Arkansas is undoubtedly one of the best places in the States for any kind of outdoor activity or sport. But it doesn’t stop here because our list of best places to visit in Arkansas has wonderful spas, incredible fried foods, unique museums and much more. The “Natural State” is an often overlooked hidden gem, hiding many beautiful (and magical!) secret places in Arkansas. The name Arkansas derives from French, referring to the akansa, or Quapaw people, who settled in Arkansas around the 13th century. Their history and beliefs are still present in some places. One of the main spa cities actually has been built around a spring with healing abilities according to the beliefs of local Native Americans and visitors seeking a cure.
Home to the breathtaking Ozark and Ouachita mountain ranges, this state boasts gorgeous scenery and incredible wildlife. Its national parks and forests give a home to diverse flora and fauna. Several endangered species thrive in these regions.
The capital, Little Rock, and the city of Bentonville are excellent places to explore for their many amazing museums, art, nightlife, and eats. The charming small towns of Hot Springs and Eureka Springs give an elevated experience of bathing culture and fun history featuring the best characters for some real excitement: gangsters!
Arkansas also makes a perfect road trip destination, having multiple quirky and scenic roads crossing its beautiful national forests. Just riding through the state can make for an awesome experience in itself! Planning a trip? Here’s a selection of the very best places to visit in Arkansas!
Magical spots in nature to visit
Buffalo National River
Buffalo National River is the first-ever designated national river in the States. Peacefully flowing through the breathtaking scenery of the Ozark Mountains, Buffalo River, with its unpolluted water, seems almost untouched by human activity. There are no dams built on this beautiful gem of nature, letting it flow undisturbed at a length of 153 miles (246 km). In the upper parts, the water flow is fast, having most of the whitewater rapids. It’s an excellent place to visit for rafting fans. The sides of the river in this portion are tall sandstone and limestone cliffs. Keep an eye out for the amazing rock formations! There are beautiful caves, waterfalls, and sinkholes to ensure we experience that awe. Hemmed-In-Hollow Falls, a 209-foot waterfall will definitely make your jaws drop. This is the beauty that accompanies you if you come to hike, bike, climb, or pump your adrenaline with some whitewater rafting on the Buffalo National River. You can explore the length of the river on horseback for an experience you’ll never forget, or as another option, kayaking and canoeing offer the experience of all the H2O-provided beauty there is to be seen up close. The Buffalo river is one of the best places to visit in Arkansas for an unforgettable outdoor experience.
Ozark – St. Francis National Forest
Speaking of the very best places to visit in Arkansas for outdoor experiences, the Ozark- St. Francis National forest doesn’t fall behind, either. Composed of two separate forests – Ozark National Forest in the Ozark Mountains; and St. Francis National Forest on Crowley’s Ridge – this duette of national forests is boasting with scenic beauty. Like siblings, both of them have distinct biological and geological attributes, telling them apart. While Ozark National Forest can be proud of having the highest mountains in the state, St.Francis is known for its amazing diversity packed in a relatively small place.
Those two offer countless hiking trails, swimming and fishing areas, and picnic and camping sites for a vast spectrum of visitors. The Forest has 11,000 acres (45 km2) of old-growth forests. It’s home to many kinds of trees and six endangered species. The Scenic 7 Byway, running from Missouri to Louisiana, has a portion of 60 miles (100 km) crossing through the Ozark National Forest. It is possible to enjoy the views on four wheels too!
There are so many beautiful places in Arkansas it’s very hard to choose where to go. Petit Jean State Park, in the north of Arkansas, has an incredible view of the Arkansas River Valley, beautiful caves, canyons, lush forests, and wonderful hiking opportunities. Mount Magazine State Park’s phenomenal panoramas also attract lots of visitors. Those places are especially beautiful when the leaves turn yellow and red, making them the best places to visit in Arkansas in the fall.
Crater of Diamonds State Park
A state park in Pike county, Arkansas, with 911 acres, 37.5 of which is a plowed field. The Crater of Diamonds State Park is known for being the only diamond-bearing site open to the public. Since 1906, precious stones have been discovered by people coming here to try their luck. The site became a state park in 1972, and it’s among the best places to visit in Arkansas for some adventure and family fun to enjoy for children and adults alike. Get ready to get dirt on your clothes, and good luck! You can take home anything you find!
Best Cities to Visit in Arkansas
Hot Springs, gangsters’ favorite hangout
Arkansas is incredible when it comes to spa life. And Hot Springs is one of the best places to experience it at its finest. As a fun fact, Hot Springs national park Arkansas is the smallest national park in the US.
If spas and bathing culture are your thing, Hot Springs is one of the best places to visit in Arkansas. You can have an amazing spa experience in the belly of beautiful historic buildings. The bathing culture has old roots here. Bathhouse Row is well preserved and still active, and being present for more than a hundred years, it has been attracting people to the state for a long time now. Its gorgeous built architecture charmed even the toughest of gangsters. There’s even a museum dedicated to that! The Gangster Museum takes you back to 100 years ago when the quaint little valley town of Hot Springs was sharing its mineral water spas and casinos with notorious criminals of America. The museum is a first of its kind and gives a thorough and fun presentation of the gambling era.
The beautiful bathhouses are the favorite relaxing place of baseball players, too, hot mineral water being an excellent remedy for tense muscles and mind after a tournament.
If you have already visited the place and it got you thinking about relocating here, you can reach out to the local realtors in Hot Springs AR for information on real estate available here.
Eureka Springs is built around a legendary place, Basin Spring, where Native Americans once lived. Basin Spring was considered a healing spring, and rituals around it had an important role in the life of the Native American culture. Many came to seek healing from the spring’s water, which led to streets and houses being built around the spot with magical attributes back in the 1800s. The spring is still alive to this day. So if you’re in the mood for some magic and history, you can experience soaking in it and see what happens.
Eureka Springs is also famous for its beautiful Victorian-style cottages and mansions built into the cliffs and the many outdoor trips available nearby. Blue Spring Heritage Center is a place that was the home of the Cherokee, now the home of rich native flora and fauna.
Bentonville, best place to visit in Arkansas for culture
Bentonville is full of museums and has an amazing downtown with a vibrant nightlife. Who could wish for more? The many entertainment options for many tastes make Bentonville one of the best places to go in Arkansas for a weekend.
If you’re a fan of history, the Museum of Native American History is a good stop, where you can find tons of fascinating information about the local Native American culture.
Many don’t know that Bentonville is the birthplace and headquarters of Walmart and is famous for the Walmart Museum, too. Walmart transformed the small town of Bentonville into a nice city with an urban feel, full of cozy cafes, charming stores, and nice local restaurants.
Bentonville has a really cool opportunity if you’re into brewery trips: Bike Rack Brewing Co. plays on the childhood nostalgia of biking home from school, the bike rack being the meeting place. There are three unique Bike Rack Brewing Co. bars in town, with the one on the bike trail in Bentonville’s Arts District being the original. They serve local ales and their famous oatmeal stout.
Undoubtedly, one of the best places to visit in Arkansas, and a real highlight of cultural life in Bentonville, is The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Exhibiting works like the giant spider sculpture, Maman, by famous artist Louise Bourgeois, and Winslow Homer’s Spring and Return of the Gleaner, Crystal Bridges gives a stupendous experience for art lovers. Crystal Bridges is the first major art museum (with over $200 million endowment) that has opened in the United States since 1974. The museum was founded by Alice Walton, who donated a significant amount of the project’s price.
Bentonville has many attractions during the fall season, notoriously being one of the best places to visit in Arkansas in the fall. If you’re into horror, and you crave for a blood-chilling experience, Bentonville is your place to be in the fall. Northern Arkansas has many haunted places, so if you want an intense experience, you can have one. The Nightmare haunted house for example, is one of the best haunting experiences in the state.
If Bentonville has already won your heart, local real estate agents in Bentonville AR can help you find a home, a less haunted one than the above-mentioned.
With only 200,000 residents, Little Rock is, well, little for a state capital. But even if the name doesn’t suggest, Little Rock is the biggest city in Arkansas. The state’s historical and economic capital has a beautiful downtown with rich history, packed with museums, art galleries, awesome restaurants, and bars. The city has many places worthy of a visit, actually it is one of the best places to visit in Arkansas for a diverse experience of history, food, culture, entertainment and possibilities for outdoor activities nearby, all packed in one place. Here are a few sights to consider:
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
In 1957, Little Rock Central High was the institution where desegregation began. The school is still functioning today, but guided tours provide the opportunity to walk through it, inside and outside. The fun thing is that you never get the same experience twice because the route depends on what’s currently going on in the school. There’s a visitor’s center, too, with brochures and reading material provided to complement the information of the guided tours.
Arkansas State Capitol
After 16 years of construction, the Arkansas State Capitol was completed in 1916. What makes it special is that it’s a replica of the U.S. Capitol. The exterior is made of limestone, and it has fascinating bronze doors 10 feet (3 meters) tall, four inches (10 cm) thick, commissioned from the famous Tiffany & Company in New York. Work of this magnitude wasn’t cheap, the cost of the doors being $10,000 at the time. The cupola is not a joke either: it’s covered in 24-karat gold leaf.
Little Rock Zoo
Little Rock Zoo makes a nice stop to chill out if you get tired of all that learning. Dating back to 1926, the historical zoo started with only 2 animals in the beginning.
Now it is home to more than 725 animals representing over 200 species. It stretches on an area of 33 acres (13 ha) and is the only zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in the state.
The River Market District
The heart of downtown Little Rock, River Market District is the perfect place for eating, shopping, and walking around. The Market District is full of ready-to-eat food and fresh produce to choose from. You have many options from here, including checking out the public sculptures, the many art galleries, or bigger museums. There’s live music to be found here for everyone’s entertainment; if you feel like it, you can even stay for a nice night of dancing or hanging out with friends, making this part of Little Rock one of the best places to go in Arkansas on a weekend. If you’re thinking about staying a little longer than a weekend, local realtors in Little Rock AR can help you find a suitable home in the lovely state capital.
The second largest city in the state in the beautiful Washington county. It is home to the University of Arkansas, the state’s flagship university, with a huge campus and excellent athletic programs. Fayetteville is quite crammed with exciting stuff to do for its size. If you like to have access to quality live performances and live in a smaller town at the same time, this place could be perfect for you. If you feel like that, local real estate agents in Fayetteville AR can help you with any inquiries. Here are a few can’t-miss places to consider while on your visit in Fayetteville:
Fayetteville farmers market
Offering a wide variety of local produce, the Fayetteville farmers market is the place to discover things you won’t find elsewhere. Buying products at the market helps support local families, artists, and craftsmen.
Donald W.Reynolds Razorback Stadium
People in Arkansas take their team, The Razorbacks, very seriously, so since the stadium hosts their favorite football team, it is a place fondly frequented by fans. You can visit the stadium on a non-game day too, and admire the architecture that’s capable of hosting 80,000 people.
A professional theater company listed among the top ten promising emerging theaters in the country is definitely a must-visit in Fayetteville. The small theater has an intimate capacity of 175 seats, but the company produces more than 200 local and national productions yearly. TheatreSquared is one of the best places to visit in Arkansas on a weekend. The theater is a ten-time grantee of the National Endowment for the Arts, and has been listed as the top attraction in Fayetteville.
Botanical Garden of the Ozarks
This botanical garden offers a glimpse to its visitors of the most beautiful and weird vegetation there is to be found in the Ozarks area. They have thousands of species of plants , and a remarkable butterfly exhibit, to crown it all. The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks also offers educative presentations and workshops throughout the year.
The Walton Arts Center
Designed to support and promote the local performing art scene, the Walton Arts Center is running since the nineties. It’s a great place to catch a live performance of any kind, dance, music, or theater. The center also offers educational programs for children and grown-ups alike.
Arkansas has so many diverse things to offer, it’s really hard to choose during a short visit. It might be worth considering moving here, at least for a while, to explore all the magic, beauty, and richness this state boasts with. But even a shorter visit will leave you wanting more. You can profit many times from this diversity; coming back a second time might surprise you with a completely different experience!