The main draw to Arkansas is certainly its abundance of outdoor and natural attractions. But there’s also a lot of unique Ozark mountain culture tucked away in the hollows and dells of this rural state. Traditional arts and crafts have an important heritage in the small country towns of Arkansas, best discovered on your own with a car. But the real stars, like Old Washington Historic State Park, combine heritage and recreation, and Hot Springs National Park is the ideal place to soak your bones after a romp through the hills.
The capital of Arkansas is one of the best cities in the state to get some culture and fun while visiting. Its River Market District is a wonderfully renovated warehouse area along the river with new shops, bars, restaurants, and the Clinton Presidential Center. The River Rail Trolley is here, along with the Bicycling Walkway and loads of other star attractions. This is the hub of recreation in Arkansas, so try and plan a stay of a day or two to enjoy the urban amenities the state has to offer. Address: Little Rock, AR Phone: n/a Website: n/a
Hot Springs National Park
America’s 18th national park became officially protected in 1921, but its natural mineral springs have been hot spots long before the Europeans arrived. Bathhouse Row features a number of historic mineral springs to soak in, both indoor and outdoor. There is also a visitor center to give you a history lesson and plenty of easy walks to waterfalls and cool swimming holes. Best of all, it’s just outside the tourist-friendly town of Hot Springs so it’s an easy drive and you won’t have to rough it. Address: Hot Springs National Park, 369 Central Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71901 Phone: +1-501-624-2701 Website: http://www.nps.gov/hosp/index.htm
Old Washington Historic State Park
The town of Washington was founded in 1824, and today more than 30 original buildings have been restored to their original state. The effect is like walking through an Arkansas town at the beginning of its existence. You can tour all the authentic town structures and see craftsmanship in action. Guides wander the village wearing period costumes to add to the atmosphere making it great fun for families. Address: Old Washington Historic State Park, P.O. Box 129, Washington, AR 71862 Phone: +1-870-983-2684 Website: http://www.historicwashingtonstatepark.com/
Blanchard Springs Cavern
Arkansas is blessed with a vast network of limestone caverns under its hills, and many of them are developed and open to the public. Blanchard Springs is a real gem, both in terms of accessibility and features. One of the great halls is the size of six football fields and other attractions include a huge hot spring and miles of hiking. Address: Blanchard Springs Cavern, NF 54, Forest Road 1110A, Fifty Six, AR 72533 Phone: +1-870-757-2211 Website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/osfnf/specialplaces/...
Arkansas Art Center
To complement the natural attractions in Arkansas, spend an afternoon in the state’s biggest cultural venue in Little Rock’s historic MacArthur Park. Seven galleries showcase quality historic art from around the world alongside local folk art and other interesting native creations. The Arkansas Children’s Theater is also on site. Address: Arkansas Art Center, 501 East 9th Street, Little Rock, AR 72202 Phone: +1-501-372-4000 Website: http://www.arkarts.com/
Crater of Diamonds State Park
It’s hard not to want to spend a day at this sparkling state park. It’s the world’s only public diamond mine, which means whatever you find here you get to keep – and 25,000 folks have been lucky so far. Arkansas has a rich heritage of gemstones, and this popular area is one of the most amusing places in the state to try your luck. The visitor center has some cool exhibits displaying the history of diamonds in the state. Address: Crater of Diamonds State Park, 209 State Park Road, Murfreesboro, AR 71958 Phone: +1-870-285-3113 Website: http://www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com/
Ozark Folk Center State Park
This unique site is dedicated to preserving the special folk traditions of the people who have lived in the Ozark Mountains for decades. The crafts, music, and folk wisdom of the hills and valleys is presented in vivid detail. Visitors can learn upwards of 20 different crafts from experts on site, purchase handmade treasures, and enjoy acoustic music in the outdoor amphitheater. It’s a memorable area that is the real deal – no overt tourist hype. Address: Ozark Folk Center State Park, 1032 Park Avenue, Mountain View, AR 72560 Phone: +1-870-269-3851 Website: http://www.ozarkfolkcenter.com/