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Get Your Stroll on in These Southern Towns

St. Augustine, Florida

While Henry Flagler, co-founder with John D. Rockefeller of the Standard Oil Company, was vacationing in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1883, he had a vision: He imagined the small town a winter resort of American high society. He then proceeded to erect ornate hotels in the Moorish Revival style.

These distinctive 19th-century buildings helped turn the small town into an architectural marvel. Groups enjoy learning the stories behind each Flagler construction as well as about St. Augustine’s history as the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States. The city still displays much of this history with Spanish Colonial attractions along the pedestrian-only St. George Street.

“It’s a coastal city that is very quaint,” said Evelyn Vazquez, director of leisure sales for the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Beaches Visitor and Convention Bureau. “It is a very walkable destination. Buses can be parked on St. George Street while the group walks to shops, attractions and restaurants.”

Groups can also explore the grand Flagler College; the living-history museum Colonial Quarters; and Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the country.

Must-see view: Onlookers can view the iconic Moorish Revival buildings of St. Augustine from above from the top of the 219-step St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Natchez, Mississippi

The people of Natchez, Mississippi, take their reputation for hospitality seriously, so seriously that many residents of historic antebellum mansions open their homes to the public for the Spring and Fall Pilgrimage Tours. These tours let guests explore the town’s high concentration of antebellum mansions, both those open to the public and those privately owned.

“Without a doubt, our people make us unique,” said Jennifer Ogden Combs, executive director of the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission and Visit Natchez. “If we didn’t have our hospitable community who really believe in our history and culture, we would be just another cool, interesting town.”

Groups love interacting with locals and touring the walkable downtown along the Mississippi River. The town also celebrates its music heritage at the Delta Music Museum and during the Natchez Festival of Music, which features live musical performances around the city throughout the month of May.

The oldest settlement on the Mississippi River, Natchez has successfully preserved much of its history for groups to experience, including the Natchez African American History and Culture Museum. Also popular, the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians provides information about Natchez’s earliest residents with ceremonial mounds, a replica of an Indian dwelling and a museum.

Over a dozen of the town’s antebellum homes lie open for tours year-round, among them Stanton Hall, Rosalie and Melrose. Each home features a distinct architectural style and fascinating stories about the owners, such as how Longwood stands incomplete due to Northern construction workers dropping their tools and taking off at the start of the Civil War.

Must-see view:  Guests can enjoy gorgeous sunset views of the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River from the Natchez City Cemetery.