Best Historic Southern Attraction (2015)


From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, the South has witnessed some of the most important moments in American history. We asked USA TODAY 10Best readers to help us pick the best of the best historic Southern attractions, and after four weeks of voting, we have a winner!

  • Graceland


    Graceland is one of the most-visited private homes in the nation. Every year, more than 600,000 people go to Elvis Presley’s former estate in Memphis. This revival-style mansion on nearly 14 acres is more than just an inside look at the famous musician’s life; it’s a symbol to fans of the American Dream. Elvis lived in Graceland for more than 20 years, and he died here, too. Today, Graceland is a National Historic Landmark and museum that is open to the public. Take a guided iPad tour, walk through the meditation garden or even rent the space here for special events, like weddings.
    Photo courtesy of Tennessee Department of Tourist Development

  • Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

    Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

    This nearly 4,000-acre national park is home to the town Harpers Ferry, a historically noteworthy town of the 19th century. Visitors enjoy both history and outdoor recreation here, in a region that feels like you’ve traveled back in time. Harpers Ferry is a National Historic Park and National Monument where you can learn about John Brown’s attempt to overthrow slavery, see historic battlefields and hike through nature along the river. With the unique combination of attractions – cultural, educational, active and relaxing – it’s no wonder nearly 500,000 people visit Harpers Ferry every year.
    Photo courtesy of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

  • Little Rock Central High School

    Little Rock Central High School
    Little Rock

    Visitors flock to Little Rock’s famous Central High School for ranger-led tours through the halls where the desegregation of American public schools first began to blossom. In the 1950s, nine African-American students made history when they insisted they had the right to attend this then-all-white school. Central High School is a National Historic Site, complete with a visitor center across the street, a commemorative garden and a memorial. See multimedia exhibits and learn more about the impact these nine students had on the education system and civil rights.
    Photo courtesy of gnagel

  • Edmund Pettus Bridge

    Edmund Pettus Bridge
    Selma, Ala.

    The famous Bloody Sunday conflict, when police attacked peaceful civil rights demonstrators, took place at this bridge in Selma, Ala., in the 1960s. The Edmund Pettus Bridge has become a metaphorical bridge, too – a bridge between the old and the new, a representation of the major changes in the nation at that time. After thousands of demonstrators marched across this bridge and onward to Montgomery, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.
    Photo courtesy of Carol M. Highsmith Archive / Library of Congress

  • Colonial Williamsburg

    Colonial Williamsburg
    Williamsburg, Va.

    A visit to this unique living-history museum in Virginia is like stepping back in time. Across 300-plus acres, the museum encompasses an impressive selection of historical buildings, including reconstructed, re-created and restored buildings that paint a picture for life in Colonial Virginia, back when Williamsburg was the heart of the state. Guests can browse cultural and educational museums, play golf, go shopping and even relax in the spa in and around “Revolutionary City.” This is a destination like nowhere else.
    Photo courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

  • Historic District

    Historic District
    St. Augustine, Fla.

    St. Augustine is considered the oldest city (technically, the oldest continuously-inhabited European settlement) in the nation. It was founded by Spanish settlers in 1565 – that’s 450 years ago this year. St. Augustine is famous for The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, which is considered America’s first parish. Beyond the church, the city is home to living museums, wild animal reserves, historic tours and outdoor activities. Many visitors also venture to St. Augustine on a spiritual pilgrimage.
    Photo courtesy of Stacey Sather / Image provided by

  • Arlington National Cemetery

    Arlington National Cemetery
    Arlington, Va.

    The Arlington National Cemetery is perhaps the most famous burial ground in the nation. The 600-plus acres of green hills are lined with seemingly countless white tombs. This military cemetery honors people who have lost their lives in service to the nation, from the American Civil War forward. Visitors who take a tour of the cemetery can see John F. Kennedy’s grave site, the changing of the guard and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
    Photo courtesy of U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue

  • Dexter Parsonage Museum

    Dexter Parsonage Museum
    Montgomery, Ala.

    For six years, the building that currently houses the Dexter Parsonage Museum served as the home of Martin Luther King and his family. The parsonage was the home to 12 Baptist pastors, before it was turned into a memorial and museum. Also on site: the Interpretive Center, where you can see videos, photos and discussions related to MLK and the 12 Dexter pastors, and the King-Johns Garden for Reflection, with its circle pathway that represents unity. The parsonage even contains authentic furniture that King himself is said to have used.
    Photo courtesy of Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitor Bureau

  • Appomattox Court House

    Appomattox Court House
    Appomattox, Va.

    North Virginia’s army surrendered the Civil War in the court house of Appomattox, so in some ways, this is where the new country began. People flock to this historic region today to view the full historic village – a museum, bookstore and various other buildings – and experience living history firsthand. Learn more in guided talks or from the artifacts and movies that are shown on site. Kids can participate in the Junior Ranger program, collect Civil War trading cards and sign up for summer camp.
    Photo courtesy of visionsofmaine

  • Mount Vernon

    Mount Vernon
    Mount Vernon, Va.

    Mt. Vernon, a historic site in Virginia, has roots to the nation’s first president; it was George Washington’s plantation. Visitors experience the 18th century for themselves as they stroll through the flowering grounds (four different gardens), the nearby woodlands and explore educational exhibits designed to pay tribute to Washington and his family. The on-site museum and education center takes multimedia to a whole new level, with its unique displays, including an indoor theater where it “snows.”
    Photo courtesy of Pierdelune


Graceland, the former abode of Elvis and one of the most visited private homes in the nation, took home the title of Best Historic Southern Attraction, proving that Elvis is indeed still alive, if only in his fans' memories.

Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, runner-up for Best Historic Southern Attraction, is a 4,000-acre park where visitors can learn about John Brown’s attempt to overthrow slavery, see historic battlefields and hike through nature along the river.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Historic Southern Attraction are as follows:

  1. Graceland - Memphis
  2. Harpers Ferry National Historic Park - Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
  3. Little Rock Central High School - Little Rock
  4. Edmund Pettus Bridge - Selma, Ala.
  5. Colonial Williamsburg - Williamsburg, Va.
  6. Historic District - St. Augustine, Fla.
  7. Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Va.
  8. Dexter Parsonage Museum - Montgomery, Ala.
  9. Appomattox Court House - Appomattox, Va.
  10. Mount Vernon - Mount Vernon, Va.

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Larry Bleiberg (, Tanner Latham ( and Lacy Morris (10Best Editor) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of travel in the American South.

Other nominees for Best Historic Southern Attraction included 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.; the Alamo in San Antonio; Angel Oak Tree in Johns Island, S.C.; Fort Sumter National Monument in Charleston; the Lorraine Motel in Memphis; Monticello in Charlottesville, Va.; Montpelier in Orange, Va.; Natchez Trace Parkway in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee and University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners. The contest was promoted on 10Best and USA TODAY.

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AlertThe Experts

Larry Bleiberg

Larry Bleiberg

Larry Bleiberg

Tanner Latham

Tanner Latham

Tanner Latham

Lacy Morris

Lacy Morris

Lacy Morris