We are entering the peak time of year for vacations and vacation planning. Sid and Ed Greenhaw, who travel extensively with their work, have seen a lot of interesting places. From those experiences, Ed is highlighting some “hidden gems” that he has seen along the way, often overlooked in vacation planning by people who are less traveled. (This is part 2 of Ed’s Vacation Planning Tips.)
Part one of this series can be read here:
Dogwood Village: Located near the Arkansas and Missouri border, on highway 65 on the way to Branson from Arkansas, is this beautiful valley filled with waterfalls, deer, turkey and even a wedding chapel. This is not a theme park, but a wild, accessible area full of wildlife. Bring your camera!
Natchez, MS: Over 500 antebellum homes--many with a colonial feel to it, a ton of Indian history and an amazing view of the Mississippi River make this town a “can’t miss” detour on the way to New Orleans.
Tour some of the antebellum homes and learn about their interesting history. Warning, though, some of the homes are haunted!!
I love the Cock of the Walk overlooking the Mississippi River. The Blacken Catfish is great! It is on par with New Orleans blacken dishes. You can get discounts at the Visitor Centers or rest areas and stay at one of the great downtown Motels for a third of what you would spend at a similar motel in a big city. Natchez is a great walking city, too! It has annual festivals in the spring and fall.
Holly Springs, MS: Near Memphis this town was one of Grant’s headquarters during the Civil War. It was, thankfully, spared. When confederate solders broke into the headquarters, they did not bother Grant’s wife. The confederate solders left when Grant’s wife told them that “southern gentlemen would not act this way.”
The Visitor center is well worth a look.
Charming ladies dressed in costume will help you plan a home tour. Holly Springs has annual home tours every fall and spring.
For the December tour. be sure to include a visit to one of the local churches to hear Christmas hymns and to absorb the church’s interesting history. Be sure to note: Phillip’s Grocery, located near the town square, has one of the world’s best hamburgers according to USA Today.
Nearby Strawberry Plains is well known as a bird sanctuary. You will see hummingbirds, gold finches and other colorful birds and butterflies. But, bring bug spray. I learned this the hard way from personal experience. Call ahead to make sure that the home and gardens will be open. Nearby Wall Doxey State Park is a great place for a picnic. It is just a few miles to the West on highway 7 going toward Oxford, MS.
Reel Foot Lake, TN: This Lake was created by the great earthquakes of the early 1800s that reversed the flow of the Mississippi river and rang church bells in Boston, MS. It is famous for its fishing, eagles and wildlife. This area has more species of birds than any other similar sized area in the state. Book a summer pontoon boat tour. This is one of the best deals anywhere. You will see osprey, eagles, egrets, herons and tree frogs. The best eagle tours are in the winter. It is not uncommon to also see owls as well as eagles on the winter tours. Eat a catfish dinner or frog legs to get a taste of the areas food.
Lake Parsons, TN: Located just a few miles east of Memphis, this area near Fishersville looks anything like the big city. The road from Memphis to Lake Parsons is beautiful, with old grocery stores and fairyland homes. Be sure and have a map handy since you will be making several turns to get to the lake. Your trouble, however, will be rewarded with a beautiful lake with many animals. Bring your camera because the animals are used to people and do not scare too easily.
Hollow Bend Lake State Park, AR: Near Russellville, Arkansas, this park is well known among bird watchers. You are likely to see deer and the rare but beautiful Painted Bunting. Nearby Lake Dardanelle is known for its fishing. Russellville is a friendly college town home to Arkansas Tech. You might consider combining this trip with a trip to the better known Petit Jean Mountain which is famous for its views, waterfalls and cabins.
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, FL: Need a break from the crowded over developed Florida vacation experience? Then view Manatees from a glass bottom boat! Homosassa is an award winning park located in a refreshingly unspoiled natural area of North West Florida.
University towns: Visiting University towns can be a good vacation trip alternative. I especially like Fayetteville, AR, Oxford, MS, Athens, GA and Rome, GA. Fayetteville is a clean, beautiful city close to great outdoor activities. The beautiful and quaint historic Eureka Springs is nearby and Beaver Lake is noted for its scuba diving and fishing. This highly rated city has a great mall and an interesting downtown.
Oxford, MS is another interesting city. The Grove tailgating experience is a can’t miss destination even if you are a Hog fan. There are larger tailgating venues in the country, but few are as inviting. It has been accurately described as a sublime experience and is rated as one of the best in the nation.
Wedding receptions have been held there! The town itself has beautiful old homes and an interesting square with fun shops. Do not miss the old book store. The Double Decker festival held each year is one of the best in the South. Do not leave your boat or hiking gear behind.
The area is close to Sardis Lake shore and there are trails everywhere. Athens, GA the home of The University of Georgia, has a lot of interesting southern homes. The Oak filled campus of the University of Georgia is right on the edge of the beautiful downtown Athens loaded with ceramic bulldogs, beautiful ladies and fine restaurants. Rome, GA is the home of Berry College. This college with its English cottage like buildings sits on a deer filled campus with swan filled ponds.
Tune in next week for part three of Ed's Vacation Planning Tips, featuring great photography from both Ed and Sid Greenhaw.