Mentone, Ala., long known as a hideaway for celebrities and artists alike, is just a hop, skip and a jump from Chattanooga and accessible from both U.S. Highway 11 and Interstate 59.
Boasting a ski resort, art galleries, restaurants, bed and breakfasts and breathtaking natural beauty, Mentone is a wonderful destination for the day traveler.
"People come to Mentone to enjoy the quaint relaxing atmosphere that you feel the moment you top the mountain," said Moon Keener, co-owner of the Wildflower Cafe.
The Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort has the distinction of being Alabama's only seasonal ski resort. Other activities offered include trail riding, hiking and golf packages. The resort offers lovely chalets for those wishing to spend more than a day exploring the area. The resort has been attracting guests for more than 80 years.
Mentone offers several bed and breakfasts, including Alabama's oldest hotel, the Mentone Springs Hotel. Built in 1884, at one time the hotel was widely advertised as one of the most healthful and attractive spots in the South and was recognized in the best-selling book "1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die."
Across the road from the hotel is the Forge Gallery, owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Walter and Rhonda Howell. The nationally recognized artists displaying their works there run the spectrum of artistic disciplines from folk art to cutting-edge contemporary art, and the gallery offers something for every taste.
• Population: 486.
• Best things to do/places to visit: Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort, Mentone Springs Hotel, The Forge Gallery.
• Miles from downtown Chattanooga: 48.
• Landmarks or geographic features: Located on Lookout Mountain, Mentone is known as the only spot in Alabama that regularly receives snow in winter. DeSoto State Park, canyons, hiking and camping opportunities abound.
• Date founded: Incorporated in 1936.
• Historic info: The Mentone Springs Hotel was built in 1883-84 to host visitors to the springs there, and Mentone began its existence as a health spa.
• Most-famous resident: Martha Berry, founder of Berry College.
• Unique traditions: Rhododendron Festival the third weekend in May, Fall Colorfest the third weekend in October, Musical Mountain Christmas (dates vary).
• Fun fact: The town of Mentone was named in the 1880s after a town in France that Queen Victoria had visited. That town's name was explained as meaning a "musical mountain stream," and the daughter of an area resident suggested using it here.