Downtown street in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Image credit Dee Browning via Shutterstock

7 Most Overlooked Towns in the Mid-South

The Mid-South of America's exact borders are often debated, but it roughly consists of Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, and portions of northern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. This area has long held some of the best-kept secrets in America. These overlooked towns may not be household names when people consider their next vacation destination, but they possess attractions and offer excitement that can’t be replicated anywhere else in America. So, whether you want to elevate yourself amidst the Smoky Mountains or relax along the shores of Lake Leatherwood, these towns are sure to leave your itinerary full.

Paducah, Kentucky

Row of colorful, historic buildings on the main street in the downtown area of Paducah, Kentucky.
Row of colorful, historic buildings on the main street in the downtown Paducah, Kentucky. Image credit Angela N Perryman via Shutterstock.

Hidden amongst the foothills of Kentucky lies a town that has somehow managed to blend the cultures of its community into its unique brand. Paducah prides itself on its creativity, and history and with opportunities for everyone to express themselves as they see fit.

Explore Paducah’s diverse range of artistic attractions, begin with catching a show at the local Market House theatre, or for an upscale experience, put on your finest suit, and check out the Paducah Symphony Orchestra and enjoy the classical musical experience.

Besides the Historic downtown area, there are also numerous museums worth checking out to explore the town’s past. The National Quilt Museum is in Paducah and whether you are an avid knitter or just beginning, some of these magnificent pieces will surely provide some inspiration.

Jonesborough, Tennessee

Aerial view of Tennessee's oldest town, Jonesborough, and its courthouse.
Overlooking Jonesborough, Tennessee, and its courthouse.

If you want to experience true southern charm, then Jonesborough should sit atop your list of next travel destinations. Often referred to as the “storytelling capital of the world,” one must visit to learn the tales the oldest Tennessee town holds.

Invoke a sense of nostalgia as you walk through the downtown area, and grab a self-guided tour brochure at the Jonesborough visitor center to make you don’t miss out on any of the exciting attractions within the downtown area. Learn about the town’s past at the Chester Inn Museum, where visitors can explore the legacy of Jonesborough through various exhibits and artifacts. Additionally, the town is also home to the Chuckey Depot Museum. The museum rotates exhibits every six months, so be sure to head over to the website before your visit to see what excitement awaits.

Friendly reminder to check local calendars before your arrival as the town hosts numerous events throughout the year. Events such as the International Storytelling Festival have long been attracting visitors from around the globe.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Beautiful street view downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Beautiful street view downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Image credit shuttersv via

Hidden amongst the Ozark Mountain Range, it should come as no surprise that Eureka Springs has long been a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The town acts as the perfect destination to find solace and recovery in between outdoor excursions.

Start your visit by exploring the nearby mountain range, rent a bike, and hop on the OZ trail system which has biking trails for all skill levels. If you prefer the comfort of your own two feet, plan a half-day hike up to Pivot Rock which is located just outside of town. You can also get your steps in without leaving the comfort of town, simply wandering through the downtown area or Lake Leatherwood City Park.

All aboard, is something you will hear as you hop on the Historic Train at the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway Company, which showcases the town's railway heritage. Continue to explore the town’s heritage by visiting the Blue Springs Heritage Center, which has been frozen in time and shows how the early settlers of the region lived day to day.

Athens, Alabama

Downtown Athens, Alabama
Downtown street in Athens, Alabama.

While situated in the northern part of the Crimson Tide state, Athens has somehow managed to harness that southern charm energy. Athens has long been long been impressing visitors with its abundance of history, unique attractions, and southern comfort.

All it takes is a walk throughout the well-manicured grounds of Alabama’s oldest educational institution to realize that the town is a testament to the state’s heritage. Visit the Magnificent Founder’s Hall to marvel at the grand architecture. After, head on over to the nearby 1818 Farm, named after the date the town was founded, the farm still stands and operates as it did then. Visitors can explore the livelihood of the town’s earliest settlers and interact with a variety of farm animals.

After, learn more about the brave soldiers who defended America’s freedom at the Alabama Veteran's Museum & Archives. The museum is home to an abundance of artifacts and exhibits ranging from the Civil War to present-day conflicts.

Conclude your day with a scenic walk along the Antebellum trails and watch the sunset as you marvel at the massive homesteads located alongside the trail.

Bardstown, Kentucky

Old beautiful architecture building in Bardstown.
Old beautiful architecture building in Bardstown. Image credit Jantira Namwong via Shutterstock

Bardstown was settled in 1788 and cemented itself as a main producer of whiskey and bourbon. Despite being the bourbon capital of the world, there is plenty more to do than visit one of the many local distilleries and sip on some of the world’s greatest bourbons.

The town also has a Civil War history that awaits exploration, so be sure to visit the Women's Civil War Museum to learn about the town’s role in America’s revolution. Also, see life from behind bars by visiting the old historic county jail. Book a tour that walks you through the building and provides a backstory on Bardstown’s most notorious criminals.

During the summer nights, attend a show at the outdoor amphitheater. The Amp at Log Still is known for putting on some of the best nighttime concerts in the area. If you are searching for peace in the stillness of nature, then visit the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest to experience the tranquil outdoors of Kentucky.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Image credit Miro Vrlik Photography via

Known as a town that has a little something for everyone, Gatlinburg is the perfect place to settle down and spend a weekend. The nearby Great Smoky Mountains make the town the perfect place to refuel and recharge before your big adventures, and outdoorsmen have long been taking advantage of the proximity.

With the Great Smoky Mountains National Park right on its doorstep, there is endless opportunity for outdoor activities. Plan a hike along the scenic trails throughout the park or simply bask in the sun at one of the park's open areas, regardless, it will be hard to miss the spectacular views of the mountains. For the best view in town, ascend the Gatlinburg Sky Lift and see the mountains from a whole new perspective.

If you are fascinated by history, you’ll love diving into Gatlinburg’s storied past. Visit the historical buildings and landmarks such as the Grist Mill, which showcases early settlers’ innovative creations. Named after one of the town’s most prominent figures, visit the historic Ogle Cabin, which provides a better understanding of life as an early settler and highlights the achievements of town founder William Ogle.

Mountain View, Arkansas

Folk Music gathering in Mountain View, Arkansas.
Folk Music gathering in Mountain View, Arkansas. Image credit Travel Bug via

Given the name, it should come as no surprise that Mountain View is home to spectacular views of the surrounding Ozark Mountains. So, during your visit don’t forget to take a moment's pause and enjoy the views of the scenic range encompassing the town.

The views above ground aren’t the only spectacle this town can offer. Head to Blanchard Springs Caverns and descend into the depths below to explore prehistoric caves carved by ancient rivers. After, head out into the Ozark Folk Center State Park, which has everything from hiking trails to live musical performances in the Park’s main area.

The town is also commonly known as the “Folk Music Capital of the world”, so embrace your inner musician and attend the renowned Arkansas Folk Festival, which celebrates the genre’s heritage and routes linking back to Mountainview. There is also a vibrant music scene in the town, so regardless of the season, you are sure to be treated to some amazing performances.

When daydreaming of where you will go next, consider taking the path less traveled and venture to the Mid-South. Whether you want to explore cultural experiences, outdoor adventure, or a peaceful retreat, these overlooked towns offer an unforgettable escape in the heart of America.

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