On top of the mountain, Petit Jean State Park offers hiking, camping, a lodge, cabins, restaurant, meeting room, educational programs, swimming pool, lakes, and some of the best scenery The Natural State has to offer. The flagship of the state parks system, the park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp. The recently renovated historic Mather Lodge just re-opened and is gorgeous inside and out. The view off the back side of the lodge is priceless. Standing there you can see why this land inspired the creation of the Arkansas state parks system.
Located on 188 acres atop Petit Jean Mountain is Winthrop Rockefeller Institute with its upscale lodge and conference center. It’s one of my favorite places to attend an education program, culinary class, or event. You can also tour the Governor Winthrop Rockefeller Legacy Gallery and Theater, and browse the gift shop.
Other mountain attractions you don’t want to miss include the Museum of Automobiles, which contains a collection of 50 vintage vehicles dating from 1904 to 1967. It also hosts two annual car shows and swap meets. Barnyard Friends and Stables has a petting zoo, pony rides, goat milking, bottle and hand feeding of animals, horseback trail rides, pony rides and hayrides, and 4-wheeler train rides.
The city proper offers Morrilton City Park with swimming pool, tennis and volleyball courts, picnic areas and a playground. In the well-preserved downtown you’ll find great antique shopping. In 2011 the Movie House Winery opened in the newly renovated Petit Jean Movie Theatre building, which was built in the 30s. Here you’ll find semi-sweet wines, dry reds, and dry whites in price ranges from about $10 to $20. Step inside for a wine tasting to see which ones you like. The winery also sells wine making supplies and gifts.
Also downtown is the Depot Museum. The restored Missouri-Pacific railroad depot houses display ranging from the Trail of Tears to railroad history and lore. It’s also the home of the Conway County Genealogical Association. The Morrilton Historic District contains one of only two Carnegie Libraries left in the state, and a classic Revival courthouse. The Rialto Community Arts Center is housed in a 1911 renovated theater and features concerts, live musical performances, poetry readings, and children’s programs.
Morrilton is also known for its annual Great Arkansas Pig Out to be held this year on Oct. 5 and 6. The event is full of entertainment, good, arts and crafts, and a muddy, slippery pig chase, of course.