Photo of Ghost River by Steve Davis.
By Katie Cannon ′15
Don’t get me wrong: Memphis is amazing. Go Grizzlies. We choose 901. But for young vivacious intellectuals like ourselves, the mere concept of an area code reeks of future dystopian hellscape. It’s an infraction of freedom, a cage of smokey-BBQ coercion. HOW DARE YOU CONFINE ME, MEMPHIS, TEMPTING ME WITH YOUR ALL YOUR DELICIOUS HOMEY DELIGHTS? MY CELL PHONE HAS LONG DISTANCE SERVICE, EVEN IF IT IS KIND OF SPOTTY AND DROPS MY CALLS LIKE HOT FIGURATIVE POTATOES. While there’s so much to discover right in your Memphian backyard, sometimes you need to fly, soar to exotic splendor, shake off the shackles of urban ennui! Your salvation: the weekend mini-trip (on a student-friendly budget.) All these options will cost you a minimum of cash and travel time. So grab a few friends—and someone you’ll tolerate because they have a car—and get adventuring, kiddos! Huzzah!
Just under an hour away from the Bluff City lies another academic enclave full of visual and literary delights. Besides being a generally charming southern town and the home of the University of Mississippi, Oxford’s known as a town with “more writers than readers.” One very famous resident? The late and great William Faulkner, who set many of his novels in a thinly veiled fictionalization of his hometown. Faulkner fans can get a tour of Rowan Oaks, his former home, and a take a swig of bourbon (the writer’s poison of choice) at his graveside. Literature-lovers should also be sure check out Square Books, conveniently located amongst all the other awesome shops, restaurants, and bars in the town square. If you come during football season, Ole Miss hosts notoriously fabulous tailgates at The Grove—a pregrame so good that many decide to skip the football altogether and let the party continue.
Heber Springs, AR
If you’ve lately been feeling the urge to paint with all the colors of the wind, tap into your inner flannel-wearing (for practical reasons, not for the hipster je ne sais quoi that attracts the ladies) woodsman and head to Heber Springs, AR. Camping, y’all. Heber Springs has everything your hypothetical inner woodsman could want: Beautiful mountain vistas. Lakes. Hiking. Fly fishing. Country markets. And trees! So many glorious trees, always ready to give sage grandmotherly advice to wayward campers. Heber Springs has awesome campgrounds on Greer’s Ferry Lake in the Ozark Mountains, and only 2 and a half hours from Memphis! Now that’s something to cry to the blue corn moon about.
This is pretty much a no-brainer: It’s the Music City. That means there are awesome concerts on any given day—and not just country music, either. But the tunes are only a part of the city’s tourist-worthy attractions. Take for instance, the utterly unique “Escape Game,” an adventurous venue where you and your friends have one hour to try and get out of a locked room, with puzzles and hidden clues as your only guide. The rooms all have themes to appeal to different gamer appetites, like “Nashville,” “Heist,” and “Underground Playground.” At first blush, this seems like the type of experience designed for the die-hard laser-tag warrior or chess champion niche, but apparently its charm is pretty universal: it was rated #1 on Trip Advisor’s list of 121 Nashville attractions.
Ghost River in Lagrange, TN
If you’re like totally over mountains (that’s so two paragraphs ago) but are really into that canoeing thing, I can tell you about a really cool site just an hour away from Rhodes—but you’ve probably never heard of it. While the Wolf River runs through Memphis, eventually dumping into the Mississipppi, the Ghost River section is an hour away in the more nature-y LaGrange. Ghost River is so beautiful--in that misty, eerie, trees-rising-out-of-the-water, beer-brand-inspiring kind of way--that you might be inspired to name your local brewing company after it. TOO LATE, SUCKER. Somebody beat you to it. But you can still rent two-person canoes for $50 or single kayaks for $40 and leisurely follow the gorgeous 9-mile marked river trail through the trees. The website (ghostriverrentals.com) recommends you have an experienced canoer amongst your group, but come on—so maybe my flannel did come from Urban Outfitters, but this river doesn’t even have a real current. Just hand over the paddle, Mark. I got this.
Hot Springs, AR
While it’s also an excellent venue for outdoorsy things, boasting mountains, lakes, trees, trails and state parks and the like, Hot Springs has more to offer in the way of civilization. So if you want to fully commune with nature and become like Rousseau’s Natural (Wo)man but then immediately be corrupted again by worldly progress, this is your destination. It’s got superb nature and historical hot springs à la those Roman baths, but down at sea level there’s theatre, mini golf, a Star Wars Musuem, and the Gangster Museum of America. For a kick of adrenaline, try the zip lines at Ouachita Bend. To do a little wagering (Can I bet my Lynxbucks?) or just indulge your fervent horse love, check out the equestrian races at Oaklawn Racing & Gaming.