A visit to the Mid-South of the United States offers visitors innumerable options in terms of entertainment, cuisine, outdoor activities, cultural learning, shopping, and accommodation type. For those looking to explore the Mid-South region, spending some time in one or more charming towns here is a great way to get to know it culturally and ecologically. Below you will find some of the best towns to visit if you are hoping to immerse yourself in Mid-South American culture, and it will certainly be a highlight of your vacation. From Hinton, West Virginia, to Ozark, Alabama, the towns are just waiting to be explored.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Situated in the Ozark Mountains, Eureka Springs is located in Carroll County, Arkansas. This town of just over 2,000 residents sees its population rise every summer. Historically, tourists have been venturing to this town to drink the 'healing waters' of the spring water system from which Eureka Springs gets its name. Today, tourists can enjoy swimming in the many above-ground springs, including Basin Spring, Calif Spring, and Blue Spring, the latter having an adjacent heritage center where you can learn about the springs collectively. In town, there are lots to do, including visiting the famous Christ of the Ozarks statue. At seven stories tall, this statue of Christ is one of the largest in the world, in terms of statues of Jesus. In town, there are many gorgeous churches that architecture enthusiasts will not want to miss, particularly St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church and Thorncrown Chapel. After a busy day out in the sun, you will want to return to a relaxing environment with options for every budget in Eureka Springs. However, for an extra memorable visit, a stay at one of Eureka Springs's unique accommodations, such as All Seasons Treehouse Village or Loblolly Pines Adventure Cabins, will be the cherry on top of a fantastic vacation.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Are you looking for a beach vacation but do not want to spend the time or money flying to some tropical far-off land? If so, a visit to the town of Gulf Shores, Alabama, is just for you. Located on the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Shores is a popular vacation spot for Alabamians and Americans collectively. Every year summer tourists visit Gulf Shores to relax on the white sand beaches and swim in the Atlantic Ocean. While the beaches of Gulf Shores may be the most popular attraction for visitors, there is so much more that this town has to offer. For those looking for outdoor activities, Gulf Shores is surrounded by many exceptional outdoor spaces, including Gulf State Park and the City of Gulf Shores Wetlands Park. For those who want to combine a beach day with some fabulous and unique hikes, a visit to the Gulf Islands National Seashore is a must-do. Accessible via a causeway that connects to Route 98, you will want to set out early for Gulf Island so you can enjoy a full day of bird-watching, hiking, and soaking in the beautiful landscape.
Hinton, West Virginia
Sitting on the shores of New River, Hinton, West Virginia, is located in Summers County. Surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains, this town of 2,600 residents was founded in 1872 and named after John "Jack" Hinton, who owned the land upon which Hinton now sits. In town, you will want to visit Hinton's downtown area, which is designated as a National Historic District. Among the quaint shops and excellent restaurants, you will find some of the first buildings built in Hinton, including Hinton Station, Summers County Courthouse, and Campbell-Flannagan-Murrell House, each with a provenance of between the late 1800s and early 1900s. In Hinton's historic district, there is also the Hinton Railroad Museum, a great place to learn about the town's railroad-influenced history. If you are looking to spend a day in the great outdoors, there are some fabulous parks and preserves in the area. Look no further than Bluestone State Park or River Gorge National Park and Preserve, both located no more than twenty minutes by car from Hinton. Each has a variety of hiking trails, picnic areas, and bird-watching opportunities. In your way back to Hinton, make sure to stop by The Old Grind ice cream shop and grab some of their famous ice cream before heading to bed.
Located in Murray County, Oklahoma, the town of Sulphur, founded in 1890, gets its name from the level of sulfur in the local water. In town, you will want to visit the Chickasaw Cultural Center, where you can learn about the pre-colonial history of the Murray County region. The historic downtown district along Sulphur's Main Street has many lovely artisan shops, such as ARTesian Gallery & Studios, which are not to be missed. For outdoors lovers, a visit to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is an absolute must, with over thirty miles of hiking trails open to the public. For the adventurous among you, there are four award-winning campgrounds in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Other parks in the vicinity include Beavers Bend State Park, Greenleaf State Park, and, a little farther afield but still doable in one day, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. As outdoor wonders go, this region is particularly abundant in waterfalls. Tourist favorite, Little Niagara Falls, is located in Chickasaw National Recreation Area and is accessible via two trails, Travertine Creek Trail and Buffalo and Antelope Spring Trail. Both trails are considered an easy hike and will take around 45 minutes to an hour, out-and-back. Other local waterfalls include Turner Falls, Bear Falls, and Garfield Falls.
Known as the "The Little Switzerland of Ohio," Sugarcreek, Ohio, is located in Ohio's Amish country. This gorgeous town is the closest you will get to experiencing Switzerland without actually being in the country itself. Disney Land's Epcot has nothing on Sugarcreek when it comes to Swiss architecture and culture. In town, you will have the chance to see the world's largest cuckoo clock, nestled in the center of the Swiss-styled downtown area of this town. Other attractions in the town include the Alpine Hills Historical Museum and a variety of art shops located on Broadway Street.
If you are visiting Sugarcreek during the summer, you should check when the Annual Ohio Swiss Festival is being held. This lively festival brings tourists to Sugarcreek every year who join the residents in celebrating the Swiss roots of this community. The festival includes a parade, a wine and cheese event at the local fire station, musical performances, a steintossen (stone toss competition), and much more. If you plan to visit during the festival, plan ahead and book your accommodations before they all book up. With a range of accommodation types in town, it is the Bed and Breakfasts in Sugarcreek, such as Oak Haven Bed & Breakfast and Sugarcreek Village Inn, that is particularly delightful. Whether your visit overlaps with the Ohio Swiss Festival or you visit in the dead of winter, you are sure to have a fantastic time in Sugarcreek.
Located in Platte County, Missouri, along the Missouri River, Parkville was officially founded in 1841. Prior to its founding, the area where modern Parkville's downtown sits functioned as a small steamboat landing. Today, Parkville's historic district runs along Main Street and offers exceptional dining options such as Rochester Brewing & Roasting Co. and Café des Amis, and is known for having outstanding antique shops, including Old Town Sweets and Antiques and Parkville Antique Mall. Outside of town, there are a variety of parks and nature preserves to visit, many including hikes to spectacular waterfalls. A popular attraction for tourists and locals is the Parkville Nature Sanctuary which boasts hiking trails for all levels of expertise, the most popular of which are White Tail Trail and Old Kate Loop.
With its location under ten miles from Kansas City, Missouri, staying in Parkville is a great way to get the big-city experience without the need to pay for big-city accommodations. Parkville offers a variety of hotels and Bed and Breakfasts, including the award-winning historic Main Street Inn. If you are looking to spend the night in Parkville, make sure to book in advance, accommodations, especially in the summer, can be hard to find at short notice.
The scenic town of Fairhope is located in Baldwin County, Alabama. It sits on the eastern sand beach shores of Mobile Bay, making it an ideal location for a low-key beach vacation. In town, there are lots to do, but the one absolute must-do is to explore Fairhope's downtown historic district. You can venture through the historic downtown on your own, but if you are interested in learning about the history of Fairhope in detail, a guided tour will certainly be a highlight of your stay. The City of Fairhope offers many tours, while other tours, such as The Fairhope Foodie Tour, are offered by tour companies such as Taste of Fairhope. Accommodations in Fairhope, beyond the usual hotel chains, include charming Bed and Breakfasts, including Church Street Retreat and Storybook Castle BnB, as well as many rustic Farm/Home Stays, such as Fairhope Farm Stay.
Ozark is located in the southeast corner of Alabama, in Dale County. With over 14,000 residents, Ozark has a lively atmosphere but also maintains the small-town charm of Mid-South towns. Surrounding Ozark, there are a variety of state and national parks. For those looking for an outdoor adventure without a long drive, Blue Springs State Park and River Sandbar Park are less than a thirty-minute car ride from downtown Ozark, while Frank Jackson State Park is just under an hour's drive door-to-door. In and directly around town Ozark offers many exciting and entertaining activities such as spending a day fishing and hiking at Ed Lisenby Lake, paying a visit to the Broad Street location of the legendary local ice-cream shop Milky Moo's, or, for those visiting Ozark with children, spending a day at Kidzone at Steagall Park.
The Take Home
A great place to recharge from the hustle and bustle of big-city life, you will never want to leave by the time your vacation is up. With abundant potential destinations and access to a whole gamut of accommodation types, there is something for everyone when visiting the American Mid-South.