Enjoy these fun things to do for free in Arkansas
Free, inexpensive, budget friendly, low-cost, economical, bargain - no matter how you describe it, everyone is looking for a great vacation destination without a big price tag. Look no further than Arkansas, the perfect place to spend a thrifty vacation with family or friends, offering a variety of free and inexpensive things to do any time of the year, both indoors and outdoors. Arkansas not only provides a great vacation for a little money, it also has many, many attractions that are free. Read through our suggestions for more than 100 simple but fun things to do for free and places to play in Arkansas while you're here.
1. World Class: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville is a gift from Walmart heiress Alice Walton. It house a permanent collection of American masterworks from the colonial era to modern day, and touring collections from national art institutions.
2. Who’s Who: Discover which famous entertainers have Arkansas ties by visiting the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame located in the Pine Bluff Convention Center. An animatronic statue of Johnny Cash "singing" several of his original songs greets visitors as they enter.
3. Island or Mountain?: Greers Ferry Lake is a popular fishing spot with plenty of swimming areas. The William Carl Garner Visitor Center in Heber Springs offers exhibits; self-guided tours are available at the Greers Ferry Lake National Fish Hatchery. One of the state’s most rewarding hikes is trekking up Sugar Loaf Mountain, located on an island in the lake.
4. Enjoy a Warm Welcome: Have a cup of hot coffee, view exhibits of the local area, check e-mail, make online reservations through www.Arkansas.com, or just relax at an Arkansas Welcome Center.
5. Awe-Inspiring Beauty: The Buffalo National River, with its towering limestone bluffs and crystalline waters, is America's first national river. The park also has hiking trails traversing the Ozark Mountains, and camping.
6. Express Yourself: Join the residents and visitors by taking part in folk concerts and dancing on the Stone County Courthouse Square in Mountain View. A local tradition since 1963, the musicals feature both local and guest performers who range from professionals to amateurs at these impromptu performances.
7. America’s First Resort: Scenic drives, walking paths and historic Bathhouse Row make up the unique Hot Springs National Park set in the city of Hot Springs amid the Ouachita National Forest. Bring your own containers and take home some of the famed mineral water.
8. Gone With the Wind Landmark: An authentic reproduction of a water-powered grist mill, The Old Mill in North Little Rock appears in the opening scene of the classic 1939 movie, "Gone with the Wind." Tour guides available by appointment.
9. More Than Books: The William F. Laman Public Library System has a variety of programs and activities including family nights, Children’s Week, photography exhibits from nationally acclaimed institutions and storytellers.
10. Ozark Trout Paradise: Norfork National Fish Hatchery, located at the base of Norfork Dam east of Mountain Home, offers tours of facilities that produce millions of trout for Ozark streams. Children may try their luck at landing a trout from the waters of nearby Dry Run Creek.
11. Magical Muses: Step into the spell of Terra Studios, home of the original Bluebird of Happiness. The Muse Gallery showcases the work of regional artists; Art Park has creative sculptures, murals, fountains picnic areas and walking paths.
12. Legendary Park: Waterfalls and stunning beauty combined with a romantic legend make Petit Jean State Park a popular destination. An historic lodge and cabins, restaurant, camping, boating, hiking, interpretive programs and more make it an all-around vacation spot. Petit Jean is the foundation of the Arkansas State Parks system.
13. One of a Kind: The last public ferryboat operating in the state, the Peel Ferry provides transportation across a section of Bull Shoals Lake. Ark. 125 dead-ends at the lake where the free ferry leaves approximately every 20 minutes to transport you to the opposite shore.
14. Wonders of Nature: Centers at Pine Bluff, Jonesboro, Fort Smith, and Little Rock showcase the best natural treasures found in each region: Delta Rivers Nature Center in Pine Bluff; Crowley's Ridge Nature Center in Jonesboro; Arkansas River Valley Nature Center in Fort Smith, and Central Arkansas Nature Center in downtown Little Rock.
15. Awe-Inspiring Architecture: Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs was named among the top four buildings of the 20th century by the American Institute of Architects; designed by world-renowned Arkansas architect, the late E. Fay Jones.
16. Historic Rest: Fayetteville’s National Cemetery was established in 1867 for burial of the remains of Union soldiers killed in the region. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Civil War Discovery Trail. The Confederate Cemetery, located just a few blocks away, is also on the National Register.
17. Old Friends in Pine Ridge: The "Lum 'N' Abner" radio program is remembered at the Lum & Abner Jot 'Em Down Store and Museum where pieces of Lum 'N' Abner history preserve an important era in American life. During their peak, Lum 'n' Abner were some of the most popular radio and motion picture stars in the country.
18. The Extraordinary Escape: Stroll through Eureka Springs, an Ozark Mountain town known for its beautiful Victorian architecture, winding mountainside streets and shops, fine art galleries, and restaurants.
19. Epic Ride: Hit the trail - the two-wheel kind - and explore the beauty of the Ozark National Forest on the 50-mile Syllamo Mountain Bike Trail, located in Mountain View. Designated by the by the International Mountain Bicycling Association as an "Epic Ride."
20. Fruit of the Vine: The beautiful Arkansas River valley is the setting for Arkansas Wine Country: Mount Bethel; Post Winery; Wiederkehr Wine Cellars; Chateau Aux Arc, and Neumeier Winery. At Cowie Wine Cellars visit the Arkansas Historic Wine Museum.
21. Loop de Loop: Drive the Boston Mountain Scenic Loop comprised of curve-hugging U.S. 71 over Mt. Gayler to Alma, then I-49 north back to Fayetteville. Take your time and savor the beautiful scenery that's around every bend. Whether you're on two wheels or four, the trip is a visual delight.
22. Jefferson’s Deal: The Louisiana Purchase added the territory that would become Arkansas to the United States. The Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park, is a 950-foot boardwalk into a rare headwater swamp, where a marker sits, denoting the initial point for the 1815 survey of the purchased lands west of the Mississippi.
23. WPA Legacy: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Lake Leatherwood Park in Eureka Springs is a 1,600-acre municipal park with a 100-acre spring fed lake. It is is defined by one of the largest hand-cut limestone dams in the nation.
24. Restored Elegance: Built in 1896, the Pillow-Thompson House in Helena is one of the finest examples of Queen Anne architecture in the South. It is available for special events. Open Wed.-Sat.; group tours available.
25. Historic Hideout: At Devil's Den State Park hiking and backpacking trails lead to backcountry areas where you can explore the eerie sounding Devil's Icebox, crevices and bluff overlooks.
26. Prehistoric and Historic: Arkansas State University Museum in Jonesboro includes Native American history, a pioneer town, military items, natural history displays, a priceless glass collection, geology, mastodon and other prehistoric fossils.
27. Natural Tranquility: Cradled by the bluffs of the War Eagle River in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, Withrow Springs State Park near Huntsville is a peaceful setting for exploring.
28. Blues in the Night…and Day: At the Delta Cultural Center in Helena a restored depot and storefront features gospel and blues music heritage, Civil War history, and the settlement of the Delta. The longest running American radio show, King Biscuit Time, is broadcast from the center.
29. Black Gold: Learn about Arkansas's oil and brine industries and the 1920s oil boom at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources. Oil Field Park has genuine derricks and oilfield equipment.
30. Skull Crusher:That's what the Native Americans called this rambunctious river. The Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area extends along the river. The wild and scenic river forms Cossatot Falls, a rugged and rocky canyon that challenges the most experienced canoeist and kayakers – especially when it’s been rainy.
31. Miles and Miles of Beauty: The Ouachita National Recreation Trail extends from Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock to Talimena State Park near Talihina, Okla.
32. Greek Revival Stunner: Set in the oldest surviving state capitol west of the Mississippi River, the Old State House Museum is a designated National Historic Landmark best-known as the scene of President Clinton's 1992 and 1996 election-night celebrations.
33. The People’s Building: The neoclassical Arkansas State Capitol has served Arkansans for over a century. One of the most prominent landmarks in Arkansas, the building features native limestone, plus six bronze doors crafted by Tiffany’s of New York.
34. Highest Height: For grand vistas, travel to the highest point in Arkansas (2,753 feet) at Mount Magazine State Park, complete with lodge, cabins, restaurant, plus conference and visitors centers.
35. Split Personality: Pose with one foot in Arkansas and the other in Texas at Photographer's Island on State Line Avenue in Texarkana.
36. Hog Wild: The Tommy Boyer Hall of Champions Museum and the Jerry Jones/Jim Lindsey Hall of Champions Museum display over a century of Arkansas sports memories at the University of Arkansas.
37. Four-Wheelin’: The 50-mile Wolf Pen Gap ATV trail near Mena is the first formal trail system in the Ouachita National Forest specifically for four-wheelers and dirt bikes.
38. Civil Rights Landmark: Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site tells the story of the "Little Rock Nine." A life-size monument to the nine students is on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol.
39. Rich Scenery: Go for a hike at Queen Wilhelmina State Park, a cloud-capped hideaway along the Talimena Scenic Drive atop Rich Mountain.
40. Union Troop Trail: The Little Rock Campaign Driving Tour outlines the 1863 advance by Union forces who seized the state capital. Detailed exhibit panels at roadside pullouts accessible from I-40 between Little Rock and Lonoke.
41. Always Welcoming: Miss Laura's Visitor Center is a restored turn-of-the-century brothel that is now Fort Smith's visitor center.
42. Hallowed Ground: Walk the one-mile Battlefield Trail at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, recognized nationally as one of America's most intact Civil War battlefields. Five mile auto tour also available.
43. Spiritual Experience: Established in 1878 as a Benedictine Monastery, Subiaco Abbey now serves as a boys’ college preparatory school. Self-guided walking tour of the dramatic stone architecture and manicured grounds.
44. Little Golden Gate: A rare example of a suspension bridge in Arkansas, Beaver Bridge was built on Table Rock Lake in 1943 and is still in use today.
45. Reminders of Yesteryear: Walk or drive the Quapaw Quarter historic downtown Little Rock area with restored antebellum and Victorian structures including Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s birthplace.
46. Historic Sentinels: The twin towers of Old Main, completed in 1875, preside over the scenic campus of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Former President Bill Clinton once taught law here.
47. Calico Country: The entire downtown of Calico Rock is on the National Historic register and includes antique shops, restaurants and America’s only ghost town inside a living city.
48. River Valley View: Overlooking the Arkansas River Valley, 14 miles of state park trails encircle Mount Nebo, seven miles west of Dardanelle on Ark. 155.
49. Charming Daily Grind: War Eagle Mill, a working mill with an 18-foot waterwheel and stones which produces meal daily from organically grown grain; includes the War Eagle River and bridge.
50. Boom Town Beauty: Boutiques, shops, the historic square and restored art deco Rialto Theatre are part of the El Dorado Downtown Historic District. The area contains a significant collection of 1920s and 1930s architecture.
51. What a Drive: Talimena National Scenic Drive, a National Forest Scenic Byway for years and now a Federal Highway Administration national roadway, winding 54 miles from Mena to Talihina, Okla., offers breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding countryside from peaks of nearly 3,000 feet.
52. A Charming Stroll: Van Buren Walking Tour highlights six blocks along a beautifully restored Victorian Main Street.
53. Blooming Highways: Pick a lane for a spring drive on a scenic wildflower route -- U.S. Highways 62, 412, 63, 49, 167, 70, 71, 270, Interstate 40, and Scenic 7 Byway.
54. Towering Beauty: White Rock Mountain Recreation Area near Mulberry offers some of the most scenic views in the state from its bluffs, along with hiking trails and a lake.
55. Presidential Path: Visit the sites related to former President Bill Clinton in Little Rock, Fayetteville, Hope and Hot Springs, including his boyhood home in Hope, the Arkansas Governor's Mansion in Little Rock and his favorite hamburger hangout in Hot Springs.
56. Volunteer Built: In the Ozark Mountains, the 197-mile Ozark Highlands Trail has been rated one of the most scenic trails in the U.S.; had day hiking, weekend adventures or backpacking.
57. Lowlands Highland: A scenic 200-mile route atop the Delta's only highlands, Crowley's Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway passes by or near five state parks, a national forest, Civil War sites and more.
58. Original Seat of Government: The first permanent European settlement on the lower Mississippi River (1686) and Arkansas's first territorial capital are commemorated by the Arkansas Post National Memorial. in Gillett.
59. Drive-Through History: Pick up an Arkadelphia Historic Homes Tour brochure at the Chamber of Commerce for a driving tour of homes listed on the National Register, some from the 1840s.
60. Trendy District: The Hillcrest Historic District in Little Rock includes a National Register-listed collection of some of the city's early residential areas.
61. Lots of Little Bitty Fishes: Tour one of the world's largest fish hatcheries, Joe Hogan Fish Hatchery, on U.S. 70 near Lonoke.
62. Home on an Ozark Range: A herd of about 450 elk live in the northwest portion of the state along the Buffalo National River in the pastoral setting of Boxley Valley on Ark. 21.
63. Sam’s Place: The Walmart Museum contains exhibits tracing the formation and growth of Wal-Mart stores and includes founder Sam Walton's desk.
64. Flaming Fall Routes: Find flamboyant fall foliage on Ark. 309 from Paris; the "Pig Trail," Ark. 23 north of Ozark to Ark. 16; Ark. 21 north from Clarksville; and on Ark. 5 and 14 from Calico Rock and Allison.
65. Have a “Blues” Day: Many of the activities and concerts are free at the King Biscuit Blues Festival, held each October in Helena. Delta blues legends and national acts perform where the music was born.
66. What’s Happenin’: Stroll through the River Market District in downtown Little Rock, visit the numerous restaurants, shops and bars or park it on one of the benches. Nearby Riverfront Park has a playground, history banners, and the original "little rock."
67. Naturally Interesting: Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area is 12,056-acres along Beaver Lake. It offers nature study, trails, LEED-certified visitor center, picnic area, interpretive programs.
68. Drawings Extraordinaire: Be dazzled by the masters, one of the country's finest collections of drawings, and traveling exhibits at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock.
69. Free for Families: Enjoy ice skating, swimming, the gymnasium and other activities at the Jones Center in Springdale.
70. Urban Oasis: Climb, hike, picnic and play at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Little Rock; walk through the Arkansas Arboretum, which exhibits native flora from Arkansas's six natural divisions.
71. Come Together: Two of Arkansas's natural divisions meet at Cane Creek State Park in Star City -- Mississippi Delta and West Gulf Coastal Plain hills.
72. A Whole Lot of Free: The Heritage House of Montgomery County in Mount Ida has exhibits emphasizing the timber industry, quartz crystals, and Lake Ouachita during the time frame of 1800 to 1975.
73. First in the State: At Walnut Hill, historic site makes up Conway Cemetery State Park, preserving the final resting place of Arkansas's first Governor, James Sevier Conway.
74. Get Put on a Pedestal: Kings Bluff and Pedestal Rocks trails offer up-close looks at Ozark Mountain geology; both have easy hiking, border high cliffs with steep drop-offs; picnic areas.
75. Winding Through Wine Country: Take Altus exit 41 off I-40 to Ark. 186 for a drive over St. Mary's Mountain and past vineyards, wineries and St. Mary's historic church. Most, if not all, of the wineries have free tastings.
76. Gem of a Lake: Lake Catherine State Park is nestled on the shores of 1,940-acre Lake Catherine, one of the five popular diamond lakes in the Hot Springs area.
77. The Doctor is In: A restored 1901 historically furnished home, the Dr. A.G. Anderson House in Eudora serves as the town's visitor center and museum.
78. Pack the Fishing Pole: Anglers and outdoor lovers enjoy Lake Charles State Park's 645 acres of spring-fed waters in the Ozark foothills near Powhatan. The park's swim beach is especially popular.
79. Mark Twain Favorite: Twain described Helena as occupying “one of the prettiest situations on the Mississippi.” He also assisted with raising funds for The Helena Museum of Phillips County.
80. Urban Outdoor Mecca: North Little Rock's Burns Park, at 1,575 acres, is one of the largest city parks in the nation and even has a covered bridge.
81. Largest oxbow lake in America: At Lake Chicot State Park, the Mississippi River Delta's beauty and recreation opportunities come together at Arkansas's largest natural lake. The 20-mile-long oxbow was formed centuries ago when the Mississippi River changed its course.
82. Blue & Gray: Three state historic sites commemorate the Civil War battles of Poison Springs, Marks' Mills and Jenkins' Ferry, all part of the Union Army's Red River Campaign.
83. Springtime Joy to Behold: Lake Frierson State Park is known for its spring blaze of dogwoods, picnic sites, playground and self-guided trail.
84. South Arkansas Natural Showcase: In El Dorado, take a walk through the South Arkansas Arboretum, a 13-acre site of plants indigenous to Arkansas's West Gulf Coastal plain region.
85. That’s a Whole Lot of Water: View Arkansas's largest spring, with an hourly flow of nine million gallons of water, at Mammoth Spring State Park on U.S. 63 in Mammoth Spring.
86. Tri-State View: On a clear day, you can see three states (Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma) from the 85-foot-high Rich Mountain Fire Tower, located 12 miles west of Mena. The USDA opens the tower on summer weekends and the location is staffed by volunteers.
87. Fine Feathered Friends: A variety of year-round feathered inhabitants and eagles in the winter makes bird watching popular at Millwood State Park in Ashdown.
88.Twinkle Twinkle: Numerous cities showcase festive spirits with thousands of holiday lights as a part of the Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights.
89. Scenic Switchbacks: Scenic Ark. 23, a National Scenic Byway northward from Ozark to its junction with Ark. 16, is known as "The Pig Trail."
90. It Takes a Village: Enjoy the hiking trails and recreation areas that are part of the hallmarks of the 7,000-acre Village Creek State Park.
91. Visit the 1920s: Virtually unchanged since the 1920s, downtown Hardy is a shopping destination for antiques and crafts. Historic downtown Hardy boasts 43 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
92. Wildlife Haven: White Oak Lake State Park near Bluff City offers regular sightings of great blue herons, egrets, ospreys and green herons and wintering eagles.
93. Family Cinema: Pull up a lawn chair or a blanket, break out the picnic basket and enjoy Movies in the Park in Little Rock’s Riverfront Park.
94. German Heritage: The Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie in Stuttgart explains the German settlers who gave the town its name and how rice farming came to the state.
95. World’s Largest: Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge, at 65,000 acres, is the world's largest green-tree reservoir.
96. Child Ingenuity: Designed from suggestions made by area children, Little Rock’s Peabody Splash Pad includes outdoor and underground rooms, large native stones and water spray area.
97. Old Man (Arkansas) River: Exhibits tell the story of the River Valley at the Arkansas River Visitors Center. It also offers wildlife exhibits, an audio visual presentation, and a great location for watching barges pass through the locks.
98. Before it was Mountain Home: Visit Rapps Barren Settlement, historic buildings in a village setting that illustrates Mountain Home's early days.
99. Small but Proud: Surrounding the monument to Private Herman Davis, an Arkansas farm boy and WWI hero, is Herman Davis State Park in Manila.
100. Valuable Land: Dallas County's early plantation life, which was dominated by the timber industry, and the stories of the people who worked the land comprise the Dallas County Historical Museum.
101. Watch the Birdie: The predominately wooded path of Bell Slough Nature Trail covers 2.25 miles south of Conway and is great for birding.
102. Cache In: Geocaching is a treasure hunt using a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) device to hide and seek containers along with others taking part in the activity.
103. Arkansas’s Eden: Hike to Eden Falls. The water cascades from tall, moss-lined rocks and boulders in a narrow canyon in the Buffalo National River Park.
104. Mind Clearing: Walk the Turtle Moon labyrinth, located in a natural setting by Cedar Creek in a native bird sanctuary, it is a classic 7-circuit labyrinth open free to the public daily.
105. Walk Through America’s Past: Bentonville’s Museum of Native American History has artifacts from more than 14,000 years ago. Exhibit rooms span the Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian, Historic and Pre-Columbian periods arranged in chronological order.
106. Native to Arkansas: The Matilda & Karl Pfeiffer Museum & Study Center in Piggott offers mineral specimens, Native American artifacts, and trails that provide a view of the pond. This pond was once a pool used in the classic 1957 movie "A Face in the Crowd."
107. Music, Music, Music: The Bull Shoals Theater of the Arts showcases local area artists. The Li’l Opry, is every Monday night through late September from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. 1015 Central Avenue, Bull Shoals.
108. Sad Journey Reminder: Cadron Settlement Park, on the Arkansas River, was a stop on the Cherokee Trail of Tears Memorial Hike. It also offers boat launching ramp, picnic areas, pavilion; Blockhouse restoration, historical markers.
109. Back to the Sixties: In Walnut Ridge, experience the fateful 1964 visit from The Beatles. Check out The Beatles Sculpture and the Guitar Walk, which honors musicians who played along the nearby Rock ‘N’ Roll Highway 67.
110. Guiding Light: The local landmark, Christ of the Ozarks Statue, can be seen for miles or you can visit it up-close. The seven-story statue is lighted for night viewing. Created by Emmett Sullivan, one of Mount Rushmore's creators.
111. Free Fishing for Kids: Children may fish free if they are under the age of 16 at any of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Family and Community Ponds. They are stocked with catfish and trout.