Biloxi’s Best Independent Hotels

The city of Biloxi might not come to mind right away as you’re planning your next travel adventure. But it should. Located on the sandy shores of the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Biloxi is a great place to take a relaxing vacation and step away from the stresses of everyday life for a bit. Check out some of these independent hotels that will be sure to make your time in Biloxi memorable.

IP Casino Resort & Spa
At IP Casino Resort & Spa, you’ll find the best of both worlds. At Senses Salon & Spa, you can spend a whole afternoon being pampered with top-of-the-line treatments. After your day at the spa, hit up the slot machines at the resort’s casino. Once all this is over, you can head back to your comfortable room, or even take a dip in the pool. The best part? IP is a mere mile from the beach, so if gambling is not your cup of tea, you have the option to soak up some sun.

Golden Nugget Biloxi
Looking for a more luxurious experience during your stay in Biloxi? Book a room at the Golden Nugget. With an assortment of room styles to choose from, a casino, four restaurants, a Starbucks, a salon and spa, an indoor pool, and just minutes from a nearby beach, you’ll never be bored here. Even though this hotel is not ideal for children, it is perfect for individuals and couples looking for a fun getaway, and of course families are welcome.

Beau Rivage Hotel
With a stunning overlook of the Gulf Coast on one side and a Biloxi city view on the other, the Beau Rivage Hotel offers so much at a great rate. With a casino, several restaurants, beach access, and an outdoor pool, the Beau Rivage is perfect for families, couples, individuals, and those traveling on business. Since this hotel is in such a central location, you’ll have easy access to all parts of the city.

Harrah’s Gulf Coast Hotel
If you love all things nautical, Harrah’s Gulf Coast Hotel will meet your every need. Located near the beach, the Biloxi Lighthouse, and a Hurricane Katrina Memorial, you’ll get the chance to explore the waters of the Gulf Coast. You can even take a fishing excursion or a day trip out to the famous Ship Island. Once you head back to your hotel, you might choose to relax in the comforts of your modern room, or head to the casino, poolside bar, or hotel lounge for a cocktail. 

Treasure Bay Casino & Hotel
If you are taking a family trip to Biloxi, book a room at Treasure Bay Casino & Hotel. It is fun for adults, but child-friendly as well. With two pools and an arcade, the kids will stay happy – and with a casino and poolside dining and drinks, adults will stay even happier. Known for its hospitality, cleanliness, and affordable price, Treasure Bay offers some of the best service and accommodations in Biloxi.

5 Of the Most Awe-Inspiring Hindu Temples

The construction of the world’s first Hindu temples started approximately 2,000 years ago in India. Today, there are over 900 million followers of the Hindu religion, and these temples play an important role their culture and society. Most of the temples are open to tourists, and many have become popular vacation destinations because of their fascinating history and stunning architecture. In particular, the following five temples should be on any visitor’s must-see list.

1. Virupaksha Temple

The Indian temple of Virupaksha, located in the city of Hampi, was constructed in the 7th century. It is one of the oldest temples in existence that is still functioning. Within the temple’s inner sanctum is a carved pinhole that creates an inverted image of the temple structure on the wall when the sun passes a certain point in the sky. Living in the temple’s courtyard is a resident elephant that happily greets all visitors. If you pay a coin to the elephant’s handler, the elephant will give you a good luck kiss on the head.

2. Angkor Wat and Banteay Srei

Angkor Wat is a vast complex of ruins that dates back to the 9th century. While visiting, you can tour both the Angkor Wat temple and the Bayon temple. Approximately 15 miles northeast of the official site of Angkor Wat sits the red stone Banteay Srei temple, which boasts elaborate carvings and is well worth a visit.

A few of the best hotels in Cambodia are located close to Angkor Wat, such as the upscale resort hotel Angkor Resort & Spa. The hotel is in the heart of the city of Siem Reap, and is close to the airport as well as other nearby attractions. The hotel’s concierge can provide you with information on touring Angkor Wat and arrange transportation to and from the site.

3. Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple

Every year, millions of tourists and Hindu pilgrims from around the world flock to Srirangam, India, to visit the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. The temple dates back to the 10th century and is one of the largest Hindu complexes in the world.

After a day of touring the vast expanses of the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple complex, you might want to retreat to your hotel for a good night’s sleep. The nearby Sangam Hotel Trichy caters to temple tourists.

4. Prambanan

Indonesia’s Prambanan temple complex was constructed in 850 AD and is composed of three temples: Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. The temples’ sheer expanse and unique 154-foot central structure, which houses the three individual temples, sets the complex apart from other Hindu temples.

5. Meenakshi Amman Temple

Meenakshi Amman Temple is located in the Indian city of Madurai, and is highly significant to the Tamil people. It is constructed with 14 distinct towers and an intricately carved golden deity. The current temple was built in the early 7th century, but the complex’s history can be traced back over two thousand years.

In the heart of Madurai, you can seek lodging at the Gateway Hotel Pasumalai. The hotel offers limo/town car services that you can utilize to tour the local sites.

Visiting a Hindu temple is an emotionally moving experience not only because of the structure’s religious significance, but also because each one is steeped in deep historical significance. When exploring any Hindu temple, remember to dress respectfully and remove your shoes when entering the temple building. You should also always ask if it’s okay to take photo because many temples forbid pictures of the inner sanctum.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on October 19, 2015.

Graveyard Tours are a Can’t Miss Part of Any New Orleans Trip

Visitors to New Orleans have no shortage of things to do: Sports fans can check out the Saints and the Pelicans, night owls are obligated to stop by the raucous French Quarter, and foodies can’t leave without trying Cajun cuisine. This fall, travelers in the Big Easy may want to try one of the city’s lesser known activities: graveyard tours! Because the city is built atop a swamp, generations of New Orleans residents have buried their loved ones in above ground crypts and mausoleums. Many of the city’s cemeteries boast such elaborate, intricately-decorated structures that they resemble villages and are nicknamed “Cities of the Dead.” Fans of art history and architecture, or visitors just looking for a good scare in time for Halloween, would do well to visit the Crescent City this fall and check out the following three sites in particular.

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The Mid-City neighborhood is less tourist-heavy than other parts of the city, but it doesn’t lack things to see and do. The streetcar system can take you one of two routes: The City Park car drops off near the New Orleans Museum of Art, while the Cemetery car drops off at several cemeteries worth exploring, such as the Cypress Grove Cemetery, the first cemetery built to honor New Orleans volunteer firemen, orGreenwood Cemetery, built to accommodate thousands stricken by a yellow fever epidemic in 1852. To stay nearby, check out the Courtyard Marriott Metairie or the Residence Inn Metairie, both less than a 10 minute drive from the neighborhood.

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Named for the gardens surrounding its residences, New Orleans’ Garden District is home to the best-preserved historic Southern mansions in the U.S., with many of the homes known by the names of the families who built them. The area is worth exploring for the titular beautiful and ostentatious gardens, but visitors should also consider a stroll in theLafayette Cemetery. Within its walls, wanderers can chart the development of the city, starting with Creoles, and also see the graves of major Civil War figures. The Clarion Hotel Grand Boutique is right in the area and serves as a great option for travelers on a budget.

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Treme is not just an HBO show, but also the New Orleans neighborhood that is the undisputed home to some of the best live music in the United States, with current residents claiming their predecessors invented jazz. One of the oldest African-American neighborhoods in the country, Treme was a place where free persons of color were able to acquire and own property as early as the 18th century. Today, Treme is a destination known for its liveliness: There is always a parade or jazz session going on somewhere. Further worth exploring is the St. Louis Cemetery, founded in 1789 and proudly listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Some of New Orleans’ most famous citizens are buried here, and supposedly,“Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau rests here as well. The cemetery also boasts beautiful examples of French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish tombs. Fans of the 1969 classic film Easy Rider might recognize this cemetery as well. Those wishing to stay nearby should definitely check out the affordable and comfortable Astor Crowne Plaza New Orleans.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on October 10, 2015.

Delighting in Santa Fe’s Culture

It’s the oldest town in the Southwest, but Santa Fe offers a tremendous assortment of modern sights and attractions intermingled with the historic sites for travelers to explore. Although visitors love to dive into the many cultural destinations on an extended stay, it’s possible to enjoy the best of the city in a single day. This exciting itinerary showcases the best of Santa Fe and leaves you wanting to come back for more.

Enjoy Views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains 7 a.m.


Image via Trover by Celia Luz

In the high altitude of Santa Fe, hiking can prove hard on the lungs, but the paved walkway to the Cross of the Martyrs is manageable even if you haven’t acclimatized. From the top, especially at sunrise, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the city of Santa Fe. The cross at the top honors the Spanish martyrs from the Pueblo Revolt in 1680.

Glimpse New Mexico’s History 10 a.m.


Image via Wikipedia by Asaavedra32

The Palace of the Governors is the oldest public building in the United States and initially served as the capitol building. Explore the beautiful interiors of this 17th-century architectural marvel and simultaneously learn about the history of New Mexico. Exhibits highlight the region’s 400-year history, including Native American history, Spanish colonization, Mexican and American conflicts, and statehood.

Ease Into the Afternoon at Second Street Brewery 12 p.m.


Image via Flickr by Ron Cogswell

Take time to indulge in Santa Fe’s laid-back lifestyle. Slip into an easygoing afternoon at Second Street Brewery, a local craft brewery. Sample New Mexico’s famous red and green chile sauces on top of your fries and wash down the spice with a cold house-made beer. Meals here are perfect for sharing, so order several appetizers and don’t rush your meal.

Browse Local Galleries for the Perfect Souvenir 3 p.m.


Image via Trover by Rebecca Pattee

Not far from the main plaza and especially on Canyon Road, you’ll find dozens of galleries showcasing the incredible talent of Santa Fe artists. Stores carry Native American art including jewelry and pottery, Southwestern paintings, and fine art that ranges from detailed prints to contemporary sculptures. Whether you’re a serious collector or simply browsing, you’ll find pieces to suit every taste and budget in Santa Fe.

Enjoy Dinner With a View 6 p.m.


Image via Trover by Jim Nix

When the weather is nice, the best dinner in town is at Luminaria. Prime seating is on the outdoor wooden patio within a lush garden with views of the city’s renowned Loretto Chapel. Not only is the ambiance charming, but the food bursts with flavor. Sample New Mexican cuisine with a tortilla soup starter, enchilada-inspired filet mignon, and tequila lime pie.

Take in the Opera 8 p.m.


Image via Santa Fe Opera

Santa Fe is a designated UNESCO Creative City not only for its visual arts, but also the performing arts. Music and theatre performances are held year-round, but the Santa Fe Opera is a preferred choice in the summer. Along with old favorites and world premieres of scores, patrons enjoy the open-air setting of the theatre. Views of the Jemez Mountains add to the background of the stage and stars twinkle overhead by the end of the show.

Must Eat: Dessert with a Twist at the Chocolate Maven


Image via Flickr by enedzel

All the hot spices of New Mexican cuisine are balanced best with something sweet. At the Chocolate Maven, it’s impossible to decide between the freshly made cookies, scones, muffins, and cakes. Wash it all down with their Mayan chile hot chocolate or a chocolate chai tea. Come hungry and plan on taking a doggie-bag of extra treats back to your room.

Relax at a Comfortable Santa Fe Hotel


Image via Wikipedia by John Phelan

With dozens of things to see and do, travelers should spend the night in Santa Fe. There are many great hotels in Santa Fe from $54. The most atmospheric hotels are in downtown Santa Fe, where buildings are frozen in time and the area quiets down after day-trippers return home for the night. Among them, the Inn of the Turquoise Bear from $195 is in an historic adobe estate with gorgeous gardens, a hosted wine and cheese evening reception, and luxury rooms. Visitors who prefer the services of a chain hotel will enjoy the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza, which has all the amenities of brand name hotels with a southwestern flavor to make it unique.

No matter how long you stay, Santa Fe will charm and delight you with its history, bold flavors, and handcrafted art.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 27, 2015.

4 Reasons to Visit the Roman Catacombs

In ancient Rome, burial within the city walls was forbidden. The pagan culture of the second and third centuries preferred cremation, despite the objections of the Christian minority. As land for graveyards was scarce, the Christians of the day cultivated a sense of community away from the public eye by digging burial tunnels into the soft volcanic rock called tufo.

These ancient sites can now be found on the outskirts of the city, along major roadways and close to many Roman hotels. History buffs will find them a fascinating way to experience early Christian art, and to visit the resting places of numerous saints and martyrs.

St. Callixtus and St. Sebastian Catacombs

Both are located along Via Appia Antica and are reminders of religious persecution before Christianity was legalized. You can easily visit both sites in one day, then dine at Hostaria Antica Roma, a converted mausoleum, to complement the theme of your outing. After dinner, retreat to the Appia Park Hotel to relax on your room’s private balcony.

St. Agnes fuori le Mura Catacombs

This ancient site is located along Via Nomentana beneath the Basilica di St. Agnese, home to the mausoleum of Emperor Constantine’s daughter Costanza. A guided tour leads you down into the subterranean tunnels via staircase entrance inside the St. Agnese Church. The catacombs feature rows of burial niches, most of which were emptied by 15th century looters. The lavish Hotel Fenix is just down the road; not one of the cheapest hotels in Rome, but well worth the price.

Catacombe di Priscilla

Named for the noblewoman who donated her land, these catacombs with their secret entrance offer a wealth of ancient artwork below a Benedictine convent. Here you’ll see rare frescoes, like an ancient Madonna and Child. Afterward, adjourn to nearby Mezzo to sample Italian wines, then retire to your room at the American-themed Hotel Beverly Hills Rome.

Catacombs of St. Domitilla

Located along Via del Sette Chiese, this site offers a reprieve from the hot summer sun. Exploring the 15 kilometers of tunnels gives you plenty of time to cool down. The site is home to a second century fresco of the Last Supper, and is the only necropolis with an underground basilica. Once back above ground, you’ll welcome the wide open space of Parco della Caffarella to the northeast. An icy cocktail at the nearby La Mela Hotel provides the perfect nightcap.

These fascinating tunnels offer a rare glimpse into the past. Some were even completely forgotten by the 10th century, only to be unearthed again in the mid-15th century. On your trip to Rome, be sure to discover them for yourself.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 30, 2015.

Fabulous Boutique Stays Across Arizona

Home to the Grand Canyon and major cities like Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona is a destination that’s hard to pass up. Nature lovers everywhere will be enamored by the majestic scenery, and those travelers looking for some exciting nightlife won’t be disappointed either. Here is a list of five boutique hotels in Arizona that are worth looking into.

The Ritz-Carlton – Phoenix
It is no secret that the Ritz Carlton name is known for its lavishness and luxuriousness. The Ritz Carlton in Phoenix is no exception. The rooms here offer both picturesque mountain views as well as views of the city skyline and provide you with all the comforts you could ask for. Get the most out of your stay by taking advantage of the heated outdoor pool and the cooled sundeck before you head inside to the restaurant and bar for a fine dining experience.

Varsity Clubs of America – Tucson
Just minutes from the international airport, Varsity Clubs of America is ideal for those travelers flying in and out of Tucson. If you are an individual conducting business or a family looking for a fun getaway, you’ll find that this hotel meets your needs, offering studio and apartment style hotel suites at budget-friendly rates. The hotel’s surrounding area will keep you entertained with everything from parks and museums to restaurants and bars. 

Canyon Plaza Resort
The Grand Canyon is one of the majestic natural beauties within the U.S. that everyone should experience at least once. The Canyon Plaza Resort is only one mile from the southernmost entrance of the canyon, and the hotel staff can help you arrange your plans to see the canyon. Depending on how adventurous you are feeling, they will help you plan anything from helicopter rides to actually skydiving into the canyon. Don’t forget to check out other sites in the area, or just hang out in one of the pool loungers for the day.

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa
Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa is just what it claims to be – a sanctuary. Prepare for a trip filled with peacefulness and relaxation while you enjoy the beauty of the Camelback Mountain. Sanctuary’s spa is one of the best in the United States that offers Asian-inspired treatments. The resort provides plenty of activities to its guests, including tennis lessons with a professional coach, a nearby golf course, and guided tours of the Sonoran Desert. Wouldn’t you just love to spend some time in this paradise?

Red Roof Inn – Phoenix Airport
Red Roof Inn is a trusted name in the hotel industry. This extremely affordable option allows you to get the biggest bang for your buck when planning your next trip to Phoenix, Arizona. Though this is not the most luxurious option out there, it is one of the best options for travelers on a budget. Both comfortable and affordable, this Red Roof Inn is just a short drive from downtown Phoenix. If you’re travelling with kids, take them to the hotel’s outdoor swimming pool or drive a mere ten minutes to the popular Phoenix zoo. Sports fan? Check out the nearby Tempe Diablo Stadium and other sports venues in the area.

The Best Places to Stay in St Louis, MO

While not traditionally thought of as a vacation destination, St. Louis is filled with a plethora of attractions to keep every type of travelers entertained. From the world-famous Gateway Arch to the Missouri Botanical Garden to the St. Louis Zoo, you’ll find something for everyone here. With so many activities to keep you busy, it can be overwhelming to plan your St. Louis trip. We have taken pity on you and decided to gather a list of the best places to stay while in St. Louis. Hopefully this will make your planning a bit easier.

Moonrise Hotel

If you are looking to relax while on vacation, the Moonrise Hotel should be one of your top locations. Each room features pillow top mattresses, rain shower heads, complimentary Wi-Fi, and more to give you the best stay possible. There is a onsite restaurant available for your dining pleasure while the cocktail lounge on the rooftop is the best place to grab a drink after a long day of exploring.

Omni Majestic Hotel

If a city walkabout is what you crave, consider booking a room at the conveniently located Omni Majestic Hotel. There are free area shuttles available to guests of the hotel, always a nice perk after a long day of exploring. The complimentary bathrobe will coax you to relax and de-stress too. Business travelers also appreciate the Omni Majestic Hotel for its large conference space and meeting rooms. You also get discounts at a local gym should you feel the need to work up a sweat.

Red Roof Plus Saint Louis – Forest Park / Hamilton Ave

If you were to combine a convenient site, budget prices, and quality service, you would create the Red Roof Plus Saint Louis – Forest Park/Hamilton Ave. Just a mile from many of the major attractions in the city, you’ll be able to walk or catch a quick cab just about anywhere. This includes food, should you get hungry during your time in Saint Louis. There is a snack center in the hotel if you don’t want to leave the comforts of your hotel room.

St. Louis City Center Hotel

Those wanting to explore the city in style will appreciate a stay at the St. Louis City Center Hotel. Families will especially appreciate the amount of space each hotel room offers, along with the indoor swimming pool which is open year round. There are a variety of food options available on site, if you need some food. Those wanting top-notch service will not be disappointed by the 24-hour staff available to make your stay in St. Louis as pleasant as possible.

The Parkway Hotel

Budget travelers and families alike love The Parkway Hotel. The free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast and rock bottom prices are just a few of the reasons people rate this hotel so highly. There are simple, yet practical amenities in each room including coffee and tea makers. You can even splurge a bit if you want to get an in-room massage or order room service from the restaurant. 

Food on the Fly: Successful Self-Catering

Picture yourself at lunch in Paris, sitting at a sidewalk café, eating salade niçoise and gazing at the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Perfection, non? Doesn’t get much better than that.

Unless, of course, you were dining in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

This is the magic of self-catering. Skipping the restaurant meals in favor of a grocery bag full of goodies can lead to magical travel memories of perfect picnics, exotic delicacies and adventurous eating. You’ll also save a little money along the way. Start turning meals into memories with these tips for successful self-catering.

Marketplace Magic

Word of warning: Once you start shopping local markets, you may never go to a restaurant again. When food becomes this much fun, you won’t want to. Barcelona’s La Boqueria, for example, is a vibrant sensory experience, awash in color and sound. It’s a photography buff’s dream. Here, you can sip a cup of fresh-squeezed juice in any flavor imaginable while you stock up on authentic Catalonian lunch fare — plus some goodies to enjoy while people watching from your balcony during a siesta at Arc La Rambla.

Locally Made Goodness

Seek out small shops. You’ll find delicious, fresh-made local fare, with the bonus of a more personal touch. Since meeting new people is one of the best parts of travel, visiting friendly mom-and-pop shops makes for a truly special travel experience. Bakeries are a great place to start; try stepping out of your hotel in Paris and follow your nose to a fresh-baked baguette. It’s hard to imagine a greater joy than ripping off warm hunks of bread on your way to the Champs-Élysées.

Picnic Perfection

With self-catering, where you eat is just as important as what’s on the menu. Casually enjoying a leisurely meal in an iconic location is an experience you’ll never forget. While enjoying a stay in any of these family-friendly New York City hotels, take the gang for a picnic in Central Park. The kids will love playing in the green expanse while you all fuel up for a visit to Strawberry Fields or the Central Park Zoo.

To truly feel like a native Londoner on your next U.K. visit, join the locals enjoying their lunch against the backdrop of St. Peter’s Basilica. Or enjoy a picnic in St. James Park, with a view of Buckingham Palace.

Explore, Experiment, Enjoy

Travel is all about new experiences. Start with these tips, and then experiment away. Whether it’s sun-dried tomatoes and ciabatta in Rome or dolmades in Istanbul, you’ll soon be crafting your own incredible self-catering experiences and turning meals into memories. Bon appétit!

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 11, 2015.

5 Ways to “Find Yourself” By Travelling The Globe

There are more benefits to travel than just having fun. If you’re trying to get in touch with your inner self, visiting other countries or just going outside of your comfort zone at home in the United States can help you learn about yourself and the world around you. Booking hotels in Sydney and cities around the globe can help you achieve your goal of better self-awareness. Here are four cities that are perfect for finding yourself.

Sydney, Australia

The benefit of finding yourself in Sydney is that you’ll be in an English-speaking country, so there’s no need to worry about any language barriers. Not only can you visit famous sites like the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach, but you can also head out of the city to get in touch with nature at the nearby Muogamarra Nature Reserve. Hotels like the Westin Sydney give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture.

Denali, Alaska

Unspoiled Alaska is full of sprawling views and wildlife that has been untouched by humans. If you’re the kind of person who needs peace, quiet and nature to truly find yourself, the Denali National Park and Preserve is an ideal destination. Located on a mind-boggling six million acres of land, Denali features Mount McKinley, the highest point on the North American continent. When you want to get away from civilization to give yourself a better opportunity to listen to your inner voice, Alaska’s wilderness is the place to do it.

Samara, Costa Rica

When finding yourself means trying out adventurous activities that you never thought you would actually get to do, Samara is the place to go. Ziplining, hiking and kayaking are all challenging, active options in the beautiful scenery of this beach town. As the safest country in Central America, Costa Rica draws in travelers from around the world to enjoy a peaceful, tropical setting.

Napa Valley, California

You don’t have to leave the continental U.S. to find yourself. Enjoy the simple things in life by sampling local wines and farm-fresh foods in Napa Valley. This area of California is a destination for soul-searchers thanks to the farm-to-table movement and a hopping art scene that can be explored at galleries like di Rosa and the Jessel Gallery. High-end hotels like the Meritage Resort and Spa let you unwind after a long day of meditative self-exploration.

Traveling the globe gives you the opportunity to learn about other cultures first-hand while searching for your own inner understanding. Whether you are one with nature or more at home in an urban setting, visiting one of the destinations above can help you find yourself through travel.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on August 18, 2015.

A Bookworm’s Tour Through Tennessee’s Best Bookstores

A recent survey examining the U.S. states with the most bookstores had a few notable surprises. While large states like California and Texas have the largest total number of stores, when it comes to bookstore per capita, those two states were nowhere to be found! For travelers wishing to explore more of the U.S.’s literary heritage, a glance at the list should be the first step in planning your next vacation. Rounding out the top five (with Montana coming in first) is Tennessee, which boasts 369 bookstores for about 6.5 million residents.

It’s safe to say bookstores and literary pursuits are not the first things that come to mind when thinking of the Volunteer State, so nicknamed due to the large number of Tennesseans volunteering as soldiers during the War of 1812. Instead, visitors flock to Tennessee every year for reasons musical (Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion and museum and Nashville’s many country music venues), nature-related (the Smoky Mountains) and an all-around good time (touring the Jack Daniels Distillery). While it may not seem the obvious choice for more reserved bookworms, the following stops show that for book-loving travelers there is a quieter, more literary side to the state that’s well-worth exploring!

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The third-largest city in the state, and the homebase of the University of Tennessee’s legendary Vols, Knoxville boasts a locally-owned, independent gem of a store called Union Ave Books. Located in the heart of downtown, Union Ave Books offers a wide selection of fiction, non-fiction, young adult and children’s books. The store owners aim to please, going so far as to order books you might want that are not available in-store. The store also hosts a variety of local and nationally known authors for readings and book signings so be sure to check their event schedule before planning your visit. For those wishing to stay nearby and explore more of what Knoxville has to offer, the affordable and comfortable Crowne Plaza Hotel is just blocks from the store, and the bustling downtown area.

Nashville, a.k.a. Music City, almost had no independent bookstores left after the 2010 closing of independent store Davis-Kidd and the 2011 closing of a Borders located near Vanderbilt University. Thankfully for book lovers in the country music capital of the world, bestselling author Ann Patchett and veteran publisher Karen Hayes stepped in to save the day by opening Parnassus Books, an “independent book store for independent people.” Named for Mount Parnassus, the home of literature, learning, and music in Greek mythology, the store aims to provide a “refuge for Nashvillians of all ages,” with Patchett and Hayes declaring Music City to be the “Athens of the South.” With a well-stocked collection of literature, non-fiction, children, and art books as well as author events and book clubs, Parnassus Books is a must-visit for any book lover. Visitors to the area looking for affordable lodgings can check out the Holiday Inn Nashville or the Hutton Hotel, both just a 10 minute drive from the store.

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If driving away from Nashville and towards Memphis, be sure to stop by Madison’s Book Attic, a beloved local establishment specializing in used and out of print paperbacks, hardbacks, and audio books. Operating since 1987, Book Attic’s staff pride themselves on having the knowledge and experience to track down any book that its customers might desire. Anyone looking to settle down nearby for the night should consider the Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, located in Goodlettsville, and just a 5 minute drive from Book Attic.

A trip to Tennessee is incomplete without visiting Memphis, one of the early homes of blues and rock and roll. A trip to Memphis is likewise incomplete without a stop by Burke’s Book Store, founded in 1875. Its current owners boast that the store today encompasses “the best of the old, the latest of the new, and hard to find collectibles.” Its kind and knowledgeable staff includes an expert devoted solely to locating out-of-print works. For out-of-towners looking to stay in the heart of the action downtown, a booking at the hip, boutique Madison Hotel (just a 15 minute drive from Burke’s) is a must.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 1, 2015.