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Great Summer Getaways: The South

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NoDerog

Relax at the beach and soak up the sun when you visit Marco Island, Fla.

En español | Some parts of the South can get steamy in the summer, but there are plenty of destinations that are wonderful all year round. And you might even find some deals when the weather warms.

Marco Island, Fla.

With 30 miles of powder-soft white-sand beaches, Marco Island in southwest Florida — across the bridge from Naples and at the edge of the Everglades — is the largest of what’s known as the Ten Thousand Islands. It’s also a launching pad for loads of outdoor fun year-round. You can grab a paddle and kayak your way through the islands and mangrove estuaries, go on a seashell hunt along the shoreline (they even have seashell tours), spot frolicking dolphins and dine on the freshest seafood at the Little Bar Restaurant or the Oyster Society. The best part is relaxing as the sun melts into the Gulf of Mexico at day’s end. Accommodations include a swank Marriott resort, smaller hotels and lots of home rentals.

Oxford, Miss.

Dubbed the “Cultural Mecca of the South,” it’s easy to see why artists, musicians and writers find inspiration in this charming college town (home to the University of Mississippi). Bibliophiles will want to stop in the multistoried Square Books and take a walking tour of the town’s rich literary heritage — including a stop at Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner. For music, go shopping at vinyl record shops, visit the Mississippi Blues Archives at Ole Miss, and catch a show at the Lyric Oxford theater. A good bet for dining: the hugely popular City Grocery known for its seasonal, farm-to-table Southern dishes. Affordable accommodation options abound, including chain hotels, cute downtown B&Bs (the Z) and the stylish Graduate Oxford.

Cataloochee Ranch Horseback Riding

Bill Harbin

Horseback riding is a great adventure to consider when visiting Cataloochee Ranch in North Carolina.

Haywood County, N.C.

Asheville is the big draw in this lovely region of North Carolina, but Haywood County, 20 miles to the west, is dotted with charming mountain towns like Waynesville and Maggie Valley, as well as sweeping landscapes and coveted cooler summer temps. Great Smoky Mountain National Park makes the area a haven for hiking, fishing, biking, golfing, whitewater rafting and more. You can rent cabins or camp in the park, or stay at one of the area’s cushier golf resorts or, for a luxurious mountaintop resort, try the Swag. There’s also Cataloochee Ranch in Maggie Valley: Hearty breakfasts and dinners are included, and they offer horseback-riding and bird-watching tours. 

Kiawah Island, S.C.

It would be hard to find a nicer beach break than Kiawah Island, a barrier island just under 30 miles from downtown Charleston, which is known for its 10 miles of dog-friendly beaches and maritime forest. Pick your spot and soak up the sun, play one of the island’s award-winning golf courses, or hop into a kayak and paddle the island’s saltwater creeks, keeping an eye out for dolphins. Ornithologists flock here for the birds; more than 200 species call the island home, from the smallest hummingbirds to bald eagles. But it's all about relaxation on Kiawah: Give in to island time and simply let go, whether at a vacation rental home or in the lap of luxury at the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

Knoxville, Tenn.

Art, sports, outdoor fun, dog friendliness and more combine to make this town a fun choice for a summer getaway. Stop into the Knoxville Museum of Art to check out Richard Jolley’s “Cycle of Life,” one of the largest glass-and-steel works of art in the world; visit the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame; or tour Knoxville’s craft distillery, Knox Whiskey Works. You can hop on a bike and explore the city’s 65 miles of greenways or walk the trails of the 300-acre Ijams Nature Center. Try to catch a show at the gorgeous, historic Tennessee Theatre, or on weekdays hear some bluegrass, blues, folk or funk music at the "WDVX Blue Plate Special," a live performance radio show. Stay downtown, where the many options include the pet-friendly Hilton Knoxville and, on the boutique side, the Oliver Hotel.

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