13 Books to Read Before Your Southern U.S. Vacation

The southern part of the U.S. is a beautifully wanderlusty area and it has a special place in my heart. I’m from there! Even though I have since moved away from that area I love reading books that have a southern U.S. setting. I’m always finding myself reading a book I haven’t read yet set in the south before we head down there for a vacation. It really gives me alll the southern U.S. vibes. Here are 13 book I recommend you pick up for a great read before your next vacation down south:

  1. The Heat of the Sun by Louis D. Rubin, Jr.: Set in South Carolina in the 1940s, this book has romance and southern twang. What more could you need?
  2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: Following The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, I liked this one better. I liked reading about Huck and Jim cruising along the Mississippi River and the shenanigans they get into to.
  3. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin: You guessed it, this book is set in Mississippi (and yes, I sing the song in my head to spell it correctly). I absolutely loved reading this book-it’s hard to find a great southern setting novel set in contemporary times.
  4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Wow. This book. It’s probably my favorite classic American novel of all the ones I’ve read. And I’ve read my fair share, believe me. Read about Janie and Tea Cake’s adventures in this beautiful story set in Florida.
  5. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines: I was actually assigned to read this story in high school in English class, but man am I glad I was because it was such a page turner and very deep. Set in Louisiana and about a man who is sentenced to death, and another man who must visit him in jail to educate him during the last days of his life.
  6. True Grit by Charles Portis: This is an awesome story set in Arkansas (my home states, yea!) and follows a girl who wishes to avenge her father’s death.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Set in 1920s Alabama, this is a wonderful story about a young girl, her recluse neighbor, and an unfair trial happening in town.
  8. The Little Rock Nine by Stephanie Fitzgerald: The Little Rock Nine were the first black students in Little Rock, AR to attend a public all-white highschool. This book recounts the horrors they faced during this process of segregation.
  9. A Painted House by John Grisham: Of course John Grisham must be on this list. My favorite of his has to be A Painted House. Set in the farming days of Northeast Arkansas, this story is told from the viewpoint of a young boy who recounts one summer on the farm and all that went down that season.
  10. The Whisper of the River by Ferrol Sams: This is actually the second book of a three book series, but you can read them out of order. I loved reading about Peter Osborne and his college days at a university in Georgia. He learns a lot and grows as a person over his 4 years away at school, meeting all sorts of characters along the way.
  11. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: This is a bit of a sad story but ends happy, I promise! A little girl is deserted at a young age and raises herself in the marsh of the North Carolina coast. She must learn so much on her own and become independent fast.
  12. Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice: Set in New Orleans when the Parisians first settled in the area, this story follows the lives of three vampires over several decades.
  13. Lightning Bug by Donald Harrington: A strange but interesting book following the lives of the residents of a tiny town in Northwest Arkansas. It has all the humor and mega southern U.S. vibes.

I hope you find that you enjoy reading at least a few from this list. They’re all different genres so it just depends on what you like! I have another recommended list strictly for an Arkansas vacation if you want to check that one out, too. Happy reading!

9 Books for the Best Arkansas Vibes

Planning a Trip to Arkansas Soon? If so, A. I strongly encourage that, and B. then you’re in the right spot because I’m going to list for you 9 awesome books that will give you all the Arkansas feels and vibes you can handle. All the following books are set in different parts of Arkansas and cover quite a different range of genres but I suggest you give them all a try because they’re all written brilliantly and will really kick off your Arkansas trip before you even set foot in the state!

  1. True Grit set in Northwest Arkansas: At the tippity top of my list is True Grit, a story about a young lady who searches Arkansas and Oklahoma for her father’s killer. I like this story because it’s told through the eyes of such an independent, determined girl who will stop at nothing to achieve what she’s after.
  2. Cody: Clicking Beat on the Brink of Nada set in Central Arkansas: This was a very interesting book and written so well it was hard to put down (aren’t those the best ones?). It’s about a homosexual teenaged boy who has two love affairs throughout the story and his hardships with, well, those relationships.
  3. Where Things Come Back: set in Northeast Arkansas: This was another great book set in Arkansas that involves a kid going missing one summer and his family’s search for him.
  4. A Painted House: Set in Northeast Arkansas: When I was in high school, we had to do a ‘reading hour’ where everyone in the class read from a book together like a bunch of first graders. One of the books was a John Grisham book and I remember the teacher saying how Grisham peaked with ‘A Time to Kill’. I never picked up another book by him until years later, A Painted House. I loved it! It’s in the narrative of a young boy and all the adventures he has one summer during harvest season. Some good, some bad.
  5. I know why the Caged Bird Sings Set in Southwest Arkansas: The setting of this classic American novel is set half in Arkansas and half in California. The main character has good, but poor times in Arkansas but things take a turn of some sorts after moving to California.
  6. The Little Rock Nine Set in Central Arkansas: This is a nonfiction book about the integration of the first public high school in Arkansas, Little Rock Central High School. What these nine black teenagers go through is insane to read about, offering so much detail about what they faced on a daily basis as part of this experience.
  7. Sugar Set in Northeast Arkansas: Sugar has been a prostitute her whole life, starting out in Arkansas. After moving around the country some she returns to Arkansas and after befriending her neighbor, both women’s lives begin to change.
  8. Hot Springs set in Hot Springs and various parts of Arkansas: Ok, this book is cool because it talks about the tourist town Hot Springs and the illegal gambling that went down in the 40s and 50s. It was a hot spot for sin, bringing out big name movie stars and gangsters like Al Capone and Mickey Rooney. A crew of men are hired to take it all down.
  9. Lightning Bug set in Northwest Arkansas: This book is a little hard to describe as it is somewhat plot-less to me but the basis of it talks about a small town and it’s wacky characters surrounding two people with a past and the possibility of a future.

After reading these, you will find out that all of these books are sent in the 20th century. It makes me wonder if that’s when Arkansas had it’s glory years? I think perhaps this state is good choice to write about for authors because there are quite a bit of books based there, but not hardly any movies. Interesting, huh? Happy reading from one book worm to another!

A Guide to Southwest Arkansas: What to See, Do, & Eat

If you didn’t know it I was born and raised in Southwest Arkansas, Texarkana, AR to be exact. That’s right on the border of Texas and about 30 minutes north of Louisiana. Way down south, y’all. The area I am from is also called the ArkLaTex as in Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas. See: Tex-Ark-Ana. Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana. Alright, that’s enough city name breakdown. I lived in this area for 18 years, moving away after graduating high school. So, you could say I know a thing or two about what to do for fun around these parts! Read below for some southern adventures.

  1. Stand in Two States at Once Texarkana: Head down to the post office in Texarkana and find the Texas/Arkansas sign. Put one foot in Texas, and put the other foot in Arkansas. Now you can say you’ve stood in two states at once!
Which side are YOU from?

2. See a show at Perot Theater Texarkana, TX: The Perot Theater is this beautiful old theater in downtown Texarkana. It’s very historic and is a must see for aesthetic lovers!

3. Daisy State Park Kirby, AR: When I was a kid we had a speed boat and would frequent this park often for tubing on the lake!

4. DeGray Lake Resort State Park Arkadelphia, AR: This is another great spot for boating and camping!

5. Texas vs. Arkansas Game Texarkana: Because Texarkana is a twin city of Texas and Arkansas, the two main highschools are huge rivals! At the start of football season, there is a game held between Texas High and Arkansas High and the host switches between the two schools every year. The whole city shows up to support their state and it’s a lot of fun!

6. Crater of Diamonds State Park Murfreesboro, AR: Arkansas is the only state in the whole country that you can dig for diamonds how cool is that?! You can go to this state park, bring a shovel, and dig all day in the fields. Anything you find-you keep! Maybe you will strike out-maybe you will hit the jackpot!

Out here trying to get rich

7. Nix Creek Trail Texarkana, AR: There is a nice walking and biking trail that runs through part of Texarkana. It’s a great way to enjoy nature in this small city.

8. Find the Dr. Pepper Mural Texarkana: Head downtown to spot this mural and snap a pic for the ‘gram.

Southerners love Dr. Pepper-except me!

9. Explore Downtown Texarkana: Downtown Texarkana has so many cute and vintage shops, it’s like stepping back in time. Take some time to spend an afternoon here exploring.

Which way to Milwaukee?

Where to Eat in Texarkana:

  1. Southern Tropics: This is THE BEST shaved ice in the world! Ok maybe not in the whole world but it is damn good let me tell you! The texture, the taste, gah all of it comes together so deliciously.
  2. Zapatas: This is the best Mexican food you’ll find in the area. Their margs are top notch, too!
  3. McAlister’s: A yummy deli spot. I’m a sucker for their spuds. I am not a sweet tea drinker but I hear it is out of this world!
  4. Old Tyme Burger Shoppe: I’m a burger-and-fry girl all the way and this place hits the spot with their grub.
  5. Taco Tico: This is Mexican fast food at it’s finest, y’all.
  6. Potato Patch: Another great spot for some big ole spuds.
  7. Catfish King: I could eat fried catfish everyday, and I would eat her everyday if I still lived in the area.
  8. Whataburger: One of the best fast food chains in America-you can’t miss trying this pace!

I hope you have fun on your adventures in Southwest Arkansas and stay cool in that heat!

A Guide to Northwest Arkansas: What to See, Do, & Eat

Have you ever been to Northwest Arkansas or NWA as it’s known to some? If not, you are missing out! It’s the prettiest region in Arkansas, offering so many activities mostly in the great outdoors. It’s a great place to vacation to with children or even on a romantic getaway. I lived in the area for about a year, so here are a local’s recommendations on what to see, do and eat while visiting:

  1. Fayetteville, AR: This is where they ‘call the hogs’ as they say. This is probably the most residential area in the region and it’s also where the popular University of Arkansas college is located so it is mostly known as a small college town. You can come here to watch a college football game or hit up Dixon Street with the students and locals. Dixon Street is Fayetteville’s downtown area lined with lots of restaurants, shops, and bars. Some of my favorite spots here are Rendezvous Hookah Lounge, and Fayettechill. There is also a sweet trail that you can walk, run, or bike on that goes right through Dixon Street and other parts of town called Frisco Trail Corridor. I used to go running here all the time along with other students and locals. Fayetteville is a great place to visit to get a little bit of city life vibes but still feel like you’re in the Ozarks.

2. Eureka Springs, AR: If you’ve read my Eureka Springs post already, then you know how in love I am with ES! If you’re in NWA you CANNOT miss stopping here for at least a day. It will take your breath away with beauty, history, and alllll the good vibes, y’all. They’ve got ghost tours, old Victorian buildings in their downtown area, cave tours, and anything else your little gypsy soul desires.

Find the Rainbow Stairs in Eureka Springs, AR

3. Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari: Who would have thought NWA would have one of these?! Well, they do and it’s a lot of fun! You drive through acres and acres of land and get to see all kinds of animals. Near the entrance they also have contained animals you can walk around to see as well if you’d rather not do any driving.

Check out these beauties

4. Float the Buffalo National River: If you want to see colossal and aesthetically pleasing bluffs high above while you float down a river, then make a stop here! There are a few spots where you can launch and rent canoes at but we snagged ours from Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca, AR. The river has to be just right with water levels so make sure to check them before you decide to go (they’re on BOC’s website). Bring water and snacks to hydrate yourself while you’re out there as it gets hot and most importantly-have fun!

paddle, paddle

5. Devil’s Den State Park: An awesome state park nestled into the mountains. They’ve got hiking trails, overlooks, waterfalls, and even bears!

Devil’s Den State Park

6. Crystal Bridges Museum: This is a gorgeously designed art museum in Bentonville, AR- the home of Wal-Mart! If you’re into art at all then you should definitely head out here.

7. Mt. Nebo State Park: Another awesome state park in NWA and my personal favorite in this area. Their trails are oh so beautiful with lots of different scenery.

Mt. Nebo State Park

8. Mt. Magazine State Park: Go here to see views for days! This park is most known for their amazing overlooks. You can also find the highest point in Arkansas on a trail here.

Way high up

9. Bobby Hopper Tunnel: There is a really cool tunnel that you will most likely drive through at some point when going from spot to spot in NWA. It goes right through the mountains. Don’t forget to honk!

Eat in NWA

Rolling Pin Cafe Fayetteville, AR

-Jose’s Bar and Grill Springdale, AR

Geraldi’s Fayetteville, AR

La Hacienda Fayetteville, AR

Hugo’s Fayetteville, AR

Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese Fayetteville, AR

Balcony Bar & Restaurant Eureka Springs, AR

Now, go and have yourself a blast making memories in NWA!!!

Magical Eureka Springs

Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a small tourist town in northwest Arkansas, often called ‘The Little Switzerland of Arkansas’ because it is embedded into the Ozark Mountains. It is also my most favorite place to go in all of Arkansas. There is something truly magical and majestic about this town that makes me feel so very much in my element and at home. I absolutely love everything about it. It’s even where Nate proposed! So yea, I’d say it’s way up there on favorite travel destinations for me. I have visited here three different times, and I’d love to go back as often as I can. It’s extremely historical-and haunted! Years ago, sick people would come here in hopes of being cured by consuming the ‘eureka springs’ but ended up dying instead, and many people believe the town (primarily the hotels that used to be hospitals) to be haunted now. Let me guide you on what to do while here so you too can fall in love.

What to do in Eureka Springs

  1. Stroll Downtown and Visit the Shops: Like any tourist town, there are several charming shops and boutiques in downtown ES as well as lots of older buildings and cute little parks. You could easily spend a whole afternoon or even day getting swept up downtown!
I saw this cute feller along our stroll

2. Go on a ghost tour at the Crescent Hotel: I highly recommend doing this activity! They even did an episode of it on Ghost Hunters. On this tour, you will learn all about the sick people who came to ES searching for a cure and the haunted aspect of the town hotel and town. They talk about the history of the town, the hotel, and ghost sightings. You get to tour the whole hotel-even this cellar thingy where they inspected dead body parts of the patients! The hotel is still kept in the Victorian era style and creaks and moans as you walk along the hallways. It’s a sight to see and you will not regret going on this tour!

The crescent sculpture at the entrance of the Crescent Hotel

3. Cave Tours: There are two cave tours you can go on: Onyx Cave and Cosmic Caverns. Both are totally legit and super cool and are very similar in comparison. Soda straws, chilly & dark climate, the whole nine yards.

Onyx Cave Tour

4. Find the Rainbow Stairs: You may recognize this spot from my homepage pic. It can be found right downtown in between blocks in an alleyway. It’s a must for the ‘gram.

I’m a hippie-moon child okurrrr

5. Quigley’s Castle: This is a house outside of downtown that you can tour. It’s filled with awesome randomness like antique shaving razors, butterfly collections, and stands made of glass bottles. It’s a little hard to describe, I just know that it’s cool okay and you need to go there.

Glass bottle thingy at Quigley’s Castle

6. Christ of the Ozarks: This is a theatrical play you can go see at an outdoor theater which includes a gigantic white statue of Jesus Christ. Yes, you read that right. While you don’t have to be a religious fanatic to go check this out and attend the play, you should still go because there’s a gigantic white statue of Jesus Christ. I’m tellin’ ya, the statue is huge, like 66 feet tall. Only in the Ozarks, people! Nate and I just rolled up here one afternoon when there wasn’t any shows playing and walked down to the statue.

Told ya.

7. Find Humpty Dumpty: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall in downtown ES… and we spotted him! Don’t ask me where he is, because I honestly can’t remember where we ended up finding him and anyway, it’s fun hunting for him while simultaneously exploring downtown.

Gotcha, suckah!

8. Lake Leatherwood Dam: A beautiful lake, with a beautiful waterfall created by the dam. There are trails all along the lake where you can do some light hiking. It’s also a great place to get engaged!

Enfianced

My Favorite Restaurants in Eureka Springs

The Balcony Restaurant: This is inside the Basin Park Hotel, which also has a haunted history similar to the Crescent Hotel. The food is delicious and the balcony offers a lively view of downtown.

Mudd Street Cafe Annex: We stopped here for breakfast before heading out of town. I’m not much a breakfast person, but this place was good!

Sky Bar Gourmet Pizzeria: This is another restaurant that offers balcony seating inside the Crescent Hotel. Stop here for some grub after the ghost tour.

Thai House Restaurant: This place was delicious! Nate and are little fiends for all kinds of Asian food and we were blown away by our meal.

Rowdy Beaver: This is the perfect destination for some down-home southern cooking. I’m talking the good stuff folks-fried foods, burgers, BBQ all ‘at.

Exploring Little Rock & Central Arkansas

I lived in Little Rock for about 3 years, which gave me ample time to sniff out all the best activities to do here. While not a major metropolitan area, Central Arkansas is best known for it’s awesome outdoor adventures as opposed to the city life. So, here you have it from a former local-what not to miss!

What to See & Do

Big Dam Bridge: Little Rock, free It’s more than a funny name, it’s a spectacular location to bike, rollerblade, walk, run, and basically anything active. It’s a gigantic dam built over the Arkansas River, which you can gaze out at at the top of the bridge. It’s huge, it’s beautiful, it’s a place you won’t forget.

Big Dam Bridge

The Old Mill: North Little Rock, free This place is actually from a scene in Gone With The Wind. After you visit, you’ll understand why. There’s an old brick mill, obviously, that you can walk around in, and all kinds of pretty landscaping, and cool bridges and walkways. It’s like something out of a fairy tale.

The Ole Mill

Pinnacle Mountain: Little Rock, free In my opinion, this is the best state park Arkansas has to offer. It is, in fact, a mountain that you can hike up to and go all the way to the top. It’s safe with marked paths for levels of difficulty. Ya girl went up the backside of the mountain once-yea don’t do that. Twas scary! As long as you stick to the more populous paths, the heights shouldn’t frighten you and you’ll love the beautiful scenery on your way up.

Pinnacle Mountain State Park

Horseback Riding: Little Rock $$, Play cowgirl for a day and hit the stables. No matter where your route will take you, I’m sure it will be gorgeous as this area offers nothing but pretty views.

Giddy Up!

Emerald Park: North Little Rock, free It’s named after a stone because you can find actual ones here! My dad and stepmom have been digging here many times and found some beauties. Aside from that, there are many pretty and peaceful trails here to walk on. It’s a less populated park so it’s a great place to go and relax. I like to gaze out over the cliffs while here.

Out on the cliffs at Emerald Park

Little Rock Central High School: Little Rock, free Head over here on a weekend day and walk around the campus to take in the beautiful architecture and rich history. it was the first public high school in Arkansas to allow desegregation.

Junction Bridge: Little Rock, free If you happen to be downtown, be sure to hit up this site. It is right over the Arkansas River, so it’s nice to stroll around. It’s especially nice at night as it lights up with multi-colored lights. Perfect for date night!

Petit Jean State Park: Morrilton, free The park is about an hour outside of Little Rock, but so worth the drive. This is another awesome state park filled with pretty views at lookout points over cliffs, easy to rigorous trails, caves, and waterfalls.

Inside a cave at Petit Jean State Park

Hot Springs National Park: Hot Springs, free This national park is free to get into because it technically is nustled into downtown Hot Springs. You can stay in town and hit up the cute shops or partake in fun events such as Josephine Tussaud’s Wax Museum, or walk around the Arlington Hotel. There’s also actual hot springs you can dip your hands into, as well as the bath houses you can either tour or book a spa day at. If you’d rather do some hiking, head up to the trails above the town. This is an absolute gorgeous area that is also rich with history.

Nate and I at a real life hot spring.

Awesome Grub Spots

Vino’s: This small bar doesn’t look like much from outside but it definitely doesn’t disappoint. Between their NY style pizza or their draft beer you can’t go wrong here! It’s a great spot to go if you’re downtown, also.

David’s Burgers: Retro 50s diner, delicious burgers. Need I say more?

Whole Hog Cafe: If you’re a BBQ fan, this is the place for you. While I am not crazy about BBQ, I do love me a big ole tater spud from here with.

Purple Cow: If the name alone doesn’t peak your interest, then the food will. This is another diner joint offering burgers, shakes, and all kinds of yummy fried foods.

Shorty Smalls: This place has been around for as long as I can remember. It’s very All-American with their food choices with a homey feel to it.

Hideaway Pizza: One of the best pizzas I’ve ever had, and that’s coming from a pizza snob!