Only in the South can you find quaint sidewalks paved with passion, mom-and-pop restaurants that scent the air with delicious notes of buttermilk and homemade sweet and savory jams, and storefronts designed around “sitting a spell” among friends instead of hurriedly hopping from one spot to the next.
There’s something about that Southern charm that keeps groups craving a bigger helping of the South. But some of the biggest charmers in the region aren’t very big at all. From coastal county destinations where locals take their time chatting over extended lunches to mountainous municipalities where the only thing sweeter than the tea is the person serving it to you, here are a few of our top picks for the most charming Southern small towns that welcome groups.
Bay St. Louis
From fresh seafood to a thriving arts community, the waterfront town of Bay St. Louis captures the full essence of small-town America. Groups can stroll through historic Old Town Bay St. Louis for a taste of one of the local coffeehouse’s signature brews before relaxing on a bench under a 200-year-old oak tree while enjoying the passage of time.
The Old Town features more than 50 shops, galleries and restaurants, but those storefronts aren’t the typical small-town setups. Shops in the town include one owned by a contestant on HGTV’s “Next Design Star”; one that features the works of Lori Gordon, an artist whose works are also on display at the Smithsonian; and one that features the town’s signature — and delicious — Bay St. Louis muffins.
“A trip to Bay St. Louis wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Lazy Magnolia Brewery to taste their award-winning Southern Pecan Beer,” said Taryn Pratt Sammons, media relations manager for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I also love a laid-back Sunday in Bay St. Louis. St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and after the service, it’s easy to head down to Old Town for brunch at the Buttercup for their crawfish etouffee-smothered omelet.”
Located just 12 miles east of the iconic town of Williamsburg, Yorktown is one of the few villages to remain much as it was during the waning days of the American Revolution. The combination of the historical splendor of an all-American town and a riverfront destination make this spot a great destination for groups that hope to become enchanted by a small town.
“Although Yorktown is best known as the site where America won its independence, you can be sure that no battles are being fought here today,” said Kristi Olsen, tourism development manager for York County Parks, Recreation and Tourism. “Today, Yorktown is a charming and peaceful riverside village. We claim to be the sharpest point of the Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown.”
Most Yorktown visitors spend their time touring the Yorktown Victory Center, Yorktown Battlefield, the Watermen’s Museum, and the York County Historical Museum. But there’s so much more to do in the little village: Visitors can dine overlooking the York River; take a Segway tour around town; or attend the many wonderful free community events, such as the weekly farmers markets, the beach music concert series and numerous wine festivals.