Exploring the southeastern US has so much to offer. From splendid mountain ranges to historic sites that will blow you away, taking a road trip through this part of the country is a must.
Plus, the cities you’ll stop through along the way are often quite budget-friendly when compared to some cities in the northeast like New York or in the southwest like California.
Here, we’re taking you from the music capitals of Tennessee to the coasts of Florida on this budget-friendly road trip through the southeastern US. Come along!
Our road trip begins in the state of Kentucky. You probably won’t find Kentucky on many bucket lists, but you may be surprised by how much you’ll find in this unassuming part of the south. It’s home to bourbon, bluegrass, and classic fried chicken – so don’t skip out on Kentucky.
Louisville is where you’ll start, kicking off with the Kentucky Derby Museum. In the afternoon, you might check out one of their world-famous distilleries for a behind-the-scenes look at how Kentucky bourbon is made.
Go easy on the Jim Beam though because there’s plenty more on the agenda. Jefferson Memorial Park has stunning hiking trails or, if you’d rather walk through the city, take a walking tour through Old Louisville for a peek at the Victorian architecture of the area.
As for the food scene, you’ll find everything in Louisville, from traditional Kentucky barbecue to Vietnamese staples. You won’t be paying an arm and a leg to eat at these humble establishments either. Plus, you might even consider Louisville as somewhere to stay overnight. Accommodation is incredibly affordable in the area.
Head south to one of the country’s musical capital as you make your way to Tennessee. You’ll stop in Memphis and Nashville during this leg of your southeastern road trip.
Much of what you can do in Memphis won’t cost much. See the birthplace of rock at Sun Studio where Elvis got his start. Then hit up Graceland, Elvis’ residence turned museum. See the ducks at the famous Peabody Hotel and eat all the barbecue you can get your hands on. Beware – you may never be able to find better BBQ anywhere else in the world.
In Nashville, you’ll be in country music heaven. So, start off the stop with a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Grand Ole Opry always has a show on or you might drop your extra bags off at a Nashville luggage storage shop and make it a fully musical day with a stop at RCA Studio B. Plus, did you know that Nashville has the world’s only full-size reproduction of the Greek Parthenon? You can check that out, too.
From Tennessee, head east to North Carolina for Asheville, the next stop on your road trip. It’s one of America’s trendiest up-and-coming small cities and has everything you might expect as such. Vegan delicacies, craft breweries, and a vibrant local art scene with a focus on outdoor experiences.
In Asheville, you’ll have the chance to take a hot air balloon ride or a canopy tour from a zip line. It’s a surprisingly budget-friendly destination that will delight you at every turn. Definitely make sure you get to Asheville on your southeastern road trip.
From there, head to Charlotte, the largest city in the state which offers a blend of historical and contemporary things to do. Have traditional barbecue the way people there have been making it for decades before checking out the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.
For a more historical take, the Levine Museum of the New South focuses on post-Civil War events. And for motorsports fans, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is a must. Overall, you won’t spend your life savings in Charlotte and it’s an amazing city to experience.
At some point while in North Carolina, you’ll also want to hit up Blue Ridge Parkway which passes through some of the most iconic views of the Appalachian Mountains.
Next, you’ll make your way to Charleston, South Carolina. Although the city is quaint and quieter than you might expect from a road trip stop, there’s still a lot to do.
Situated right on the coast, you might have a beach day at Folly Beach. Or make your way to Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head which are both nearby. Back in Charleston, rent bikes and cross the iconic Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. And if you’re a nature lover, see the world’s oldest oak tree at Angel Oak Park.
Although Atlanta, Georgia is an amazing city to visit, it’s also a bustling metropolitan area that’s not always the most budget-friendly. Instead, make your way to Savannah for quintessential southern hospitality and a ton of unique things to do.
The SCAD Museum of Art brought to you by the renowned Savannah College of Art and Design should definitely be on your itinerary and you might do a double museum session visiting either the Telfair Museum or Jepson Center for more art on display.
But simply strolling along Bull Street and through Forsyth Park means you’ll stumble upon hidden treasures as well as delightful restaurants and shops.
When visiting Florida on a budget, you’ll want to stay up north. After all, the theme parks in Central Florida and the big cities of South Florida can cost a pretty penny. So, head to St. Augustine as your next stop on the journey. You might be shocked by all the incredible things to do.
It’s the oldest city in the entire country just bursting with Spanish colonial history. Founded in 1565, you can visit the Fountain of Youth and explore Castillo de San Marcos. Its romantic Historic District has incredible restaurants and there are countless distilleries sprinkled throughout the area.
As you can see, the southeastern cities of the US have a lot to offer. If you’re looking to take an incredible American road trip without breaking the bank, this is the itinerary for you. With affordable places to stay the night and surprisingly cultured small towns in the south, this is a trip you won’t easily forget. Pack your bags and get ready to explore!
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