2018 Heartland Pioneer
2018 Heartland Pioneer
The city in Florida with the largest population, Jacksonville also has the greatest amount of land area of any city in the contiguous United States. Located in the northeast part of the state, Jacksonville is just 25 miles south of Florida’s border with Georgia. With so much land area, it is not surprising that Jacksonville has a lot to offer. The city runs the largest urban park system in the US, with 80,000 acres of space within the city. The parks offer a variety of opportunities for things to do, including boating, swimming, and fishing.
Just because Jacksonville has so much to see and do within the city limits, does not mean that a road trip isn’t a worthwhile adventure. After all, there are all sorts of experiences to be had as you make your way to your destination. For example, a trip to Hot Springs National Park will entail 13 hours of driving and take you past some interesting sights in the southern United States.
After traveling through rural areas along with major cities like Atlanta and Memphis, arriving at your destination is not the end of your adventure. Hot Springs National Park offers opportunities for hiking and camping, as well as to soak in the warm waters. Whether you choose to camp in or outside the park, a unique and relaxing experience awaits you!
Upon setting out on your road trip, you will start by driving for around an hour and forty-five minutes until you arrive in Valdosta and the Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area. Included in the Area is over 2500 acres of land that are owned by the state, along with nearly 6000 acres of land licensed from the U.S. Air Force. Just what will you find within the Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area? Pine and hardwood forest (3,059 acres of it) as well as cypress and gum wetlands (5,438 acres). The Grand Bay Wetland Education Center offers information to visitors who are looking to learn more about wetland habitat and the Management Area includes a myriad of other activities, like canoe access, hiking and nature trails, fishing, geocaching and wildlife viewing.
After departing from Valdosta, continue on the road for about two hours to Macon, Georgia, and your next stop; the Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House. Visited by people from around the world, the house, which was a former home of members of the Allman Brothers (and their families and friends) from 1970-1973, is now a museum and venue space. The museum shows what the house looked like at the time the band lived there and visitors can check out the most extensive collection of Allman Brothers Band memorabilia in the world. Take a trip back in time and have an unforgettable experience during your visit to the Big House!
Upon departing Macon and the Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House, continue driving for about an hour and twenty minutes until you reach Atlanta and your next stop; the World of Coca-Cola. A museum, the World of Coca-Cola displays the history of the Coca-Cola Company in a 20-acre (92,000 square foot) complex that was opened in 2007, replacing the original that had been located in Underground Atlanta.
The location of the museum is a few blocks from where the original formula for Coca-Cola was developed by John Pemberton. During your visit, you can view a 4D movie, check out exhibits about the drink’s secret formula, and try 60 different beverage flavors from throughout the world. A bit of fun and a bit of history are available at this fun stop on your road trip!
Less than two and a half hours from Atlanta is Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama. The Park is the largest State Park in Alabama and includes 9940 acres of land and the opportunity to engage in various outdoor activities. Stretch your legs and take a hike or explore the trails by mountain bike; over 50 miles of trails are available within the Park. Mountain biking enthusiasts can check out the Red Trail, which is on the list of EPIC rides compiled by the International Mountain Biking Association. Also within the park are a pump track and BMX course.
If you prefer to spend time on the water, Oak Mountain State Park can accommodate; there are boat rentals and cable skiing and a swimming area. During your visit, check out the Oak Mountain Interpretive Center to learn more about the area.
A little more than two hours from Oak Mountain State Park is Tupelo, Mississippi and the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo. Mississippi’s largest zoo, it includes 175 acres and features a large heard of American bison that roam the park. Visitors can view the herd by riding on modified school busses that have off-road tires.
The Buffalo Park was the home of a rare white bison named Tukota, who was born at the park. White buffalo are so rare that they are thought to only occur in one of every five million births. The Buffalo Park and Zoo aims to take care of all of the animals in their care while also educating visitors on the variety of animals that live there, many of which are not found elsewhere in the state. During your visit, you can take a guided tour where you can view and learn about more than 260 animals.
After leaving Tupelo, continue on the road for about one hour and forty minutes until you arrive in Memphis and the National Civil Rights Museum. The museum is located in the Lorraine Motel, which is the location of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968.
Within the museum, there are multi-media presentations on the civil rights movement, films, oral histories, and 260 artifacts, all to help guide you through 500 years of history. Take a self-guided tour and see a Greyhound bus that the Freedom Riders traveled on as well as the motel room where Martin Luther King Jr. spent his time just before his death. The museum is south of downtown Memphis and is open every day but Tuesday.
Two hours from Memphis is Little Rock, Arkansas and Heifer Village, the next stop on your road trip. Heifer Village offers a unique mix of exhibits aimed to demonstrate the work of Heifer International, an organization that aims to teach self-sufficiency as well as support low-income households. Interactive galleries, videos and hands-on activities will show you the work the organization performs in its efforts to end poverty and hunger.
A guided tour of the complex is available, where you will learn about hunger and poverty and visit the Heifer Urban Farm, where you can meet alpacas, sheep, goats and a miniature jersey cow. You can also visit greenhouses and organic gardens that result in produce donated to local food banks. In addition, you can learn about the world’s first renewable energy-powered aquaponics farm. The experience of a visit to Heifer Village will provide not only information, but possibly inspiration!
After leaving Heifer Village in Little Rock, you are just one hour from your destination of Hot Springs National Park. Once known as Hot Springs Reservation, Hot Springs National Park was protected in 1832 in order to protect its main resource; the hot springs. The first area in the United States to be set aside for protection, its name was changed in 1921 after the National Park Service was formed in 1916. The Park is known for its 47 hot springs, with an average temperature of 143 degrees Fahrenheit, that flow out of Hot Springs Mountain. The Park offers bathhouses where visitors can submerge themselves and experience the warm water.
There are multiple things to enjoy during your visit to Hot Springs National Park. Bathhouse Row is home to the largest number of existing bathhouses in the United States from the 20th century and is an excellent way to experience the area’s history. There are opportunities for hiking with Hot Springs National Park; with 26 miles of trails, there is ample opportunity to explore the area on foot. Picnicking is also popular within the Park. During your visit, check out the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, a tower that reaches 216 feet in height from which you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Ouachita Mountains.
Camping is available within and around the National Park, ensuring that you can spend as much time as you would like exploring and experiencing the hot springs.