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9 ways to stay healthy in 2021

Pinnacle Mountain State Park Hikers in Pinnacle Mountain State Park. | Photo by Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

Seek health and happiness with these healthy, inspiring experiences and activities.

“The year 2020 was the most peaceful year ever,” said no one. Turning the page to a new chapter this year, you’re probably searching for distinctive experiences full of promise, hope, and outright healthfulness after the stress and challenges of the last 12 months.

As long as physical distancing, masking up, and other COVID-19 safety guidelines remain in place, finding your shade of happy may look different than it once did. As you set your intentions for 2021, make sure to find time and inspiring experiences for yourself. Here’s to your health with these nine interesting and uncommon ways to wander into wellness.

1. Greet the morning

Pinnacle Mountain State Park, northwest of Little Rock, Arkansas(501) 868-5806; arkansasstateparks.com

Sunrise in Pinnacles State Park, near Little Rock, Arkansas.

Views atop Pinnace Mountain in Little Rock are breathtaking. | Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

Less than half an hour north of downtown Little Rock, Arkansas, you can connect with nature and feel the first rays of daylight atop Pinnacle Mountain, situated along the easternmost edge of the Ouachita range in Pinnacle Mountain State Park. You can climb the East Summit or West Summit trails to get to the peak for the best sunrise views of nearby Lake Maumelle, the Arkansas River Valley, and the Ouachita Mountains. While both trails are strenuous, the East Summit Trail is more rugged and requires crossing multiple boulder fields. The round-trip hike will take up to two hours depending upon your fitness level and weather conditions. Still, you’ll want to set your alarm well before the rooster crows if you want the full effect of a perfect sunrise glow.

2. Soak in warmth

Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas. (501) 620-6715; nps.gov/hosp.

Relaxing thermal baths are offered at establishments in Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs. | Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

Relaxing thermal baths are offered at establishments in Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs. | Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

Thousands of years ago, Native Americans first sought the healing powers of the thermal waters that flow from beneath the Ouachita Mountains at Hot Springs National Park. Well-heeled travelers and public figures have visited this resort town from a bygone era. Slip into the rejuvenating waters at one of Bathhouse Row’s remaining establishments. You can even bring a container to carry home some water from the Hot Springs Jug Fountain at the Hot Springs Visitors Center.

3. Find inner peace

Harmonist Labyrinth, New Harmony, Indiana. (812) 682-3702; visitnewharmony.com.

Follow the Harmonist Labyrinth to find serenity and peace. | Photo courtesy Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites

Follow the Harmonist Labyrinth to find serenity and peace. | Photo courtesy Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites

Three labyrinths invite contemplation in motion in this community near Evansville, including the Harmonist Labryinth. Rooted in spiritual traditions and originally built around 1820, the labyrinth was re-created in 1939 near its original site. The walk is neither a puzzle nor a maze, but rather “one single path, and while you are on it, you’re to be one with yourself,” according to Claire Eagle, community engagement manager for Historic New Harmony. The evergreen hedge measures 980 feet from start to finish and is 140 feet in diameter. It leads to a small building in the center, but it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.

4. Chase waterfalls

Shawnee National Forest, southern Illinois. (618) 253-7114; fs.usda.gov/shawnee.

Water cascades down 100 feet at Bork’s Falls at Ferne Clyffe State Park. | Photo courtesy Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Water cascades down 100 feet at Bork’s Falls at Ferne Clyffe State Park. | Photo courtesy Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Your senses will come alive when you chase waterfalls in the Shawnee National Forest, which sprawls across 289,000 acres between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in southern Illinois. Dozens of options can be found throughout the forest, but for some lovely examples check out Jackson Falls near Ozark, Burden Falls near Delwood, and Bork’s Falls in Ferne Clyffe State Park near Goreville. At Ferne Clyffe, for instance, the 100-foot-tall intermittent waterfall is accessed on the half-mile Big Rocky Hollow Trail. When seeking out waterfalls, the Forest Service reminds hikers to be aware of slippery rocks and not to wade into upstream waters. Shawnee National Forest also offers a variety of other experiences for history buffs, birders, paddlers, and campers.

5. Eat clean

Vicia, St. Louis. (314) 553-9239; viciarestaurant.com.

Savor grilled oyster mushrooms with green garlic gravy and chicken-fried breadcrumbs at the vegetable-forward Vicia restaurant. | Photo courtesy Vicia

Savor grilled oyster mushrooms with green garlic gravy and chicken-fried breadcrumbs at the vegetable-forward Vicia restaurant. | Photo courtesy Vicia

An authority on healthful eating habits, author Michael Pollan recommends that we “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” That’s exactly what the vegetable-forward menu at the award-winning, AAA Four Diamond Vicia offers. The culinary team sources fresh ingredients from Midwestern farmers, artisans, and fishermen to present a healthful selection of delicacies, such as cauliflower adobo tacos and a warm bowl of hearty pozole. Wood-fired dishes are served Tuesdays through Fridays, with a specially featured “Farmer’s Feast” on Saturdays. Pick up a copy of the Small Circle Cookbook Issue 2 to make Vicia owners Michael and Tara Gallina’s favorite recipes at home.

6. Sip and savor

Noboleis Vineyards, Augusta, Missouri. (636) 482-4500; noboleisvineyards.com.

There’s a wine for every palate at Noboleis Vineyards situated on 84 acres in the rolling hills of Augusta. | Photo courtesy Noboleis Vineyards

There’s a wine for every palate at Noboleis Vineyards, situated on 84 acres in the rolling hills of Augusta. | Photo courtesy Noboleis Vineyards

Drinking in moderation, particularly red wine, can benefit your heart health, according to the Mayo Clinic. What better place to savor a glass than in Augusta, Missouri, the nation’s first American Viticultural Area, or wine grape–growing region. Situated along the Katy Trail, it received the designation in June 1980, eight months prior to California’s Napa Valley. At Noboleis Vineyards, stroll the 84-acre estate that boasts a portfolio of more than 30 award-winning wines. Pack a picnic or enjoy a pizza and other shareables from the on-site restaurant as you take in sweeping views of the Missouri River Valley. If you drink, make sure to have a designated driver.

7. Get a bird's view of nature

Hammonds Cajun Air Tours, Houma, Louisiana. (985) 876-0584; houmatravel.com.

Soar over Louisiana’s Bayou Country and take in the beauty of the region.  | Photo courtesy Houma Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Soar over Louisiana’s Bayou Country and take in the beauty of the region. | Photo courtesy Houma Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Take in the beauty and mystery of Louisiana’s Bayou Country with Hammonds Cajun Air Tours, located at Houma-Terrebonne Airport. You’ll soar over swamps and bayous in a prop plane and see the captivating surroundings of southern Louisiana, everything from alligators and other wildlife to oil rigs and Native American mounds. An airborne conservation lesson will give you a perspective on the disappearing marshlands and an understanding of nature’s resilience.

8. Paddle through history

Cane River Paddle and Pedal Sports, Natchitoches, Louisiana. (318) 527-0066; fb.com/caneriverpaddlepedal.

Start the new year with some exercise in the great outdoors on the Cane River in Natchitoches. | Photo by Julia Coleman-Kiefer / Cane River Paddle and Pedal Sports

Start the new year with some exercise in the great outdoors on the Cane River in Natchitoches. | Photo by Julia Coleman-Kiefer / Cane River Paddle and Pedal Sports

If you’ve seen 1989’s Steel Magnolias, you may recognize the Cane River as it runs through Natchitoches, a charming, historic Creole town that offers recreationists year-round fun thanks to its subtropical climate. Explore some of the historic landmarks along this peaceful 33-mile waterway, including Melrose Plantation and St. Augustine Church. Cane River Paddle and Pedal Sports, located on the downtown riverbank at Beauport Station, can hook you up with your choice of a kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or hydrobike rental to revel in the great outdoors.

9. Find your creative side

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Biloxi, Mississippi. (228) 374-5547; georgeohr.org.

Tap into your creativity with a pottery or sculpture class at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. | Photo courtesy Coastal Mississippi

Tap into your creativity with a pottery or sculpture class at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. | Photo courtesy Coastal Mississippi

The self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” George Ohr experimented with modern clay forms and is considered one of America’s foremost potters. Today you can get in touch with your inner artist at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi. The on-site ceramic studio hosts a range of classes where you can try your hand at the wheel, sling a little mud, and fire some color with your own Raku creation. If the Mississippi Sound across Beach Boulevard isn’t creative inspiration enough, the collection of buildings expressing a century of architectural stories set among ancient oaks, along with permanent and rotating exhibits, will surely stoke your fire.

Melissa Corbin is a contributor from Clarksville, Tennessee.

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