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Old State House

Old State House in Little Rock

 A newcomer’s guide to places to go on vacation in Arkansas

“I’ve never been to Arkansas. Where should I go?” “What is a ‘must-see’ attraction?” “What should I not miss on my trip to Arkansas?“ “I’ve been to Arkansas before but I want to find other interesting places to visit [in the state].”

These are questions and comments we receive frequently. A good way to begin any response is “It all depends on what you’re looking for.” You can stay in a mountain cabin with lots of privacy or a cozy B&B, fish or hike, go for a spa or shopping day, enjoy local music or cuisine. The regions of Arkansas have a large variety of attractions, and destinations, not to mention our gorgeous outdoors. We’ve got enough “stuff” to keep you busy and happy for quite some time, and on any budget.

Two of the most popular places to go on vacation in Arkansas are Hot Springs and Eureka Springs. Both are mountain towns with their origins founded in natural springs, and both offer great spa vacations for couples. Hot Springs is home to the first federal preserve set aside by the U.S. government to protect the thermal waters, predating Yellowstone by some 40 years: Hot Springs National Park. Eureka Springs, nestled in the Ozark Mountains, is one of Arkansas’s most interesting places to visit and one of the most eclectic communities in the entire country. The quirky town was built around its cold, believed to be medicinal, springs.

The Ozark Mountain way of life is preserved through music, dance, folkways, and food at the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View. The historic Court Square hosts free folk music concerts and jam sessions with local musicians every Saturday night. Up the road at Fifty Six, Blanchard Springs Caverns is one awesome piece of nature, having been named one of the Top 10 Cave Discoveries in North America for the 20th century.  

The Arkansas Delta, which covers all of eastern Arkansas, is one surprise after another from the rolling hills of Crowley’s Ridge to state parks such as Village Creek, Crowley’s Ridge, Mississippi River and Louisiana Purchase Monument. Take in the Blues heritage of Helena-West Helena and the literary legacy of Hemingway at Piggott, to a living interpretation of plantation life at Lakeport. The world’s largest oxbow lake in Lake Chicot, and Arkansas Post National Memorial, one of the oldest settlements in the country dating to 1686, also call the Delta home.

Bull Shoals White River State Park

Bull Shoals White River State Park

El Dorado, Camden and Magnolia are three south Arkansas communities with charming downtowns. The background of the oil industry in Arkansas is told at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources in Smackover. A wealth of Civil War sites are found throughout the area.

The Diamonds Lakes region  – one of Arkansas’s top places to go on vacation in the summer if you’re a boater or fisherman – sparkles not only with the namesake impoundments but with crystal mines near Mount Ida and the Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro. South of the crater is another spot steeped in American and Arkansas history: Historic Washington State Park. Walk in the footsteps of Davy Crockett and Sam Houston as they made their way to the Alamo, and watch a Bowie Knife being forged just as James Black did for James Bowie. In Texarkana, have your photo made while standing in both Arkansas and Texas, then go splash around in the Holiday Springs Water Park.

Some of the most gorgeous and scenic places to go on vacation in Arkansas are found in the Mena area as you climb Rich Mountain via the Talimena National Scenic Byway to reach Queen Wilhelmina State Park. If mountains are your thing, then the tri-peaks of Mount Magazine, Petit Jean and Mount Nebo, with their respective state parks, are a few of the most interesting places to visit in the state, whether for weekend escapes or week-long stays. More U.S. and Arkansas history is preserved with the Fort Smith National Historic Site and other locations around Fort Smith.

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