Your Arkansas Bucket List

Crescent Hotel
Crescent Hotel

There are certain things every Arkansan should do at least once. Consider this an Arkansas bucket list, or at least it’s a start.

  1. Eating an entire hubcap cheeseburger at Cotham’s.
  2. Floating in a canoe down the Buffalo National River when the dogwoods are blooming.
  3. Searching for the Gurdon Light late at night. First sighted in the 1930s, the Gurdon Light is a mysterious floating light above the railroad tracks near Gurdon in Southwest Arkansas. Many theories exist to explain the light. Seek, find and create a theory of your own.
  4. Fishing for trout early in the morning on the upper White River.
  5. Watching the sun rise on a winter morning from a duck blind on the Grand Prairie.
  6. Spending the night at both the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs and the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs.
  7. The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa is known not only for its history and grandeur, but also for its ghosts. The hotel has become popular for its nightly ghost tours and its annual ESP Weekend in January.
  8. Attending a Battle of the Ravine college football game between Ouachita and Henderson in Arkadelphia.
  9. Digging for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro. - The biggest diamond ever found in the United States was discovered here. The 40.23-carat, white gem was unearthed in 1924, before the park was established, and was dubbed The Uncle Sam Diamond after its finder. In 1975, George Stepp, a logger from Carthage, Ark., discovered a 16.37-carat white diamond, the biggest one found by a park visitor after the Crater’s establishment as a state park in 1972. Diamonds continue to be discovered (and kept!) by park-goers every year.
  10. Visiting Bald Knob when the strawberries are ripe in May and ordering the strawberry shortcake at The Bulldog.
  11. Sampling fried chicken at the Mount Nebo Chicken Fry in Dardanelle.
  12. Picking wild blackberries while wondering how many chigger bites you’ll have at the end of the day.
  13. Eating some peaches at the Johnson County Peach Festival.
  14. Started in 1938, this is one of the oldest festivals in Arkansas. Held the last weekend in July each year, activities include peach and peach pie-eating contests, a fishing derby, a greased pig chase, talent show, pageants, live music and more.
  15. Kayaking on the Mulberry River.
  16. Having a steak on a Friday night at Jerry’s in Trumann.
  17. Hanging out with some bikers at Roy’s in Paragould.
  18. Attending the Fourth of July community picnics at CorningPortia and Piggott.
  19. Crossing the U.S. Highway 62 bridge over Norfork Lake on a clear day and admiring how blue the water is.
  20. Eating the Gear Salad and the filet mignon at Herman’s in Fayetteville.
  21. Sitting outside at Basin Spring Park in Eureka Springs on a fall Saturday evening and enjoying the music.
  22. Visiting Judge Parker’s courtroom at the Fort Smith National Historic Site. Judge Isaac C. Parker held the bench of the U.S. Court for the Western District of Arkansas for 21 years. His tenure was unique in the history of the federal judiciary; while most U.S. district judges toiled away on civil cases, Parker heard thousands of criminal complaints involving disputes and violence between Indians and non-Indians.
  23. Driving along the Talimena Scenic Drive as the leaves are changing.
  24. Spending the day walking around Historic Washington State Park when the jonquils are blooming.
  25. Taking a boat out onto Grassy Lake in southwest Arkansas at night to look for alligators. Each year, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission awards 72 exclusive alligator hunt permits to control the population.
  26. Walking around the courthouse square in El Dorado and going into as many locally owned shops as possible. While still preserving many of its historic buildings—like the famous Rialto Theater and Griffin Auto Building—El Dorado is undergoing a renaissance to become “The City of Festivals.” State-of-the-art infrastructure will soon accommodate the thousands who will patronize the city’s many new events. Its Southern Food & Wine festival and the South Arkansas Arts Center already lure people to this noteworthy city each year. 
  27. Buying more than you need at Mack’s Prairie Wings in Stuttgart.
  28. Wrangling an invitation to one of the Sunday night wild game dinners at Gene’s in Brinkley.
  29. Drinking some of the water at the Mountain Valley headquarters in downtown Hot Springs.
  30. Grabbing a weekday plate lunch at the Pickens Store in Desha County during the harvest season.
  31. Eating a plate of buffalo ribs at the Lassis Inn in Little Rock.
  32. Touring the Lower White River Museum in Des Arc on a Friday afternoon and then having a catfish dinner at Dondie’s.
  33. Eating a turkey sandwich at the original Burge’s in Lewisville.
  34. Spending a summer Saturday morning at the farmers market on the square in Fayetteville.
  35. Visiting a sand blow in Northeast Arkansas while contemplating the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12.
  36. Getting a sunburn while attending Riverfest in Little Rock and be sure to stay for the fireworks. Riverfest is Arkansas’s largest music festival held every Memorial Day Weekend in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock. Famous musicians like Sheryl Crow, Ludacris, Carrie Underwood, Earth Wind & Fire, Heart, Blake Shelton, Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Snoop Dog and Brad Paisley perform all weekend long on various stages.
  37. Buying a stack of books at That Bookstore in Blytheville.
  38. Fishing for bream on a south Arkansas oxbow during the day and going frog gigging on the same lake at night.
  39. Watching the cardboard boat races at Greers Ferry Lake and then having dinner at the Red Apple Inn.- The World Championship Cardboard Boat Race held every July in Heber Springs is serious fun but also serious competition. Participants must build a person-powered boat made of corrugated cardboard that is capable of completing four heats around a 200-yard semicircle course. The race draws big crowds from across the state to take in the spectacle, and often garners national attention. In 2005, the races aired live on ESPN and re-aired more than 21 times, reaching 88 million viewers.
  40. Sitting on the east side of Mount Nebo while watching the sun rise over the Arkansas River Valley.
  41. Watching the Memphis fireworks on the Sunday before Memorial Day from a sandbar on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River.
  42. Taking a slow walk through Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock.
  43. Attending a high school basketball game on a winter Friday night at Valley Springs.
  44. Attending a high school football game on a fall Friday night in Nashville.
  45. Buying some wine in Altus and then visiting the monastery at Subiaco. Back in 1880, two European families settled in the Arkansas River Valley, attracted by its fertile sandy soil and moderate climate. Jacob Post, who came to America in 1872, and Johann Wiederkehr, who immigrated from Switzerland in 1880, found the area conditions reminded them of the fine wine-making regions of their homeland. They each established vineyards, and thus are the founders of the viticulture in Arkansas.
  46. Eating a turkey leg at the Arkansas State Fair.
  47. Attending the seasonal craft fairs at War Eagle.
  48. Fishing for smallmouth bass on the Kings River.
  49. Eating a tamale spread at McClard’s in Hot Springs.
  50. Attending the King Biscuit Blues Festival at Helena. This is one of the nation’s leading blues festivals. Held for three days annually in October, tens of thousands of blues enthusiasts converge on historic downtown Helena in the Upper Delta to hear stirring performances by blues greats on the banks of the Mississippi River.
  51. Standing in the state Capitol rotunda and looking up.
  52. Climbing Pinnacle Mountain.
  53. Spending the night on a houseboat on Lake Ouachita.
  54. Attending a county fair parade.
  55. Driving the Pig Trail when the leaves are turning with a stop at the Turner Bend Store.
  56. Pigging out at Jones Bar-B-Q in Marianna.
  57. Watching the elk graze in the Boxley Valley in Searcy County. As the largest species of mammal currently found in Arkansas, elk are one of the state’s most sought-after animals for viewing and photography. They can commonly be seen in Boxley Valley along Arkansas Highways 43 and 21.
  58. Listening to the music on a Saturday night in downtown Mountain View.
  59. Taking a bath on Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs.
  60. Standing along the rail at Oaklawn Park on Arkansas Derby day. For more than 77 years, this annual stepping-stone race to the Triple Crown features some of the best Thoroughbreds in the country. The Derby attracts people from across the country and state, some even donning seersucker and big hats.
  61. Hanging out on Dickson Street in Fayetteville with the college students after a Razorback game.
  62. Touring the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess and then heading over to Wilson to see the English Tudor architecture.
  63. This historic Dyess Colony home has been restored to its appearance when young Johnny Cash and his family lived there from 1935 to 1954. 
  64. Reading the Civil War markers at DeValls Bluff and then having barbecue at Craig’s.
  65. Eating a slice of melon at the Hope Watermelon Festival.
  66. Attending the all-tomato luncheon during the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival in Warren.
  67. Walking the boardwalk through the swamp between Brinkley and Marvell to see the Louisiana Purchase monument in the water.
  68. Attending an event in the back room behind the kitchen at Doe’s in Little Rock. - One of President Bill Clinton’s favorite restaurants, the private party room at Doe’s was where he spent many nights strategizing during the presidential election.
  69. Touring the Lakeport Plantation near Lake Village.
  70. Getting a room for the night at Mather Lodge atop Petit Jean.
  71. Attending the duck gumbo contest on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Stuttgart.
  72. Buying an ice cream cone at the Ernie Dunlap Store in Kirby.
  73. Having your picture taken while standing on the Arkansas-Texas line at the federal courthouse in downtown Texarkana.
  74. Attending the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Hot Springs.- Hot Springs is home to the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Each year, celebrities like Mario Lopez, Jim Belushi, Mark Martin and Bo Derek marshal the event.
  75. Wearing a kilt to the Scottish festival at Lyon College in Batesville.
  76. Watching the rice harvest near Weiner on a cool fall day. - Arkansas produces far more rice than any other state in the nation. Riceland, based in Stuttgart, is the world’s largest miller and marketer of rice and rice products.
  77. Going to Garvan Woodland Gardens on Lake Hamilton when the tulips are blooming.
  78. Attending the annual Slovak Oyster Supper in February.
  79. Attending the annual Gillett Coon Supper in January.
  80. Waiting for a seat at The Pancake Shop on a Sunday morning in Hot Springs.
  81. Watching the toad races during Toad Suck Daze in Conway.
  82. Having a Friday night catfish dinner at The Whippet in Prattsville.