St. Louis, known as the Land of the Free Attractions, which includes Clydesdale stables at Grant’s Farm, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis History Museum, Science Center, St. Louis Zoo, Shakespeare in the Park, and more.
A+ Attraction: Missouri Botanical Gardens, including its Children’s Garden: A Missouri Adventure.
Good eats: Copia Urban Winery & Market, Crown Candy Kitchen, Soda Fountain Square, and Fitz’s.
Good sleep: Stretch out at Sheraton City Center (HUGE rooms) and at Drury Plaza in the old Fur Exchange Building, with sculptures of members of the Lewis & Clark expedition in the lobby.
NEW: “Symbols of Power: Napoleon and the Art of the Empire Style, 1800-1815,” June 17-September 16, St. Louis Art Museum.
Cape Girardeau: History, culture, and Civil War sites, museums, murals, wineries, pubs, theater, art galleries, and shopping—life on the Cape is busy indeed.
A+ Attractions: Stroll the Mississippi riverfront at the edge of historic downtown, where you’ll find several National Historic Register sites, including the restored Glenn House.
Good eats: For riverfront dining, follow your nose to Port Cape Girardeau for barbecue.
Good sleep: Bellevue Bed and Breakfast, a AAA three-diamond B&B and Cape Girardeau historical landmark; the antique-laden Rivertown Guest House, next door to Broadway Books and Roasting.
NEW: Flood Wall Murals, Red House Interpretive Center with its 1800s early settlers’ exhibit, and the interactive Conservation Campus Nature Center.
Carbondale: Visit Woodlawn Cemetery, birthplace of Memorial Day. Tour Southern Illinois University Museum and the African American Museum of Southern Illinois. Follow the sunshine to outdoor adventures along hiking trails, lakes, and golf courses.
A+ Attraction: Stroll West Walnut Street Historic Residential District and Historic Town Square.
Good eats: Hunan for excellent Asian cuisine; the Newell House, a popular bistro setting in a historic hotel, for wonderful coffee.
Good sleep: Carbondale’s newest lodging facility is a full-service and charming Holiday Inn. Cabin on the Hill is a unique choice for travelers looking for more space in a natural setting.
NEW: The Southern Illinois Golf Trail includes five top-quality courses.
Mt. Vernon is home of Cedarhurst Center for the Arts (art museum, outdoor sculpture park, chamber music, performing arts) and Jefferson County Historical Village, authentic log structures including church, cabins, school, museum, blacksmith, and printing shop. Visit the 1857 Appellate Courthouse where Abraham Lincoln argued cases and American Red Cross founder Clara Burton tended the injured. Sip award-winning wines at GenKota Winery.
A+ Attraction: The nationally recognized annual Cedarhurst Craft Fair at Cedarhurst Center, September 8-9.
Good eats: Imported beers and homemade breads at 9th Street
Grill; authentic Greek pastries and lunch at Jimmie James Blue Goose (open weekdays).
Good sleep: Two brand-new properties: Comfort Suites and Fairfield Inn and Suites.
Brown County/Nashville: Known as The Little Smokies, this bustling burg is rife with historic sites, specialty shops, craft galleries, antique stores, artist studios and workshops, and the Joybell Theater, where Kristine Stout, the United States’ only handbell soloist, performs.
A+ Attraction: For Bare Feet Sock Factory. Tours, 1 p.m. Monday-Friday, show off the entire sock-making process and visitors get a pair of socks. Tours are $5 adults, $3 children.
Good eats: Hot fried biscuits and baked apple butter at the Nashville House Restaurant. Other favorites: country-fried ham steak with red gravy and tangy barbecued ribs.
Good sleep: Brown County Inn and The Seasons Lodge, Retreat & Hotel. Both have an all-season covered pool.
NEW: Art Colony Centennial Celebration in the Village of Nashville.
Southeastern Indiana: Book a spa treatment and a room at lavishly renovated French Lick Springs Resort & Casino. Zip and sip along the Uplands Wine Trail. See Santa Claus in the town that bears his name and theme your way to Holiday World Amusement Park, Santa Claus Museum, Candy Castle, and Frosty’s miniature golf.
A+ Attraction: West Baden Springs Hotel, built in 1902 and referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World, re-opens May 1.
Good eats: French Lick Winery’s Vintage Café: try the wine cake made with French Lick Red.
Good sleep: The family suites at the Santa Lodge, any room at French Lick or West Baden.
NEW: Holiday World’s Turkey Whirl tilt-a-whirl and Voyage coaster, and Splashin’ Safari’s Bakuli water slide.
Indianapolis pulsates with things to do: Indianapolis Museum of Art, Children’s Museum, shopping at Circle Centre mall, Conner Prairie outdoor living-history museum, Indianapolis Art Center, Indiana Repertory Theatre, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A+ Attractions: White River State Park attractions: Indy Zoo/Aquarium/Botanical Garden, Indiana History Center, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indiana State Museum, and L.S. Ayres Tea Room.
Good eats: Taste classic Indy at St. Elmo’s Steakhouse; Mediterranean cuisine with a focus on fresh seafood and creative pastas at Dunaway’s.
Good sleep: Holiday Inn North with its Caribbean Cove Indoor Water Park; super-roomy Embassy Suites.
NEW: “Spymaker” exhibition at The Children’s Museum, March 16-September 3.
Newark: Cherry Valley Lodge in Newark is an all-in-one family getaway and the only hotel in the nation that is also an arboretum and botanical garden—plus (optional) evening turn-down service with Cherry Bear, who arrives with milk and cookies. In the area: Ohio Historical Society and Newark Earthworks, the Midland Theatre, Ye Olde Mill Velvet Ice Cream, and charming historic downtown Granville.
A+ Attraction: Specialty weekend packages at the resort: Girls Only, Wine, Gourmet Cooking, etc.
Good eats: Sunflowers Dining Room: delectable entrées in a cozy setting with a garden view.
Good sleep: 200 gorgeous guestrooms and 16 Jacuzzi suites.
NEW: The Banyan Leaf Spa and CoCo Key Water Resort (indoors).
Marietta beckons with Blennerhassett Island State Park and Museum, Middleton Doll Company (retail, museum, factory tour), the charming Toy and Doll Museum, Railroad Display and Caboose Mini-Museum, Smoot Theatre, and a vibrant downtown shopping street with wine shops, art galleries, crafts, boutiques, and antique toy shop.
A+ Attraction: Fenton Art Glass Company: retail shop, museum, and factory tour.
Good eats: Saturday night Grand Dinner Cruise aboard the Valley Gem Sternwheeler (June-Sept.); fine dining at the Gun Room Restaurant at Historic Lafayette Hotel.
Good sleep: The gracious Historic Lafayette Hotel located on the riverfront.
NEW: The River Trail, a 1.8-mile bike and pedestrian trail, meanders along the scenic Muskingum River.
Warren County: Walk Warren County’s wild side: King’s Island, Beach Waterpark, Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad, and Fort Ancient State Memorial, plus charming yesteryear shopping in downtown Lebanon and Waynesville.
A+ Attraction: La Comedia Dinner Theatre. Catch a Broadway-style show: Oklahoma!, Grease, Wizard of Oz, The Fantasticks, and White Christmas in 2007.
Good eats: The papaya chutney salad dressing and sweet potato soufflé at La Comedia. Fabulous!
Good sleep: The rambling Great Wolf Lodge with its “northwoods” sensibility, spacious rooms, and colossal indoor water park.
NEW: Great Wolf Lodge, a first-class, full-service family destination with 401 themed guestrooms, two restaurants, snack areas, Aveda spa, fitness room, game arcade, kid’s club, and enchanting Storytime Clock.
Charleston: Chase Charleston’s cultural landmarks—West Virginia Cultural Center, the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences and Avampato Discovery Museum, Heritage Towers and the Mountain Stage, and West Virginia Public Radio’s live two-hour arts performance show hosted at the Cultural Center Theater in the State Capitol Complex. Shop the Capitol Market, a historic railway station turned indoor/outdoor shopping mecca.
A+ Attraction: West Virginia State Capitol.
Good eats: Soho’s for Italian; Blossom Dairy for deli-style lunches and fancy dinners; Laury’s for upscale dining.
Good sleep: Choose from this charming trio: Marriott Town Center Inn, Embassy Suites, or Brass Pineapple Bed & Breakfast.
NEW: Appalachian Power Park, a minor league ballpark stadium and entertainment complex.
Beckley wins fans with culture, history, and recreational opportunities provided by Mother Nature. Visit Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, Hinton Railroad Museum, Saunders One-Room School House, Raleigh County Veteran’s Museum, and Wildwood House Museum. Catch an outdoor drama at Theatre West Virginia.
A+ Attraction: Tamarack, a world-class showcase of festivals, events, craft demonstrations, performing arts, theater, and fine art gallery with an enormous collection of West Virginia crafts, art, books, music, and gourmet foods.
Good eats: For rainbow trout and fried green tomatoes West Virginia-style, head to Tamarack, managed by The Greenbrier.
Good sleep: Twin Falls Resort State Park.
NEW: Arrangements provided by luxury vacation cabins: trip packages, groceries, massages, more.
Marion, a nationally accredited Main Street Community, offers the 1929 Lincoln Theatre (one of three Mayan Revival theaters in America and home to nationally syndicated PBS favorite Song of the Mountains), the Smyth County Museum, and Appalachian Spirit Gallery. Nearby are the Museum of Middle Appalachians and the Settlers Museum of Southwest Virginia.
A+ Attractions: The historic downtown district with its theater, shops including The General Store, art galleries, and restaurants.
Good eats: Lucky Dog Deli and Pub; Macado’s Restaurant and Bar, tucked in the old post office.
Good sleep: The elegantly restored 1927 General Francis Marion Hotel; Hungry Mother State Park.
NEW: The Black Rooster Gallery, inside the General Francis.
Pigeon Forge: If you haven’t been to this chummy mountain enclave lately, it’s time for a visit. New shows, shops, hotels, and restaurants (including No Way Jose’s, Smoky Mountain Brewery, and Red Rooster Pancake House) crowd the attraction’s landscape where WonderWorks, the zany upside-down science center, recently crash-landed.
A+ Attraction: The magnificent production of The Miracle at The Miracle Theatre gives new meaning to the phrase “awe-inspiring.”
Good eats: Everything at The Old Mill Restaurant.
Good sleep: The Inn at Christmas Place opens this spring.
NEW: The Mystery Mine coaster opens at Dollywood on April 13. On May 19, Dollywood’s Splash Country unveils the atmospheric Cascades leisure pool.
Oak Ridge, World War II’s “Secret City” has it all: natural, historic, and family attractions, shopping at Historic Jackson Square, and local foodie favorites like the Soup Kitchen and boisterous Big Ed’s Pizza, plus the fascinating American Museum of Science & Energy, the nearby charming Lenoir Museum, and the oh-so-fun (and massive) Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge.
A+ Attraction: The Museum of Appalachia, a living-history mountain village with the best fried green tomatoes this side of the garden patch.
Good eats: Grab a Fat Man burger at Jefferson Soda Fountain.
Good sleep: Hampton Inn and Doubletree Hotel.
NEW: Green McAdoo Cultural Center, a civil rights museum, in nearby Clinton.
Chattanooga charms with museums, shopping at the North Shore, Ruby Falls, the Southern Belle Riverboat, and a downtown positively transformed in recent years.
A+ Attraction: See Rock City: the gardens, the gnomes, Lover’s Leap, the swinging bridge, and the coup de grace—the Seven States Flag Court.
Good eats: The Boat House, located along the Tennessee River just a short drive, boat ride, or walk along Tennessee Riverpark; the upscale Back Inn Café in the Bluff View Art District.
Good sleep: The Chattanoogan, an upscale urban resort with gorgeous rooms, several restaurants, and full-service spa.
NEW: Expansions of cultural gems The Hunter Museum, Tennessee Aquarium, and Creative Discovery Museum.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
For resources to help plan your trip across the border, click here: border trip