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Things to do in Arkansas

89 contributors

The top 31 attractions in Arkansas

Museums in Paris
Logan County Museum
The Logan County Museum has a location in Paris (Logan County) and was founded in 1972 with the purpose of collecting, preserving, and exhibiting objects that represent life in Logan County. The range of documents in the Museum includes everything from old newspapers and books, to everyday items used in homes and on farms. You can also see the equipment that was used by professionals, miners and other workers there throughout the year.
Museums in Paris
Cowie Wine Cellars and Vineyards
The rich wine culture in Arkansas dates back to the time of the early settlers. Since the repeal of Prohibition, over 150 cellars have been officially established in the state. This fascinating museum is all about the history of wine in Arkansas and how it has been developed by many different ethnic groups.
Lakes in Lakeview
Pigeon Creek Public Use Area
This is where my friends and I go when we have so much going on. This is the place we go to get away. It is secluded enough so that we can find the ease that we are desperate for. The waves lapping up on the shore gives such a calming feel to anyone there. This is where we go when we want life to slow down a bit.
Bars in Mountain View
Lakes in Alpena
Lake Huron
Lake Huron is the second largest lake in the Great Lakes region, after Lake Superior. With an area of ​​almost 60,000 km2, Lake Huron is a freshwater lake that contains two islands (Manitoulin and the smaller Mackinac).
Nature Reserves in Hot Springs
Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National park in the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas is both the oldest and smallest US National Park. As you can probably guess, the order of the day are steamy hot springs but unlike many other national parks, a lot of Hot Springs National Park's charm lies not in its nature (which of course is excellent) but in its history. The entire north end of the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas is encapsulated by the park and you can visit many of the historic bathhouses like Lamar and Ozark bathhouses, and the especially beautiful Fordyce Bathhouse. If you'd rather escape a bit into the woods, well, there are plenty of areas for that too. The northern end of the park is full of pine forests and you can see animals like squirrels and raccoons. There's one trail called the Hot Springs Mountain Trail that's especially nice; it takes you up the ridge and back down through the forest and doesn't take more than an hour or so (if that) to complete. It's one of the best places to visit in Arkansas and gives you insight into what life was like in the early days of the state (the city of Hot Springs itself owes its existence to these natural thermal baths). The park itself is free but there's a small charge ($5-10) if you want to camp inside the park.
Lakes in Heber Springs
Greers Ferry Lake
Greers Ferry Lake is a large, dam-created lake about an hour north of Little Rock, Arkansas. It has been ranked one of the cleanest and purest lakes in the United States and the truth is that it's a wonderful place to spend the day with the family or just enjoying the great outdoors. And, since it's located in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, the scenery is just beautiful. My favorite activity at Greers Ferry Lake is fishing: the bass and catfish in the lake bite and there are some rivers surrounding the lake that aren't bad for trout fishing either. If you have a boat, try a trip to Sugarloaf Mountain, the large island in the middle of the lake. There are a few trails on the island that'll take you to the summit and the view from the top is great. Even if you don't have a boat you can head down to the marina and find a guide or outfitter who'll take you out fishing for the day. As I said, it's one of the cleanest lakes in the country so you shouldn't hesitate to strap on your swim trunks and have a dip. The cool water is something magical in the humid Arkansas summer. Access to the lake is free and open year round. I'd recommend it if you're into fishing, hiking, or just want to spend an inexpensive day out with the family.
Caves in Calico Rock
Blanchard Springs Caverns
Blanchard Springs Caverns is a large, beautiful cave in Ozark National Forest near Mountain View, Arkansas. The cave was formed by the filtering of water through the limestone rock over millions of years (a process which still continues today) and the result are some truly stunning and unique stalactites and other formations. One word of advice, though: the interior of the cave is chilly and damp so make sure to bring a light jacket of a sweater if you want to really explore it. The best way to experience the cave is with a tour...the guides are members of the National Park System and give you information about the history and geologic process involved in the Blanchard Springs Caverns. There are two main routes: one short and sweet, the other a bit longer and more involved. The first is the Dripstone Trail; this tour takes about an hour and is perfect if you're going with kids. It take place along a walkway and there are some places to sit down if you're feeling a bit tired. The longer tour is called the Discovery Trail and it takes a little under two hours. This trail takes you a lot deeper into the caves but involves a lot of stairs, so make sure you're in good shape as well as bundled up. Both tours cost around $10 and there are discounts for children under fifteen years old. It's open year-round but you should go in summer. The chance to spend an hour or two in a cool, 60-degree environment in the middle of the Arkansas summer is priceless!
Nature Reserves in Saint Joe
Buffalo National River
The Buffalo National River is a beautiful river that runs from the Ozarks in northern Arkansas all the way down to the Ozark National Forest. If you're the outdoorsy type, this is your place. You can do literally anything: fishing, camping, horseback riding, kayaking, tubing, etc. I'd personally recommend grabbing and inner-tube or a canoe and spend the day lazing down the Buffalo River and taking in the gorgeous forest scenery and the fresh air. If you're planning on going tubing, kayaking, or canoeing, there are a number of places where you can drop in. The most popular are probably the Tyler Bend Visitors Center and the Pruitt Landing, my personal favorite. However, many people choose to drop in at Boxley Bridge a.) because it's easy to get to, and b.) that's where a lot of hiking trails like the Low River Trail start. If you're going with a mixed or large group, I'd definitely recommend starting at Boxley Bridge. If you don't have a canoe, don't worry; there are lots of rental places scattered along the Buffalo River. I think it's one of the best summertime plans if you're traveling through Arkansas.
Nature Reserves in Paragould
Crowley's Ridge State Park
Crowley's Ridge State Park is one of Arkansas' most popular natural areas and is nestled in the foothills of the Ozarks in the northwest corner of the state. If you're thinking about visiting Crowley's Ridge, the most popular things to do are fishing (there's a stocked lake!), hiking, and checking out the historical sites. The park is named after Benjamin Crowley, one of the first settlers in the area. You can still visit his log cabin and homestead and get a glimpse of what life must have been like in the pioneer days. If you're a hiker, I'd recommend the Spider Creek Trail. It begins at the picnic area and takes you through about a mile of forest and meadows full of wildflowers. One tip: don't forget to bring insect-repellent, especially in springtime! If you like fishing, there's a lake stocked with catfish and they have boat rentals at the marina area. If I remember correctly, they rent fishing boats for something incredibly cheap like $7 a day, so, if you want to go fishing with the family, this is probably the best place to go. The park is open year round and there are different fees depending on what you want to do. If you just want to hang out and go for a swim, it's something like $2.
Churches in Eureka Springs
Thorncrown Chapel
The Thorncrown Chapel is a quiet and beautiful little church in Eureka Springs, Arkansas that was built by the architect E. Fay Jones in 1980. The chapel is nestled in the Ozark woods and seeing it appear out of the wilderness after a short walk is certainly a sight to behold. The church itself is around 50ft. tall and the walls are made primarily of glass. This helps bring the beauty and majesty of the surrounding countryside into the church creating a verdant and airy space. The ceiling is composed of interlacing rafters which create geometric patterns that shine in the natural light. The effect is stunning. The Thorwncrown chapel is truly one of the most beautiful churches in the United States and one of the most unique I've seen anywhere. The church is generally open to the public (in fact, it's included on many tours through Arkansas) and you can visit from around 10am to 4pm during most of the year. The hours are a bit shorter in winter and the church is closed to visits in January or February. Or, if you'd like, you can attend a service on Sunday mornings and soak in the church as it was meant to be experienced. If you're not religious or don't have the time, a normal visit is just as nice. There's a guide who gives you a brief overview of the history of the church and then you can sit back and admire the gorgeous architecture and nature as a church musician plays a hymn. It's unforgettable!
Gardens in Hot Springs
Garvan Woodland Gardens
The Garven Woodland Gardens are beautiful botanical gardens just a few minutes outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas. The gardens are located on a scenic plot of land jutting out into Lake Hamilton and has tons of different gardens and some absolutely sublime views of the surrounding lake and mountains. One of the coolest and most beautiful parts is the Anthony Chapel Complex. Anthony Chapel is a glass-enclosed chapel set in the middle of a gorgeous wood that's very reminiscent of (and just as beautiful as) the famous Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs. It's a popular place for weddings, but just coming across it as you wander through the gardens is a pleasure indeed. Another of my favorite corners of the Garven Woodland Gardens is the Weyerhaeuser Bonsai Garden. The Bonsai Garden is, as you can imagine, a Japanese-style garden that has rock gardens and many intricate miniature trees. There's also a visitors center related to the Bonsai Gardens but we didn't visit when we were there. My recommendation? Get lost! There are pine woods, pavilions, bonsai trees, amazing churches, waterfalls, and tons and tons of wildflowers. Access to the Garven Woodland Gardens is free almost every day of the year, so just take a snack and a bottle of water and spend the afternoon getting lost in the glory of the Arkansas wilderness.
Nature Reserves in Eureka Springs
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
The Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is an amazing animal refuge near Eureka Springs, Arkansas a perfect stop to introduce the kids to some of Mother Nature's more impressive specimens. The park focuses on big cats and houses tigers, lions, and even bears! They even have a Liger, which is a rare lion-tiger hybrid that I'd only seen in pictures on the internet. Very cool! Once you enter the park, you'll be amazed at how close you can get to the animals, way closer than in your typical zoo. If you can, try to visit at feeding time (typically 4 or 5 in the afternoon but it's always best to call ahead and ask before your visit). At feeding time, the animal keeps give the big cats their daily feed which brings the massive creatures only feet away from where you're standing! Also in contrast with most zoos, you feel good after visiting Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. These aim of this park is the protection and care of the animals and you can tell that the volunteers and keepers really care about their work. All proceeds go to making sure the animals are kept clean, healthy, and well-fed. The admission to the park is $20 for adults and a bit less for younger folks depending on their age. It's truly a worthwhile experience to spend the afternoon checking out these amazing animals.
Lakes in Hot Springs
Lake Catherine
Lake Catherine is located in Lake Catherine State Park just outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas. If you're planning on goes to Hot Springs to see the national park and the historic baths, I'd suggest planning a weekend afternoon relaxing out by Lake Catherine as well. As part of the famous Diamond Lakes in the Ouachita Mountains, Lake Catherine is a perfect place to go fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, or to just relax with a picnic and some sunscreen. One of the best things to do at Lake Catherine is to go boating and fishing. There's a shop at the marina where you can buy bait and thy have some pretty unbeatable deals on boat rentals. You have basic fishing boats for $20 a day, kayaks, slips, and even big party barges for $200 day. That' a plan right there! Get some friends, stock up on food, drinks, and good music, and spend the day enjoying the sunshine and mountain views from your own party barge! Hiking is another of the more popular activities at Lake Catherine. There are three or four trails you can hike (there are signs at the park to help you out), but make sure to pick one that passes by Falls Creek Falls, a quiet waterfall hidden back in the woods. To put it simply: check out Lake Catherine if you're visiting Arkansas in summer. You won't regret it!
Nature Reserves in Morrilton
Petit Jean State Park
Petit Jean State Park is one of the best state parks in Arkansas simply because it has such a variety of landscapes and things to do. The park is based around Petit Jean Mountain and the rugged bluffs that tower over the Arkansas River and Cedar Creek. Towards the top of the park, there' an artificial lake where you can go fishing or try your hand at kayaking or paddle-boating. The reason I like Petit Jean State Park so much are the rock formations you can explore. The most famous rock formation in the park is Bear Cave (don't worry, there are no actual bears in sight!). After hiking about 30 or 45 minutes, you arrive at a system of passageways and grottoes that you can explore. Or, try the Seven Hollows trail which take you under one of the coolest natural rock arches I've ever seen. Finally, don't miss Cedar Falls and its stunning 100ft. drop to the canyon floor. There are several trail that lead to Cedar Falls and if you have any doubts, just ask one of the park rangers. It's the most popular park of Petit Jean State Park so you won't have any trouble getting there. Also, make sure to have a look at the park's website as they organize group hikes, Native American themed activities, and all kinds of other events on a regular basis.
Historical Monuments in Little Rock
William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park
The Clinton Presidential Center is the legacy of Bill Clinton, former president and Arkansas' most famous citizen. More than just a museum, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center has interactive displays outlining the campaign, presidency, and legacy of Bill Clinton a well as auxiliary facilities like classrooms and archives. The coolest part of the Clinton Presidential Center is the full-size replica of the Oval Office, the only one in existence if I remember correctly. To say that nailed every detail to a tee is an understatement. It was really cool! Don't forget to snap a photo at the desk, it'll make for a great conversation starter! There's also a recreation of the Cabinet Room but it in't quite a neat. The Clinton Presidential Center also hosts regular travelling exhibits so make sure to check ahead of time on the website to see if there's anything interesting going on. I'd also like to make a special mention of 42, the center's restaurant. The food is good and features locally-sourced meats and produce and the prices are reasonable. If you're going to be visiting Little Rock, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center should be on your Top 5!
Historical Monuments in Fort Smith
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Fort Smith National Historic Site is a lovely historic park in Fort Smith, Arkansas that houses several forts and historic buildings and gives you an insight into life in the early days of Arkansas. The forts are most famous for their involvement in confrontations with Native Americans in the 19th century and their role in the infamous "Trail of Tears." At the park, you can see the remains of the two 19th-century forts as well as buildings like the old courthouse and jail. To tell the truth, the remains of the forts aren't in great shape, but it's the stories of what life was like that make the park interesting. Stepping into Isaac "The Hanging Judge" Parker's courtroom or seeing the re-constructed gallows will make your hairs stand on end. Besides the history, the Fort Smith National Historic Site is also just a pleasant place to spend the days outdoors. There's a path that takes you along the banks of the Arkansas River and has several stops to learn a bit about the Trail of Tears. The park is especially famous for bird-watching and is a great place to spot Bald Eagles.
Lakes in Mountain Pine
Lake Ouachita State Park
Lake Ouachita State Park is home to one of the best fishing lakes in Arkansas and an all around beautiful place to spend a Saturday. Even is you're not an avid angler, this 40,000-acre man-made lake is consistently ranked as one of the cleanest lakes in the United States and you have plenty of spots for swimming, boating, and water-skiing. First things first: boating. There's a marina at lake Ouachita where you can rent boats ranging from kayaks and canoes to full-on party barges if you're in a big group. Like all Arkansas state parks, the prices for daily boat rentals are unbelievably good. The marina also sells bait if you're looking to try your luck at a freshwater bass or catfish. Hiking and bird-watching are the two other big draws at Lake Ouachita State Park. The park is a winter home for Bald Eagles and they hold regular Eagle Hikes that take visitor up into the woods to try and catch a glimpse of America's national bird. Also, don't miss the Three Sisters Springs, a trio of natural springs whose waters supposedly have healing qualities.