The South is full of history, nature, and lots of unique sights and sounds. These sights are not only fan favorites among the South, but they have attracted people far and wide. Here are 10 Southern record-breaking attractions for you to check out on your next trip.
1. Most Visited National Park in the United States
Welcoming about 10 million annual visitors, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited U.S. national park. Located at the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, although some roads and facilities close during the winter. The three main park entrances are in Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Townsend, Tennessee; and Cherokee, North Carolina.
2. Largest Living History Museum in the United States
Portraying the city of Williamsburg as it was from 1774 to 1781, Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Virginia) encompasses 301 acres of living history, including 88 original buildings, 225 period rooms, 500 reconstructed buildings, a vast archaeological collection, and thousands of American and English antiques. Part of America’s Historic Triangle, Colonial Williamsburg is one of the premier tourist destinations in the United States as you not only get to see history but experience it.
3. Largest Known Cave System in the World
Located in Mammoth Cave National Park, Mammoth Cave is the longest known cave system in the world. To date, more than 365 miles of passages have been explored, surveyed, and mapped, but more of the cave remains undiscovered. Subterranean geologic features include stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, travertine dams, and several types of gypsum formations. Mammoth Cave National Park is located in central Kentucky and attracts over two million annual visitors.
4. Highest Point East of the Mississippi
At more than a mile high at 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the eastern United States. It’s also located at North Carolina’s first state park. Mount Mitchell is part of the Black Mountains and is located about 33 miles north of Asheville off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 1,946-acre park offers breathtaking vistas, rigorous hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, a summit observation platform, an interpretive center, and a concession stand.
5. Largest House and Most Visited Winery in America
Many are familiar with the iconic North Carolina landmark, Biltmore Estate. The property breaks two records. With approximately four acres of floor space—or roughly 174,240 square feet—Biltmore House of the Biltmore Estate is the largest house in America. This magnificent French Renaissance chateau contains 250 rooms, with 65 fireplaces, 34 bedrooms, an indoor pool, and a bowling alley. Biltmore Estate is also home to the most visited winery in the U.S.
6. Largest Bas-Relief Sculpture in the World
Just 45 minutes from the Atlanta area, the mountain at Stone Mountain Park is billed as the world’s largest known free-standing piece of exposed granite at 825 feet tall and reaching 1,683 feet above sea level. But it is home to the world’s largest bas-relief sculpture in the world: detailed portraits of three major Confederate soldiers cover three acres of the mountain’s smooth face. Drawing more than four million annual visitors, Stone Mountain Park is Georgia’s most popular attraction. With over 3,200 acres of parklands, lakes, and woodlands—plus more than a dozen attractions and many recreational activities—Stone Mountain itself offers plenty of fun for all ages.
7. Tallest Active Sand Dune System in the Eastern United States
Many don’t know that there are sand dunes east of the Mississippi. Jockey’s Ridge State Park is a fascinating 420-acre park and a recreational area in North Carolina’s Outer Banks where you’ll find the highest sand dunes on the entire Atlantic coast. The three peaks, known collectively as the Living Dune ridge given their ever-shifting nature, are composed of a total of about 6,000,000 dump truck loads of sand. In addition to the dunes, Jockey’s Ridge includes two other ecological environments: a maritime thicket and the Roanoke Sound Estuary. Visitors can go hiking, kayaking, and even hang-gliding here.
8. World’s Most Popular Theme Park
With 20.45 million visitors in 2017, Magic Kingdom, part of Walt Disney World in Florida, is the world’s most popular theme park, which isn’t surprising considering how many are in the top ten. Magic Kingdom was the first of 4 parts of the major theme park and features the iconic Cinderella Castle. The history and beauty, as well as the many other features, attracts many to enjoy the princesses and other characters, events, and sights for children and adults alike.
9. Oldest Protected Area in the U.S.
Hot Springs National Park is the oldest protected area in the country and is located in Arkansas. Established in 1832, 40 years before Yellowstone, these hot springs were the country’s first national preserve. Most know it today as “the American Spa” where you can bath in the hot springs or the traditional bath house on sight. Today, Hot Springs National Park is the smallest of the national parks in the United States.
10. First National Seashore & Tallest Brick Lighthouse in U.S.
Stretching 30,000 acres from Bodie Island to Ocacoke Island, Cape Hatteras (North Carolina) was the first national seashore in the United States, established in 1953. The seashore features islands that have been shaped by water, wind and storms, making them ever changing. On Cape Hatteras, you can see the tallest brick lighthouse in the United State.
Because Cape Hatteras is so large, it needs a bigger lighthouse. Though in the past, the lighthouse was listed at a height of 208 feet, recent measurements have been revised to just over 210 feet above sea level and almost 199 feet above the separation from its old foundation to the top of the spire. The focal height of the light is 192.2 feet. With these newly revised numbers, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is now considered the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States.