State
A long-standing seat of American history, Virginia was one of the States’ original 13 colonies. Full of historic landmarks — ranging from Jefferson’s Monticello to the tourist attractions of Colonial Williamsburg and the Jamestown Settlement, and Arlington National Cemetery — Virginia is a state that takes its history to heart. Like the outdoors? The start of the Appalachian Trail can also be found in Virginia, as can Shenandoah National Park and portions of the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Southeastern United States refers to a region of 14 states in the southern portion of America. While no official Census Bureau definition exists for the Southeastern U.S., the American Association of Geographers concluded that the area is made up of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. According to the Office of Small Business Ombudsman (OSBO), Arkansas and Louisiana are also included in this region.
The Southeast’s cultural influences are varied and international due to settlers from Britain, Scotland, Germany, France, and Acadia, and the influx of African slaves in the 1800s. While the entirety of the Southeast is characterized by hot, humid summers, thanks to the Bermuda High (moist, warm air patterns caused by the clash of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico), winters vary greatly over the 14 member states. More southern states, like Georgia and Florida, enjoy a subtropical climate year round, while states like Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina are quite chilly during the winter months.
The Southeast is both culturally and topographically diverse. From the gumbo of Louisiana to the peaches of Georgia, the swamps of the Everglades, and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, it’s a unique region where industry, music, the great outdoors, and political history collide.