For many of us at the Lake, the "off season" is a great time plan a vacation. The season affords us a bit more time to slip away for a long weekend. If you are looking for somewhere to go within a six-hour drive, here are three great spots that would make the perfect getaway.
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.
Located in the southwest part of the state, Hot Springs is a mecca for people wanting to explore the area’s naturally-heated water and springs. It’s also billed as one of the most romantic places to visit.
The Hot Springs National park is open year-round where you can see some of the 143-degree thermal springs that made the park famous. Drinking the water is encouraged and you can fill a few bottles to take home. Since the water is too hot, you can’t dive in but a visit to Bathhouse Row is a must.
The Quapaw Baths & Spa has a variety of therapeutic services. You can swim in the thermal pools for $20 per person or schedule a private bath in the spa. The Fordyce Bathhouse offers look back at the history of the springs. This beautifully-restored building first opened in May 1989 and is now a visitors center.
Other things to do in Hot Springs include the Gangster Museum of America. Learn about the gangsters who liked to hide out in Hot Springs. The National Park Aquarium has the state’s largest fish and reptile exhibit.
From January through April Oaklawn Racing & Gaming is the place to be. Since 1904, horse racing has been a big draw so you can place a bet on your favorite thoroughbred or hit the slots in the gaming area.
In warmer months taking in nature is a must at scenic parks like the Garvan Woodland Gardens. For more of a thrill there are zip lines and the Magic Springs Theme and Water Park, which is open April to October.
More info: www.arkansas.com
You might want to map out your route so you can take a side-trip to the Clinton Presidential Library and Park located in Little Rock, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville which are major attractions in the area. Also in Bentonville is the Walmart Museum which we’ve heard is a must-see.
The Crater of Diamonds State Park is located in Murfreesboro. It’s the world’s only diamond site where you get to keep what you find.
When you think of Nashville, one thing probably comes to mind — country music. It’s where some of the most popular musicians in the industry have gotten their start, and where some of them call home. Nicknamed Music City, there’s always free live music playing, one-of-a-kind shows, and lots of honky-tonk events to be found.
If it is your first time visiting the city several recommended attractions include the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Grand Ole Opry and Lower Broadway, where rows of neon-lit venues have live music all day and night. The Nashville Live Music Guide app can help you find where to go to hear some great tunes at any of the city’s 160 or so locations. You will find the historic RCA Studio B on a tour of Music Row. It’s where Elvis recorded more than 200 songs, and other famous musicians recorded hits.
To explore the arts, there are galleries and performing art centers to see a stage show. Nashville has also been called “The Athens of the South” so a stop at the Greek Parthenon replica should be on your itinerary.
The Belle Meade Plantation is the city’s largest and wealthiest private estate sitting on 5,400 acres with tours available daily. Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage is one of the largest and most visited presidential homes in the United States.
The culinary scene just can’t be beat. Taylor Swift’s favorite spot Fido is a funky coffeehouse located in Hillsboro Village. Other popular eateries include the Pancake Pantry with more than 20 varieties of pancakes, the Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden serves up German food, and the Loveless Cafe is known for classic Southern food.
Staying overnight can include a luxurious hotel, bed and breakfast or even a stay in a hostel.
More info: www.visitmusiccity.com
If your a big history buff, it doesn’t get much better than Abraham Lincoln’s hometown. At the top of everyone’s to-do list is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Galleries of well-preserved displays showcasing the life of the 16th President of the United States include the worlds largest collection of Lincoln-related documents and artifacts. You will see family photos, crystal from the White House, Mary Lincoln’s ball gowns and other reproductions at the museum.
More Lincoln history can be found at the Lincoln Depot, a restored 1852 train depot where Lincoln gave “the Farewell Address” before leaving for Washington; his family home, the only home he ever owned; and the Lincoln Tomb.
Springfield is also the site of the Camp Butler National Cemetery, once the location of a Union Civil War training camp and Confederate prison. The State Military Museum, war memorials, and other historic sites are a few other stops you may want to make. Guided tours help to provide a living history experience.
There are plenty of modern hotels and restaurants to choose from, but if you are looking for something unique Springfield’s got that, too. The Cozy Dog Drive In is a classic Route 66 diner where the hot dog on a stick was made famous. Charlie Parker’s Diner dishes out delicious breakfast and was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
More info: www.visitspringfieldillinois.com
Information for the articles provided by the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, Hot Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.