Kickoff Summertime at this Festival by the Smoky Mountains
With the Smoky Mountains rising over a vast network of lakes and rivers, Loudon County, Tennessee, is the road less traveled to the National Park and the preferred location for those looking for the ultimate mountain lake vacation. This picturesque and charming destination situated between Knoxville and Chattanooga is the most scenic and least congested route to the Smokies from I-75 and I-40 East. There’s no better time than the summer for celebrating the natural beauty, talent and tastes of eastern Tennessee. Get a little more out of your mountain getaway by adding a stop before or after to a beloved local festival, or even a concert series.
Lenoir City Arts & Crafts Festival
The quintessential summer-at-the-lake season kicks off in early June with the Annual Lenoir City Arts & Crafts Festival, a beloved event with a long-standing history in Lenoir City. This year marks the 60th celebration of the festival, which began in 1962 as a community fundraiser. Started by the Lenoir City General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), today the festival has raised more than half a million dollars for charities.
This year's event will be held on Saturday and Sunday, June 3-4, 2023, at Lenoir City Park. While free to the public, a $3 donation is requested at the entrance. More than 225 artists and vendors from all over the Southeast and beyond will be featured at this year’s event. Items range from ceramics and glassware to metal work and jewelry, to baskets, woodwork and much more. Food and beverage vendors add to the enjoyment with tasty treats for all. Lenoir City Park overlooks Fort Loudoun Lake and the Smoky Mountains. It’s the outdoor centerpiece of the charming, historically preserved downtown of Lenoir City, which is a short distance from historic Loudon, Maryville and Knoxville, Tennessee.
A "chalk walk" will also be featured this year, a competition event where participants can decorate an 4' x 4' area of sidewalk with chalk and pastels. Prizes will be awarded by age group, and there will also be a kid's corner for the youngest festival goers to draw for fun.
In addition to June's arts and crafts festival, Lenoir City also hosts Rockin' the Docks. Twice each summer thousands gather at Fort Loudon Lake to enjoy live bands, delicious food and activities for children followed by fireworks and more. Nightfall brings musical headliners and a fabulous fireworks display. This year’s Rockin’ the Docks festivals will be held May 27 and July 1.
“We are thrilled to be hosting the 23rd Annual Lenoir City’s Rockin' The Docks,” says Zack Cusick, Director, Lenoir City Parks and Recreation. “We will be bringing live music, food and a spectacular fireworks show for Memorial Day and July 4th weekends. We would like to invite everyone to come by land or water to celebrate these two holiday weekends with us at the Lenoir City Park cove!”
- Saturday, May 27 - Concert to feature Hillbilly Jedi as the headliner; RMS Band and Ethan Vincil as the openers.
- Saturday, July 1 - Concert to feature WIMZ Garage Band as the headliner; RMS Band and Cole Sitzlar as the openers.
Beyond the Festivals
Along with discovering Loudon's authentic historic downtowns, art and antiques, contemporary and traditional restaurants, days are filled with boating, canoeing, fishing, waterskiing and simply exploring the land itself on foot or bike.
- If golf is your game, Loudon County is a great place to tee up. The area is home to several top-rated courses.
- Don’t miss a visit to Sweetwater Valley Farm (17988 West Lee Highway, Philadelphia, Tennessee 37846), a working dairy farm and cheese producer where visitors can sample and see the process.
- Stop by the award-winning Tennessee Valley Winery (15606 Hotchkiss Valley Road, Loudon, Tennessee 37774), where free tastings are offered at one of the oldest operating family-owned wineries in the state.
- Pick up barbecue at Calhoun's (4550 City Park Drive, Lenoir City, Tennessee 37772; 865-988-9838); the restaurant is dockside, overlooking Fort Loudoun Lake and one of the area’s largest marinas. From a slate of wing flavors to juicy brisket sandwiches to award-winning smoked ribs and salmon, Calhoun’s has a fix for any barbecue craving.
Top Places to Visit for Cinco de Mayo
In the US, Cinco de Mayo is most often used as just another good reason to gorge on tacos and margaritas at your favorite local Mexican restaurant, but there's a lot more to this celebration than most people understand. While the holiday is not as big of a celebration in Mexico, it does commemorate an important victory over their foreign adversaries during the French-Mexican War. Across North America, several towns schedule parades, festivals, and other cultural events, making it the perfect time of year to delve into Mexican history and heritage. Denver, Colorado Union Station in downtown Denver by Owen Lystrup - Unsplash The Denver Cinco de Mayo "Celebrate Culture" festival spans a full weekend each May, and features a parade along with fun events and great food. Venues are set up for Folklorico dancers, special attractions, and live musical acts playing mariachi, salsa, and cumbia. Denver's celebrations are particularly suited for families and young kids; there is a special children's carnival with crafts and activities, rides, and a small petting zoo. Visitors can also attend the chihuahua races, a green chili cook-off, taco eating contests, and the lowrider car show. San Antonio, Texas The Alamo by Gower Brown - Unsplash History lovers will appreciate the landmarks that San Antonio has to offer; in particular, The Alamo, the famous Roman Catholic mission and fortress, as well as the Presidio San Antonio de Bexar, a Spanish fort. Head to the Historic Market Square for authentic Mexican cuisine as well as Tex-Mex options. Shop from artisans in El Mercado, where visitors can find artwork, pottery, leather goods, clothing, and more. Just outside of the city, Traders Village hosts a Cinco de Mayo event with free live music and carnival rides. Albuquerque, New Mexico Items for sale in Old Town Albuquerque by Brett Wharton - Unsplash Head over to the National Hispanic Cultural Center to view incredible visual art, peruse their library or archives of historical and literary works, and learn more about Mexican heritage in New Mexico. There's also the South Broadway Cultural Center—"one of Albuquerque's best-kept secrets"—where visitors can attend workshops and classes, live performances, and cultural events. This year, the city is also hosting a Cinco de Mayo bar crawl with participating cantinas featuring Mexican-inspired drinks, live music, and dancing. For a more family-friendly option, the Cinco de Mayo Folk Art Festival with be held on May 7th. Featuring more than 40 uniquely talented local artisans, there will be plenty of opportunities to view and purchase artwork, jewelry, or pottery. The outdoor event will also include food, live music, piñatas, and a kids craft table where children can make their own Mexican-inspired art. Puebla, Mexico Curious about the origins of Cinco de Mayo? Head to the source: Puebla, Mexico. It was here that the Battle of Puebla took place during the French-Mexican War. A heavily outnumbered Mexican army defeated the invading French troops; now, each year, the holiday commemorates this event and Mexico's successful defense of their sovereignty. Visitors to the town can watch a reenactment of the Battle of Puebla, attend a street party full of music and street tacos, see extravagant floats at the town's Cinco de Mayo parade, and listen to the sounds of mariachi.
More often than not, its the mothers of the family that do the most planning and details-handling for everyone's activities. While mom might be in charge of the schedule, don't let Mother's Day sneak up on you this year. Plan a weekend getaway, day trip, or a just a special afternoon to celebrate and give mom some much-needed relaxation.Relax with a Budget-friendly Spa Retreat Stone massage by Engin Akyurt - Unsplash Is there anything more relaxing than a spa vacation? Head to Florida to try the Salt Spa St. Augustine for an unforgettable, but affordable, relaxation experience. Inspired by the Wieliczka salt mine in Poland, this 5-star halotherapy (salt therapy) health resort offers several different natural health services. A single session in their salt cave filled with 25,000 pounds of Himalayan crystal salt costs only $36 (45 minutes). Other services include a float sessions in a sensory deprivation tank filled with 900+ pounds of Epsom salt, infrared sauna sessions, massages, rejuvenating facials, and more. For a more rural escape, take a short drive northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico to the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa. The natural hot springs are surrounded by nothing but the rugged, desert landscape. Visitors can stargaze while enjoying one of the several outdoor thermal pools, swim in the saltwater pool, or take a dip in the natural mud fountain where guests can "bake" in mud before rinsing off. Pick Out New Reads at a Quaint Bookstore Books at the Strand Book Store by Filip Mishevski - Unsplash If relaxing with a good book (or just simply having some peace and quiet) sounds like your mom's ideal afternoon, plan a trip to New York City, where you'll have your pick of beloved bookstores. The Strand is a popular spot in the East Village, famous for its "18 miles of books," but there are several other wonderful establishments throughout the city. Bauman Rare Books on Madison Avenue keeps an ever-changing display of rare books in an assortment of subjects, and Argosy Book Store in midtown Manhattan is an antiquarian and out-of-print items. On the Upper East Side, Ursus Books & Gallery specializes in art books; and, in Brooklyn, Honey and Wax Booksellers offers rare first prints as well as more unique, whimsical editions and copies of books. Enjoy Afternoon Tea in an Historic Setting Afternoon tea by Sebastian Coman - Unsplash Treat your mother to a classy dining experience with high tea in a gorgeous setting. In Nashville, visitors can book a "delightfully southern" afternoon tea at The Hermitage Hotel every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The event, “Spillin’ Tea with Draper James,” is inspired by recipes from Reese Witherspoon’s cookbook, Whiskey in a Teacup, and includes champagne, tea sandwiches, pastries, scones, and a commemorative keepsake menu. In Boston's Back Bay, The Courtyard Tea Room overlooks the beautiful Italianate Courtyard at the Boston Public Library. The tea room serves a classic tea with a twist of New England culinary favorites, and also offers signature tea-infused cocktails "inspired by literary greats who were inspired by the great spirits featured in our menu." Spend a Weekend in Wine Country Wine glass at a vineyard by Kym Ellis - Unsplash Unwind with a glass of wine and enjoy the idyllic scenery that comes along with a trip to wine country. Spend a weekend in Afton, Virginia with a stay at the The Farmhouse at Veritas, a bed and breakfast next to Veritas Vineyards and Winery and nestled in the heart of the Monticello American Viticulture Area. Explore other vineyards in the area, including Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard, Afton Mountain Vineyards, Flying Fox, Hazy Mountain, King Family Vineyards, and more. If a weekend trip isn't quite in the cards, plan a special meal or tasting at a vineyard within driving distance. In Rhode Island, head to Newport Vineyards for a special Mother's Day brunch, with a farm-to-table buffet crafted by executive chef Andy Teixeira. Or, head over to the finger lakes region of New York, where the Seneca Lake Wine Trail is hosting a Rosé in May event this year. Get a Break From the Daily Grind A family enjoys a night out by Pablo Merchán Montes - Unsplash Some moms might cherish a weekend spent doing family activities together; others might be craving a little alone time. While the two options seem to be polar opposites, either one of these can be satisfied with a simple "staycation." For family activities, pick a fun hotel in your hometown and "be a tourist" by trying new cuisine and activities. For alone time, book a kid-free hotel or a quiet Airbnb with a tranquil atmosphere, ideal for enjoying time to herself. Both scenarios can be tailored to specific interests and budgets, but in either case, be sure to set aside extra to book a house cleaning service, schedule grocery deliveries, or simply just put in the extra work to make sure any household tasks that need to be done are still taken care of—the real key here is to not make mom regret taking time off by returning to a chaotic living situation.
Once spring rolls around, beach lovers everywhere are eager to get to the coast and enjoy sun and sand. For many, the ocean breeze, warm water, and rejuvenating sun are the perfect getaway—however, crowded shores with rowdy visitors can put a damper even the most idyllic setting. Head to these under-the-radar beaches to ensure you don't miss out on the tranquility of a coastal getaway.Kauapea Beach, Hawaii This secret beach on the North Shore of Kauai past the town of Kilauea is only accessible by a steep, somewhat slippery hike. The golden sands and red rocks make this a beautiful beach, and in one area a "natural shower" even flows from the coastline cliff overhangs. Be prepared, though: the far side of the beach is "clothing optional." Sandbridge Beach, Virginia Sandbridge Beach pier by Brianna Tracy - Unsplash While not exactly a "secret" beach to local Virginians, the beach in Sandbridge is much more secluded than it is 25 miles north in Virginia Beach. Technically, it's part of the northern tip of the Outer Banks, and the beach boasts beautiful sunsets. While there isn't much to do in Sandbridge, that's part of the appeal; it's just a peaceful little coast town near the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Cumberland Island, Georgia Take a 45-minute ride by ferry from St. Marys, Georgia to Cumberland Island, and you'll find secluded beaches and abundant wildlife. The island is mostly uninhabited and the land is protected as part of the Cumberland Island National Seashore, which means that animals like wild horses and loggerhead turtles flourish in the area. Bird-watchers will find peregrine falcons and warblers, and fishing opportunities are plentiful. Aside from hiking, biking, and kayaking, though, the best way to enjoy the shoreline is by soaking up the sun on its 18-mile stretch of shoreline. Carova Beach, North Carolina North Carolina beaches stay popular all season long. Carova Beach, however, misses out on the crowds thanks to the fact that it is only accessible by 4x4 vehicles on non-paved roads. This Outer Banks beach is also where legendary Corolla wild horses roam free.Despite the isolation, visitors still have access to great restaurants, ice cream shops, lessons for kiteboarding and hang gliding, fishing charters, and kayak rentals to explore the Currituck Sound. Ship Island, Mississippi Ferries docked at Ship Island, Mississippi - courtesy of Natalie Strong Coastal Mississippi isn't always known for having the clear gulf coast waters that nearby Alabama and Florida beaches boast—but if you're willing to take a ferry ride out of Gulfport, you'll be met with the most gorgeous turquoise waters along the shores of Ship Island. While there are no overnight accommodations on the little island and camping isn't allowed, its beauty and seclusion make up for it. The only thing to do other than swim and relax is take a tour of the historic Fort Massachusetts, commissioned during the 1850s to protect the coast of Mississippi. Enderts Beach, California Within the Redwood National Park along the northern California coast is the shimmering pebble-lined Enderts Beach. The beach is only accessible via a 3/4 mile hike from the Last Chance Section of the California Coastal Trail, although the Nickel Creek Campground is close by for overnight accommodations. While the colder waters don't make this the best swimming beach, it is the perfect place to read or explore the coastline, full of sea caves and tidal pools. Dry Tortugas, Florida Fort Jefferson on the island of Dry Tortugas by Christopher Osten - Unsplash This beach is located nearly 70 miles west of Key West, on the remote Dry Tortugas National Park and is accessible only by boat or seaplane—making it strikingly less crowded than the rest of Florida's beaches. In addition to swimming in the clear waters and relaxing along its powdery beach shores, visitors can spot all kinds of marine life and an assortment of birds. Tour Fort Jefferson, dive to a shipwreck, snorkel and view coral reefs, or even camp overnight. Roque Bluffs, Maine Amidst the 274-acre Roque Bluffs State Park are both a freshwater and a saltwater beach, plus miles of hiking trails. This area is very rural, so even on the hottest summer days, the beaches have no crowds. Depending on the time of year, visitors will want to make a stop at Welch Farm, a family-owned blueberry farm where you can learn about the history of blueberry farming in Maine and pick up some fresh grown berries. Secret Beach, Oregon Secret Beach in Oregon by Venti Views - Unsplash Yes, it is really called Secret Beach. While its name may imply that it has given away its allure, the beach itself is easy to miss—which may explain why it remains to be so secluded. Visitors first have to make their way to the Secret Beach Trailhead on the Oregon Coast Highway (Highway 101). From there, two trails take you to the same beach: the first trail is a 200 yard hike, while the second is a bit more wooded and meandering. The beach features a stunning chiseled rocky coastline. Try to visit during low tide, when sea caves, coves, and tide pools can be explored best.
If you've got plans to make a long drive across the States for an upcoming vacation, you might find yourself driving by some of the quirkiest attractions of the US. Since you need to stop for breaks anyways, why not schedule in a little extra time at one of these fun roadside attractions? Google Maps might give you the fastest route to your destination, but that doesn't mean it's the most fun. Plus, any bored and impatient younger passengers that may be along for the ride will appreciate the extra breaks along the way. Carhenge Location: Along Highway 87, north of Alliance, Nebraska Nebraska's "reply to Stonehenge." Here, a replica of the famous English alignment of stones has been made with 39 cars. Sculptor Jim Reinders made the attraction, after studying the real Stonehenge in England and as a memorial to his father, who lived where the cars now stand. Additional car sculptures have been erected at the site known as well, known as the Car Art Reserve, and in 2007, a visitor center, "The Pit Stop," opened up. Cabazon Dinosaurs "Mr. Rex" of Cabazon Dinosaurs by Chris Long - Unsplash Location: Off I-10 in Cabazon, California These beloved roadside dinos gained popularity after being featured in Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure and The Wizard. Mr. Rex, Dinny, and more than 70 other dinosaurs can be found along this attraction's dinosaur walk, complete with a dino dig and fossil panning activities.South of the Border Location: Off I-95 at the North Carolina/South Carolina border South of the Border is a classic roadside attraction, begun in 1949 by Alan Schafer with the building of the Border Beer Depot. Business boomed, and years later a grill, gas station, and motel were added. Mexican trinkets and souvenirs were made available as the name was shortened from "South of the (South Carolina) Border" to "South of the Border." Today, visitors can spend the day at Pedroland amusement park, see the largest indoor reptile display at reptile lagoon, climb up to the top of the Sombrero Observation Tower, and dine in at several restaurants. Corn Palace Driving through the Badlands in South Dakota by Matan Levanon - Unsplash Location: Off I-90 in Mitchell, South Dakota Like corn? Well, then, this is the place for you. In 1892, the World's Only Corn Palace was established on the Mitchell's Main Street as a gathering place where residents and their rural neighbors could enjoy a fall festival and celebrate the crop-growing season and harvest. While the palace has been rebuilt over the years (each one bigger than the original) the Corn Palace Festival is still held annually in August. But the Corn Palace is more than just a festival gathering place. Today, it hosts stage shows, industrial exhibits, meetings, school graduations, and even basketball tournaments. The Palace is also redecorated each year with naturally-colored corn and other grains and native grasses; these murals are created to reflect a unique theme chosen for that year. Dinosaur Kingdom II Location: Natural Bridge, Virginia Not far off of I-81 is a truly unique attraction built by artist Mark Cline. The roadside museum consists of several statues depicting an alt-history version of the Civil War where the Union Army has lost to... dinosaurs. The trouble for the Yankees begins when a mad scientist travels back in time to give Stonewall Jackson a robotic arm, and cannon blasts awaken hibernating dinosaurs in the nearby Natural Bridge caverns. Visitors make their way through several statues along with signs detailing the curious tale of dinos-as-weapons-of-mass-destruction. Truly, there's nothing else like it. Hole N' The Rock Moab, Utah by Nate Foong - Unsplash Location: Along Highway 191 in Moab, Utah Carved into a huge rock in Canyonlands County, Utah, Hole N' The Rock is a 5,000 square foot historic home complete with an exotic animals zoo and Lyle Nichols sculpture exhibit. In the mid 20th century over a 12 year period, Albert Christensen excavated 50,000 cubic feet of sandstone from the rock after originally intending to just build a "small alcove" for the Christensen boys to sleep in at night. After Albert's death, his wife Gladys continued to develop the property. The house features a fireplace with a 65-foot chimney, 14 rooms arranged around huge pillars, a deep bathtub built into the rock, original paintings by Albert’s paintings (such as "Sermon on the Mount"), his wife Gladys’s doll collection, and many of the tools used to create this home.Lucy the Elephant Location: On Atlantic Avenue in Margate, New Jersey Known as "The World's Greatest Elephant," this iconic waterfront landmark was built in 1881 as Elephant Bazaar, a spectacle meant to attract potential real estate investors to the area. Over the course of Lucy's life, she's been a tavern, a residence, and now a tourist attraction after years of restoration. It's free to visit Lucy, but those wishing for a tour inside the building can buy tickets for $8.50 apiece (kids aged 3-12 are only $4). Enchanted Forest "Welcome to Oregon" roadside sign by Everett McIntire - Unsplash Location: Off I-5 in Turner, Oregon The Enchanted Forest is a theme park built and operated by Tofte family in a beautiful forest setting in Oregon. The park is open seasonally from late March to the end of September. The park includes a Western town, old European village, and Storybook Lane, the park's original section that focuses on bringing nursery rhymes to life. Visitors can also pan for gems, catch a water-light show, or see a comedy or music show. Wall Drug Location: Off I-90 in Wall, South Dakota You're guaranteed to see the famous hand-painted signs for this South Dakota drugstore hundreds of miles before you get anywhere near the place (or maybe further... the signs were taken all over the world by soldiers during World War II). Take a break at the 530-seat Western Art Gallery Restaurant and enjoy famous buffalo burgers, homemade donuts, or just grab a 5-cent coffee. Then stroll around the largest privately-owned Western and illustration art collections in the country, with more than 300 original oil paintings. In the backyard area, there's a Jumping Jets Water Show, a panning and mining experience, the Shooting Gallery Arcade, the Little Britches Toy Emporium, photo opportunities with the 6-foot rabbit, the mini-Mount Rushmore, the buckin’ bronc, the life-size robot T-Rex, and, of course, the ever-popular Giant Jackalope.