Arkansas is a state full of natural beauty, with natural hot springs, lush forests, and the Ozark Mountains. It's an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting, but the state also has plenty of cultural attractions, too. With so much to do, it's hard to believe that Arkansas isn't at the top of more travelers' to-do lists. The best-kept secret in the South is full of wonderful towns just waiting to host your next visit.
Arkansas' biggest city is also its capital, but with a population of just over 200,000, it retains a small-town feel. Start your visit at the Old State House Museum to learn about the state's history. From there, it's just a short walk to the River Market district, a popular spot to grab a bite from casual eateries and more upscale restaurants. Be sure to try specialties like catfish, fried green tomatoes, and Delta tamales. Walk off your lunch on the trails along the Arkansas River, or head to the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts at MacArthur Park.
Fayetteville is the home of the University of Arkansas and features a vibrant college culture. The Arkansas Razorbacks are a big draw in a state without a major professional sports team, particularly during football season. The university is also home to many cultural offerings, including lectures and live theater. Also not to be missed is the art garden at Terra Studios, where you can challenge your friends to a giant chess match.
This historic city is home to Hot Springs National Park, a geological wonder that has been a draw for visitors for hundreds of years. Don't miss Bathhouse Row, a collection of historic buildings where people stayed to take a dip in the springs' therapeutic waters—and you can, too! The nearby promenade is a great place for a stroll. The downtown area is home to a variety of shops and restaurants. Try the Superior Bathhouse Brewery for locally-made beer and Southern cuisine.
Bentonville is where owner Sam Walton started Walmart, and the local Walmart Museum tells the retail giant's story in an entertaining way. Even more popular is the acclaimed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. It's an architectural wonder, and admission is free, so it's definitely worth the trip. The museum also owns the nearby Bachman-Wilson House, a mid-century modern Frank Lloyd Wright home that you can tour for an additional fee.
Right next door to Bentonville is Rogers, a place with the kind of Main Street you thought only existed in the movies. Stroll through the walkable downtown to explore boutiques, antique stores, and flea markets before grabbing a pint at the Ozark Beer Company. If you'd rather drive, hit Highway 12 for a scenic jaunt with views of pretty Beaver Lake.
This historic city is home to the Fort Smith National Historic Site and the Fort Smith Museum of History. Both provide visitors with an in-depth look at Arkansas' history on the edge of the frontier as settlers moved west. In the summer, you may find reenactors firing cannons and other demonstrations. Too hot for you? Head to Parrot Island Water Park for the wave pool, FlowRider, and exhilarating slides.
For a small town in the Ozarks, Mountain View is a major cultural center. That's because it's home to the Ozark Folk Center State Park, a park with the unique mission of preserving not nature but music, arts, and crafts. Visit the crafts village to see artisans work with leather, copper, clay, wood, and fabric. While you're there, stop by the Blacksmith Stage to hear bluegrass and other folk music played on traditional instruments.
Texarkana gets its name from its location: it's right on the line dividing Arkansas and Texas, with half the city in one state and half in the other. Classic car lovers won't want to miss the Four States Auto Museum, with its free showcase of historic vehicles on weekends. Being this close to Texas means there's great barbecue, so get your fill of brisket at one of several smoky and delicious barbecue joints while you're here.
A historic oil boomtown, El Dorado is home to the Murphy Arts District, where you'll find a variety of arts and entertainment options, including concerts, events for kids, and even the local farmers market. The South Arkansas Arts Center is also located in El Dorado and showcases local and regional artists. If you'd rather be outside, stroll the charming downtown area and stop for a picnic in Oil Heritage Park, which commemorates the history of the town's major industry.
This charming Victorian village is known for its historic architecture and art galleries—in fact, the entire downtown area of Eureka Springs is on the National Register of Historic Places. Enjoy the atmosphere by staying in one of the town's many bed and breakfasts, exploring local shops, or treating yourself to a spa day. When the great outdoors beckons, head to the Kings River for fishing, canoeing, and hiking.