These Popular Southeast Destinations Are Overrun with Tourists

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Waterfall view at Rock City in Lookout Mountain

What Makes Up the American Southeast?

Twelve states make up the American Southeast. These include Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Arkansas. 

10 Southeast Tourist Destinations that Get Swamped with Visitors

The Southeast has many terrific destinations, so it is no wonder why people flock to the region. While you can still find many great places with fewer crowds, many get swamped with visitors. Let’s take a look at a few of the more crowded destinations.  

#1. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Location: Tennessee

A stone outdoor sign welcomes visitors to the gateway of the Smoky Mountains: Gatlinburg.
Gatlinburg: Gateway to the Smoky Mountains

About:

Gatlinburg lies in the far southeast portion of the state of Tennessee. It borders the busiest national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Gatlinburg area consists of two atmospheres: the national park and touristy theaters and shopping. Whether you love fine dining or getting out in nature, you can find plenty to do in Gatlinburg.

How to Avoid the Crowds:

Summer and fall are the busiest seasons in Gatlinburg. Summer has ideal temperatures, and fall gives beautiful colors, but these aren’t the best times to visit if you want to avoid the crowds. When you visit in the spring, you’ll find fewer crowds, magnificent wildlife, and flowers waking from their winter slumber.  

Is It Worth the Hype?

The area’s natural features are well worth visiting, but the commercialism might slightly turn off nature lovers.

If the national park is the goal, you might prefer a less commercialized area to access the park. Those who enjoy shopping, museums, mini-golf, dinner shows, and nature will enjoy the area.  

#2. World of Coca-Cola, Georgia

Location: 121 Baker Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30313

About:

Coca-Cola has become an American icon. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know at least a little about the brand.

The World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta brings the whole family together to experience the world-famous beverage in a multimedia experience. 

How to Avoid the Crowds:

The early bird gets the soda. Enter the World of Coca-Cola to avoid the crowds as soon as they open. The average visitor explores the venue in around two hours.

By the time you’ve completed your time, the masses will begin flooding in, and you’ll walk away with fun memories without having to fight through crowds. 

Is It Worth the Hype?

Even those who don’t hold Coca-Cola near and dear to their heart may enjoy their experience, and those who are big fans of the brand will enjoy it even more.

The World of Coca-Cola is an interactive experience complete with plenty of history, a fun tasting experience, and even a look at the bottling process. 

#3. Walt Disney World, Florida

Location: Orlando, Florida

About:

Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is known worldwide. The complex is 25,000 acres and consists of four major theme parks, two waterparks, 27 themed resort hotels, a campground, and other attractions and accommodations. Visitors can enjoy rides, shopping, and world-class restaurants without leaving the property. 

How to Avoid the Crowds:

It is tough to find a time when Disney isn’t busy. The busiest times at Walt Disney World include any time school’s out for a break and all major holidays. To avoid crowds as much as possible, visit in September or late January.

Is It Worth the Hype?

Possibly. Disney is one of those places where you likely either love it or hate it. Theme parks aren’t for everyone. Many families and couples walk away from Disney feeling joy from a magical vacation, while others walk away exhausted and overwhelmed. Be realistic in your expectations. Disney may be a bucket list destination everyone should experience at least once. 

#4. Bourbon Street, Louisiana

Address: New Orleans, Louisiana

About:

Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, dates back to 1718. It may surprise you that it is named for the French royal family versus the amber-colored alcohol. This famous road extends 13 blocks and sees almost 18 million visitors yearly. It is known for its sprawling bars and balconies. 

How to Avoid the Crowds:

Bourbon street is popping in the weeks before and during Mardi Gras. The dates of Mardi Gras change each year based on that year’s Easter. February 3rd is the earliest Mardi Gras, with March 9th being the latest. To see fewer crowds visit in the fall. 

Is It Worth the Hype?

New Orleans has so much culture, history, food, and sites to explore. By day, families enjoy exploring the colorfully decorated balconies, and by night, the age crowds may enjoy the bars, clubs, and party scene. It is worth the hype as long as you go for your group’s appropriate time.

Traveler’s Tip: Louisiana has so much more to see than just New Orleans. Check out these 7 small towns that serve up an authentic Louisiana experience.

#5. Graceland, Tennessee

Location: Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, Tennessee 38116

About:

Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, is the chance to experience a bit of where Elvis grew up and enjoyed life with his family. The 120 acres showcase the life and career of this American legend, known as the King of Rock ‘n Roll.

You can see records, famous clothing pieces, and even classic cars. You can also stay at Graceland’s resort, “The Guest House at Graceland.”  

How to Avoid the Crowds:

Graceland is busiest during the summer when school is out of session and the holiday season. Summer can feature hot temperatures and long lines.

While Christmas time gets cold, the holiday lights can bring crowds. To avoid this, visit during the day when school is in session. 

Is It Worth The Hype? 

If you are not an Elvis fan, you might find yourself wondering why so many people flock here. Seeing relics from Elvis’ time simply may not impress you.

Those old enough to enjoy Elvis in his prime or those who have come to enjoy his music after may appreciate what Graceland has to offer. 

#6. Hilton Head, South Carolina

Location: Hilton Head, South Carolina

About:

This coastal town features 12 miles of Atlantic beachfront. Hilton Head lies about 20 miles north of Savannah, Georgia, and 95 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina.

Visitors can enjoy sitting by the seaside while having great dining and shopping at their disposal. 

How to Avoid the Crowds:

The year-round population of Hilton Head nears 37,000, but during the height of the summer, crowds can soar to over 150,000 people.

Summer brings great weather but also a sea of people. To enjoy great weather but fewer people, visit late summer to early fall months once family summer vacations have ended. 

Is It Worth the Hype?

This is a beautiful coastal area with everything you need nearby. It is easily accessible and has plenty of accommodations.

With that said, plenty of seaside towns have much of the same with far fewer visitors. You may find yourself more satisfied if you branch out a bit and explore some of the lesser-known areas a few miles north or south of Hilton Head.

Traveler’s Tip: Learn how to experience Hilton Head like a local.

#7. Biltmore Estate, North Carolina

Location: One Lodge Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28803

About:

The Biltmore Estate in North Carolina just might be the closest thing to a castle our country has to offer. The 8,000-acre estate features great dining, shopping, and even nature trails. Visitors can tour the massive and luxurious property, enjoy wine tastings, and even view the artwork. 

How to Avoid the Crowds:

Weekends are substantially more crowded than weekdays. Plan your visit for mid-week to enjoy an estate with a bit more breathing room. 

Is It Worth the Hype?

The Biltmore Estate is beautiful. You can find beauty everywhere, from the well-maintained grounds to the awe-inspiring mansion.

Some do feel the area is overhyped and overpriced. Though it’s well-loved by many visitors, be prepared to spend a pretty penny enjoying the estate. 

#8. Rock City, Georgia

Location: 1400 Patten Rd, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750

About:

Rock City lies along the border of Georgia and Tennessee in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, only a few miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee. The area features large ancient rock formations, gardens, and beautiful views.

Visitors can view seven states from the top on a clear day. Rock City is a place to get close to nature while still close to modern conveniences such as lodging, dining, and shopping.  

How to Avoid the Crowds:

Fall in Rock City is beautiful, but it also brings many tourists. Visit Rock City in the spring months for a chance to view beautiful blooming flowers while having a bit of space. If you must visit during the fall, do so on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowd. 

Is It Worth the Hype?

There is an “Enchanted Trail” that both children and adults will enjoy. The views are beautiful, especially in the fall. However, the most scenic time to visit is when everyone else wants to go. You may not get a great chance to enjoy the views when other people surround you. It is worth the visit if you can go during a less busy time. 

#9. The Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Location: Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, Florida 32953

About:

Kennedy Space Center is found along the “Space Coast” in east-central Florida. The center features thousands of experiences, including artifacts to view, interactive exhibits, and even simulators. Visitors will see real-life space shuttles and learn about the program from experts.  

How to Avoid the Crowds:

Weekends and school breaks bring many tourists to Kennedy Space Center. To avoid the highest crowds, visit during the morning hours mid-week. 

Is It Worth the Hype?

Space lovers may feel in awe as they experience the Kennedy Space Center. Some great exhibits and interactive features engage visitors of all ages. This is one of those educational and entertaining experiences which makes for a great trip. 

#10. Mammoth Cave National Park

Location: Kentucky

About:

While Mammoth Cave National Park is known for its cave system, it also features a hilly landscape with deep river valleys and many plants and animals.

You can go on cave tours fit for any age and ability. The park is over 52,000 acres with lots to explore. Mammoth cave is the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 420 surveyed passageways. 

How to Avoid the Crowds:

The cave stays a constant 54 degrees all year long, which is great for those visiting just for the caverns. This means that you can avoid the summer crowds and still have the same great experience in the winter months. If you can’t visit during the winter, try visiting on a weekday in the spring. 

Is It Worth the Hype?

This cave brings fun for the whole family. You can get a raw look at something you don’t usually see. It is not over-commercialized, allowing you to enjoy it without the gimmicks. Mammoth Cave National Park is worth the visit.  

Time to Visit the Southeast?

The Southeast is a great place to escape, especially during the winter. With everyone flocking south for warmer weather, getting away from the crowds can pose a challenge. If you can visit during the off-season and avoid the tourists, you can enjoy many experiences. 

From museums, unique attractions, and natural landscapes, the Southeast has something to offer for all kinds of travelers. What are your favorite southeastern destinations that are lesser-known?

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