Things to do in Fort Smith
Downtown is full of shopping, dining, arts, nightlife and entertainment venues. Nightlife is anchored by Garrison Avenue, which is lined with restaurants and bars featuring live music.
The city’s thriving arts scene is easy to see on more than 30 large murals painted by internationally acclaimed and local artists on downtown buildings. Shopping opportunities abound at local boutiques, small shopping centers and the one-million-square-foot Central Mall. The Park at West End, with a Ferris wheel and vintage carousel, adds some whimsy.
Much of the Old West history is found downtown as well.
On the banks of Arkansas River, the National Historic Site embraces the remains of two frontier forts and the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas. The center contains a bookstore, 50-seat auditorium and exhibit areas that focus on Fort Smith's military history from 1817 to 1871, Judge Parker and the federal court's impact on Indian Territory, and U.S. Deputy Marshals and outlaws. The original "Hell on the Border" jail, notorious for its dark and dank conditions, is in the basement. In the main exhibit area stands a partial, full-sized replica of the 1888 jail, where visitors can step into one of the cells and view a 15-minute video.
In the 22-block Belle Grove Historic District, Miss Laura's serves as the city's tourist information center. The restored baroque Victorian home, built in 1900, is the only former bordello listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to tourist information, the center has exhibits and vintage photos that shed light on the lives the "working girls" led.
Next to the historic site, the Fort Smith Trolley Museum offers rides on a restored 1926 electric streetcar. It makes half-mile runs between Fort Smith's Garrison Avenue and the U.S. National Cemetery, where both Confederate and Union soldiers -- and Judge Parker -- are buried. Nearby, an impressive 25-foot-statue located downtown pays homage to U.S. Deputy Marshall Bass Reeves.
Capping it all off is the U.S. Marshals Museum, serving as a national center to educate visitors on the past and present roles of the U.S. Marshals Service and inspire visitors with stories of their service and sacrifice since our nation’s founding. (Currently only open for private tours and event hosting.)
Fishing opportunities abound with the Arkansas River Navigation System, which has created scores of quiet inlets and bayous filled with many kinds of native Arkansas fish. The area also has a reputation as a bird sanctuary.