Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Street view of the popular tourist city in the Smoky Mountains with attractions in view. Editorial credit: Little Vignettes Photo /

7 Coolest Towns in Mid-South for a Summer Vacation in 2024

Summer 2024 is upon us, and with the change of seasons comes vacation planning. One of the most popular spots to visit in the summer is the deep south, especially Georgia and Florida's beaches and amusement parks. However, there are other places in the south that make for a great summer vacation. In the Mid-southern region of the U.S., you will find mountains, river towns, quaint communities, and beautiful forests. Not to mention, many of these towns also hold festivals and fun events during the summer. Here are 7 small towns in the Mid-South to consider for your summer 2024 vacation.

Bardstown, Kentucky

Bardstown, Kentucky, USA: The Old Talbott Tavern.
Bardstown, Kentucky, USA: The Old Talbott Tavern. Editorial credit: Ryan_hoel /

This inviting small town in the Mid-South of just over 13,600 people is famous for being the Bourbon Capital of the world. In 1789, Elijah Craig first aged bourbon in oak barrels in Bardstown, and the town has continued to keep this tradition alive. Today, you can tour many of these classic distilleries, including Lux Row Distillers, Log Still Distillery, and James B. Beam Distilling Co. Learn about the history of bourbon at the Oscar Getz Museum of Bourbon History or go for a walk at nearby Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. Summer is a perfect time to visit, as June 11-16 is Bourbon Week, which features special bourbon releases, a city street concert, and various events celebrating Bardstown’s rich bourbon heritage. There are plenty of hotels in town to stay at, as well as the Poplar Cottage Retreat bed and breakfast.

Mountain View, Arkansas

Mountain View, Arkansas: Known as the Folk Music Capital of the World.
Mountain View, Arkansas: Known as the Folk Music Capital of the World. Editorial credit: Travel Bug /

Located within the Ozark Mountains, Mountain View is a truly picturesque small town with opportunities for hiking, fishing, and breathing in the fresh air. The top-rated trails include the White River Bluff Loop, which runs for 4 miles through the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest and the Steele Falls Trail. For bikers, the Syllamo Trail Mountain Biking offers 50 miles of single-track trail with many scenic views. There are plenty of opportunities for fishing as well at the Anglers White River Resort or Mirror Lake. You can also swim in the natural waters of the Gunner Pool Recreation Area. The town has many quaint stores and art galleries to visit, including Arkansas Craft Guild & Gallery and Mellon's Country Store. If you're a fan of motorcycles, then the 20th Annual Mountains, Music & Motorcycles event held on August 16 to 18 will be an excellent time for you.

Hannibal, Missouri

Hannibal, Missouri, USA: Colorful downtown buildings on a sunny morning.
Hannibal, Missouri, USA: Colorful downtown buildings on a sunny morning. Editorial credit: Sabrina Janelle Gordon /

This small town was home to a great American author, Mark Twain, who penned the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and other American classics. Hannibal keeps the spirit of Mrk Twain alive with tours, museums, and more. The Mark Twain Riverboat provides a tour of the Mississippi River, along with dinner or lunch. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum offers information on the famous author and his formative years in Hannibal. You can also tap into the adventurous spirit of Mark Twain by visiting the Mark Twain Cave Complex or going for a hike at the Sodalis Nature Preserve. For summertime events, consider checking out their Music Under the Stars concert series starting on June 20, featuring live music performances under the night sky, or attend Hannibal's 27th annual Juneteenth celebration on June 15, commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans with various cultural activities and performances.

Tupelo, Mississippi

Tupelo, Mississippi: Elvis Presley Statue with City Hall in the background.
Tupelo, Mississippi: Elvis Presley Statue. Editorial credit: Chad Robertson Media /

Hannibal isn't the only town in the Mid-South to be the home of a famous American. The inviting Mid-South town of Tupelo, Mississippi, was the home of the King of Rock, Elvis Presley. He got his first guitar in town as a birthday present for his 11th birthday, and today, you can learn all about his life at the Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum or the Tupelo Hardware Company, where he received his guitar. There are plenty of other unique experiences in Tupelo as well, including the Buffalo Park and Zoo, where you can see these wild creatures of the Great Plains up close and personal. The town also hosts the Natchez Trace Parkway, a national park based on an 8,000-year trail used by Native Americans. For events in Tupelo, check out the Tupelo Elvis Festival from June 5 to 9, or participate in the Glow 5K on July 13 at Tupelo's Ballard Park, a nighttime race featuring glow-in-the-dark gear and entertainment.

Burnsville, North Carolina

Burnsville, North Carolina, USA: Mt. Mitchell State Park observation deck with tourists at the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains.
Burnsville, North Carolina, USA: Mt. Mitchell State Park observation deck. Editorial credit: Cvandyke /

Burnsville, North Carolina, is a fantastic spot for mountain lovers as it is home to Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. You can see this 6,684-foot mountain for yourself at Mount Mitchell State Park, which offers 40 miles of trails around the Fraser Fir forest. For other outdoor adventures, Loafers Glory Rafting and Tubing provides rafts for the North Toe River, while Bucktown Stables offers horse riding. Burnsville is also a great place to look at the stars, which you can see in their full glory at the Bare Dark Sky Observatory. As a mountain town, Burnsville also has a rich arts and crafts community, which you can see at its many boutique stores such as Page Pottery or Toe River Arts Gallery or during the Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair held from August 2 to 3.

Slade, Kentucky

Natural Bridge in Slade, Kentucky, surrounded by fall-colored trees.
Natural Bridge in Slade, Kentucky, surrounded by fall-colored trees.

Slade, Kentucky, is a hidden gem in the Bluegrass state, as it is located within the gorgeous Red River Gorge Geological Area. Within Slade itself lies the Natural Bridge State Resort Park, which features a beautiful natural sandstone arch that is 65 feet high and 78 feet long that you can stand atop and see scenic views of the entire gorge. If you're not up to walking the trails, you can take a Sky Lift up to the bridge. The park has many other trails and activities, including Thrills Ville, which provides ariel rope courses 50 feet off the ground. For other spots in town, see captive reptiles at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo & Captive Born Venom Lab, or grab a bite to eat at Miguel's Pizza. For quilt lovers, the Natural Bridge Artisan Festival & Quilt Show, held from August 17 to 18, is a great event to attend.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA: Amazing architecture of the tourist city, known for travel and shopping.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA. Editorial credit: Kosoff /

Home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this small town is a beautiful place to relax, party, explore and have a great time. The park itself has many trails running through the Appalachian Mountains, including Clingmans Dome, Alum Cave, Chimney Tops, and much more. The downtown area features a number of great stores and attractions, including Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, Ole Smokey Moonshine, The Village Shops, and more. The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community includes more than 80 artists and craftsmen in an 8-mile loop in town. For summertime events, consider visiting Gatlinburg's Annual 4th of July Fireworks Show and Midnight Parade.

Explore the Mid-South's Hidden Highlights

Whether you are looking for a relaxing day at the lake, a strenuous hike through the mountains, a riverboat tour, or to walk in the footsteps of famous Americans, the Mid-South has all you need for a great summer vacation. From the heights of the Appalachian Mountains to the caves of Mark Twain, you will always find something new to explore in the Mid-South. Consider adding these small towns to your summer 2024 vacation plans.

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