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Best of the South Jul/Aug 2012 Issue

New Orleans CVB

“Best” is a powerful adjective. It must be thoughtfully applied when describing anything.

Which is why our annual Best of the Midwest poll is special. Our magazine’s readers voice their opinions as to what is great about the Midwest.

The results have been tabulated and are presented to you. Editors thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and vote for what you love in the Midwest. We hope this will inspire you to revisit an old favorite or to try something new. Enjoy.

Best Large City for Weekend Getaway New Orleans • For the third year in a row, New Orleans is selected by readers as the best large city for a getaway weekend in the South. We love the Big Easy’s music, restaurants, attractions, and festivals, including the Satchmo SummerFest, Aug. 2–5, at the Old U.S. Mint. New Orleans CVB, (800) 672-6124,

Best Small City for Weekend Getaway Natchez, Miss. • Plantation homes, the Mississippi River, Civil War history, wonderful places to stay, dine, and shop: Natchez is the town our readers like to visit when it’s time to slow down and enjoy life, Southern style. Events–such as annual spring and fall pilgrimages–draw thousands to Natchez, creating a celebratory atmosphere. Inns housed in gorgeous antebellum homes help create romantic weekends for weddings or other special occasions. Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 647-6724,

Best Large Hotel Hotel Monteleone • Travelers have many hotel choices in New Orleans’ French Quarter, but the clear favorite among our readers is the Hotel Monteleone on Royal Street. Here, luxury (AAA Four Diamonds) and history meld together to create memorable experiences. The great location is near the Quarter’s wonderful restaurants, boutiques, and attractions. When you’re finished exploring, relax in one of the 600 rooms or suites. The hotel also is pet friendly. Hotel Monteleone, (504) 523-3341,

Best Small Hotel Eola Hotel • The Eola Hotel on Pearl Street in Natchez, Miss., is a Southern architectural gem. Built in 1927, the 131-room AAA Two Diamond hotel is in the heart of downtown. Slow down the pace relaxing in the charming courtyard or take a carriage ride to nearby antebellum mansions. Walk to attractions, shops, and riverboat casinos. When you return, modern conveniences–like wireless Internet, refrigerators, microwaves, and whirlpool tubs–are ready to enjoy. Eola Hotel, (601) 445-6000,

Best Bed & Breakfast Grand Victorian B&B • The Garden District in New Orleans is noted for stately homes that remind passersby of an era from the past. Mansions and streetcars are part of the landscape here, and it’s the location of our readers’ favorite bed and breakfast, the Grand Victorian on St. Charles Avenue. Eight units are spread out in the three-story AAA Three Diamond inn that was designed and built in 1893 by New Orleans architect Thomas Sully. Grand Victorian, (504) 895-1104,

Best Fall Color Spot Great Smoky Mountains National Park • It’s tough not to find a fall vista in the Smokies that will take your breath away. Waterfalls, old mills, varied wildlife, plus mountains painted with nature’s red, gold, orange, and yellow make driving through America’s most visited park an unforgettable experience. To avoid traffic congestion in October, consult with AAA Travel counselors who can help you plan a route. Get a mobile visitors guide for the iPhone at

Best Day Tour from Jackson, Miss. Vicksburg, Miss. • This was the city each army in the Civil War viewed as its key to final victory. History is thick here, with the impressive national military park, museums, tours, and re-enactments. You’ll also enjoy the varied cultural opportunities and special events. Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 221-3536,


Oak Alley Plantation, with its 28 live oaks, dates to 1839. Louisiana Office of Tourism photo

Best Day Tour from Little Rock, Ark. Hot Springs, Ark. • Generations of travelers have come to the Oauchita Mountain springs, initially to be healed, and then simply to relax. Experience historical bathhouses, such as the Buckstaff, in the national park here, or visit the spas at one of several hotels in town. Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 772-2489,

Best Day Tour from New Orleans, La. Great River Road Plantations • Between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is a road that’s steeped in history, beauty, and romance. Plantations, like Oak Alley in Vacherie that’s pictured on the right, offer tours, as well as dining and overnight accommodations (AAA Three Diamonds). New Orleans Plantation Country, (866) 204-7782,

Best Civil War Battlefield Vicksburg National Military Park • Vicksburg, Miss., on the Mississippi River was vitally important for the Confederates to defend and for the Federals to capture. From March to July in 1863, the campaign for Vicksburg cost both sides dearly. The largest burial site for Union soldiers and sailors–17,000–is here. See cannons, buildings, and other sites on the driving tour. Don’t miss the USS Cairo Gunboat and corresponding museum. Vicksburg National Military Park, (601) 636-0583,

Best Fishing Weekend Gulfport, Miss. • If you want to catch the trophy fish, anglers know you have to go where the fish are biting, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, according to our readers, is the place. Some 50 charter boat companies are on the coast, or you can cast from the shore or a pier. After a day on the water, try your luck in one of the casinos, or grill your catch at the condo or beachfront home. Mississippi Gulf Coast, (888) 467-4853,

Best Heritage Trail Mississippi Blues Trail • It’s described as a museum without walls. Blues music is the soundtrack for the South, and fans know the roots go back to Mississippi. Markers (154 overall) are scattered across the state, as well as 10 outside Mississippi, and tell the story of musicians and their music. Birth homes, including B.B. King’s birthplace in Berclair, are part of the trail. There are museums, performance venues, and graves. For music buffs, following the Mississippi Blues Trail is a little like a holy pilgrimage.

News about the Blues Trail
The Blues Foundation, 421 S. Main St., in Memphis, Tenn., is the Mississippi Blues Trail’s newest addition. The foundation in May received the trail’s 154th marker. The Foundation is an international network of blues appreciation, and has its own Hall of Fame.

Beau Rivage

Beau Rivage Resort and Casino photo

Best Casino/Gaming Destination Mississippi Gulf Coast • With 12 casinos, including the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino (AAA Four Diamond hotel) that’s pictured above, Mississippi’s Gulf Coast has something for every gaming enthusiast’s taste. In addition to gaming action, visitors to the coast can enjoy headlining entertainment, fine dining, spas, shops, and more. Mississippi Gulf Coast, (888) 467-4853,

Best Attraction The National WWII Museum, New Orleans • Originally opened in 2000 as the National D-Day Museum, this attraction has grown to include a 4-D theater, restaurant, and a space for live performances, with an expansion on the way. The U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center is scheduled to open next year and will tell the story of America’s industrial capability during the war years. History is anything but dull here. AAA members save up to $2 on admission. National WWII Museum, (504) 528-1944,

Best Spa Destination Hot Springs, Ark. • Readers love Hot Springs as a day tour from Little Rock, and this historical city also gets the nod as the South’s best spa getaway. With more than 40 thermal springs, historical bathhouses, and spas offering a variety of treatments and classes, Hot Springs has been a destination for healing and rejuvenation for centuries. Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 772-2489,

Best Brunch Commander’s Palace • This AAA Four Diamond restaurant in New Orleans’ Garden District has a legendary jazz brunch, with the special menu including its signature turtle soup, plus eggs, champagne-soaked crabmeat, biscuits, and the eye-opening yellow tomato Bloody Mary. Commander’s Palace, (504) 899-8221,

Best Fine Dining Restaurant Galatoire’s • Committed to serving the finest French Creole cuisine for four generations, Galatoire’s (AAA Two Diamonds) is the New Orleans restaurant our readers like to visit to savor, linger, and celebrate. Thankfully, the menu is recognized by regulars, while first-time guests struggle with what to choose for perhaps their most memorable meal. Galatoire’s, (504) 525-2021,

Here’s how your other favorites stacked up in this year’s voting.

Best Large City
Memphis, Tenn., second
Jackson, Miss., third

Best Small City
Natchitoches, La., second
Oxford, Miss., third

Best Large Hotel
The Peabody, Little Rock, Ark., second;
Grand Hotel, Point Clear, Ala., third

Best Small Hotel
Church Street Inn, Natchitoches, La., second;
Fairview Inn, Jackson, Miss., third

Best B&B
Inn at Rose Hall, Eureka Springs, Ark., second;
Linden, Natchez, Miss., third

Best Fall Color
Natchez Trace, second
Hot Springs, Ark., third

Best Day Tour/Jackson
Natchez Trace, second
Columbus, Miss., third

Best Day Tour/Little Rock
Eureka Springs, Ark., second
Heber Springs, Ark., third

Best Day Tour/New Orleans
Lafayette, La., second
Baton Rouge, La., third

Best Civil War Battlefield
Corinth/Shiloh, Miss./Tenn., second
Natchez Military Park, third

Best Fishing Weekend
Buffalo National River, Ark., second
Caddo Lake, Texas, third

Best Heritage Trail
Trail of Tears, Ark./Okla., second
El Camino Real, La./Texas, third

Best Gaming Destination
New Orleans, second
Tunica, Miss., third

Best Attraction
NASA Space Center, Texas, second
Clinton Center, Little Rock, Ark., third

Best Spa Destination
Mississippi Gulf Coast, second
Eureka Springs, Ark., third

Best Sunday Brunch
Brennan’s, New Orleans, second
View three tempting recipes from Brennan’s, the venerable New Orleans restaurant, will make your next brunch the talk of the town.

Court of Two Sisters, New Orleans, third

Best Fine Dining Restaurant
Sophia’s, Jackson, Miss., second
Ashley’s, Little Rock, Ark., third

Congratulations to these readers • Haley L. of Washington, La., will receive a 2012 AAA Atlas. • Steven P. of Ocean Springs, Miss., will receive a $50 gift card. Thanks to all our readers who voted in the 2012 Best of the South poll.


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