Have a Memorable Memorial Day in Arkansas
Contributing Writers: Jill Rohrbach, Kerry Kraus, Kim Williams and Zoie Clift
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Looking for some last minute Memorial Day weekend activities? Arkansas is a great "drive to" destination. Dena Woerner, communications manager for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism says, “We are centrally located for out-of-state visitors. And for the in-state traveler, there are great getaway options close to home. This means less travel time and more leisure time.”
There are many Natural State destinations and activities that offer last minute fun for the whole family or just a group of friends. Listed below are a few ideas to help you plan the perfect Memorial Day weekend in Arkansas.
Geocaching Along the Great River Road – Using clues and coordinates, geocaching provides fun for all ages and the thrill of finding the elusive cache. Grab your young “pirates,” your hiking boots and your GPS and head to Arkansas’s Great River Road for a geocaching escapade! The modern-day scavenger hunt promises hours or days of fun! The scenic byway runs along eastern Arkansas’s border along the historic Mississippi River and offers wonderful opportunities to experience Arkansas’s Delta. Along the way, experience some of the best barbecue, catfish and home cooking at diners, bistros and restaurants along the Great River Road. Whether you’ve got two days or just a couple of hours, log a few caches along this scenic byway. Visit www.arkansas.com/geocache for more information.
Crowley’s Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway – Created by water, wind and glacier action over the past 50 million years, the ridge is a series of tree-covered rolling hills stretching nearly 200 miles, north to south, in the midst of the great Arkansas delta. Geologists proclaim it one of the great natural oddities of the world. From St. Francis to Helena, the route passes by or near the home where Ernest Hemingway wrote portions of A Farewell to Arms, six state parks, a national forest, Civil War sites, historic homes, museums, rich agricultural areas, and the Delta Cultural Center. Activities along the route include lake fishing, picnicking, hiking, geocaching, and boating. Cabins, campgrounds, bathhouses, playgrounds, and visitor centers can be found at the state parks. Jonesboro, the largest city on the parkway, has shopping districts, a historic downtown, a civic center, plus Arkansas State University with its public museum, art gallery and convocation center. Don’t miss the video explaining the formation of Crowley’s Ridge. The parkway and Crowley’s Ridge end at Helena at the Mississippi River. Handsome antebellum and Victorian homes stand on the gentle slopes just before the ridge disappears into the delta. Lodging at hotels and bed and breakfast inns is also available. For information about the parkway visit www.deltabyways.com or call 870-972-2803.
Cruisin’ Conway – Cadron Settlement Park explores frontier Arkansas with a recreated blockhouse, a historical mural, and Cherokee Trail of Tears exhibits. Kiddie Land, a petting zoo, music, antiques and a fudge factory make Pickles Gap Village just north of Conway a great place to visit.
Little Rock’s Riverfest
– Riverfest once again anchors down the Memorial Day Weekend in Little Rock and North Little Rock in what has become a tradition for many to kick-off the summer season. Now 33 years old, this celebration of visual and performing arts takes place May 28-30. Some of the entertainers scheduled to appear are Ludacris, Blake Shelton, Little River Band, the Robert Cray Band, Gary Allan, the Black Crowes and the Steve Miller Band. An incredible array of other activities range from dance, tumbling, martial arts and gymnastics to magic shows, Little Rock Zoo exhibits, ventriloquists and other children’s interests. The Osborne Family Fireworks end the weekend and the festival. Little Rock events take place in Riverfront Park; the North Shore River Walk hosts the North Little Rock activities. Visit www.riverfestarkansas.com or phone 501-255-3378 for a complete list of ticket prices and activities. For a complete listing of Memorial Day festivals around the state visit www.arkansas.com/calendar
White River and Bull Shoals Lake – Bull Shoals has almost 1,000 miles of rugged shoreline. People come to fish, scuba dive, houseboat, water ski, camp, hike and relax. Camping and picnic facilities can be found around the lake. Fishing on Bull Shoals is excellent all year with peak action in March, April and May. Internationally famous for its beauty and great fishing, the White River flows through the Ozark Mountains and across the Delta (over 700 miles) before joining the Mississippi River. Trout fishing below the dam, which is the fifth largest concrete dam in the U.S., is a major draw. Resorts and full-service marinas are available as are many accommodations and guide services. For more information visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com or phone the Corps of Engineers at 870-425-2700 or the state park at 870-431-5521.
Blanchard Springs Caverns – Ranked among the most beautiful underground discoveries of the 20th Century, Blanchard Springs Caverns is located deep in the Ozark National Forest, 15 miles north of Mountain View. It is the only developed cave system operated by the U.S. Forest Service and is open throughout the year. Lighted walkways lead to stunning limestone formations and massive rooms, one as long as six football fields. For the more adventurous, Blanchard Springs also offers guided hikes into undeveloped reaches of the federally protected underground system. Helmets, lights, gloves and kneepads are provided for the four-hour tour, which is limited to eight persons. Reservations are required for the Wild Cave Adventure. (Reservations are recommended, but not required, for normal cave tours.) Blanchard Springs Recreational Use Area provides scenic campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails, a massive natural spring and a trout-stocked lake. Located off Ark. 14 near the town of Fifty-Six. For more information visit www.BlanchardCaveTours.com or phone 1 (888) 757-2246.
Crater of Diamonds State Park – North America’s largest diamond (40.23 carats) and more than 70,000 other diamonds have been found in a field southeast of Murfreesboro since farmer John Huddleston discovered the first gems in the field in 1906. Now the eroding surface of a volcanic pipe located about three miles southeast of Murfreesboro is preserved as Crater of Diamonds State Park, the world’s only site where anyone can dig for diamonds and keep what they find. Diamond displays and exhibits detailing the site’s history and geology can be found in the park’s visitor center. The park also has a campground, a hiking trail, a picnic and play area, and a seasonal “Diamond Springs” water park. Of note, the campground is currently closed while undergoing a total renovation. It is expected to reopen in mid-summer. For more information visit www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com or phone 870-285-3113.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park – Sitting atop Arkansas’s second highest peak and located on the byway 13 miles west of Mena, Queen Wilhelmina State Park’s lodge accommodates travelers with 38 rooms, a restaurant and gift shop. A miniature golf course, miniature train rides and hiking trails, lined with colorful wildflowers in the spring, provide family activities. Guests using the park’s campground often include hikers traversing the 223- mile Ouachita National Recreation Trail which runs through the park. For more information on Queen Wilhelmina State Park visit www.queenwilhelmina.com or phone 479- 394-2863.
Need more Memorial Day events and festivals? Check out www.arkansas.com for a list of 101 Free Things To Do, listed under the Things To Do tab, or go to www.arkansas.com/calendar/ for a complete list of events, festivals, and attractions around the Natural State. If you are looking to spend some time relaxing by the lake or want to plan a float trip down a scenic river, visit www.arkansas.com/lakes-rivers
For a free vacation kit, pick one up at an Arkansas Welcome Center. Thirteen Welcome Centers are operated at points of entry into the state, plus one in Little Rock. Trained travel consultants from the state tourism division provide suggested tour routes, an Arkansas Tour Guide, and other literature on places of interest. Check www.arkansas.com/attractions/tourism_centers.aspx for a map showing locations of the center.
Be sure to check out www.arkansas.com/hotdeals or download the Arkansas Hot Deals and Packages iPhone app for last minute discounts and vacation ideas. This free app can easily be downloaded from the iTunes Store by searching Arkansas Hot Deals.
Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, 501-682-7606
May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"
1 Capitol Mall, 4A-900 - Little Rock, Arkansas 72201 | 1-800-872-1259 or (501) 682-7777 (V/TT)