Small Towns with Big Attractions

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Small towns charm the blasé, create a quiet space in our busy work lives, entertain with outdoor activities and offer glimpses of our past. For those who just want something different, getting out of the city and into the hinterlands may be the perfect vacation or weekend.

You can take your pick—art festivals, sporting events and transposed culture. Needless to say, many of our favorite retreats revive history by making it real to our generation and to our kids.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is a lovely city built around the famous springs. The springs were first discovered by the native tribes of the region. Several tales of miracle cures have been shared about the waters of the springs springs, which are located in the Ozark Mountains and bottled by the Ozarka Bottling Company.

The city was founded and named on July 4, 1879. For its strenuous efforts to preserve its history, the entire city of Eureka Springs has been designated one of 12 distinctive destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is a certified Main Street. The city contains many different historical sites, such as the Municipal Auditorium opened by John Philip Sousa, the Eureka Underground, abolitionist Carry Nation’s home, and the site of Marshall Tilgham’s capture of the final member of the Dalton gang.

Visitors can experience many diverse activities. The Great Passion Play depicting the life of Christ is held between March and December. Another activity is the Corvette weekend, held the first weekend in October each year. Admirers of America’s sports car can drive their own or simply admire the cars of others. Many different events are held for the owners but there are no bitter competitions!

Helen, Georgia, is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest, or about 90 miles from Atlanta. Helen has the special look of a small Alpine village. In 1969, the logging town was in decline when a few businessmen decided to create a tourist attraction by converting the town into a Bavarian village. More than 200 stores have been converted into the popular design found in southern Germany.

There are numerous attractions for outdoor adventurers. You can go horseback riding or hot air ballooning; you can hike or take a ride with the Alpine Carriage Company, or you can go ziplining or go tubing down the Chattahoochee River. Other activities include fly fishing, kayaking or bicycling. You can visit the many waterfalls in the area. Finish your day by sipping wine from the local wineries or dining in one of the fabulous restaurants.

The Glass Mountain Gallery and Studio is a lovely museum housing beautiful blown glass pieces. The studio is open to the public only between Labor Day and Christmas as the glass blowers “dance with fire” during this time period. Throughout the rest of the year, the gallery is open by appointment only.

Charlemagne’s Kingdom is a model train display using the layout of a complete Alpine village. For the best view, climb up to the catwalk and view the display from the top. The Kingdom has been remodeled recently, so call to be sure it is open.

Motorcycle rallies have become more popular in the last few years. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, August 3 through 12, 2018, is a world-famous example of this craze. Generally, in the first full week of August, the streets of Sturgis, South Dakota, become vast parking lots as more than 650,000 riders and partygoers ride in on their bikes. Sturgis is a great place to sell, trade and admire bikes while you enjoy the scenic rides, music, beer and contests. Riders and visitors to Sturgis can visit nearby Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Devils Tower and Custer State Park.

The Sturgis Buffalo Chip® is one of the world’s longest running independent music festivals held during the rally week. The Wild Gypsy Tour is a series of events supporting women riders and bike builders. The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame preserves the history of bike culture and displays vintage bikes and bike memorabilia in revolving exhibits honoring bikes and their riders.

Daytona, Florida, hosts bikers and their bikes in March of every year, just before spring break for the college crowd. The festival is located in Daytona, but other coastal cities provide additional events during the festival. Bikers and visitors can enjoy special events at the Daytona International Speedway, music festivals, a seafood festival and special theater productions during the festival. There is always the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean for swimming and some of the world’s most famous beaches for sunbathing when the weather cooperates. New Smyrna Beach, Deland and Ormond Beach offer history and culture along with summer events when the weather warms. ■

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