Summer scenes in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Editorial credit: Miro Vrlik Photography /

7 Delightful Towns To Visit In Mid-South

Although the year-round sunshine of Florida and the beaches along the Gulf Coast states have a special charm, the Mid-south also packs a punch. One may not have to travel all the way after all. For example, Northwest Arkansas is as beautiful as the mind can grasp the concept. Then there is West Virginia, billed as ‘Almost Heaven.” From Hot Springs, Arkansas, to Beaufort, South Carolina, discover below the seven delightful towns to visit in the Mid-south.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Hot Springs, Arkansas
Aerial view of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

A first-time visitor will be blown away by the natural beauty that encircles what many regard as the most delightful town in Arkansas — and one of the most enjoyable in the Mid-South. Almost every gangster, including the notorious Al Capone, spent time in Hot Springs, and one will enjoy tracing their footsteps and learning their stories at the iconic Gangster Museum of America. Then there is something about strolling through the streets at night, especially around the gorgeous Arlington Resort, that is incredibly romantic. Traipse through Hot Springs National Park, where early 20th-century bathhouses are built atop natural hot springs. It is one of a handful of parks situated on the main street of a town. If struck by Cupid’s arrow, there is no better place to propose to your special other than at the Garvin Woodland Gardens, nestled in the picturesque Ouachita Mountains.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The Main Street in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The Main Street in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Editorial credit: David S Swierczek /

Although unique — and America's only museum of its kind — Gatlinburg’s Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum is not the only attraction this delightful Tennessee charmer offers. Of course, Gatlinburg is an ideal base for exploring Great Smokey Mountain National Park, which offers miles of wooded trails, spectacular waterfalls, and picturesque drives. Gatlinburg SkyBridge, North America's longest pedestrian suspension bridge, provides a delightful airborne experience and will quickly open the faucets of adrenaline. Then again, one just has to do the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, if for nothing but the Penguin Parade. It is often fun mingling with the flightless seabirds, also known to be among the most playful sea creatures. On the culinary front, it is hard to go wrong with the Tennessee Cider Company, especially if you have a thing for Cider donuts, golden apples, or peach mimosas.

Staunton, Virginia

Historical downtown of Staunton, Virginia
Historical downtown of Staunton, Virginia. Editorial credit: Dee Browning /

Although not as famous as Charlottesville, Staunton is one of the finest pleasure spots in the Mid-south. A first-time visitor will relish the small-town feel, the town’s eye-catching architecture (the downtown area has one of Virginia's finest collections of Victorian-era architecture), and the incredible beauty of the Shenandoah Valley. Woodrow Wilson, though imperfect, is known to have tried to keep America out of war and is often ranked alongside Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Franklin Roosevelt as among the best presidents in the history of the nation. A visit to his modest birthplace, where exhibits cover his time as an educator and writer and his terms of office, will be a highly rewarding experience, especially for those who love American history. Anyone who has read and loved Shakespeare’s plays, including Romeo and Juliet or Julius Caesar, cannot afford to miss a show at the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse. And there is no chance of starving here, especially with the highly-rated Zynodoa Restaurant in town.

Aiken, South Carolina

Aiken, South Carolina
A horse statue at The University of South Carolina campus in Aiken, South Carolina. Editorial credit: Cheri Alguire /

There are many reasons one should pay attention to Aiken, an authentic South Carolina equestrian paradise located about 20 miles northeast of Augusta. Aiken is genuine, vibrant, and incredibly beautiful. There is the Hitchcock Woods, an awe-inspiring urban forest that spans more than 2,000 acres. It is among the largest urban forests in the United States. For a vacationer who loves to eat in a polished environment, white tablecloths and all, Malia's checks the box. It is nice, quiet, and locally owned. Stop by the train museum, where dioramas are set up for each town along the railway. Many people, however, consider the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame as the ground zero. It is the best place to learn about the town’s horse racing heritage and is located within the beautiful Hopeland Gardens, where one can catch turtles sunbathing in one of the ponds and enjoy the sound of birds chirping in the mid-morning air.

Weston, West Virginia

weston, west virginia
The beautiful building of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia.

Weston hosts the one-of-a-kind Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, where your hair will stand on edge, especially if you decide to participate in the facility’s paranormal tours. Besides celebrating the memory of those who tried to better the lives of the mentally ill, this 160-year-old asylum holds fascinating stories of Civil War raids, a gold robbery, and — this will come as a surprise — the “curative” effects of architecture. Aside from the historic and paranormal tours, this asylum is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America and arguably the second largest in the world after the Kremlin. The nearby Stonewall Jackson Resort State Park should be on the to-do list as well, especially for those who want to swim, enjoy a round of golf, or bob all afternoon on a boat. Do not miss the Museum Of American Glass in West Virginia, an encyclopedic museum that displays daily-use items, decorative pieces, and even toys made of glass.

Beaufort, South Carolina

Scenic view of Woods Memorial Bridge with a welcome to Beaufort, South Carolina
Scenic view of Woods Memorial Bridge with a welcome to Beaufort, South Carolina.

Beaufort is a delightful town and one of the Mid-south’s finest. Slip back into the town's elegant past — with the horse-drawn carriage tour — as you admire Antebellum homes, historic churches, and movie sites. Stroll along the scenic Beaufort River at the Waterfront Park, arguably the Low Country Coast’s best-kept secret. Shop till you drop on Bay Street, and admire the gorgeous work of local artists at venues such as Thibault Gallery. Pop inside Lulu Burgess and pick a memento, whether clothing, jewelry or some other specialty item. Pat Conroy, who wrote “The Great Santini,” among other highly acclaimed novels, started his working life in Beaufort. Pat Conroy Literary Center preserves his legacy. It would be nice to take a selfie at the desk where some of the greatest books in American literature were handwritten.

Eureka Spring, Arkansas

Historic downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Historic downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Editorial credit: Rachael Martin /

If there is a Mid-South town that deserves the hype it gets, it is Eureka Springs. Of course, the town is fortunate to be located in an area defined by the heart-melting beauty of the Ozark Mountains. It was founded in the late 1800s as a resort town because of the abundance of natural springs in the area. A first-time visitor will want to explore the iconic Palace Bath House, the last of the original Eureka Springs bathhouses still in operation today. There is the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa as well, one of the most sought-after paranormal venues in the Mid-south. If desiring a serene spot with lovely views, work your way to Black Bass Lake City Park. But just so you don't starve while lost in adventure, Mud Street Cafe should be your first port of call.

The Takeaway

If you want to sniff the air of the Mid-South, explore the region’s storied past and rich culture, sample the local cuisine, or admire the architectural landscapes of its charming towns, you will have an incredibly long list to work with. But if you want to narrow it down to the most delightful towns to visit — your work suddenly becomes easier. Such a list will have to feature Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It will also have to feature Beaufort, South Carolina, where Antebellum homes stand side by side with historic churches and movie sites.

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