The American South is as pretty a place as you’ll find just about anywhere, made that way by the hand of nature as well as by the hands of those who build on nature’s foundation. Here is another handful of some of the brightest spots in this sunny South we call home. What’s one of your favorites? Whether it’s listed here or not, tell us about it in the comments section below.
- George Peabody Library, Baltimore, Maryland
Books are beautiful—worthy of a temple like this one (photo of Peabody Library by Patrick Gillespie)This spot is all inside, man-made, and filled with books. But the George Peabody Library in Baltimore, Maryland, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots in the nation—and one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Over 300,000 volumes, all freely fingered by the public, are shelved on six levels, bracketed by crisply painted wrought iron railings, while a pristine marble floor reflects the skylight-ceiling sixty feet above. Considered the father of modern philanthropy, George Peabody not only built this “temple of learning” in downtown Baltimore but also donated millions of dollars after the Civil War to provide for the education of “the destitute children of the Southern States.”
- Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina The perfect house in the perfect setting, the Biltmore has over a million “guests” every year (photo by Jennifer Boyer)When millionaire George W. Vanderbilt III visited the mountains of western North Carolina in 1888, he decided there was no better setting for the home he envisioned: an American estate designed to match the great manors of Europe, with the best in architecture, landscape, and Old-World charm. The result is Biltmore, not only the largest privately-owned home in America (with over 178,000 square feet!) but arguably the most enchanting. With the Appalachians for a backdrop, its own vineyards, gardens, forests, and a thousand and one other beauties, Vanderbilt’s dream home is storybook-worthy but as real as every one of the millions who visit her every year.
- Talimena Scenic Drive, Oklahoma
Talimena Scenic Drive in eastern Oklahoma (photo by Alex Butterfield)Stretching across Oklahoma’s eastern border into Arkansas, this fifty-four-mile scenic byway has some of the prettiest country either state has to offer. Beginning just a few miles from Talihina, Oklahoma , the Talimena snakes through the westernmost part of the Ouachita National Forest, topping mountain after mountain and providing views that call for many a stop or slow-down along the way. This little stretch of wilderness road is a biker’s heaven—just you, your wheels, mountain, and sky. Well, maybe a black bear or two—and watch for the deer, racoon, and wild turkey also.
- Lake Drummond and the Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia Ages-old cypress rooted in Drummond Lake, in the Great Dismal Swamp of southeastern VirginiaYou might not think a place named “Dismal” would be one of the prettiest spots in the South, but you’d be mistaken. Spooky? Yes. Great place for conjuring up a few ghosty legends? Absolutely. But no less of a Virginian than George Washington himself called this place “a glorious paradise.” Tucked away down in the southeast corner of the state, between Suffolk and Chesapeake, the Great Dismal Swamp and its centerpiece Lake Drummond are saturated with just as much beauty as you’ll find elsewhere in the South: 800-year-old cypresses, more rambunctious wildlife than you can shake a stick at (the swamp is now a national refuge), and 107,000 peat-bogged, flooded, and heavily-wooded acres for every hiker, hunter, camper, boater, fisherman, and birder (not to mention photographer) to get lost and lonely in.
- Hawksbill Crag/Whitaker Point, Arkansas
Suspended between heaven and earth: Hawksbill Crag (Whitaker Point) in Arkansas’s Ozark National Forest (photo by Noel Pennington)Two names, one spot: in the upper Buffalo River Wilderness, halfway between Deer and Venus, Hawksbill Crag, aka Whitaker Point, is certainly one of the most picturesque places in a state full of the picturesque. It takes some getting to, but the trail is well worn—it’s not only the most photographed place in the state and a sure pick for many a hiker, but folks come out here to (a) pop the question, (b) get married, (c) have the pics made, and (d) all of the above. You should make the trip yourself, but please be careful if you get out on the “hawk’s bill”: there’s a nasty dip at the tip, and some of the more daring have found out too late.
SEE ALL OF THE PRETTIEST SPOTS IN THE SOUTH SERIES PHOTOS HERE: