Some visit for the scenery, some come for the history and others are drawn to the all-around hospitable atmosphere. Whatever your reason (or reasons) may be, you can't go wrong with choosing any one of the following six destinations.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
From its thermal spring waters to its prime location for infamous gangsters to its role in baseball, Hot Springs has been (and remains) a happening destination. Whether you're staying overnight or for the weekend, discover its appeal through its many sides.
: Hot Springs is the only city in the country located within a national park. Explor
e Hot Springs National Park
, inside and out. Begin at Fordyce Bathhouse
, the former -bathhouse -turned -visitors -center to learn the history of thermal water baths. Tour the restored rooms and get a feel of what it was like during the height of its popularity. From there, meander down Bathhouse Row National Historic Landmark District
to check out eight remaining restored bathhouses.
For those who want more of an outdoors experience, Hot Springs National Park offers 26 miles of trails as well as scenic mountain driving routes.
: Located on a peninsula on Lake Hamilton, the 210-acre Garvan Woodland Gardens
is one of eight woodland gardens in the United States. A feast for the eyes, don't miss the seeing Anthony Chapel
and the Anthony Family Trust Carillon. Take some time to view Bridge of the Full Moon located in the Garden of the Pine Wind
. It is one of the most photographed places in the gardens.
: Did you know Arkansas has its own derby? Oaklawn Racing and Gaming
is home to both the Arkansas Derby and the Racing Festival of the South. From January - April, you can enjoy live thoroughbred racing.
Located in Central Louisiana, aka the Heart of Louisiana, Alexandria is rich not only in history but also in arts and outdoor experiences as well as family activities. Within hours of your visit, you'll discover a charming destination for every traveler.
: Immerse yourself in the arts. See the various pieces of works at Alexandria Museum of Art
. Discover a new artist or two at River Oaks Square Arts Center
. Enjoy a performance by the Lagniappe Theatre Company
. The possibilities are endless.
: Don't let looks fool you. The single story Creole cottage located on the Louisiana State University of Alexandria campus has quite the backstory. Known as The Epps House: Solomon Northup's Gateway to Freedom
highlights Solomon Northup's story. Northrup was the author of Twelve Years a Slave, published in 1853 that led to "Solomon Northup’s Odyssey” (1984 documentary), and “12 Years a Slave" (2013 movie.)
Through exhibits and displays, learn more about Northup and the Northup Trail
; and Dr. Sue Eakin, who was instrumental in relocating the cottage to its
current location and its reconstruction.
: Take a tour of Kent House Plantation
. Over 200 years old, it's the oldest standing structure in central Louisiana. The house was one of the few buildings spared when Union troops burned Alexandria during the Civil War; unfortunately, the out homes weren't so lucky. The house has plenty interesting features, including handmade bricks of different sizes. Some still retain fingerprints.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
If its location along the Mississippi Gulf Coast isn't enough of a draw for you, perhaps you might be intrigued by Ocean Springs' arts scene and culinary scene to explore the area further. You won't be disappointed spending time in this town.
: Learn a new skill when you are out of town, or brush up on an old one at the Mary O'Keefe Cultural Center
. Sign up for cooking, art or another class that captures your interest. Even if classes aren't your style, check out the event calendar
for upcoming performances, shows, and the Mary C Art and Food Market Day.
: Walter Anderson Museum of Art
introduces visitors to paintings of local 20th-century artist, Walter Inglis Anderson and the works of his brother Peter Anderson (Shearwater Pottery
) and James Anderson.
Two areas of interest include the community center and the "Little Room" inside the cottage where Walter Anderson spent much of his last years. Both house two of his murals representing two very different times in his life.
: Enjoy the outdoors as you explore the Davis Bayou Area
at the Gulf Islands National Seashore Visitors Center and Campground. Depending on the time of the year you visit Ocean Springs, consider taking a quick ride to Gulfport to board the ferry
to Ship Island, one of five Mississippi barrier islands.
No doubt about it, Dahlonega is a "golden" destination. Situated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, it's a delightful escape for those who enjoy discovering quaint towns, sampling local wines and culinary dishes, and seeking outdoor adventures.
: With the many shops and galleries to pop in and out of, be aware there's a good chance you can lose all track of time when you are walking around Dahlonega's historic public square. Swing by Dahlonega General Store
to get something fun to remember your visit, followed by a stop in Paul Thomas Chocolate & Gift
for something to satisfy your sweet cravings.
: Learn more about America's first major gold rush at the Dahlonega Gold Museum
. Located in the former courthouse, you can view rare mint coins, see the tools used in gold mining and much more.
: Go underground Consolidated Gold Mines
to understand what miners went through back in the day. Then finish up by panning for gold. You never know, it may be your lucky day. You can also pan for gold at Crisson Gold Mine
Located between Orlando and Tampa, along Interstate 4, Lakeland captivates visitors with its offerings. The city is also the site of the annual Sun 'N Fun Fly-In, a must-experience for everyone.
: Relax, regroup and reconnect while strolling through Hollis Gardens
and take many views. As you meander your way paths, you may forget how close you are to downtown
: Florida Southern College
has the largest collection of buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright on one site. Even though he designed 18 structures, only 12 were completed between 1938 and 1958, and are known as the "Child of the Sun." The newest addition, the Usonian House
, was based on some of Wright's found plans. Choose among a free self-guided tour, three fee-based tours or specialty tours to see them.
: Lakeland provides plenty of ways to enjoy its cultural side. For instance, you can visit Polk Museum of Art
and check out the exhibits. If you are the mood to watch a performance, see what's on the marquee at Polk Theater
, where Elvis once performed in 1956.
Experience bourbon and more - much more - in Lebanon. Located in the Heart of Kentucky, the city offers a range of attractions that cover everything from agritourism to holy sites to history and more. One visit and you'll see that Lebanon isn't a cookie-cutter destination.
: Discover the world of Kentucky bourbon with some tours. Start out at Kentucky Cooperage
to learn about barrel making. From there, head to Maker's Mark Distillery
, one of the state's oldest distillery to experience what makes their bourbon stand out. Familiarize yourself with craft distilling at Limestone Branch Distillery
. A stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour
, not only do they produce bourbon but also 'shine as well.
: Exhibits tell the story about the area at Marion County Heritage Center
. Check out the notables, like Turtleman
, who've come from the county and still call it home.
: Drive out to Gravel Switch to visit Penn's Store
. It holds the distinction as the oldest country store in America ran continuously by the same family. Today, the sixth generation Penn oversees the operation.
photos: personal collection; (top) Epps House in Alexandria, La., (top right) Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, Ark., (top left) Kent House Plantation in Alexandria, La., (middle right ) Community Center at Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, Miss., (middle left) Inside Dahlonega (Ga.) Gold Museum; (bottom right) Frank Lloyd Wright building on the Florida Southern College campus in Lakeland, Fla., (bottom left) Maker's Mark in Lebanon, Ky.