Summer across the Southeastern United States is so much more than just long days and warm temperatures. It is a time of year marked by local farmers’ markets, Friday nights spent at a drive-in movie theater, water activities such as kayaking or swimming, and epic thunderstorms that lead to beautiful rainbows.
The Southeast has so much to offer during the summer months. Scenic drives like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Cherohala Skyway provide beautiful landscapes from the comfort of your car. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Appalachian Trail give you a chance for stunning mountain views while camping in the wilderness. Special events like The Moonbow, the Fourth of July, and reenactment gives you an excuse to get out of the house and enjoy the great outdoors.
Here are twenty travel photos of summer across the Southeastern United States to get you ready for upcoming season. What will you do with your summer?
Local farmers’ markets spring to life during the summer months with fresh crops and arts & crafts. This market in Hickory, North Carolina had plenty of fruits, vegetables, artwork, and flowers. Lots and lots of flowers, for some reason.
What summer is complete without at least one night at a drive in movie theatre? They were dying out there for many years, but recently the mom-and-pop operations have been able to upgrade to digital projectors and save one of the most iconic activities of a complete summer.
With warmer temps and longer daylight hours comes reenactments at many state and national parks. This demonstration at Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park in Tennessee is just one small example; other parks offer Civil War reenactments, early American history tours, and frontier life living history examples.
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine is an outdoor drama that has been playing for over 50 years in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Hosted at the state outdoor drama of Virginia, the play features a different cast every year as local teens and residents audition for the chance to star in this historic drama.
Water parks and amusement parks are a no-brainer for summer time fun, such as the Log Flume at the Family Kingdom Amusement Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Now the only remaining amusement park in town (the Pavilion shut down many years ago, and the Hard Rock Park only lasted two seasons) this park has a rollercoaster, several thrill rides, gentle rides for the kids, and a water park on the beach.
If you’re looking for something gentler to enjoy, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most popular and scenic drives in the Southeastern United States. Running 469 miles from Waynesboro, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. Mabry Mill (pictured here) is one of the most iconic stops on the Parkway, but certainly not the only option for summer fun.
The little-known Cherohala Skyway is a national scenic byway running just 43 miles from Robbinsville, North Carolina to Tellico Plains, Tennessee. Although short, the Skyway features some beautiful scenic overlooks, campgrounds, and waterfalls such as the raging Bald River Falls pictured here.
Thru hikers will hit the Appalachian Trail in Georgia in mid-spring, and by the time summer rolls around the northbound hikers are usually already crossing the Virginia Highlands. But weekend warriors can always head out for short day hikes or section hikes. The Beauty Spot on Unaka Mountain in Erwin, Tennessee is indeed one of the most beautiful spots on the entire trail, and one of the easiest to reach along a dirt and gravel road.
The road leading to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is closed throughout the winter, and frequently during rare snows in the late fall and early spring. But during the summer months the road is open, the temps are comfortable, and the views unbelievable.
Another unbelievable view is from the Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain. This private attraction located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone has enough to keep you entertained for an entire day. Enjoy the view from the bridge, but then head further down the mountain to the zoo for hourly shows, grab something to eat at the restaurant before touring the museum, or bring your hiking shoes and enjoy a few hours on a trail.
If you’re looking for some big city adventure, Chicago has you covered. For something different try taking the train into the city from a nearby town, and strike out into the inner city as a full blooded tourist for the day. Cloudgate, more popularly known as The Bean, is one of the most iconic destinations in the city, located in the beautiful Millennium Park near the waterfront.
Smaller cities still offer plenty to do, with Chattanooga, Tennessee being one of the most active outdoor cities in the Southeast. Rock climbing, hang gliding, and kayaking are just a few of the adventures found here. This sunset view of the Walnut Street Bridge, the longest pedestrian-only bridge in the world, is just one of the amazing views you’ll find here.
If you want to get away from the city entirely, you can always head for the beach. The Grand Strand, a 60-mile stretch of beach from Little River to Georgetown, South Carolina, is one of the most popular beach destinations in the country. At the heart is Myrtle Beach, a city ever changing the face of tourism, but still a great place for a long weekend with the family.
You can’t get beautiful rainbows without a few summer thunderstorms. I’m an avid storm chaser during the summer months, almost obsessed with capturing photos of lightning streaking across the sky. This photo at the Chincoteague Island National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia also featured a long wild pony grazing in the field.
Hunting Island State Park is the most popular state park in South Carolina, and for good reason. With the only lighthouse visitors can still climb, a large beachfront campground, and this boardwalk across the saltwater marsh, this park has plenty to offer.
Huntington Beach State Park, located between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown, South Carolina, is known for something else entirely: the wildlife. The alligators are a draw year-round, but during the summer months visitors can catch glimpses of dozens of migrating birds in the saltwater marshes or brackish pond.
Charleston is known for its Southern charm, world-class cooking, and history. But just outside the hustle and bustle of downtown is the Angel Oak Tree, one of the oldest oak trees in the country. This massive, sprawling tree is a big draw throughout the year.
If you’re looking for a beach, you don’t always have to go to the coast. Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Virginia has long been known for the small beach and diving board on the man-made lake. But you can also enjoy a few nights at the campground or beautiful cabins, and hike the infamous Molly Knob Trail.
The Fourth of July always offers some of the best festivals, carnivals, and fireworks of the year. The Salem Fair near Roanoke, Virginia is a great way to spend the weekend and enjoy the spectacular fireworks once the sun goes down.
The Moonbow is an event you can enjoy almost any months of the year, providing the conditions are right, but the summer months are always the best. As the sun sets, the full moon rises, and the warm summer night air wraps around you, you can watch as the light of the full moon refracts through the mists of the waterfall to create a rainbow. You can witness this spectacular event at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Corbin, Kentucky.
Traveler. Writer. Photographer. Born and raised in Virginia, living most my adult life on the coast of the Carolinas, I am the Southeastern Traveler. I'm always looking for the next great travel story to tell. What's your story?