SUMMER TIME and the living is breezy

THERE IS NOTHING better than a Southern summer getaway. Whether you are looking for a gambling excursion on the Gulf Coast or trails to meander in the mountains of Tennessee, chances are you will find your perfect escape without ever boarding a plane. If your trip is for a week or just a weekend, you owe it to yourself to check out some of the many attractions of the region. These are a few of our favorites.

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

GoToLouisville.com | 502-584-2121

We canâ??t make a list of top places to visit without including our hometown. It just wouldnâ??t be right!

 

On a large scale Louisville is known for the Kentucky Derby, the Louisville Slugger and Muhammad Ali. But it also is home to a great music scene, amazing local restaurants and bars featuring the most concentrated bourbon selections you will find anywhere in the world. Louisville is to bourbon what Napa is to wine. Most of the bartenders are well versed in the different selections and will offer â??tastingsâ? to help you choose.

 

The Highlands area features an array of pubs and casual restaurants, including one of Louisvilleâ??s finest, Jack Fryâ??s, and another hidden gem, Highlands Tap Room. Both can be found on Bardstown Road, in what is arguably the coolest neighborhood in town.

 

Great finds: Patâ??s Steakhouse or Jeff Rubyâ??s Steakhouse for steaks. Bourbonâ??s Bistro or the Old Seelbach Bar for a wide variety of bourbons. For an authentic Churchill Downs experience, head trackside to Wagnerâ??s Pharmacy, just outside the gates. Everyone from jockeys to trainers and owners have been known to frequent the small breakfast eatery.

 

Places to stay: The Seelbach Hilton (502-585-3200, SeelbachHilton.com) is a 4-diamond luxury hotel and on the National Register of Historical Places. Fine dining in The Oakroom is a must, and craft cocktails in the Old Seelbach Bar are always a hit. Fans of â??The Great Gatsbyâ? will recognize the hotel as the site of Tom and Daisyâ??s wedding. The Galt House Hotel & Suites (502-589-5200, GaltHouse.com) overlooks the Ohio River and features several restaurants, an outdoor pool and the Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar, known to be one of the coolest bars in the country, featuring over 100 bourbons! And 21C Museum Hotel (502-217-6300, 21cmuseumhotels.com) is regularly featured in world-renown travel magazines and websites as one of the most unique hotel experiences anywhere.

Save the date: Forecastle Festival (July 18-20, forecastlefest.com) is a three-day music blowout on the 85-acre Great Lawn on the riverfront, with 60 bands ranging from Outkast to Jason Isbell. Itâ??s one of our Top Festivals of the South. The Water Tower Music Series consists of the Kentucky Reggae Festival (May 24-26), the Louisville Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival (July 11-13) and the Kentucky Bluegrass & Bourbon Experience

(Aug. 30-Sept. 1), each serving its own musical genre with regional band line-ups and authentic foods. Tickets are $10 before 6pm and $14 after, kids 10 and under get in for free. (502-583-0333)

 

 

SEVIERVILLE, GATLINBURG & PIGEON FORGE, TENNESSEE

SeviervilleTN.com | 1-888-SEVIERVILLE

You can enjoy not only the many attractions this town has to offer, but take your sweet time sampling the fun in neighboring Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg (MyPigeonForge.com, Gatlinburg.com). Whether you are looking for a relaxing weekend in a private chalet or a fun-filled day of zip lines, water slides and amusement parks, you will find it in this trio-community hidden among the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. Tourists seem to return to the area year after year because of the accessibility, affordability and the number of things to do.

 

Sevierville is home to Tanger Outlet Mall, Oak Haven Resort & Spa, the Wilderness at the Smokies (indoor and outdoor water park with multiple hotels, dining facilities and activities for kids) and several other attractions.

 

Pigeon Forge has miles of museums, dinner theaters, go-carting and more. Here you will find the Titanic Museum, which features one of the largest collections of artifacts from the ill-fated ocean liner from 1912. Dolly Partonâ??s Dollywood is just a few miles off Pigeon Forge Parkway. It serves as the stateâ??s largest tourist attraction. Guests can enjoy roller coasters, arts and crafts specific to the region, live shows, restaurants and more.

 

The Island is a new tourist area that features the 200-foot-tall Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, shopping, and restaurants. Jimmy Buffetâ??s Margaritaville Hotel will open soon, complete with a rooftop pool. At the Wonders of Flight, a tethered balloon ride takes guests 500 feet into the air, providing breathtaking Smokey Mountain views.

 

Great finds: Ripleyâ??s Aquarium and Laurel Falls hiking trail (foothills of the Smokies) is a paved trail (1.3 miles) that leads to the popular landmark. If you are looking for more of a challenge, the Rainbow Falls trail is 2.7 miles; Cades Cover Nature Drive; Stage Shows; Titanic Museum; Dollywood; Wilderness at the Smokies.

 

Places to stay: Oak Haven Resort & Spa (Sevierville)

 

Save the date: 10th Annual Bloominâ?? BBQ & Bluegrass Festival (May 16-17, BloominBBQ.com) is a Tennessee State BBQ competition featuring top cooking teams and free concerts. The Fourth of July Parade and Fireworks have been named some of the best in the country. With the parade taking place on the 3rd and fireworks launching at midnight, itâ??s also one of the first. Fall leaf changing is optimal from mid-October through mid-November.

 

SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, LOUISIANA

Shreveport-Bossier.org | 888-915-2551

Shreveportâ??Bossier City sits in northern Louisiana, not far from the Texas border. Itâ??s home to a handful of casino properties, a racetrack, great local restaurants, outdoor festivals and Southern hospitality. Whether you are looking for a taste of Beignets that rival those in New Orleans or the chance to zip line over alligator-infested waters, you will find it here.

 

The newest casino property is Jimmy Buffetâ??s Margaritaville, inspired by relaxed personality of the famed singer. The property boasts a premium steakhouse, spa, rooftop pool and a clean, open-air casino with a variety of games. There is also a Samâ??s Town Casino nearby. The locally owned El Dorado Casino is a true gem with a great selection of fine Kentucky bourbons at their restaurant, The Vintage.

 

But the magic really happens when you explore the treasures of the local community, discovering along the way authentic Louisiana surprises you wonâ??t find anywhere else. One of them is Lilahâ??s Bakery at The Outlets. Baking and selling nearly 10,000 King Cakes each Mardi Gras season, Lilahâ??s is known around the world for their sweet masterpiece offered in a variety of flavors.

 

Be sure you seek out Kimâ??s Seafood & Po-boys, where owner Duc Duong has created a casual spot for locals to experience the true taste of Po-boys and crawfish. Duong is a former shrimp boat captain and owned a restaurant in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina displaced him and his family. After a period of hard work and rebuilding, his business is booming. The self-proclaimed â??Asian Cajunâ? is on top of the world.

 

Another local creation is Great Raft Brewing Company, a working brewery and tasting room that boasts a variety of flavors, including a black lager, a pale ale and a French-inspired Saison. If you time your visit toward the late afternoon, there is a chance of food trucks showing up, offering delicious flavors to make your stop worthwhile.

 

Great finds: Lilahâ??s Bakery & Deli (318-564-2831, lilahsdeli.com) for King Cakes and other tasty treats; 2Johnâ??s Steak & Seafood (318-841-5646, 2JohnsRestaurant.com) for an elegant meal or relaxing live jazz in the lounge and bar area ; Wine Country Bistro for fresh Louisiana-inspired dishes and a vintage cocktail menu (318-629-9463, WineCountryNet.com); Marilynnâ??s Place for a Beignet and Bloody Mary, or great Cajun-inspired dinner entrées (318-868-3004, Marilynns-Place.com).

 

Places to stay: Margaritaville Resort Casino is Jimmy Buffetâ??s latest creation. Itâ??s ALWAYS 5 oâ??clock at Margaritaville! (855-346-2489, MargaritavilleBossierCity.com); Samâ??s Town Hotel & Casino is a regular winner of Southern Gamingâ??s Readersâ?? Choice Awards and another sure bet when it comes to great rooms, food and gambling (877-429-0711, SamsTownShreveport.com).

 

HILTON HEAD, SOUTH CAROLINA

HiltonHeadIsland.org | 800-523-3373

South Carolina is the mecca of coastal getaways for the Southern United States. It is a destination rich with history dating back to the 1600s, when Captain William Hilton first spotted the area. Today it is visited by more than 2 million people a year.

The resort is home to multiple golf courses, including Harbour Town Golf Links, home to the PGAâ??s Heritage golf tournament. This course is one of the regions toughest and features a flawlessly manicured layout. There are several other courses on the island, both private and public, ranging in price and difficulty. A moderately priced attraction is Gary Playerâ??s Hilton Head National, located on the main highway just before you get onto the island. Another is Oyster Reef Golf Club, located in the Palmetto Hall plantation. If you are looking for a trio pf courses, some of the best on the island lie in the confines of Palmetto Dunes Plantation. Here you will find a Robert Trenton Jones, a George Fazio and a Arthur Hills course each with their own characteristics and all absolutely phenomenal. (Click here to check the mall out!)

 

Another great day getaway is Dafuskie Island, located across the Calibogue Sound. Grab the golf clubs or tennis racquets, or even an overnight bag, and spend the day at Bloody Point Golf Club & Resort, where you will find a great golf course, restaurant, pools and tennis courts to entertain you.

 

Great finds: Harbour Town Golf Links (843-363-8385, SeaPines.com); Hilton Head National Golf Course (843-842-5900, GolfHiltonHeadNational.com); Hudonâ??s Seafood House on the Docks (843-681-2772, HudsonsontheRocks.com); Up the Creek Pub & Grill (843-681-3625, UpTheCreekPubandGrill.com).

 

Places to stay: Palmetto Dunes Resort (877-460-0027, palmettodunes.com); Sea Pines Resort (866-561-8802, SeaPines.com); Bloody Point Golf Club and Resort (843-341-3030, bloody-point.com); Wyndham Vacation Rentals-Resort Quest (800-875-8726, WyndhamVacationRentals.com).

 

EUREKA SPRINGS, ARKANSAS

EurekaSprings.org | 800-523-3373

Eureka Springs is secluded in the heart of the Ozarks. This artist-friendly mecca is home to all sorts of attractions, from a railway to the Great Passion Play, museums, ghost tours and a wildcat sanctuary. The town is known as a magnet for honeymooners, motorcycle enthusiasts, craft lovers and even UFO fanaticsâ??and thereâ??s not a single stoplight in town.

 

Great finds: Flavor Café (479-253-9522, localflavorcafe.net) is a Main Street favorite and dishes up both classics and fusion creations with flair. The Grand Tavern (479-253-6756, grandcentralresort.com) for elegant, beautifully interpreted French classics. KJâ??s Caribe (479-253-8102) serves up Honduran and Latin favorites derived from family recipes with a modern touch. The Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway gives riders the feel of the age of train travel. Dinner aboard is a popular option (479-253-9623, esnarailway.com). Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 100 big cats rescued from across North America, with overnight stay options available (479-253-5841, turpentinecreek.org). The Great Passion Play showcases the final days of the life of Christ, with live animals on a permanent Holy Land set (800-882-7529, greatpassionplay.org).

 

Places to stay: The 1886 Crescent Hotel (800-678-8946, crescent-hotel.com) is known as the Most Haunted Hotel in America, but the rooms are great and the hotel cats are friendly. The Grand Treehouse Resort (479-253-8733, thetreehouses.com) is a unique concept that offers accommodations for couples only, no kids allowed.

 

Save the date: The May Festival of the Arts celebrates the areaâ??s 400 working artists and performers with the ArtRageous Parade, gallery strolls, a Visual Feast and more. (479-253-7333, Eurekaspringsfestivalofthearts.com).

 

Fleur Delicious is a French-themed food festival on the first weekend after Independence Day (479-253-6807, fleurdeliciousweekend.com).

 

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA

VisitSavannah.com | 912-644-6400

In 1994, John Berendt published Midnight in the Garden of Evil and over the course of a few hundred pages, he put Savanah on the map. Even after two decades, the oldest city in Georgia still enjoys the visits of thousands of tourists a year wanting to more personally connect with the story. But if the book is what brings them there, Savannah offers much more to keep them coming back.

 

Great finds: High on the list of attractions is Bonaventure Cemetery. Visitors compare it to a botanical garden, finding it seasonally lush with live oak, long moss, wisteria and azaleas. Though the famous â??Bird Girlâ? sculpture from the bookâ??s cover has been moved to a museum, the park-like setting features many more gothic monuments to its dead.

 

Speaking of the dearly departed, the city has a reputation as one of the Southâ??s most haunted. Just two years ago, USA Today placed it among the top 10 of all ghostly inhabited cities in the United States. For a family-friendly walking tour, try the Grave Tales Tour. Two others, promising more chills, are for adults only: the Dead of Night Ghost Tour and the Beyond Good and Evil Tour. Want to mix in some spirits with your spirits? You wonâ??t go wrong with the Ghost City Haunted Pub Crawl. (Information for each at ghosttoursinsavannah.com).

 

Places to stay: The Hamilton-Turner Inn is a four-diamond bed-and-breakfast that sits on Lafayette Square (Hamilton-turnerinn.com). The Ballastone Inn bills itself as the cityâ??s most romantic inn (ballastoneinn.com). For something a bit less provincial, the Andaz Savannah offers a more modern, updated approach to visiting Savannah (savannah.andaz.hyatt.com).

 

Save the date: Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon is an exhibition put on by Telfair Museum at the Jepson Center for the Arts through July 27 (visitsavannah.com). From pop culture to high culture, The Savannah Voice Festival

(Aug. 1-17) brings opera greats Sherrill Milnes and soprano Maria Zouves to headline an event that combines music and arts (savannahvoicefestival.org).

 

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