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So Hot ... Ways to Make This a Memorable Summer

Ah, summer.

For many, the word alone evokes waves of nostalgia, conjuring up memories like cold lemonade, slightly melted ice cream, swimming holes, pools and oceans, the aroma of grilled meats, and porch swings at twilight.

Yes, there's nothing quite like summertime in the South.

The longer days also beckon you to step out of your comfort zone and do something different, such as going to a new festival, attraction, or destination, exploring the outdoors, or all the above.

Whether you want to go big or small, or somewhere in between, here are a few ideas to help you plan fun and memorable (two essential factors) summer experiences:

Hit the Trails

Summer is a great time to get moving, whether it's walking, hiking, or biking. Some options in the South include exploring rails-to-trails like the Katy Trail State Park in Missouri, or Tammany Trace in Louisiana, or checking out the Mountain to Sea Trail in North Carolina.  

And then there are the "other" trails that cover everything from outdoors (North Alabama Waterfall Trail) to food (Mayport, Florida, Shrimp Trail) to fun (Myrtle Beach Mini Golf Trail.)

Visit State and National Parks

A great day or weekend trip can be as simple as going to a state park. Dig for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Meander the Louisiana State Arboretum's nature trails Louisiana's largest state park, Chicot State Park in Ville Platte. Hike along part of the Appalachian Trail at Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, Georgia

The options are endless.

Then there are the National Parks. Go stargazing at Big Bend National Park in west Texas, hike to Clingmans Dome near the North Carolina/Tennessee border in The Great Smoky Mountains, sign up for a ranger-led big tree hike in Congaree National Park in South Carolina, cool off by going down Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest, In North Carolina, a few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway, check out the EarthCache program at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, or the Beneath Your Feet program at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

Go Extreme

Okay, so you've done zipline and canopy tours, but have you ziplined underground at Louisville (Kentucky) Mega Caverns. Go bouldering (aka rock climbing) in Robinson Bluff in Cadet, Missouri, Stone Fort in Chattanooga, Tennessee or New River Gorge in West Virginia. Bentonville, Arkansas, is known as the "Mountain Bike Capital of the World." You can rent a bike and check out some of the trails.  

Explore Underground

Caves are found throughout the South in Missouri, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia. Even Florida has a cave - Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna.

And truth be told, a cave tour anywhere in the region is a great way to cool off.

Those interested in spelunking should visit the Southeastern Cave Conservancy and National Speleological Society.

Get In or On the Water

Okay, yes, this one seems obvious, given all of the coastal areas in the South, but are you aware of other ways to do it besides beaches? There are lakes like DeGray Lake in Arkansas, Lake Martin in Alabama, Norris Lake in Tennessee and Lake Lanier in Buford, Georgia ~ to name a few. Paddle along the Pinebelt Blueways, near Hattiesburg, Mississippi or one of the blueways of the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area. Swamp tours throughout Louisiana are another way to enjoy the water and nature. In Texas and Florida, get out of the heat and into one of either state's many natural springs.

Let this be the summer you go white water rafting in places like Montgomery, Alabama and Columbus, Georgia, or rivers like Chattooga in South Carolina, Watagua in Boone, North Carolina, and Gauley in West Virginia.

For an elevated pool day (because you deserve to spoil yourself and maybe others), consider purchasing a day pool pass from Resort Pass.

Enjoy Outdoor Plays

There is no doubt about it: the South loves productions. Experience Broadway-style shows at The Muny in St. Louis, Missouri, a range of outdoor dramas in North Carolina or a musical such as The Stephen Foster Story in Bardstown, Kentucky. There are also outdoor plays highlighting the history of an area, like the Texas Outdoor Musical at Palo Duro State Park in Canyon, historical events such as the Miracle Worker in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and possibly something greater, like the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Sip and Savor Al Fresco

Toast to a fun summer on rooftop restaurants like Walt's on the Roof in Auburn, Alabama, or Level 8 Lounge at Hotel Duval in Tallahassee, Florida and sidewalk seating.

Do Something Different

Enroll in a class. Go on a walking food tour with the Tasting Tours in St. Augustine, Florida, or the Taste Carolina Downtown Wilmington (North Carolina) Tour. Take a distillery, winery or brewery tour. Embark on a train ride aboard the Blue Ridge (Georgia) Scenic Railway, the Great Smoky Railroad in Bryson City, North Carolina or the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad in Elkin, West Virginia. Tube the Chattahoochee River in Helen, Georgia, with Cool River Tubing or Helen Tubing & Waterpark. Climb the Anavista Tower at Anakeesta in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Ride the roller coasters at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, or Carowinds on the South Carolina/North Carolina border.

Overnight Somewhere Different

Relax in authentic Mongolian yurts at The Yurtopian Hill Country Resort in Wimberley or Dripping Springs, Texas. Check in at The Tree Top Loft in  Little River Bluffs - A Nature Preserve & Retreat in Folsom, Louisiana. Overnight in one of the four modern floating cabins at the Beatnik in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Call it a night at the Fairy Cottage, Orc Home or other dwellings at Ancient Lore Village in Knoxville, Tennessee. Sweet (bourbon) dreams inside a bourbon barrel at Bourbon Barrel Retreats in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.


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