The Old South

During late spring and summer, two southern jewels—Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia—glow bright and attract big crowds. Head there during the region's mild winters, however, and you can embrace all of that southern charm for a song.
By Emily Matchar
Sunset over the bridge in Savannah
EARLY SUNSET: Winter in Savannah means thin crowds and lazy nights. (Nat Girish/Photodisc/Getty)

Visiting the South may be as close as you can get to traveling through time in the United States. The antebellum years transformed the region, giving birth to still-splendid cosmopolitan cities, plantations rivaling the great country homes of Europe, the oft-heralded southern hospitality, and a regional pride that's just as passionate as it was during the "the War of Northern Aggression" (albeit heartily tempered by post-Civil-Rights perspective). As such, it's a permanent fixture on the global tourist's radar.

The area's biggest draws are the historic port cities of Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, with a combined ten million visitors a year. The busiest season for both cities is spring, when the weather's mild and the gardenias are blooming on the cobblestone lanes. The smaller southeastern coastal cities and the sea islands of Georgia and South Carolina are hopping with vacationers in summer, which begins as early as May and stretches through the end of September. But come late fall, the rush has died down by as much as 80 percent, and you can have both the cities and the beaches practically to yourself through early spring. And while there's the expected bump in tourism and prices during the week of Christmas and New Year's, the other winter months see a drop in crowds—and costs.

Of course, temperatures can be a bit chilly in fall and winter. But we're talking comfortably brisk, sweater-and-scarf weather, not down parka time. Expect highs in the low 60s along much of the southeastern coast, with temperatures dropping into the low 40s at night.

Endure that relative chill, however, and you'll discover price cuts ranging from about 25 percent in the cities to as much as 50 percent at the shore. Look out for special fall and winter deals—many hotels and bed and breakfasts run weekday specials or "one night free" deals. Places that have two-night minimums in high season usually drop that requirement come fall and winter.

Published: 24 Dec 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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