The Most Charming Southern States (According to Southerners Themselves)

A new survey of 5,000 southerners rated some states higher on southern hospitality than others

Much of the South is known for having a certain charm from quirky roadside attractions and quaint small towns to friendly locals who are sweeter than sweet tea. But which state truly takes the cake when it comes to being the most charming around?

A recent survey of 5,000 Americans commissioned by Oddspedia, a sports and entertainment data and betting site aimed to uncover which states most embody southern hospitality. The top spot on the resulting Southern Hospitality Index went to Tennessee, known for its music capital and other cities full of unique charm like Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. Coming in second place just a tenth of a point behind is the big peach state, Georgia, home to the city of southern hospitality, Atlanta, and taking the third spot is coastal South Carolina.

Tied at the bottom of the index as the least charming states are Delaware (which, I’d argue, is Delaware really even the South?) and Florida, the sprawling vacation destination for many. Oddspedia’s ranking was based on charm, politeness, helpfulness, and friendliness of each state. The 5,000 people polled were from the South and were asked to rank their own state and other southern states based on these factors.

Mississippi Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Below is the full ranking of southern states according to the Southern Hospitality Index.

1. Tennessee
2. Georgia
3. South Carolina
4. Louisiana
5. North Carolina
6. Kentucky
7. Alabama
8. Virginia
9. Texas
10. Mississippi
11. Arkansas
12. West Virginia
13. Oklahoma
14. Maryland
15. Delaware
16. Florida

Ole Miss © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The website also asked respondents to name the most charming celebrities hailing from the South and it’s no surprise that the darling patron saint sweetheart Dolly Parton took the top spot (she also hails from the top charming state as well).

With her signature wit and lovable friendly laugh, Dolly Parton has also embodied helpfulness throughout her long career. Parton has brought awareness and financial aid to a variety of causes such as childhood literacy and in 2022 she received a Courage and Civility award from billionaire Jeff Bezos which gave Parton $100 million to support charitable causes of her choosing.

If there ever was a Southern hospitality icon, it’s Dolly Parton. We’ll always love you and your Southern charm, Dolly!

Looking for more travel inspo?

Gatlinburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most charming southern small towns

The South is peppered with charming small towns. From once-thriving spa meccas to sleepy Smoky Mountain villages, there’s something for every taste. While they vary greatly in history and landscape, there’s one thing all small Southern towns have in common and that’s community. Whether you are planning to visit or are just looking for a dose of that warm Southern charm, there are plenty of hidden gems to go around. Here are the 12 most charming Southern small towns.

1. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Who doesn’t love a classic country mountain small town? Gatlinburg, Tennessee is set in the heart of the Smoky Mountain range and famous for its spot on the Appalachian Trail and seasonal celebrations. This small community of 4,144 residents also hosts a chili cookoff and Winterfest which are legendary shindigs.

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Mount Dora, Florida

Mount Dora is the definition of a laid back coastal town. Idyllic beaches, Old Florida living, and tons of gourmet restaurants are just a few things that make it so loveable. The quiet small town is known for its vast variety of antique shops for any of you vintage pickers out there. Here you’ll find just about everything from estate jewellery to rare collectables which only add to the unique atmosphere.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg is the best place in the country to brush up on colonial history. This historic small town is overflowing with colonial finds and rich stories. Not a history buff? No problem. The town is full of other things to do like craft breweries and haunted houses. There are also several opportunities for outdoor activities to keep you busy from cycling to kayaking.

Fairhope © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Fairhope, Alabama

This tiny Alabama town founded in 1894 is known for its annual shellfish phenomenon. Each year crabs, flounder, and shrimp flood the shallow bay in what’s referred to as the jubilee. There’s more to Fairbanks than that though; the cosy Alabama gem boasts its own brewery, tons of farmers markets, Museum of History, and nearby Village Point Park Reserve.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Fredericksburg, Texas

Tucked within the Texas Hill Country, you’ll find one of the most adorable small towns in the Lone Star State. Fredericksburg is famous for its incredible craft beer and wine scene and great shopping. No chain stores are allowed in the city centre and the town boasts a whopping 150 boutiques alone. Whether you’re going for wine, shopping, or just to soak up the atmosphere, you’ll leave with a smile.

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Just over 50 miles from New Orleans, Bay St. Louis blends The Big Easy’s funky, artsy feel with the mellow, barefoot vibe you can find only in a tried-and-true coastal town. The beaches are dog-friendly, the blueways (water trails) are ready for exploring, and Old Town’s French Quarter appeal can’t be beat.

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Port Aransas, Texas

Hurricane Harvey caused major damage here in 2017, but nothing can keep this resilient coastal town down. Port A remains one of the state’s main spots for fishing and its 18 miles of beautiful beaches continue to attract returning visitors and new residents.

Berea © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Berea, Kentucky

Known as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky, Berea is a dynamic spot for creators and craftspeople working across a variety of media. Many sell their wares at galleries along Chestnut Street and in both the Artisan Village and the Kentucky Artisan Center. 

Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Bardstown, Kentucky

In the center of Bourbon Country, Bardstown is a hub for whiskey lovers. New distilleries stand alongside long-lived institutions, many of which offer tours and sips in tasting rooms across the countryside. Head to Bardstown Bourbon Company for creative takes on classic Bluegrass State foods and drinks.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Helen, Georgia

Take a trip to old-world Bavaria by visiting Georgia’s third-mostpopular destination. With its cross-gabled cottages, steeply pitched roofs, and German flags flying in the breeze, this hamlet packs oodles of character into just 2.1 square miles. The annual Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market), glühwein (mulled wine), and the occasional snow flurry make Helen a bucket list getaway.

Seaside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Seaside, Florida

Seaside is that perfect Florida getaway, especially when you are looking for one of those small towns in the south that feels like a resort community! Known for its urban design, the pastel-colored houses and large porches and fences look like they are truly from a postcard. At Seaside you can enjoy long stretches of sandy beaches, pavilions, and even Grayton Beach State Park which features a variety of trails and a costal dune lake.

Wetumpka © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Wetumpka, Alabama

The name, Wetumpka, is a Creek Indian word meaning rumbling waters describing the sound of the nearby Coosa River. The Coosa River flows through the middle of the city dividing the historic business district from its residential counterpart. Bibb Graves Bridge, a focal point of the City was built in 1937. Proceed across the Bridge to the largely residential west side and discover a number of historic and beautiful homes and churches within a five-block area mainly on Tuskeena Street. On the largely historic business district east side, the Wind Creek Casino overlooks the beautiful Coosa River.

Worth Pondering…

I think, being from east Tennessee, you’re kinda born with a little lonesome in your soul, in your blood. You know you’ve got that Appalachian soul.

—Ashley Monroe

40 Things Only Southerners Will Understand

Someone once said that when you visit the South, you need a translator

Geographically speaking, anyone north of Kentucky and west of Texas won’t have a clue what we’re talking about. But if you were born or raised in the South, or travel for an extended period of time, you most definitely will relate to these 40 things.

Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Y’all better believe “y’all” is a word.

2. And y’all better believe we understand grammar just fine. But some things are tradition.

3. You know everyone in town—and all their cousins.

4. And if you need to know anything about any one of ’em, just ask Margene down at the hair parlor.

My Old Kentucky Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. A true Southerner knows that “fixin’” can be a noun, a verb, or adverb.

6. You know the difference between a hissie fit and a conniption, and that you don’t “have” them, you “pitch ‘em.”

7. Grits aren’t just a breakfast staple. They’re a potluck mainstay when smothered with cheese and baked in a 9 x 13.

Related: 5 Things I Learned While RVing The American South

8. Y’all know, with absolute certainty, that anything can be fried, eaten, and enjoyed.

Hot sauces © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. You like to fry everything—fried bananas, fried shrimp, fried chicken, and especially hush puppies, which are the best!

10. Favorite Foods. Cornbread, biscuits and gravy, turkey dressing (not stuffing!), peach cobbler, grits, collard greens, fried okra, jambalaya, and jumbo, and of course, irresistibly rich chocolate cake topped with pecans and more chocolate.

11. A meal without collard greens is no meal at all. It’s a staple of the South, and don’t you forget it.

12. And, yes, we ask for hot sauce at every meal.

Mississippi Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. You know tomatoes with eggs, bacon, grits, and coffee are perfectly wonderful; that red eye gravy is also a breakfast food, and that fried green tomatoes are not a breakfast food.

14. Sweet tea is the only kind of tea. Get out of here with your unsweetened crap.

15. You could never and should never ring in the New Year without having some black-eyed peas. These good luck charms are the only way to make it the best year possible.

16. Honey, sugar, dumpling, pumpkin, and sweetie pie are usually not referring to food.

GrandDaddy’s BBQ, Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

17. The squeak of a porch swing and the slam of a screen door will always make you feel at home.

18. Anything beyond the front door is the porch.

Related: Spotlight on South Carolina: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

19. Which is where you like to have your tea, ice-cold, and sweet. (And your gossip hot.)

20. It’s not that we’ve partied in a barn but that we party in barns.

Truth BBQ, Brennan, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

21. With or without moonshine. Usually with. Shhh…it’s delicious with apple juice and simple syrup.

22. We take our whiskey and bourbon very seriously.

23. We’re able to orient ourselves based on which church is on what corner.

24. You know someone of nearly every denomination. You’ve got your Lutherans, your Catholics, your Baptists, your Presbyterians, your Methodists…seriously, the list goes on and on.

Woodford Reserve Distillery, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

25. It’s not a shopping cart, it’s a buggy.

26. Here’s the thing: In the South, football is a lifestyle. From tailgating to the food to the family atmosphere, it’s more than just a game.

27. College sports rivalries are a religion to us. You’re a Tarheel or you’re a Blue Devil. It’s ‘Bama or Auburn. There is no in-between.

28. We will drive hours on a Saturday to go to the big college game day—even as adults, even if we didn’t technically go to that college.

Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

29. Speaking of manners, you were grounded multiple times as a kid for forgetting your “yes ma’am”s and “yes sir”s.

30. Only Southerners grow up knowing the difference between “right near” and “a right far piece.” They also know that “just down the road” can be 1 mile or 20.

31. Only Southerners make friends while standing in lines. We don’t do “queues,” we do “lines”; and when we’re “in line,” we talk to everybody!

32. It is courteous to hold the door open for someone, even if they’re 20 feet away.

The Coming King Sculpture Prayer Garden, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

33. An inch of snow can shut down a whole state.

34. No summer is complete without a big ol’ crawfish boil and a family game of cornhole.

35. Catching lightning bugs in mason jars was one of your favorite childhood pastimes.

36. Along with falling asleep to the sweet lullaby of cricket chirps and toad croaks.

Waterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

37. You’re not ashamed to admit it: You definitely own some camo.

38. And, no, you’re not afraid to get a little mud on your tires. Or your boots.

39. Don’t even think about scheduling something on a Sunday because everything’s closed except church.

40. But if you want to stop by for some biscuits later, just holler!

Ambrosia Bakery, Baton Rouge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And to those of you who are still having a hard time understanding all this Southern stuff, bless your hearts, I hear they are fixin’ to have classes on Southernness as a second language!

And for those that are not from the South but have lived here for a long time, ya’ll need a sign to hang on ya’lls front porch that reads “I ain’t from the South but I got here as fast as I could.”

Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bless your hearts, ya’ll have a blessed day.

Worth Pondering…

Y’all come back now, ya hear?