From Jefferson City, Missouri, to Tallahassee, Florida, nothing distinguishes a city like grand architecture, bustling cultural institutions, and attractions teeming with life. As seats of democracy for states across the Southeastern region, these capital cities—plus many more—offer groups the perfect setting for exploration and learning.

While all capital cities have their own distinct vibe, perhaps none is more iconic than that of Nashville, Tennessee. Also known as the Music City, Nashville is a mecca for the arts, boasting endless opportunities for entertainment. Groups can catch a show at the Grand Ole Opry, tour Historic RCA Studio B (where artists like Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton recorded), visit the Belle Meade Historic Site & Winery, enjoy iconic cuisine like Nashville hot chicken, or wander through countless museums celebrating art and music.

“The Nashville [Convention & Visitors Corp.] (NCVC) team is happy to provide tailored feedback for your group and a variety of resources, including group visitor guides, maps, and small amenities (guitar picks or lapel pins) upon the group’s arrival,” says Laurel Bennett, senior vice president of tourism sales for the CVC. “This can be arranged as a part of our Music City Welcome program, the NCVC’s complimentary motorcoach greeting.”

Bennett adds that the CVC offers planners a three-day sample itinerary to showcase how to best take advantage of time in Nashville. Additionally, the organization facilitates Online Travel Training for travel planners that provides an in-depth overview of all the Music City has to offer. “The Nashville CVC team is experienced in working with groups of all sizes and knows how to cater to what you need,” Bennett says. “Please reach out with all your planning needs. We are happy to assist!”

North of Tennessee lies Frankfort, Kentucky, known for its bourbon bars, historic mansions, and bountiful opportunity for outdoor recreation along the Kentucky River and beyond. From Frankfort, head east to Charleston, West Virginia. There, groups will be awed by the capitol building’s ornate, 23-karat gold dome and the city’s rolling landscape along the Kanawha River.

Virginia State Capitol, Richmond, Virginia;
Credit: Richmond Region Tourism

Richmond, Virginia, claims the American Civil War Museum and Virginia State Capitol as its biggest draws. Other favorites for groups, according to Richmond Region Tourism Group Tour & Visitor Center Manager Toni Bastion, include St. John’s Church, The Poe Museum, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Henricus Historical Park, and much more.

“We are the perfect hub-and-spoke destination since we are only 50 miles from both Charlottesville and Williamsburg,” says Bastian. “Let your guests unpack once and enjoy multiple destinations. Richmond is a Virginia State Capitol, Richmond, Virginia vital piece to the birth of America. Evenings in [Richmond] offer activities such as dinner and a live performance at Hanover Tavern or Swift Creek Mill Theater. … The Richmond region offers a wealth of arts and culture typically found in large cities, without the large crowds and traffic, and it also is a great destination for outdoor recreation including hiking, biking, watersports, and bird watching.”

Bastian says tour operators in Richmond receive complimentary experiential itineraries, pre-promotion Zoom sessions with the tourism group, lodging assistance, arrival reception, free bus parking at the Richmond Region Motorcoach Welcome Center, gifts for guests, and site visit arrangements. Richmond Region Tourism also offers customized services, from planning, through the visit, all the way until the bus rolls out of town.

“According to our current inspiration campaign, the Richmond region ‘Speaks for Itself,’” Bastian says. “And groups will find this true in many ways; from our passionate community members to our roaring whitewater rapids, from lively festivals to live music in every genre, from the revving engines of Richmond Raceway to the birdsongs in our impressive gardens.”

South of Virginia, Raleigh, North Carolina, is often referred to as the “Smithsonian of the South” thanks to its quality and quantity of free museums. Popular attractions include the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the Marbles Kids Museum. Columbia, South Carolina, boasts scenic parks and lakes, the Nickelodeon Theater, and one of the few puppet theaters in the nation, the Columbia Marionette Theater.

For a one-stop shop of group activities, consider planning a trip for your group to Atlanta, Georgia. There, the 22-acre Centennial Olympic Park is home to the Georgia Aquarium, the Chick-fil-A College Hall of Fame, World of Coca-Cola, the Southern Company Amphitheater, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Plus, the tourism hot spot is surrounded by plenty of hotels and trendy restaurants.

Perhaps best known for its role in the Civil Rights Movement, Montgomery, Alabama, now stands as a testament to and a reminder of the people who fought to end the oppression of Black folks across the nation. From historic walking tours to memorials and museums, Montgomery offers groups the chance to follow in the footsteps of famed historical figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., and the brave Freedom Riders of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Mississippi State Capitol, Jackson, Mississippi;
Credit: Adobe/Sean Pavone Photo

Also significant to the Civil Rights Movement are Jackson and Little Rock, capitals of Mississippi and Arkansas, respectively. Both cities offer myriad historical and natural attractions popular with groups.

In Louisiana, the capital city of Baton Rouge brings groups out to the bayou, immersing visitors in the state’s one-of-a-kind melting pot of cultures. Baton Rouge is “a vibrant hub of culture, cuisine, history, and art,” says Marie Stagg, CTP, leisure sales manager for Visit Baton Rouge. “It uniquely allows visitors to gain a comprehensive understanding of the entire state and its cultural evolution. Positioned centrally within the state’s popular destinations, it is an excellent hub-and-spoke city for tour groups. With a plethora of hotel options tailored for groups, Baton Rouge stands out as an affordable destination, making it an ideal choice for group travel.”

Stagg says groups often partake in tours of both the Louisiana State Capitol Building (featuring a 360-degree view of the city up top!) and the Old State Capitol, which now houses the state’s museum of political history. Other popular attractions include Capitol Park Museum, the expansive Louisiana Art & Science Museum, Perkins Rowe, Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center, and Louisiana State University (LSU).

“[Visit Baton Rouge] works hands-on with travel groups,” Stagg explains. “Our Experience Department is very involved in the group tour experience, making sure we make it as memorable as possible. We allow customization and personalization of tours, ensuring a fun and memorable experience in Baton Rouge.” Resources available to planners include Visit Baton Rouge’s Experience & Marketing Toolkit and the organization’s monthly informational newsletter.

Louisiana State Capitol, Baton Rouge, Louisiana;
Credit: Adobe/Ball Studios

Stagg adds, “We suggest allocating one to two nights on your Louisiana itinerary, considering Baton Rouge as a hub for a comprehensive Louisiana tour. The best times to visit are during the spring and fall, although it’s important to note that room rates tend to rise on fall weekends due to the LSU football season. Feel free to utilize Visit Baton Rouge as a valuable resource for planning your visit to Baton Rouge. Notably, our city offers family-friendly Mardi Gras celebrations and hosts festivals featuring live music and delectable food options for everyone.”

Whether your group is looking to pound the pavement surrounded by historic buildings or enjoy all nature has to offer, you can’t go wrong with an itinerary highlighting everything these capital cities have to offer—and your group won’t soon forget the places that shape the very nature of the Southeast.

By Madeline Fuerstenberg

Main Image: Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville, Tennessee; Credit: Adobe/Steheap