Arkansas combines the grace and charm of the Old South with the openness and friendliness of the pioneer West. Throw in the cosmopolitan feel of Little Rock, Hot Springs and Bentonville plus one-of-a-kind Eureka Springs and you have a major American destination. The Ozark and Ouachita mountains offer stunning vistas, while the Delta is where The Blues were born in Helena as was Johnny Cash in Dyess, where his restored boyhood home is now open. Over 600,000 acres of lakes and 9,700 miles of streams and rivers make the state an outdoors nirvana. Seven national parks, 2 ½-million acres of national forests, the Crowley’s Ridge and the Great River Road National Scenic Byways, and seven U.S. Forest Service picturesque drives, all showcase the awesome beauty that is Arkansas. Fifty-two state parks preserve and interpret Arkansas’s heritage and natural resources, including the one-of-a-kind Crater of Diamonds State Park, where for a small fee, you can dig for real diamonds and other gemstones and keep what you find.
You’ll know you’re here when….
…strangers help with a flat tire, take the time to give you directions, and offer to loan you their cell phones.
Where locals go to relax
The famous thermal waters of Hot Springs, which give the town and national park their names, are great for purifying the soul by drinking and soaking. Area bathhouses, including the historic Buckstaff on National Historic Landmark Bathhouse Row, use the namesake springs for spa treatments.
Put these events on your calendar
The King Biscuit Blues Festival, held the second weekend of October in Helena-West Helena, draws some of the best Blues performers year after year, including those who originally got their start in the 1940s on KFFA King Biscuit Time radio show. And the Racing Festival of the South, a week of excitement in April culminating in the Arkansas Derby, wraps up the live Thoroughbred racing season at Oaklawn Gaming and Racing in Hot Springs.
Most people don’t think of Bentonville, Arkansas, when it comes to world-class art, but you’ll find it at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which opened in November 2011. The extraordinary collection, compiled by Walmart heiress Alice Walton, is housed in a masterpiece building designed by Moshe Safdie. Best of all, admission is free.
Your child will always remember...
The fully restored Over the Jumps Carousel at the Little Rock Zoo features the rare “over the jumps” mechanism where your trusty steed or colorful chariot goes on an undulating trip over “hills” instead of the usual up-and-down. It’s the only one of its kind left in the world.
- The giant brick on display at Acme Brick in Malvern.
- Seven-story high Christ of the Ozarks Statue atop Magnetic Mountain in Eureka Springs, visible for miles.
- Twelve-foot-tall giant black raven on U.S. 62 in Ravenden.
- Grain silo painted like a giant Budweiser beer can on Belle Point Road in Lavaca.
- 500-pound Humpty Dumpty atop a rock wall overlooking Spring Street in Eureka Springs.
- The Mammoth Orange Café, Redfield, built in 1966 and inspired by a giant orange restaurant in Fresno, California.
In the Ozark town of Mountain View, pick up a hand-thrown piece of pottery, a handmade dulcimer or other musical instrument, a corn husk doll, a hand-forged piece of ironwork, or hand-dipped candles in numerous shops that line the historic town square.
Only have one day here?
The Clinton Presidential Library is in downtown Little Rock, on the banks of the Arkansas River. The library contains the largest collection of presidential papers and artifacts in U.S. history and includes a replica of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room.
Loco Ropes in Ozark Folk Center State Park has a high-wire zipline course with 30-plus challenges. Participants swing, zip, and leap from tree to tree, safely connected to a cable wire. Start with the Flying Pig—dual 300-foot zip lines, named after the historic locomotive—and work up to the tower free fall and climbing walls.
For your first visit...
Arkansas has 52 state parks where you can go fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, backpacking and horse riding. Play tennis and golf. Enjoy birdwatching, snorkelling and exploring ATV trails. Treasure hunters can go geocaching or dig for real diamonds. In addition to outdoor recreation, some parks also have historic or archaeological sites and museums.