Known for its beautiful outdoor experiences, quirky eats, and The Clinton legacy, Arkansas is an unexpected state to visit. It's “The Natural State” and the beginning of The Ozarks. Whether digging for diamonds, eating possum pie, or taking in the area's rich history, Arkansas offers plenty of intriguing attractions.
The natural resources and scenic views are plentiful in Arkansas, and the state is known for its numerous National Parks and state parks. You're guaranteed to stumble across photogenic rock formations, winding rivers, and mountain views when traveling through the state. Travel with an open mind, find unexpected treasures, and leave with a deeper appreciation for nature.
The Best Things To Do in Arkansas
We've rounded up our favorite Arkansas picks that take you from the metro area offerings of Little Rock to the small towns that locals love. Plan a few travel days to see the whole state and get ready to fall in love with chocolate gravy over biscuits.
1. Crater of Diamonds State Park
Suppose you want a rock of your own, head to Crater of Diamonds State Park, which regularly makes the news because of the guest's jaw-dropping discoveries. It's one of the world's only diamond-bearing sites accessible to the public. The park is an eroded volcanic crater where guests can find amethyst, diamonds, garnets, jasper, agate, and quartz. People have unearthed over 33,100 diamonds at this site since it became a state park in 1972. Bring your tools or rent some from the park.
2. Ozark Highway Scenic Byway
Take the scenic route and drive the Ozark Highway Scenic Byway to see the Ozark's true beauty. There are five streams along the way, mountains to see, and plains to admire. The byway crosses the 165-mile Ozark Highlands Trail, a popular trail for hiking in the Ozarks that travels through the Ozark National Forest to the Buffalo National River. It's a popular road for motorcyclists because of its twisty highway sections.
3. Thorncrown Chapel
Thorncrown Chapel sits secluded in thick woods just outside of Eureka Springs. It is one of the most beautiful chapels in the world. The building is made from wood and over 6,000 square feet of glass across 425 windows. You'll feel immersed in an Ozark forest even when you're inside. There's no admission fee, and guests can use the space for prayer or reflection.
4. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
Big cats that have been abandoned or neglected have found permanent homes at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. It's a 460-acre sanctuary in Eureka Springs that houses bobcats, leopards, cougars, lions, and tigers. Sign up for a daily guided tour, see the cats up close, and support animal rescue.
5. Little Rock Central High School (National Historic Site)
Little Rock played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement, and Little Rock Central High School took center stage when nine Black teenagers (known as the Little Rock Nine) couldn't get into their school because of an angry mob. The Supreme Court's landmark decision to desegregate public schools in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case was significantly due to the Little Rock Nine incident. Today, it's a National Historic Site, and guided ranger tours are available daily. Admission is free.
6. Hot Springs National Park
The country's first designated national park was Hot Springs National Park, which has 47 thermal springs. Guests can't swim in the outdoor springs, but they can enjoy Bathhouse Row, which has eight buildings with thermal pools, private baths, and spa services. Beyond the spas, there's also hiking and zip-lining. We recommend bringing a jug to drink the hot springs water from the fountains.
7. Garvan Woodland Gardens
The Garvan Woodland Gardens site is the botanical garden of the University of Arkansas. Admire the 128 species of native and ornamental shrubs and wildflowers. There are also 160 types of azaleas and an Asian garden. It's a very photogenic garden; no matter the season, there's a flower in bloom. Kids love the Evans Children's Adventure Gardens, which includes interactive entertainment. During the holiday season, the garden is draped in festive twinkling lights. There's no wrong time to visit!
8. The Walmart Museum
The retail giant originated from Bentonville, Arkansas. Guests can visit the original Walton's Five-and-Dime store that Walmart founder Sam Walton acquired in 1951. The building is the Walmart Museum, where visitors can learn how Walmart became what it is today. Admission is free, and it's one of the most fascinating things to do in Arkansas.
9. Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum
Everyone thinks of Hemingway and Key West, but avid fans shouldn't miss the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center. The property includes the barn studio where Hemingway wrote portions of “A Farewell to Arms” and some short stories. The museum looks at life during the Great Depression and New Deal eras, and history lovers will thoroughly enjoy this Arkansas attraction.
10. Magic Springs Theme and Water Park
If you're looking for thrills, head to Hot Springs. Magic Springs Theme and Water Park offers rides, entertainment, and water slides. The water park includes a variety of slides, a lazy river, a family splash zone, and a wave pool. On the theme park side, you'll find exhilarating coasters, a drop tower, a log flume, bumper cars, and an area designed for young kids. The park offers seasonal events and a summertime show series that brings in various music artists.
11. Fort Smith National Historic Site
In the 1830s, Fort Smith was a stop along the Trail of Tears. Native Americans experienced forced displacements across nine states in the southeastern U.S., and Fort Smith was a part of that journey. At the Trail of Tears Overlook and River Walk, visitors today can stand on a portion of the trail and read about the historic event. It's a riveting Arkansas attraction that showcases the hardships that Native Americans endured.
12. Arkansas Air and Military Museum
Aviation fans will enjoy the numerous vintage aircraft housed in the Arkansas Air and Military Museum. The museum's collection includes airplanes dating back to the 1920s and '30s. Highlights include:
- Vietnam War-era helicopters.
- A Navy carrier fighter.
- World-famous racing planes.
- An early airliner.
There are also thousands of smaller military artifacts, and it's a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.
13. Mount Magazine State Park
Mount Magazine State Park is the highest point in Arkansas, reaching more than 2,700 feet. Eco-adventurers will love the park's activities, including mountain biking, horseback riding, backpacking, ATV riding, and rock climbing. The park offers a variety of lodging options, including campsites and The Lodge at Mount Magazine, a full-service hotel.
14. Museum of Native American History
Travel back 14,000 years to experience what life was like for Indigenous people through the living history exhibits at the Museum of Native American History. The museum houses over 10,000 artifacts, including a mammoth skeleton, tools, weaponry, pottery, headdresses, quillwork, beadwork, and masks. Monthly workshops, storytelling, and family events connect Native American history to travelers passing through Bentonville, and it's completely free.
15. Mammoth Spring State Park
The largest natural spring in the world is at Mammoth Spring State Park, on the border between Missouri and Arkansas. It pumps out 9 million gallons of water every hour. The spring leads to a 10-acre lake via The Spring River. Visitors love to fish for trout or float down the river. Additionally, the park has hiking trails and a playground for kids.
16. William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum
Of all the things to do in Arkansas, this one might be the most famous. The Clinton legacy lives on at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. It has over 100,000 items and works of art related to Bill Clinton's life and presidency. There are also replicas of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room. Even if you're not interested in politics, it's a look into American life during the 1990's.
17. South Arkansas Arboretum
The South Arkansas Arboretum is a 12-acre botanical garden in El Dorado, Arkansas. It features plants native to the state's West Gulf Coastal Plain. Walk along trails lined with azaleas and dogwood. It's a beautiful spot for picnics and tranquility. Plus, the forest canopy provides an escape from the humid summer months.
18. Old State House Museum
The state capital building has since moved, but the original building is now home to the Old State House Museum. The building is a historic landmark, and many significant events that shaped the state occurred on the building grounds. The museum aims to tell intriguing stories about how the 25th state came to be. Museum admission is free.
19. Hampson Archeological Museum State Park
An Indigenous farming community thrived on the Mississippi River from 1400 to 1650. Archeologist Dr. James K. Hampson discovered thousands of artifacts from that farming community a century later. Today, the Hampson Archeological Museum State Park showcases his findings in hands-on exhibits. Check out the fantastic collection of Native American pottery and artwork. It's free to visit, too!
20. Castle Rogue's Manor
Perched on a cliff overlooking a forest, the Castle Rogue's Manor is one of the most fascinating things to do in Arkansas. The Renaissance period inspired the castle's architecture, and it took over 20 years to build. The 15,000 sq. ft. of fantasy overlooks the Ozarks, and guests can take guided tours by appointment. It's quirky and fascinating, and the random location makes you wonder, but it's worth a visit.
21. Hawksbill Crag
In the Ozark National Forest, Whitaker Point is a short 1.5-mile hike leading to an incredible view known as Hawksbill Crag. You'll see lush forest views for miles. It's the perfect place for a sunset picnic. The coolest way to take an Instagram-worthy photo is to have a travel buddy stand from afar to take your picture overlooking the cliff.
22. Pinnacle Mountain State Park
Pinnacle Mountain State Park is another Arkansas location on the Trail of Tears. The mountain rises 1,000 feet above the valley, and the park has over 14 miles of hiking and biking trails. The park is only open during the day, and there are no lodging options, but it's a gorgeous spot to catch the sunrise.
23. Fayetteville Downtown Square and Gardens
Fayetteville, Arkansas, is a small town you want to take advantage of. The quaint downtown area features one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. The downtown area also has beautiful gardens that seamlessly fit into the existing buildings. Head to the farmers market from April through November for local produce and artisan crafts.
24. The Old Mill
Head to T.R. Pugh Memorial Park in Little Rock to check out The Old Mill. This structure is an authentic reproduction of the water-powered gristmill that was built in 1933, but it's most famous for its appearance in the opening scene of the 1939 film “Gone with the Wind.” It's a little oasis in the capital of Arkansas.
25. Glory Hole Falls
If you love unique waterfalls, head to the Ozark National Forest for Glory Hole Falls. Hike the 1.8-mile trail that leads down to the waterfall. The striking rock formations allow for waterfalls that drop through a hole into caverns below. You'll get the best waterfall views if you hike the trail after a rainfall.