Bright Lights, Big City: The South

Author: Alecia Pirulis


Sipping margaritas while lounging on the beach in Miami; enjoying mint juleps on a wide veranda overlooking a horse farm in Louisville; having sweet iced tea on a sultry evening beneath oak trees dripping with moss in Atlanta … the relaxed, unhurried South is a medley of amazing cities, similar yet different, blending to form one amazing image like a kaleidoscope’s artful mix of colors and shapes.

If the laid-back lifestyle, the history, the warm weather, or that famous Southern hospitality is calling you, here are just a few of the South’s major cities to consider.

Miami, Florida: This hub of banking is the nation’s fourth-largest urban area. It is home to several major national and international companies and the Port of Miami is considered the “Cruise Capital of the World.” Miami’s vibrant art and music scene is legendary. The city is home to one of the largest performing arts centers in the US, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. The beaches are also legendary – residents of Miami can often be found soaking up the sun, surfing, swimming, snorkeling, boating, fishing, and jet-skiing. Warm temperatures year-round means you can ditch that heavy winter coat, snow boots, and gloves in favor of flip-flops and tank tops.

Atlanta, Georgia: As the diamond in the South’s tiara, Atlanta truly is the belle of the ball. As the nation’s ninth-largest metro area, Atlanta is home to the world’s busiest airport, has one of the nation’s strongest economies, and is a communication hub – it is home to CNN, TBS, TWC, and Cox Enterprises. Since 2005, Atlanta has also become a major player in film and television, with production facilities that include Turner Studios, Williams Street Productions, EUE/Screen Gems soundstages, and Tyler Perry Studios. Atlanta is also the “Zombie Capital of the World.” Atlanta’s impressive list of important businesses and places also includes the headquarters for Home Depot, Coca-Cola, and the CDC. Atlanta is also home to the world’s largest indoor aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, the Carter Center and Presidential Library, and several museums.

Louisville, Kentucky: Named a Top Travel Destination, one of America’s Most Livable cities, and a top Food City, the lure of Louisville doesn’t stop at the Kentucky Derby. Louisville is one of the oldest cities west of the Appalachian Mountains, founded by George Rogers Clark in 1778. Located in the heart of the Bluegrass Region along the Ohio River, Louisville is a beautiful city consisting of flat plains and rolling hills. Downtown Louisville is a mix of history and progress, with skyscrapers blending with older historical structures. West Main Street has one of the largest collections of cast iron facades, and Old Louisville is the country’s largest historic district featuring Victorian homes. Louisville is home to the University of Louisville and many large companies, such as Humana, Brown-Forman, Papa John’s Pizza, and CafePress, Inc.

New Orleans, Louisiana: Creole cuisine, the cool sounds of jazz, Mardi Gras, and the curves of lacy balconies overlooking the French Quarter illustrate what makes the Big Easy such an enduring and beloved city. Stroll down Bourbon Street in the evening and marvel at 19th century mansions. Learn the mysterious and haunting history of this southern treasure, a city with a history dating back to 1718. Tourists come to the city for the food, the music, the nightlife, and the sports, but New Orleans is also home to one of the world’s busiest ports and is a major center of petroleum and natural gas production.

Nashville, Tennessee: You can’t think “country music” and not think “Nashville.” But it isn’t just the music that makes Nashville an amazing destination. Nashville is growing fast and people are noticing: the city is among the best for job growth and it is considered one of the best places to being a technology business. Not to mention the food, the shopping, the museums, and the honky-tonks. The CMA Music Festival is held here annually, as is the Tennessee State Fair. Visitors come to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry House, and the Opryland USA theme park. And while Nashville is the heart of the country music industry with Music Row housing the headquarters of major and independent music labels, Nashville is also home to 300 health care companies, Vanderbilt University, and Nissan North America.

Montgomery, Alabama: Although not quite as large as Birmingham, Montgomery is catching up quick. The city, incorporated in 1819, is situated along the Alabama River. It is the state capital and the county seat of Montgomery County. But while this charming city has a thriving economy based in government, agriculture, and distribution, Montgomery is also home to several major universities, including Alabama State University, Troy University, and Auburn University-Montgomery. Maxwell Air Force Base is also located here and is headquarters of Air University. Montgomery represents the often tumultuous history of the south and played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the city has a thriving cultural scene featuring music, art, and museums.

Richmond, Virginia: Located along the James River, the city of Richmond can be traced back to 1737. Because it resembled a town in England along the River Thames named Richmond, the town was named in its honor. Richmond played a critical role in history – it was here that Patrick Henry proclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death” in 1775. During the Revolution, the colonial capital was moved to Richmond from Williamsburg. And during the Civil War, Richmond once again found itself a capital – this time of the Confederacy. With its collection of historic districts, riverfront location, and rolling hills, Richmond is a beautiful city. In addition to many Fortune 500 companies, Richmond is also home to several colleges and universities, including Virginia Commonwealth University.