How to Spend Memorial Day Weekend in the Southeast

Memorial Day paddling in South Carolina
Memorial Day paddling in South Carolina Jake Wheeler
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Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. Most people across the country will have three days off of work. They'll spend time with their families, grilling out in the backyard and drinking beer. In the Southeast, many folks will probably head to a lake to enjoy some boating, tubing, water skiing, and other redneck water sports. But there are other ways to make the most of a three day weekend in the Southeast. Here are 4 of our suggestions on how to spend an adventurous Memorial Day weekend in the Southeast.

1. Visit a Tennessee Waterfall

Savage Gulf's Greeter Falls in all its glory.
Savage Gulf's Greeter Falls in all its glory. Jeff Bartlett

Tennessee is home to hundreds of waterfalls. From the tallest cascades in the Smokies , to the highest plunge waterfall east of the Mississippi River, the Volunteer State is loaded with picturesque falls. Some of our favorites can be found below:

*There's a little bit of overlap with some of these waterfalls mentioned (and one or two may be just over the border in Georgia), but these articles will nevertheless be a great starting point for finding the perfect waterfall for you.

2. Camp in Virginia's Grayson Highlands

Camping among the rhododendrons in Virginia's Grayson Highlands
Camping among the rhododendrons in Virginia's Grayson Highlands Jake Wheeler

Ahhh, the famed Grayson Highlands . Perched high in the Virginian Appalachians, in the Jefferson National Forest, this state park is home to grassy pastures and meadows, 5,000+ foot peaks, wild ponies, and crystal clear mountain streams lined with thick tunnels of rhododendron. The backpacking here is about as good as it gets. Whether you take to the Appalachian Trail and stay at one of its rustic shelters, or summit the tallest peak in Virginia (Mt. Rogers) and stay at a backcountry site of your choosing, you really can't go wrong in the Grayson Highlands. The state park offers 96 campsites that include picnic tables and fire pits. These campsites are $20/night. There is one group camping site, which accommodates 35 people. You can camp for free by pitching a tent in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.

3. Float North Carolina's French Broad River

Now this is how you partake in one of Asheville's greatest summer traditions
Now this is how you partake in one of Asheville's greatest summer traditions Melina Coogan

Tubing the French Broad River is a quintessential Western Carolina experience, one which combines languid, fluvial enjoyment with artistic urban charm. You will float through forests, breeze past breweries, and find ample opportunity to shore up for local brews, bonfires, and food trucks. It's no wonder that tubing has become a time-honored tradition in Beer City. Here's how to do it like a local .

4. Visit South Carolina's Daufuskie Island

Slacklining on Daufuskie Island on Memorial Day weekend
Slacklining on Daufuskie Island on Memorial Day weekend Jake Wheeler

Accessible only by boat, Daufuskie Island  is without a doubt one of the most intriguing islands along the entire South Carolina coast. With thousands of years of history, tales of spirits, and an isolationist mentality, Daufuskie is full of magic and intrigue. It exists on the fringes of a paradox, as it's been the center of quite a bit of attention—books have been written, movies filmed, and a rock star even built a private retreat on the island—and yet it's also relatively unheard of. Daufuskie is a place where time moves slower, and everyone is just a little bit freer from the pitfalls of modern society. As soon as you step foot on the island, you’ll feel its mystery hanging thick in the air. On Memorial Day weekend, the island is often brimming with live music, parties, barbecues, and bikinis. But if you feel compelled to escape the crowds a deserted dusty road is never far away.

Bonus: Catch the Synchronized Fireflies Display in the Smokies

One of the most magical spectacles in the Southeast, the mating season for the synchronous fireflies in the Smokies typically occurs for a two-week period somewhere between mid-May and early June. During this time, the Elkmont viewing area is awash with thousands of glowing lightning bugs flashing their lights in synchronized waves across the hillsides of the Smokies. This bioluminescent display is seriously one of the greatest natural shows you can find anywhere, and as such, it's become quite popular over the last few years—so much so that the park service had to create a lottery system.

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