The South is known to the rest of the country as the laid back, easy going area with great cooking and a fun atmosphere. But the truth is the southern part of the United States is so much more than just simple cities with a few things to do. It’s a vast area that spans from the western states near Arizona all the way to the eastern tip of Florida. The “South” is even considered to go as high up as Missouri and North Carolina. Throughout all these states, lie incredible cities and towns, both massive and tiny, each with their own distinct identities.
Some of these cities have become so popular that they have piqued the interest of the rest of the country while others are still considered hidden gems waiting to be truly appreciated. Some of these well-known cities have become part of the US conscious and have even grown to the point of becoming too overhyped with the hidden gems being vastly underrated.
Here are fifteen cities of the South that are overrated and ten more that haven’t yet gotten the love they deserve.
25 OVERHYPED: Austin Has Become Too Cool
The capital of Texas has grown to become one of the state’s most beloved cities, which probably includes the rest of the South as well. The city’s motto “Keep Austin weird” was a well-known saying throughout, aimed at making sure its unique identity of art, museums, great cooking and live band scene stayed true to Austin. And although all of that is still very much a part of the city, tens of thousands of people from around the country have flocked to the city, overcrowding it while also making it more and more “mainstream” with time.
The city is still fun, but those expecting nothing but mom and pop shops and thrift stores will be surprised to see it oversaturated with giant retailers like any other major city.
24 OVERHYPED: Miami Is Too Much for What it Offers
No one is going to argue that Miami isn’t a fun city. In fact, if fun is what you’re looking for, Miami is probably the place to go with its beautiful beaches and people along with the countless bars and clubs lined down Ocean Drive in South Beach. But all of that becomes exhausting especially at the expense of what the prices have become over the last decade, becoming inflated to the point of absurdity.
Having to pay $100 for a dinner for two at a very average ocean side restaurant for two normal plates and drinks is excessive. It’s not like the food is out of this world amazing. The beaches have become so crowded and South Beach has become a shell of its former self. Sure, it can still be fun, but temper expectations and get ready for the large crowds and empty wallets.
23 UNDERRATED: More Than Just the Thunder (Oklahoma City)
When most folks think of Oklahoma City, the famous NBA Thunder basketball team immediately comes to mind. But there is so much more to this Southern city than just Russell Westbrook and the legacy left behind by Kevin Durant. The city has its fair number of little gems throughout that any visitor would be pleasantly surprised with.
With a metro population of nearly 1.4 million, there’s more than enough to do in OKC. There is a rich culture of museums and its downtown area offers fun nightlife which includes water taxis in the Bricktown area making for a unique experience.
22 OVERHYPED: South Carolina’s Capital Underwhelms (Columbia)
No one will argue that the city of Columbia isn’t beautiful. It is one of the more beautiful cities in the South with its southern charm and small town feel, despite it being the capital of the state of South Carolina. People tend to visit Columbia by default because it’s the capital, but the unfortunate truth is there really isn’t a whole lot to do that would warrant a planned trip to the city. Columbia is more of a “stop by to visit for half a day while passing through” type of destination.
For more fun, try South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach instead, which offers beautifully immaculate beaches.
21 OVERHYPED: North Carolina’s Capital Also Underwhelms (Charlotte)
Charlotte joins our ranks of overrated Southern cities much like its sister city Columbia does – as an underwhelming capital city of the Carolinas. Charlotte is a quintessential city of the South, despite its location on the eastern coast, getting closer to the north, because of its small town and old charm feel.
Despite Charlotte being a major city with a metro population of nearly 2.5 million people, it somehow falls short in terms of matching the hype that it has garnered in the past decade.
The city sometimes falls flat and can feel fairly bland with run-of-the-mill things to do that can be found just about anywhere else.
20 UNDERRATED: Deep South Culture in Birmingham
A city that defines the “deep south” in every facet, Birmingham, Alabama is about as southern as any city can possibly get. For starters, it is located toward the southernmost part of the country, off the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf of Mexico. Considered Alabama’s most diverse city, its mix of cultures have injected it with a unique identity that combines the very typically US foods and the customs of its people.
With quintessential Southern cooking, museums dedicated to the history of the South, nightlife and underrated universities, Birmingham is truly a gem.
19 OVERHYPED: The Music Isn’t Enough for Nashville
Known to the rest of the nation as the music capital of the United States because of its birthplace of country music, Nashville has become a haven for music lovers. Much of the city’s attractions in the downtown area are centered around the country music scene which can be fun, but it has become a bit old by now.
The city is certainly a nice one, but it can sometimes feel like there’s a shortage of things to do that aren’t tied to country bars and honky-tonks.
18 UNDERRATED: Jacksonville Beaches Deserve More Love
Florida is very well known for its beautiful beaches and rightly so. There are so many along its hundreds of miles of coastlines, but one city that simply doesn’t get the attention or fanfare that it deserves is Jacksonville.
It's not a fact known to many, but Jacksonville is actually one of the biggest cities in the country in terms of size, despite having a fairly average population. With so much land to its name, visitors would be surprised to find that so much of that space is immaculately maintained beaches with the bluest waters.
17 OVERHYPED: Atlanta Seems to be Just There
Atlanta is one of America’s largest cities with a population and size that make it impressive. It is considered a major metropolis with quite a bit of economic importance to the United States in business and aviation. But for such a large city that is very much a part of the US conscious, there are a surprisingly limited number of things to do.
There’s the original Coca-Cola factory and the giant aquarium as famous tourist attractions, but those are pretty underwhelming in their own right. There are simply better things to do in other major cities in the south.
16 UNDERRATED: A Quiet Giant in Texas (San Antonio)
Although it is one of the four major cities of Texas, San Antonio certainly does not get the same type of love as its sister towns, typically being left out of the conversation while Dallas and Austin dominate the fanfare love. This is definitely unwarranted as San Antonio is home to a beautiful downtown area with its River Walk, the Alamo, and close proximity to the Texas Hill Country which features so many towns that are home to rivers, camping and shopping.
As San Antonio Magazine puts it, San Antonio “continues to build on goals related to arts, education, family, safety, civic engagement and more”.
15 OVERHYPED: Dallas Can be Bland
Although not Texas’ largest city, it is often its most recognizable as many outsiders across the nation tend to site Dallas as the premier city of the state. That might have been true in the past, but since the turn of the last decade, other Texas cities have caught up and have even passed it up in several facets including business, entertainment, and population.
For such a major city, visitors often leave feeling underwhelmed, many of which think Dallas can come across rather bland.
14 OVERHYPED: In Nashville’s Shadow
Nashville has already appeared on our list as a city that is overrated, but so does its smaller sister as well. It has become the trendy thing in Tennessee to like Memphis since it’s the smaller and lesser-known city of the two. But visitors who buy into the hype will likely be disappointed to find that they are not going to be nearly as enamored with Memphis as they assumed they would be.
Unfortunately, the city has a difficult time living up to its billing with limited options beyond the standard musical fare entertainment found in the state.
13 UNDERRATED: Richmond Charm
Richmond, Virginia is a city full of immense history, rooted in the very beginning of the United States’ start as a country to begin with, dating back centuries. With so much history, any visitor would be in awe of all of the interesting museums in the area as well as the antique charm that is simply felt throughout the streets and city.
The city is also home to fascinating historical battlefields for tourists and a growing art scene. Richmond is a city that will be sure to surprise in all the right ways.
12 OVERHYPED: Crowded Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach was once a tourist destination for having a good time. This was the place to be if partying and a fun night out was on the agenda. In fact, according to This is Insider, “ever since the very first "MTV Spring Break" aired in Daytona Beach in 1986, people have been flocking to the city for their spring break”.
Essentially, Daytona Beach's eventual downfall was a product of its own fame. It grew too big and became the ultimate tourist trap with typical souvenirs, outdated hotels, and overcrowding to the point of frenzy. If NASCAR and motorsports aren’t high on your interest list, skip this destination altogether.
11 UNDERRATED: Beautiful, Sunny Florida… Like You’ve Never Seen It (Tampa Bay)
So many other cities in the great state of sunny Florida get all of the love and Tampa Bay is one of the most overlooked. In fact, it barely registers a blip on anybody’s radar unless they’re thinking about football.
Visitflorida.com describes the city perfectly with its descriptive take on it – “With its mix of historic architecture and modern landmarks, a culture infused with Cuban and Spanish flavors, vibrant business districts and beautiful waterways, Tampa is a wonderful place to work, play and unwind.” The city truly is a mix of cultures and perfect beaches that can only be enjoyed, unless experienced firsthand.
10 OVERHYPED: Dry, dry, dry in Phoenix Arizona
Arizona’s greatest city is also one of the more overhyped metropolises of the south. There are a lot of folks that would argue that Phoenix doesn’t technically count as a “Southern city”, citing its different nature from the country’s rural Southern culture and location closer to the West Coast. All that may be true, but in the end, Phoenix still resides in the Southern part of the United States, so it’ll get a pass and be included on our list.
Unfortunately for the city though, it is being counted as one of the more overrated cities with it being somewhat of a bore and too dry, literally speaking. The heat is intensely dry, which makes for some pretty unbearable weather at times.
9 OVERHYPED: Bourbon Street Has Become Too Much to Handle (New Orleans)
New Orleans is one of those cities that is neither overrated, nor is it truly underrated, but there are sections of the city that are far too overhyped. And that area is, of course, none other than the world-famous Bourbon Street. It’s hard to argue that there’s fun to be had on the infamous street, but it has gotten so out of hand that sometimes it’s just simply too much to handle at this point.
The crowds become wildly excessive, even on nights outside of the Mardi Gras events. If a trip to New Orleans is in the cards, steer clear of this section, but unfortunately, most tourists practically live here during the entirety of their stays.
8 UNDERRATED: First Class Louisville
Although underrated by most folks outside of Kentucky, the residents of Louisville fully understand what a gem their city is. The rest of the country is wholly in the dark to how great the city is as well as its very important stamp in US culture.
Louisville is home to the Louisville Slugger baseball bats, Kentucky Fried Chicken, the past home of legend Mohammed Ali and the larger than life Kentucky Derby Event. With so much history and culture embedded within its existence, there’s plenty to do and see in this big city with a small-town feel.
7 OVERHYPED: Pensacola Still Looking for Its Identity
Pensacola is a tourist destination for those looking to hit the beaches which will surely keep folks coming back, but the city as a whole is a bit of a letdown. Pensacola has a lot of poverty which doesn’t help with the look of it in many parts throughout the city.
There is also a significant military presence which often makes it seem as there is no true local presence, leading many of its residents to feel like the city has no real identity with many people constantly passing through for only a few years along with constant tourists moving in and out of its confines.
6 UNDERRATED: Orlando is More than Just Disney
Orlando will always be appreciated for the incredible vacation entertainment it offers in the form of Disney World and Universal Studios. Those are obvious givens, but what many don’t realize is just how great the city of Orlando is outside of those world-famous tourist destinations. As a whole, Orlando is simply an aesthetically beautiful city focused on entertainment and family fun.
Orlando offers so many family attraction parks outside of the major two that get the most attention, which likely means that anyone looking to book a ticket is bound to be pleasantly surprised.
5 OVERHYPED: Arizona Falls Short Again (Tucson)
Very much like its much larger city sibling Phoenix, Tucson has to fight its way onto the list as a “Southern city”, but it does so as one of the more overhyped cities below the mid-section of the United States.
The unfortunate truth when it comes to Tucson is its very bland feel. As a major city, there simply is not nearly as much to do in Tucson as one would hope, considering it has a population upwards of a million people within its metro area. Visitors to the city are sure to find themselves underwhelmed with the lack of true fun or entertainment.
4 UNDERRATED: Mobile Surprises in all the Right Ways
The state of Alabama makes its way onto our list for the second time, featuring another underrated city that definitely deserves more love. One of the biggest surprises that the rest of the country will find upon visiting is Mobile’s incredible beaches.
When people think Alabama, beaches certainly don’t come to mind for most, but Mobile is sure to pleasantly surprise everyone that visits. Mobile is also home to a fantastic Mardi Gras celebration along with great nightlife and museums as well.
3 OVERHYPED: Beautiful, but Overrun Destin
Destin, Florida has become the new favorite for tourists looking to enjoy beautiful beaches, becoming a popular destination for families all over the country. There’s simply no denying that the beaches of Destin are absolutely beautiful, but good luck enjoying them as they have become overrun with thousands of travelers with the same idea.
Destin has become a victim of its own popularity and beauty. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s getting better any time soon, as tourism is on the rise.
2 UNDERRATED: Not Just One of the Best in the South (Houston)
Houston, Texas is not just one of the more underrated cities of the South, but one of the more underappreciated cities throughout the entire country. Considered the fourth largest city in the United States, but somehow always falling under the radar, Houston is full of culture, diversity, entertainment, art, museums, and incredible nightlife. Any visit to the city will surely open up the eyes of a tourist, only to find that they should have traveled to Houston earlier.
In fact, the city surprises so many that it becomes the permanent home of many tourists who feel compelled to come back for good.
1 OVERHYPED: Touristy Asheville
North Carolina’s Asheville has become increasingly popular becoming a fan favorite throughout the rest of the country over recent years. With a small town feel, USA folk have been flocking to Asheville looking to enjoy themselves in this relaxing getaway city.
It has definitely done its job as it has started to become a major tourist destination, but as a result, it has lost some of its charm and gained notoriety for all of the visitors overrunning the hotels and restaurants.
References: sanantoniomag, thisisinsider, visitflorida