Georgia: Belly Up to Atlanta
The people have spoken, and what they've said—at online reader ratings sites such as TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, and Yelp—can guide you to some of the hottest/coolest eats in Atlanta. A top vote-getter is Seasons 52, a grill and wine bar emphasizing freshly harvested food and "exceptional taste with fewer calories." FLIP Burger Boutique garners raves for its "fine dining between two buns," and longtime chic dining spot Bacchanalia still gets top marks in the pricey-but-worth-it category. What to do between meals? Wash it all down at the World of Coca-Cola, a Yahoo! Travel reader favorite.
•LOGISTICS: Downtown is a ten-mile drive from Atlanta International Airport. Lodging: Stonehurst Place. Historic midtown home, five suites, from $199; www.stonehurstplace.com. Dining: Seasons 52, www.seasons52.com; FLIP, www.flipburgerboutique.com; Bacchanalia, www.starprovisions.com. Best link: www.atlanta.net.
Kentucky: Sippin', Singin', 'n' Abe
Decompress on the tranquil streets of Bardstown, second oldest town in Kentucky (chartered in 1790). Toast the past at the Bourbon Heritage Center or nearby distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Trace local history at the Kentucky Railway and Civil War museums. Sing along to Stephen Foster, who wrote "My Old Kentucky Home," official song of the Bluegrass State; the composer is honored with a statue, mansion, and nearby state park. A few miles southwest of town, you can visit the birthplace of Honest Abe Lincoln, which is now a national historic site.
•LOGISTICS: Bardstown is a 50-minute drive south of Louisville. Lodging: Rosemark Haven. Elegant antebellum home with antique furnishings, from $109 (children 14 and over); www.rosemarkhaven.com. Dining: The Old Talbott Tavern. Historic stagecoach stop, hearty Southern fare; www.talbotts.com. Best link: www.visitbardstown.com/tourism.
Arkansas: Ozarks Playground
A continuation of the hills and hollers that wrinkle southern Missouri, the Arkansas Ozarks provide the perfect setting for a weekend ramble. In far western Bentonville, see the humble spot where the Wal-Mart empire began. To the east lie recreational mecca Beaver Lake and the Pea Ridge National Military Park, which documents a Civil War battle. East of the lake is the easygoing town of Eureka Springs, "an Ozarks oasis in the tolerant, all-comers tradition of Key West," says writer Sheila Scarborough. Soak in the town's namesake springs or shop for crafts in its eclectic Art Colony. Farther east, Harrison is a convenient jumping-off point for float trips on the scenic Buffalo National River.
•LOGISTICS: The Arkansas Ozarks take in most of the top third of the state. Lodging: Palace Hotel and Bath House, Eureka Springs. 1901 property in downtown historic district, from $168; www.palacehotelbathhouse.com. Dining: Ermilio's Italian Home Cooking, Eureka Springs. Traditional Italian fare; www.ermilios.com. Best link: www.ozarkmountainregion.com.
Tennessee: Woo, Woo, Chattanooga
"Chattanooga is a walker's city," says writer Maryellen Duckett, "filled with museums, funky shops, and kid-friendly activities." Start your ambles on the winding Riverwalk, a 13-mile path along the Tennessee River (that's the Southern Belle riverboat you see chugging by). The Bluff View Art District is chock-a-block with shops, cafés, and museums, including the hands-on Creative Discovery Museum. Stop by the innovative Tennessee Aquarium, with its multiple habitat displays. And as for choo choos, hop on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway for a steep ascent into the surrounding mountains, or hitch a ride on the vintage Tennessee Valley Railroad.
•LOGISTICS: Chattanooga sits on the Tennessee-Georgia border, a two-hour drive northwest of Atlanta. Lodging: Bluff View Inn. Three restored historic homes in the art district, from $105; www.bluffviewinn.com. Dining: Back Inn Cafe. Fine Southern cuisine with international influences; www.bluffviewartdistrict.com/subpage.php?pageId=139. Best link: www.chattanoogafun.com.
Florida: It's About the Sea
With over 900 homes and buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, the Panhandle port of Apalachicola could keep you busy just eyeballing the real estate. But in about two seconds you'll notice a wondrous aroma wafting from any number of restaurants specializing in what the town is known for—seafood (the area harvests over 90 percent of Florida's oysters!). After a good meal, check out the Maritime Museum and the National Estuarine Research Reserve to learn more about the local heritage and environment. Visit the first weekend of November and you'll catch the annual Florida Seafood Festival, with music, crafts, and, yep, tons of seafood.
•LOGISTICS: Apalachicola is about 80 miles southwest of Tallahassee. Lodging: Apalachicola River Inn. Unpretentious riverside digs, from $119; www.apalachicolariverinn.com. Dining: Owl Cafe. Low-key local favorite, seafood in all its forms; http://owlcafeflorida.com. Best link: www.apalachicolabay.org.