Even though it is a smaller state, there is still plenty of fun things to do in Arkansas as well as unique experiences you can’t find anywhere else. Found on the edge of the Midwest and the South, Arkansas is aptly known as the Natural State because of all the pure, untouched wilderness the state has to offer.
Arkansas is a great place to visit if you like camping or outdoor recreation. On the other hand, Arkansas is also ideal if you like exploring pretty cities or visiting historic sites. No matter your hobbies or idea of a good time, Arkansas will satisfy your needs for a memorable vacation. Keep reading to learn about what to do in Arkansas!
20 Fantastic Things To Do In Arkansas
Search for Treasure at Crater of Diamonds State Park
Visiting the Crater of Diamonds State Park is one of the best things to do in Arkansas. This is one of the only places in the world where the public can search for diamonds and take home their treasure. Found in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, this 37-acre field is the surface of a volcanic crater.
Learn about the science of the area at the Diamond Discovery Center before renting equipment and digging for diamonds and other gemstones. While over 33,000 diamonds have been found here since the area was designated a state park, you are not likely to strike it rich. Most diamonds found are only about the size of a match stick head. When you are done searching, take your finds to get weighed and registered.
Soak at Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park is rich in both natural beauty and history. Come here to hike the twenty-six miles of pretty, forest trails and find great views at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. Make sure to visit the Fordyce Bathhouse Museum and Visitor Center.
While there is nowhere to soak outside, you can appreciate the natural, thermal springs in some of the spas along Bathhouse Row. These historic buildings will give you a chance to relax and unwind. Before you leave the park, make sure to stock up on the super healthy and natural water from the springs. There are plenty of fountains where you can fill water bottles.
Head Down into Blanchard Springs Caverns
Head underground and discover the gorgeous Blanchard Springs Caverns. There are multiple trails through this natural wonder that beg to be explored. This is an amazing and fun thing to do in Arkansas for anyone who wants to introduce their kids to geology and earth science.
Each tour is lead by a guide who will teach you along the way. The trails vary in length, difficulty, and accessibility, but each will leave you breathless. If you visit in the summer, the cave is a great way to cool down since it remains at about 58 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
Shop at Little Rock River Market
There are many cool things to do in Little Rock, Arkansas, including shopping in the historic Little Rock River Market District. Here, you will find a lively downtown vibe that must be experienced when you visit the state capital.
This district is full of farmer’s markets, boutique shops, artists, and live music. There is also a sculpture garden. This is a great place in Little Rock to grab a meal or enjoy one of the occasional events or concerts. If you have kids, bring them to the awesome Riverfront Park.
Step Back in Time at the Old Mill
While in Little Rock, you should also check out the Old Mill if you want to feel transported back in time. This absolutely picturesque building is surrounded by pretty landscaping and running water. It was built as a re-creation of an 1880s mill. An interesting note about the mill is that it was featured in the opening scene of the 1939 classic Gone With The Wind. Movie buffs will love to say they’ve been here.
Learn About Black History at Little Rock Central High School
In 1957, Little Rock Central High School became the site of a now-famous civil rights event. After the Brown v. Board of Education‘s desegregation ruling, nine African American students, known as the Little Rock Nine, came to this once all-white school for an education but were faced with protests and violence. In the end, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent federal troops to help the students enter the building.
Visiting this National Historic Site is something important to do in Arkansas so you can become more knowledgeable about this dynamic moment in U.S. history. Book a guided tour that will lead you to many important civil rights locations in Little Rock, including the high school.
See Art at Crystal Bridges Museum
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is located in Bentonville and is one of the best things to do in Arkansas for art lovers. This beautifully crafted museum features galleries full of American art and culture. You will see work here by the likes of Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Norman Rockwell. Interestingly, this museum is great for nature lovers as well. The property boasts a lovely 120-acre park including ponds, gardens, walking trails, and outdoor sculptures.
Kayak Down the Buffalo National River
Established in the 1970s as the first national river in the U.S., the Buffalo National River is a popular place to visit in Arkansas. This scenic river flows freely for over 130 miles and cuts through the Ozark Mountains. The most common thing to do here is get out on the water in a kayak or canoe and paddle among the trees and towering bluffs. There are also hiking trails and historic structures to discover. If you are looking for a calming time in nature, then the Buffalo National River is for you!
Hike in Mount Magazine State Park
At 2,753 feet, Mount Magazine is the highest point in Arkansas. Spend some time in one of Arkansas’s best state parks as you search for all of the best lookout points. Other fun activities to do here include mountain biking, ATV riding, rock climbing, and hang gliding. There is also a really nice lodge and cabins if you wish to stay here. Make sure to eat at the Skycrest Restaurant to enjoy a meal with a view.
Walk Beautiful Downtown Eureka Springs
Downtown Eureka Springs is the only entire American downtown listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Main Street is lined with beautiful Victorian, Queen Anne, and Romanesque architecture. As you stroll along, you will find many unique and local shops, art galleries, and restaurants. To add more interest to your trip, take a tram tour through town while learning the history of the place.
Discover Pretty Thorncrown Chapel
Surrounded by trees outside of Eureka Springs, you will find the Thorncrown Chapel. This unique church was built in 1921 by architect E. Fay Jones, who was mentored by Frank Lloyd Wright. The style of the church is called “Ozark Gothic”. Thorncrown Chapel was created in a way to be one with nature. Because of the glass walls, the outside nature can be clearly seen and the changing light and shadows constantly alter its appearance.
You can attend a Sunday service or visit for free during its open hours. You can also book this gorgeous property as a wedding venue.
Spot Ghosts at the Crescent Hotel & Spa
The historic, 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa is known as America’s Most Haunted Hotel and has been featured on many shows on the topic. The hotel is still running and is a great place to stay in Arkansas if you love luxury and amazing spa treatments. However, if your interests are more focused on the afterlife and paranormal happenings, you should book a ghost tour or attend one of the Eureka Springs Paranormal Weekend events.
View Big Cats at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
Another thing to do in Eureka Springs is visiting the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. This is one of the best Arkansas attractions for families. The refuge is home to an assortment of rescued wild cats and bears. This is not a zoo, and the refuge puts the health of the animals and the education of guests first. While here, take a guided tour to learn about the habitats of the furry residents.
Find Natural Beauty at the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks
The Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks is one of the best things to do in Fayetteville. There are twelve themed gardens to explore, each focusing on the natural Arkansas environment. Children will especially love the Children’s Garden and the Sensory Garden, where you can get hands-on with the plants. There is also a butterfly house to admire. There are also many fun events throughout the year.
Stop by the Walmart Museum
Visiting the Walmart Museum is something you do just to say you’ve been. Found in Bentonville, the Walmart Museum is right next-door to Walton’s 5&10, the second store Sam Walton ever bought in 1950. He continued to buy more stores and grow his business before the first real Walmart opened in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. The rest, as they say, is history. Sam Walton was at one point the richest man in America.
Stroll Through Garvan Woodland Gardens
Located at the University of Arkansas, the Garvan Woodland Gardens are another of the beautiful places to visit in Arkansas. These spanning botanical gardens are nestled in the mountains and next to a lake. Walk along the amazingly landscaped trails and admire the many fantastic bridges. You will find a gorgeous chapel, lovely wildflower fields, a cool model train garden, and an amazing treehouse.
Get Your Hands Dirty at Wegner Quartz Crystal Mines
The Wegner Quartz Crystal Mines in Mount Ida is another interesting and unique thing to do in Arkansas for treasure hunters. This location is similar to Crater of Diamonds State Park except you will be digging for gorgeous quartz crystals. These gemstones are larger than the tiny diamonds at the state park and are eye-catching after a good wash. There are a few different experiences you can enjoy here and it is fun for the whole family. And, yes, you get to keep everything you find!
Enjoy Waterfalls at Petit Jean State Park
Petit Jean State Park was Arkansas’ first state park, and it is clear why this gorgeous area was chosen. The park holds many natural features such as Petit Jean Mountain, Cedar Creek Canyon, and Lake Bailey. The beautiful Cedar Falls is one of the best views in the park. A two-mile round trip hike will lead you to this 95-foot waterfall hidden in the trees.
Spend you time in this park becoming one with nature and making great memories. You will love all of the hiking trails and jaw-dropping overlooks. You can also go fishing, kayaking, and boating. There are swimming pools and playgrounds as well.
Visit Johnny Cash’s Childhood Home
Johnny Cash moved with his family to Dyess, Arkansas, in 1935 when he was only a few years old. You can now visit the restored cabin where this American icon spent his early years. Before you visit the home, you will need to check out the Dyess Colony Visitors Center and learn about how the Dyess Colony was formed as part of the New Deal. In the Dyess Colony Administration Building, you will find exhibits and discover the impact of this place on Johnny Cash’s music.
Camp at Devil’s Den State Park
We will end this list of things to do in Arkansas with yet another amazing state park. This pretty, natural area is on of the best places to visit in Northwest Arkansas and offers many camping options if you want to spend more than a day exploring. The park is known for its unique rock formations, caverns, and a rock dam. Lake Devil provides a place to swim, boat, and fish. There are also many hiking trails to explore.
Arkansas might be often overlooked compared to many Southern states, but it shouldn’t be! There are so, so many fun things to do in Arkansas, and it makes a great getaway for anyone in the Midwest who does not want to drive too far. From natural wonders to cool and lively cities, Arkansas has something for every type of traveler. There are so many tourist attractions in Arkansas to fill your time.