TIME Magazine selects its authentic South


Recently, Time Magazine (a publication owned by our parent company) published a story titled, “50 Authentic American Experiences.” These huge types of magazine articles always intrigue me. Rarely do I not grab the magazine or click on the story to see what editors spotlight as the best BBQ in Texas, the greatest songwriters of all-time, or America’s favorite beaches. I love the breadth of expertise and the narrowing down of opinions.

Time, though, missed the mark, especially in the South. I’ll offer my thoughts and you can decide.

I recommend the story as a basis for thinking about travel, about what makes each state in the US special, what sets Vermont apart from Oregon, South Carolina from Arizona. Here at Southern Living, this is one of our foundational questions. We ask it as a group everyday: What makes this or that Southern?

Without further delay, here is a shortened version of Time’s authentic South picks, paired with my own alternatives. Mine are in italics. And remember, they are just my thoughts.

Time: They say the Auburn v. Alabama Iron Bowl, college football’s greatest rivalry, especially if it’s at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Tough to argue, as I’m a gameday nut. Though, I prefer Jordan-Hare in Auburn and the rolling of Toomer’s Corner.

TB: Here I do agree. But, what if it’s not late November? My pick deals in food. A couple years back, the Alabama Tourism folks put together a 100 Dishes to Eat list for the state. People still rave about the promotion. If I had to put Alabama on a dish, I’d select Chris Hasting’s bright tomato salad at Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham. It tastes like sunshine.

Time: Hunting for something shiny at Crater of Diamonds State Park, 120 miles from Little Rock. If you’ve ever seen the state’s license plate, now you understand.

TB: Some may say the town of Eureka Springs, a mountain hamlet perched in the Ozarks. If it’s Christmastime, I agree. But any other time of year, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, go to the original Wal-Mart in Bentonville. Opened as Sam Walton’s 5 and 10 in 1950, the simple store launched the global brand, and now it is the main visitor’s center.

Time: Elmer’s Geneology Library and Records Center in Madison.

TB: Really? I mean, are we talking about the same Sunshine, coastline-rich, Disney-laden home of Jimmy Buffett? My pick has to place me near the ocean. But it needs more than sparkling sand. I choose Cape Canaveral National Seashore. At 57,000 acres and 24 miles, it’s the largest undeveloped beach in the US. Plus, it borders those inspiring NASA liftoffs. I can’t think of anything more American.

Time: H&H Restaurant for some down-home soul food in Macon. Never been. 

TB: First, if I’m sending someone to my home state for a one-time experience, they ain’t going to Macon. No offense. (They aren’t going to my hometown LaGrange either. Go Grangers.) Where are they going? To Sunday school. That’s right. But no ordinary Sunday school – a Presidential teachin’ time at Jimmy Carter’s home church in tiny Plains, Georgia. He gives a lesson to the public (usually about 200 people) 3 out of 4 sabbaths a month. And he brings the good stuff people. Try the Country Kitchen down the road for that soul food lunch.

Time: Bourbon Festival fills Bardstown every September, and I wish I could have been rubbing elbows with distillers this go’round. Fantastic choice.

TB: If you want something different, and I’m offering no surprise, make the experience centered around horses. But, avoid the Kentucky Derby in Louisville held in May. Instead, go for Lexington’s Keeneland thoroughbred races and sales. Seabiscuit shot here because it;s changed so little over its history. Gorgeous landscape and barns. Also, it’s the home of the world’s premiere yearling sale.

Time: Louisiana School of Cooking in Lafayette. Four-day course is pricey at $1,400-1,900 per person.

TB: Not a bad time if you’ve got the cash, but, again, I disagree because of two words: New. Orleans. There’s no city like it. To narrow the focus: New Orleans at dawn. Walk the quarter with a piping hot cup of chicory coffee and a beignet. Or rent a bicycle and cruise over to Jackson Square before the palm readers and caricature men set up shop. Stay away from Bourbon Street.

Time: Graceland Too, one man’s house o’ Elvis stuff, in Holly Springs. I hear great things about this odd space.

TB: But, to me, Mississippi is the Delta. Our own Val Luesse wrote a pearl of a story about Clarksdale, Greenwood, and those other wonderful towns like Yazoo City. Read it. Then, get your self to the Bourbon Mall, a cotton field steak shack via limousine car service atlanta. This is real, never-forget-it.

Time: The editors send you to small-town Lexington, pop. 20,000ish, and home to 20 barbecue joints.

TB: I’ll never say no to BBQ. So I am game for this one. An alternative: Asheville. The whole thing. I love this city in the state’s western corner. Blue Ridge Parkway, the Biltmore, and great local brews make it a phenomenal weekend spot.

Time: Did you know Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper stands in Bartlesville? I did. But I am supposed to. Though a great find, the 19-story Price Tower is not representative to the Sooners.

TB: I have two ideas, both centered on tranquility. First, Tulsa’s Philbrook Museum of Art. Gorgeous 23-acre, 72-room former mansion spread. Sitting in the gardens is quite a relaxing experience. Second, the Oklahoma City National Memorial. I still remember the day in 1995 crystal clearly. Pausing for an hour in this poignant, near-silent space, and admiring the Survivor Tree, will bring tears to your eyes.

Time: Cypress Gardens haunted boat tours (October) in Monch’s Corner.  I’ve been here. It’s spooky and gorgeous in that swampthing way.

TB: Though both Beaufort and Charleston rank annually in our Readers’ Choice survey, I am going to Aiken’s Winter Horse Colony. Take a left on Whiskey Road and find the training track. Hundreds of giant specimen oaks let rays of early light through as the exercise riders breeze yearlings. March is the month of big races. Fox hunts and polo are huge here too.

Time: Memphis’ Stax Museum of American Soul. Been here, highly recommend it. I still hurt to think about the way Sam Cooke died.

TB: If you’d rather have a Nashville experience, find the bluegrass landmark Station Inn on 12th Avenue in an area busting at the seams called the Gulch. I think bluegrass is the finest music the Music City offers the world. Bela Fleck, Allison Krauss, and Old Crow Medicine Show all live here. And the Inn is its temple.

Time: Way out in west Texas, check out the Marfa Lights, spacey streaks seen (sometimes) in the Big bend sky. Problem: Locals tell me to go out around 2 AM. Who wants to do this?

TB: One choice for such an enormous state is tough. My first pick: a six-man high school football game. Check out this site for more about the small schools way of pigskin. My second pick: Gruene Hall. This hill country dance hall used to bring in Willie Nelson for rousing evenings of Shiner Bock beer and boot-scootin good times. Still rocking.

Time: They pick the Association for Research and Enlightenment, the home for all things for New Age cures and medicines. Cough, cough…excuse me?

TB: Let’s not dwell on the unfortunate reach for surprising readers mentioned above. Moving on, we go to Tommy Jefferson’s home, Monticello. I revisited last fall for the first time in 15 years. I have a new favorite part: the period makers who build furniture and weave baskets on the grounds. This trip is a must for any voting citizen. Preferably linked with a Virginia wine country driving trip. Check out an upcoming wine primer from Executive Editor Warner McGowin and Foods Editor Scott Jones.

Time: Midnight tour of the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville. Gulp. Though intriguing. Could be WV’s Alcatraz?

TB: I go old school money with my WV choice – the Greenbrier. This tony getaway has been setting the tone for luxury since 1778. I bet more Presidents have relaxed here than any other stateside location, save Camp David maybe. And, as the Allegheny Mountains begin to burn with fall color, there may be no better looking post.



  1. Melissa

    “I second” on Monticello in VA for multi-facetd history and the essence of Virginia. (The Monticello Cook Book is one to pick up for those who enjoy cooking and are looking for traditional VA dishes.) Eat at nearby Michie Tavern or in Charlottesville and sample a local winery, all great complimentary places to visit while in the area.
    NC – One would have to consider including The Outer Banks: The Wright Brothers, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, pirate stories, shipwrecks from across the centuries, The Lost Colony, and a coastal morphological wonder!

    August 19, 2009 at 11:55 am
  2. Lara Kaufmann

    Midwest Book Review, which chooses books to review from over 1500 they receive each month, has chosen the “Lake Hartwell Area Recreation Guide” to feature in their January 2009 edition. Here’s what they said:
    When on vacation, no one wants to spend time paralyzed with indecision. “Lake Hartwell Area Recreation Guide” is an activity book with much information on the Lake Hartwell area, spelling out the countless activities that one can take part in the area, ranging from the expected boating to the nightlife to beer tasting to even auto racing. Quite simply, if one is planning a trip to the Lake Hartwell area in South Carolina and Georgia, “Lake Hartwell Area Recreation Guide” is considered absolutely required. (Source: http://www.midwestbookreview.com/mbw/jan_09.htm)
    The “LAKE HARTWELL AREA RECREATION GUIDE” reveals exciting things to do in 35 towns and cities in Upstate South Carolina and Northeast Georgia.
    The Savannah, Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers all join to make Lake Hartwell, which provides opportunities for boating, water skiing, swimming and fishing. This man-made lake has 55,900 acres of water and about 962 miles of shoreline.
    The lake is surrounded by parks, farm land, cute towns and fun cities, which all make for a fantastic time. They provide great views, outdoor adventures and all kinds of fun activities. The cities and towns each have a different feel to them. Each one has characteristics that may make them worth visiting, depending on your interests.
    The “Lake Hartwell Area Recreation Guide” may be used in two ways:
    First, you can look up things that interest you to find the towns and cities that offer these activities. Included is information about art galleries, biking, birding, boating, renting boats, bowling, disc golf, golf, local farms, fishing, fitness, hiking, horseback riding, movie theatres, museums, night life, performing arts, roller skating, skateparks, sporting events, tennis, waterfalls, wine tasting and zoos.
    Second, you can look under a particular city or town to find what activities are there. Included is information about Anderson, Athens, Belton, Central, Clarkesville, Clemson, Comer, Commerce, Easley, Elberton, Fair Play, Gainesville, Greenville, Greer, Hartwell, Iva, Jefferson, Lavonia, Long Creek, Marietta, Maysville, Mountain Rest, Pelzer, Pendleton, Pickens, Royston, Seneca, Six Mile, Starr, Tallulah Falls, Toccoa, Townville, Walhalla, Westminster and Williamston.
    The “Lake Hartwell Area Recreation Guide” retails for $12.95 and can be purchased at the following businesses:
    Ace Hardware locations: on Hwy 24 in Anderson, SC and Hartwell, GA
    Anderson Mower Service, 2305 Whitehall Road, Anderson, SC 29625, 864-224-0020
    Barnes & Noble locations: Greenville & Spartanburg in SC and Buford & Athens in GA
    Currahee Military Museum, 160 N. Alexander St., Toccoa, GA 30577, 706-282-5055
    Fiction Addiction, 3795 E. North St# 9, Greenville, SC 29615, 864-609-9394
    Golf USA, 2902 B North Main Street, Anderson, SC 29621, 864-226-0999
    Grady’s Great Outdoors, 3440 Clemson Blvd., Anderson, SC 29621, 864-226-5283
    Hart County Chamber of Commerce, 31 E. Howell St., Hartwell, GA 30643 (706) 376-8590
    Hartwell Marina, 149 Hartwell Marine Rd., Hartwell, GA 30643, 706-376-5441
    Lake Hartwell State Recreation Area, 19138 A Hwy 11 South, Fair Play, SC 29643, 864-972-3352
    Lake Hartwell Fishing and Marine, 5365 Hwy 24, Anderson, SC 29625, 864-287-9782
    Pickens County Museum, 307 Johnson St., Pickens, SC 29671 864-898-8963
    Split Creek Farm, 3806 Centerville Rd., Anderson, SC 29625, 864-287-3921
    Walhalla Liberty Lodge B & B, 105 Liberty Lane, Walhalla, SC 29692, 864-638-8239
    http://www.createspace.com/3341958 and http://www.Amazon.com.
    James A. Cox
    Midwest Book Review
    278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575-1129
    phone: 1-608-835-7937
    e-mail: mbr@execpc.com / e-mail: mwbookrevw@aol.com
    Lake Hartwell Area Recreation Guide by Lara Kaufmann
    100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
    Parnassus Book Distributors (distributor)
    200 Academy Way, Columbia, SC 29206-1445
    Attached is a thumbnail of the book’s cover.

    February 8, 2009 at 7:49 pm
  3. lara kaufmann

    New Book, the “LAKE HARTWELL AREA RECREATION GUIDE” reveals exciting things to do in 35 towns and cities in Upstate South Carolina and Northeast Georgia
    The Savannah, Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers all join to make Lake Hartwell, which provides opportunities for boating, water skiing, swimming and fishing. This man-made lake has 55,900 acres of water and about 962 miles of shoreline.

    November 6, 2008 at 4:29 pm
  4. Kelly

    I love Asheville, too! I’ve grown up in North Carolina, so I’d put it way above Lexington (though I can see why the writer sees novelty in Lexington). I also work for a vacation rental company in Asheville, so if anyone reading this is interested in visiting you may want to check out my blog all about the area. Happy traveling!
    Carolina Mornings: Discover Asheville

    September 27, 2008 at 3:07 pm
  5. TB

    yes, awesome suggestion. Tanner Latham, a fellow editor, wrote about San Antonio earlier this year, and he mentioned the San Jose. Read the full piece here: http://www.southernliving.com/southern/travel/weekends/article/0,28012,1720840,00.html

    September 26, 2008 at 11:18 am
  6. Larry Bleiberg

    Great suggestions. Love the idea of visiting the first Wal-Mart.
    As for Texas, it is impossible to narrow it to just one. So here’s another for the list: the weekly Mariachi Mass at San Antonio’s San Jose Cathedral. A boisterous and joyful way to start your Sunday.

    September 25, 2008 at 10:16 am

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