Free Things to Do in Arkansas
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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 50 simple but fun things to do for free and places to play in Arkansas while you're here.
A Charming Stroll: Van Buren Walking Tour highlights six blocks along a beautifully restored Victorian Main Street.
Always Welcoming: Miss Laura's Visitor Center is a restored turn-of-the-century brothel that is now Fort Smith's visitor center.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Free for Families: Enjoy ice skating, swimming, the gymnasium and other activities at the Jones Center in Springdale.
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.
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.
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.
Before it was Mountain Home: Visit Rapps Barren Settlement, historic buildings in a village setting that illustrate Mountain Home's early days.
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.
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."
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.
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 and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Burns Park: 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. **Editor's note - Burns Park was directly hit by a tornado April 2023 and portions of the park are currently closed for cleanup and renovations.
The Old Mill: 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.
Ouachita National Recreation Trail: The Ouachita National Recreation Trail extends from Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock to Talimena State Park near Talihina, Okla.
Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts: Be dazzled by the masters, one of the country's finest collections of works on paper and traveling exhibits at the newly reopened Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock.
Central Arkansas Nature Center: 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.
William F. Laman Public Library System: 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.
Old State House Museum: 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.
Arkansas State Capitol: 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.
Little Rock Campaign Driving Tour: 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.
Quapaw Quarter: Walk or drive the Quapaw Quarter historic downtown Little Rock area with restored antebellum and Victorian structures including Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s birthplace.
Historic Arkansas Museum: Historic Arkansas Museum is home to a historic city block including the oldest building in Little Rock, an 1850s farmstead, and galleries of Arkansas Made art and history ranging from indigenous Arkansans to contemporary artists and artisans.
Mosaic Templars Cultural Center: Mosaic Templars Cultural Center (MTCC) is a museum dedicated to Arkansas's African American history and culture, including keeping alive the legacy of the Mosaic Templars of America and the historic West Ninth Street District. The museum holds permanent exhibits for year-round viewing, a 360-degree theater showcasing a custom-made video and a children’s gallery dedicated to celebrating diversity.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
World’s Largest: Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge, at 65,000 acres, is the world's largest green-tree reservoir.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.