Arkansas’ state motto is “The Natural State,” and a visit there will tell you that it lives up to its nickname. This mid-western state is home to beautiful state parks and amazing natural attractions like diamond fields, Hot Springs National Park and the Buffalo River.
Although much of the beauty of Arkansas lies in the natural attractions, the state has also played an important role in American history and this importance is reflected in many of the state’s top tourist attractions. On a visit to Arkansas visitors who are interested in history can look forward to the Fort Smith National Historic Site, Central High School made famous by the Little Rock Nine, and the most extensive and arguably most popular presidential library in the nation.
One of Arkansans favorite destinations is Mount Magazine, the state’s tallest mountain. This towering formation is actually a flat-topped plateau with cliffs on all sides and two peaks, one of which is Signal Hill, the highest point in the state.
Visitors to Mount Magazine can enjoy a 10 mile scenic driving route to the top of the mountain, in the Ozark National Forest. From the top of the mountain visitors have majestic views of Blue Mountain Lake below.
Crater of Diamonds State Park
The park has a 37.5 acre diamond field which is the world’s only publicly accessed diamond bearing site. Diamonds were first discovered in the field in 1906 including the world’s only perfect diamond ever discovered, the Strawn-Wagner Diamond. The Crater of Diamonds volcanic pipe is part of a 95 million year-old volcano whose magma flow brought diamonds to the surface.
Visitors can hunt for diamonds in the plowed field. Another must-see attraction at the park is the Diamond Discovery Center with an interpretive exhibit about prospecting for diamonds.
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Fort Smith is a U.S. National Historic Site within the city of Fort Smith along the banks of the Arkansas River. The fort was established in 1961 to protect the remains of two 19th century military forts and it was also a major stop along the “Trail of Tears.”
Today the fort has a visitor center located in the old Barracks/Courthouse/Jail building with exhibits that focus on the fort’s military history from 1817 to 1871 and the impact of the fort on Indian Territory. Some of the interesting attractions include the foundation of the first Fort Smith, a commissary building with a reconstruction of the gallows, and a walking trail with exhibits about the Trail of Tears.
William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park
One of the most surprising attractions among the favorites in Arkansas is a public library, but it’s unlike any typical library. The official presidential library of Bill Clinton is one of Little Rock’s biggest attractions. The Presidential Center and Park, created by former President Clinton, includes the Clinton Presidential Library and offices of the Clinton Foundation. It is one of the most popular and impressive presidential libraries.
This library draws tourists from all around to view the largest floor plan of any presidential library with the largest archives. The library’s impressive archives contain millions of photographs, documents, emails, and other artifacts from the Clinton presidency and full scale replicas of the Oval Office and Cabinet room during his presidency.
Buffalo National River
The 150 mile long Buffalo River in northern Arkansas was the first national river in the country. Buffalo National River is one of Arkansas’ top tourist destinations. Throughout the length of the river there are access points to the river, bridges, and even ferry crossings. Tourists might be interested in visiting the Tyler Bend Visitor Center, where there is also a picnic area, and campground. Popular activities at the river include camping, canoeing, and fishing.
Top Things to do in Arkansas
Hot Springs National Park
This national park previously called the Hot Springs Reservation is the smallest national park in area and the oldest federal reserve in the nation. The hot springs for which the park is named flow from the western side of Hot Springs Mountain in the Ouachita Mountain range. In the park the springs have been managed to conserve the production of uncontaminated water for public use and they have been used for over 200 years.
Visitors to Hot Springs can hike, camp, or, of course, bathe in the spring water. Bathing in spring water is available in approved facilities for a fee. One of the must-sees at Hot Springs is Bathhouse Row, a National Historic Landmark.
Blanchard Spring Caverns
This three-level cave system is considered a “living cave,” because change is still happening due to dripping water leaving mineral deposits. The caves were known to locals since the 1930s. In 1955, a 1,000 year-old Native American skeleton was found inside the caves. The caves were opened to the public in 1973.
This cave system in Ozark National Forest is a favorite among tourists of all types. The Blanchard Spring Caverns has two levels open for guided tours for the public. There are multiple walking trails inside the caves open to the public.
Eureka Springs is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state. The city is known for its Victorian era architecture although the old commercial section has an alpine style design. The town is sometimes called the Little Switzerland of America or the Stairstep Town because of its location on mountainous terrain with pathways and streets that wind up and down.
Some of the popular attractions in Eureka Springs are the 7-story tall Christ of the Ozarks Statue of Christ. Other sights include the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway, Onyx Cave, Thorncrown Chapel, and the World’s Largest Tuned Musical Wind Chime.
Magic Springs and Crystal Falls
Young tourists come from all around to visit Magic Springs and Crystal Falls an amusement park and water park near Hot Springs.The amusement park features a full-day’s worth of attractions including five roller coasters, three thrill rides, four family rides, and much more. There is also an amphitheater where concerts are often held.
Crystal Springs is the water park included in the ticket price. The water park has a variety of slides and a wave simulator. This combination amusement park and water park has been voted Arkansas top tourist attraction.
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
In 1957 nine African-American students, later termed the Little Rock Nine, were denied entrance to a school after a Supreme Court ruling ordering integration of public schools, it turned into a showdown between the Governor and President Eisenhower which grew to gain international attention. The school where these tumultuous events took place is today a National Historic Site.
The visitor center has a memorial, interpretive film, and a multimedia exhibit. Across from the visitor center there is a memorial garden and the original preserved and unchanged Mobil gas station that stood outside the school at the time of the crisis.
Things to do in Arkansas
The “Natural State,” naturally has something for every interest and vacation type. From amusement parks and diamond fields, to rushing rivers and army forts, Arkansas will keep the whole family entertained.