A summer of euphoric adventuring is upon us — and with lifting restrictions and the strong, widespread desire to travel, comes chaos in the form of flight cancellations, limited hotel availability, and staff shortages that are impacting service. No wonder why luggage trackers have become all the rage.
If you’re looking to avoid long-haul “flightmares” this coming Labor Day, opt to keep it domestic with these three undiscovered Southern towns that will keep the charm coming.
1. Mountain Home, Arkansas
Drive through Arkansas and enjoy lush farmland, horses abound as well as many hikes and swimming holes to take advantage of. If you’re looking to stay somewhere with an up-and-coming town square, head to Mountain Home which in the last few years has enjoyed some restoration to its town center.
Sip on local brews and grab a bite at , founded by 3 friends who grew up in the area. You can’t go wrong on the menu (which changes for Sunday brunch), especially if you nosh on the Rapp’s Sliders. Rapp’s also boasts frequent live music and is a hop skip and a jump from wine bar Crush.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, check out Karla’s thoughtfully designed, fully equipped . As the sister of one of the Rapp’s owners, her rentals are only a few minutes’ walk from the restaurant.
After an evening of local eats, drive to Buffalo National River and kayak down Sneeds Creek to Kyle’s Landing. The 8ish-mile portion of the river features stunning blue water, many stops to enjoy a dip, light rapids, and Instagram-worthy scenic shots. With beauty like this, it’s no wonder why Arkansas is dubbed The Natural State.
If you’re looking for another outdoor activity, hike Hemmed-In Hollow Falls to experience the tallest waterfall between The Rockies and Appalachians. And on the way out, make sure to stop at Ozark Cafe (jukebox included) to nosh on their generous burgers, fried pickles, and larger-than-life shakes.
2. McAlester, Oklahoma
Driving through Tornado Alley will land you with some moody weather. And if you’re rushing through on your way to Texas, this town can be easily missed. Make sure you make the stop so you can take in tasty dining establishments and the revival that’s underway by local food connoisseurs.
For your first stop, grab a cup of joe at your new favorite coffee shop, where you can chat with owner Adam about the local — annual meat-cooking competitions, including a Ribeye cook-off, put on by McAlester Makers Inc. He might also mention the a series of free, outdoor music events held in downtown McAlester.
For lunch, head a few doors down to a yardbird where owner Joe makes, well, a mean bird of course. Ask for the secret menu (which boasts a fried chicken burger) and dine on the sauce-soaked biscuits.
If you’re craving sugar, have Joe warm you up a homemade oatmeal raisin cookie to wash it all down. Sit at the bar and listen as the old records fill this restored mining building up with an unforgettable ambiance as you watch locals breeze in and out to pick up their to-go orders.
If you stay the night, there are a couple of newer Airbnb options to choose from like this studio only a few steps from Spaceship Earth Coffee.
To outsiders, McAlester could easily look like a soon-to-be dissolved ghost town — take note: it’s anything but. McAlester is a must-visit, modern-day Schitt’s Creek undergoing a revival. Put this city on the map – it’s one to watch.
3. Baird, Texas
If you’re looking for a patriotic road trip chock-full of farmland and history, go back in time to Baird, Texas, about 45 minutes from the more established city of Abilene.
With a population of just under 1,500, this town in Callahan County was founded by Matthew Baird, owner, and director of the Texas and Pacific Railway. Hence the railway murals adorning the brick buildings scattered through what remains of the historic town square.
Drive through Baird’s main street to see more artwork, have a beer at the local bar at the end of the street and then head to the . If you’re hoping to stay near the action, book this in a newly remodeled turn-of-the-century building or if you’re craving a more remote setting, opt for this set on a ranch overlooking a lake — dock, fire-pit, and fully stocked fridge and pantry included.
A 20ish-minute drive away (because everything is a drive around here), you can pop into for dinner and enjoy one of the best filets you’ll ever have the pleasure of chowing down on — all establishment surrounded whilst by the likes of cowboys and ranchers that frequent this daily.
The sunrises are unforgettable in Baird, as are the people and hospitality.
Manifest A Carefree Summer
The south is dripping in history, delicious eats, and the promise of a carefree getaway sans the crowds. If this type of road trip (yes, all these towns can be explored in one go!) sounds ideal, remember, just because you’re not traveling internationally, doesn’t mean you’re not due for a potential headache this season.
Domestic flights are just as prone to delays and cancellations which can result in you missing check-in, arriving late, and more. Travel insurance coverage protects you from these bumps in the road, as well as contracting COVID-19 — with travel insurance providers like reimbursing you immediately for many hiccups so you don’t have to pay out of pocket.
So what are you waiting for? Hit the road, enjoy the continued renaissance of the age-old American road trip, and rediscover the South this summer.
Written in partnership with Travel Insurance
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