Have you heard the term “mid-south” but had no idea what it is? Do not worry; this area of the United States is often overlooked by many. However, it has so many rich and exciting things to offer. It is a combination of a few states making up the south and midwest, consisting of West Tennessee, North Mississippi, northern Louisiana, Southern Missouri, Western Kentucky, Central, Northeast, and Eastern Arkansas, Northwest Alabama, northwestern South Carolina, and even Eastern Oklahoma. This region takes a sample from each of the states it touches and combines some of the best destinations between them. An abundance of small towns offering adventure, history, and charm. Take a journey through the US mid-south and find the treasures it holds.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs is the hidden gift that keeps on giving. The town was founded in the year 1879. As such, it is steeped in history. One can find Victorian-style architecture throughout, and the entire downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the town is known as a “mecca” for artists, writers, the religious community, and the LGBTQ+ community. There is something for everyone in the town of Eureka Springs. For the artsy type, there are numerous art galleries and the annual May Festival of the Arts. For thrill-seekers, there is always the option to visit The Crescent Hotel, famously known as America's most haunted hotel. Animal lovers will be obsessed with the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for big cats, and not far from there is Beaver Lake, offering fishing and boating for outdoor fun. There is so much to do in Eureka Springs you will not want to leave.
Home to The University of Mississippi, the town of Oxford is much more than a college town. Every spring, it is the proud host of the Double Decker Arts Festival, which features music and local artists. The town also holds true to its southern status, being a beacon of southern cuisine. Having a meal at the iconic Ajax Diner is a must for all visitors. They specialize in southern comfort foods like Chicken and dumplings, fried catfish, Mississippi pot roast, meatloaf, and country fried steaks, along with an array of burgers and po’boys that are sure to warm any guest to the bone. For those with a passion for history and literature, visiting William Faulkner's Rowan Oak will immerse the senses in the world that inspired much of his work for more than 40 years. There is also an abundance of historical architecture in the downtown area. Oxford is a cultural gem that simply should not be missed.
The Bourbon Capital of the World with its numerous distilleries, Bardstown is the ideal destination for history buffs and bachelor parties wanting a break from the cliche Vegas vibes. It hosts the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival, bringing great food, music, and, of course, world-class bourbon together for an unforgettable experience that is perfect for a parents’ getaway. The town holds the United States’s fourth-largest Civil War Museum as well as Federal Hill, the inspiration for the song “My Old Kentucky Home. The historical activities continue with the My Old Kentucky Dinner Train, which delivers an unforgettable dining experience for families and couples alike. Be sure to make a reservation for their Murder Mystery Train for social media-worthy moments sure to have friends and family demanding to know more.
Natchitoches is known for being the host of the Annual Christmas Festival of Lights, but the town offers fun all year long. Being the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, it is overflowing with as much historical value as its name suggests, giving it every reason to be on everyone’s must-visit list. In The Historic District, one can find buildings dating as far back as the 1700s. The Cane River National Heritage Area and the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission offer free guided walking tours of the Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District for any wishing to lose themselves in the history-rich streets of Natchitoches. The town also served as the backdrop for the iconic 1989 classic "Steel Magnolias," being a perfect example of southern living. There is a 33-block area that serves as a shopping and dining paradise and a bed & breakfast lover’s dream. The town also offers an abundance of sports activities, from The Northwestern Hills Gulf Course, or Cane River Paddle & Boats Sports, to the Natchitoches Shooting Range. Here, you will find yourself able to make more memories than you can count. Natchitoches is the perfect destination for lovers of true southern culture.
Mountain View, Arkansas
Located near the Ozark National Forest, the town of Mountain View is an outdoor lovers' paradise for camping, hiking, and nature-watching. There is the Blanchard Springs Caverns, where one can find guided tours that are welcoming to both children and adults. The area is beautiful, and a short paved walk from the parking area brings you to the Blanchard Spring, which discharges millions of gallons of water daily, forming a waterfall and babbling creek. There is also the Annual Bean Fest and Championship Outhouse Races. The town offers numerous great solutions for parents wanting to get their kids away from in front of TV and computer screens. Mountain View is known as the Folk Music Capital of the World. It offers not only Ozark Folk Center showcasing traditional crafts but also Jimmy Driftwood Barn, a venue for folk music. Between the historical music and the captivating scenery, a visit to Mountain View will relax the nerves and refresh the senses.
Beaufort, South Carolina
A trip to one of the oldest port towns in the South is certainly worth mentioning. The town is full of antebellum and colonial-era homes, marking its rich past. Some of these are located on the Intracoastal Waterway, offering boating and fishing. Despite being the setting for movies like "Forrest Gump" and "The Big Chill," Beaufort is known for its countless galleries showcasing local artists and renowned seafood, especially shrimp and oysters. The possibilities are truly endless. Beaufort offers activities for all seasons; a stroll through the Historical District, a visit to one of the museums, and tours by foot, horseback, or boating are just a few. Outdoor fun and historical sites make Beaufort the ideal location for solo jaunts and family trips.
A short drive from the Country music capital of the world, the town of Franklin beckons. With a vibrant Main Street filled with shops and eateries, all who stop in Franklin will find a truly welcoming environment, but if you take a deeper look, you will find a town rich with history. Since it was the site of the Battle of Franklin in 1864, it stands to reason that visits to The Carnton and the Carter House, both of which are Civil War sites, are both a must. Here, travelers can dive into the complex workings of the Civil War and try to understand events that once threatened to tear the United States in two. Franklin also offers fun for those with more modern-day interests. There are a growing number of craft breweries and distilleries that one can explore, especially during the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival.
Ambiguous as the region can be, the opportunities to make long-lasting memories are endless in the mid-south. These towns will surely leave you wanting to come back. There is a little something for everyone and plenty to go around. Food, fun games, and history fill its every corner, and it is the perfect destination for travelers of all kinds. Take the kids, take the dog, and see what adventures await in the United States mid-south.