From the Ozark mountain highlands to the river valleys and the Mississippi Delta, Arkansas offers an abundance of attractions. If an Arkansas vacation is in the plans, take time to enjoy the best free attractions in the Natural State.
1. Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs. Named as one of the top buildings erected in the 20th century, Thorncrown Chapel incorporates 425 panels of clear glass that allow views of the native Ozark beauty. Thorncrown Chapel is open from March through December – and there’s no admission charge.
2. Take time to stroll the picturesque streets of Eureka Springs. This Victorian village is filled with architecture from the past. Streets wind through the town and sites of interest include a church once featured in Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not and a haunted hotel.
3. Senior citizens will remember the old “Lum ‘N Abner” radio program but all ages will enjoy the Lum & Aber Jot ‘Em Down Store and Museum in Pine Ridge. Americana from radio’s Golden Age is featured with emphasis on the program that had thousands of fans in its’ heyday.
4. Those with a palate for fine wines will want to visit Arkansas Wine Country in the lovely Arkansas River valley between Pine Bluff and Fort Smith. Four wineries in the region produce delightful wines and offer tours as well as tastings. The Mount Bethel Winery, Post Familie Winery, Wiederkehr Wine Cellar, and Chateau Aux Arc are all open to the public.
5. Enjoy the view from the Boston Mountain Scenic Loop that travels curvy U.S. Highway 71 from Fayetteville over Mount Gayle and into Alma, Spinach Capital of the World. Once the main road through these parts, most folks travel the four lane Interstate 540 but the ambiance remains in quaint gift shops, roadside lodges, and the most fantastic view in the Bostons.
6. Discover a Southern swamp at the Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park near the town of Brinkley. Closer to the mighty Mississippi than the mountains, this state park features a survey marker dating from the original 1815 survey of the Louisiana Purchase. Walk the boardwalk into a rare headwater swamp for a memorable experience.
7. State history comes alive at the Arkansas State History Museum in Jonesboro. Exhibits at this free museum include a walk through pioneer village, natural history items, military memorbilia, Native American artifacts, geology and prehistoric finds. Traveling exhibits often bring other items.
8. Stand on top of the highest point in Arkansas at the Mount Magazine State Park. A new visitors center tops the highest peak in the state.
9. An important civil rights site is the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. This is where the end of segregation began.
10. In the old city of Fort Smith, visit a bordello. The local Visitor’s Center is housed in what once was Miss Laura’s turn-of-the-century brothel. Tourist and travel information is available. Take time to visit the upstairs decorated in period style and imagine what the life of the girls who worked here must have been like.
11. In Fayetteville, stop by the University of Arkansas campus. Former President Bill Clinton once taught law at this respected old university. Snap a picture of Old Main, one of the original buildings from when the college began in 1875 and stroll the campus for a feel of collegiate life.
12. Relive the days when settlers brought their corn to the grist mill at the War Eagle Mill near Rogers, Arkansas. A waterwheel still splashes through clear, cold waters and the mill grinds corn daily. Watch the corn as it’s ground and take some of the many products home. Cornmeal, cornbread mixes, and bread mixes are just a few of the choices. The Bean Palace restaurant on the mill’s top floor serves up traditional and tasty Ozark beans and cornbread.
13. Travel over the top of Rich Mountain, the state’s second highest peak and visit two states on the Talimena Scenic Drive from Mena, Arkansas to Talihina, Oklahoma. This breathtaking vista over Rich Mountain offers stunning views, frequent turnouts to see the panorama, and a trip past the state operated Queen Wilhelmina Lodge. The Pioneer Cemetery serves as the final resting place for early settlers on the mountain, including the last man who lived on Rich Mountain.
14. Wal-Mart shoppers can see where the chain store giant began at the Wal-Mart Visitors Center in Bentonville. Corporate headquarters for the discount chain are here but the Visitors Center is on the site where Sam Walton operated his first independent store, Walton’s Five And Dime. There’s no charge and displays detail the history of Wal-Mart. International Wal-Mart ventures are featured along with Sam’s first and last recreated offices, his pickup truck, and much more.
15. At the Beaver Lake State Park near Rogers, cast a line along the south shores of Beaver Lake. Take the state’s last free ferry over to the Missouri shore and back during the summer season – at no charge.
16. In Eudora, visit a restored 1901 home that serves as the town’s visitor center. Once the home of Dr. A.G. Anderson, the house is also a museum with many artifacts and displays.
17. Nine million gallons of water flow each hour from Arkansas’ largest spring at Mammoth Spring Park on U.S. 63. It’s a sight worth seeing!
18. Step up to the old fashioned soda fountain at Poor Richard’s Gift and Confectionary Shop in downtown Rogers. It’s original and the 1907 drugstore is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Looking is free but for a small price, you can enjoy some of the home made confections!
19. Experience the Grand Prairie region at the Stuttgart Agricultural Museum in Stuttgart. German settlers gave this town its’ name and the area is famous for some of the nation’s best duck hunting. Exhibits at the museum include duck hunting, pioneer life, and farm equipment.
20. Ancient history is preserved for posterity at the University Museum at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. Exhibits include natural history, archaelogy, and early human history. Fossils, dinosaurs, and meteorites are just a few of the items that can be seen.
21. Learn about the River Valley Region at the Arkansas River Visitors Center near Russellville. On site at the Lock and Dam, there are hands-on exhibits that the kids will enjoy, a slide tape presentation, wildlife displays, and a chance to watch the barge traffic on the broad Arkansas River.
22. The Civil War is far from forgotten at the National Cemetary in Fayetteville. Union soldiers are buried at this location, established in 1867. Even in death, the nation is divided because Confederate dead were laid to rest in the Confederate Cemetary a few blocks distant.
23. Ride the Fayetteville Trolley to the city’s historic downtown Square and entertainment. Enjoy shopping or a meal out before riding the trolley back to the car or hotel.
24. See the oldest surviving state capitol building west of the Mississippi at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock. Now a National Historic Landmark, the Old State House was where President Clinton celebrated his victories in both 1992 and 1996.
25. Subiaco Abbey is a college prepartory school for young men but it began as a Benedictine monastry in 1878. Enjoy the self-guided tour and note the stone architecture and well-kept grounds. If interested, pick up a brochure.
Many other travel opportunities exist within Arkansas. For full details, go to www.arkansastravel.com