Attractions in Arkansas's
Arkansas & Missouri Railroad – Travel through the Boston Mountains on vintage rail cars, trestles over 125 ft. high, and the 1882 Winslow tunnel. Itineraries include: Springdale to Van Buren with layover for lunch and shopping; Van Buren to Winslow; and, Fort Smith to Winslow. Specials, such as the Christmas Train event, are offered throughout the year. Private charters and group discounts are available. 800-687-8600; www.arkansasmissouri-rr.com.
Beaver Lake -- A glittering gem of northwest Arkansas, the lake's 28,000 acres of clear water attract thousands of water sports lovers, fishermen and birdwatchers. The lake is surrounded by forests, tall bluffs and meadows crisscrossed by hiking trails. Campgrounds, resorts, marinas, outfitters, restaurants and shops serve the area, which is located in the Ozark Highlands near the cities of Rogers, Eureka Springs, Springdale and Fayetteville. Trout fishing is popular on the White River below Beaver Dam. www.beaverlake.com.
Botanical Garden of the Ozarks - Located on 86 picturesque acres in northeast Fayetteville, the garden opened to the public in 2007. Situated on Ark. 265, the attraction features nine 2,000-square-foot themed gardens - children's garden, four seasons garden, herb and vegetable garden, Japanese garden, rock and water garden, Ozark native garden, rose and perennial garden, shade garden, and sensory garden. Each garden highlights local artists and sculptors. Wedding and reception facilities are available. In addition to the Carl A. Totemeier Horticulture Center, the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks will eventually include an amphitheater, boat rental facility, exhibit gallery, observatory cafe, education center, conservatory, special children's area, hiking and biking trails and boardwalks. 479-750-2620; www.bgso.org.
Buffalo National River -- The country’s first national river (1972), the Buffalo River flows roughly 150 miles and includes nearly 95,000 acres of public land along its corridor. It has been the topic of a full-length book, the subject of a National Geographic feature article, and the cornerstone for the state's environmental movement. The stream descends nearly 2,000 feet through layers of sandstone, limestone and chert. One immediately obvious result is its many bluffs -- the highest in all the Ozark Mountains. Hidden away, ready for discovery, are other geologic marvels -- springs, caves, waterfalls, natural bridges, and box-like canyons, where trails are abundant. Numerous outfitters service the river, and there are several campgrounds, cabins, motels and other lodging options nearby. While spring and early summer are the prime floating times, the lower section of the Buffalo can be floated year-round. 870-741-5443; www.arkansas.com or www.nps.gov/buff.
Clinton House Museum – This 1930s English-style bungalow was the first home of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Showcasing the life and times of the Clintons during their years in Fayetteville, the museum features photographic and memorabilia displays, including vintage campaign materials, exhibits on loan from the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, and gift shop. The museum is available for public tours, small meetings, receptions and weddings. 930 California Drive. 877-BILNHIL; 479-444-0066; www.clintonhousemuseum.com.
Devil's Den State Park -- Nestled deep in a picturesque Ozark valley, the park features nearly 150 campsites, rustic cabins, a picnic area, a pavilion and miles of hiking trails leading through the surrounding Ozark National Forest. Selected as a park site in the 1930s, Lee Creek Valley provided materials for the Civilian Conservation Corps to build the park's rustic-style wood and stone cabins and other structures, which today offer modern conveniences. A mountain stream forms a peaceful 8-acre lake before cascading over a native stone dam. Hiking and backpacking trails access backcountry areas of the park and caves, crevices and bluff overlooks awaiting exploration. 11333 West Ark. 74, West Fork. 479-761-3325; www.ArkansasStateParks.com/devilsden.
Downtown Fayetteville – A thriving, city experience in the heart of a college town, Fayetteville's downtown district features the bustling entertainment hub of Dickson Street, the historic Downtown Square and the legendary University of Arkansas campus. Must-sees are the seasonal Farmers' Market, Walton Arts Centers, and award-winning Fayetteville Public Library. Aside from the unique shopping opportunities and excellent restaurants and bars, the area also hosts a number of annual festivals and events, including Bikes, Blues and BBQ (Bikesbluesandbbq.org) and the Lights of the Ozarks. For Fayetteville events: Experiencefayetteville.com.
Eureka Springs -- "America's Victorian Village" was named one of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, Eureka Springs first drew visitors because of its natural springs with purported healing powers. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the city became a popular spa resort, and today its entire downtown district is on the National Register of Historic Places. While baths and spa treatments are still available, the city is now nationally renowned for its art and well-preserved Victorian era architecture. Eureka Springs is packed with attractions such as gardens, tour caves, an exotic wildlife ranch and The Great Passion Play, which depicts the last week of Christ's life on earth, and is the nation's most attended outdoor drama. Unique boutiques offer antiques, fine art, contemporary and vintage clothing, handmade crafts and more. A portion of history is uniquely preserved through ghost tours at two of several historic hotels, the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa, and Basin Park Hotel. An Art Colony offers demonstrations and art for sale. 866-WISHEUREKA; www.eurekasprings.org.
Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area – A 12,045-acre natural park with limited development. Here students, family and friends can enjoy informative exhibits, relax overlooking the wildlife viewing area, attend educational programming and explore one of the adjacent hiking trails. Other activities currently located throughout the park include a Conservation Area with four hiking trails: Pigeon Roost with primitive campsites near Beaver Lake (8.2 mi.); Historic Van Winkle Trail with ADA accessibility and interpretive panels (.5 mi.); Shaddox Hollow Nature Trail (1.5 mi.); and the 21-mile Hidden Diversity Multi-Use Trail for hikers, non-motorized bikes and equestrians. A 100-yard public shooting range, permitted seasonal hunting, and interpretive programming are available. Restrooms are located at user-friendly locations.
A new 17,000-square-foot visitors center opened in the fall of 2008. It features an exhibit gallery, wildlife viewing area, two rooms for group field studies, orientation room with a 65-inch LCD screen, murals, and gift shop. Interactive displays include computerized notebooks that convert to Spanish. A replica of a karst cave is inset into a wall, and an example of an Ozark bluff with water flowing over it is featured in the main entry area. Exhibits include a full mount deer and black bear, metal three-dimensional sculptures of birds of prey, and examples of endemic flora and fauna. Structurally, the design is representative of the old Ozark clerestory barn with wide rafters and high ceilings. It is also a green building and is the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited state parks building and one of the few in Arkansas. A large water feature representing a pond and flowing creek wraps from the front to the back of the visitor center.
Ten miles east of Rogers on Ark. 12. 479-789-2380. Visit the park partners and volunteer support group’s Web page at www.friendsofhobbs.com for maps and more detailed park information.
Northwest Arkansas Naturals – A new Minor League Baseball team based in Springdale, the team is a member of the Texas League, and will serve as the Double-A affiliate to the Kansas City Royals. The Naturals season consists of 140 game schedule, with 70 home games and 70 road games and is five months long, beginning in early April and finishing Labor Day weekend. Typical game times are 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Special event game times will occur at various times throughout the season. The stadium is centrally located off of Interstate 540 at the southwest corner of 56th and Watkins. 479-927-4900; www.nwanaturals.com.
Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail -- This 178-mile trail winds along mountaintops and bluffs, past waterfalls and over streams, while passing through some of the most remote and scenic country in the Ozark National Forest and the Buffalo National River. The trail is used for day hikes as well as weekend and extended backpacking trips. The national forest contains campgrounds, picnic areas, cabins, wilderness areas such as East Fork, Hurricane Creek, Leatherwood and Richland Creek and many additional hiking trails. 479-964-7200; www.fs.fed.us/oonf/ozark.
Pea Ridge National Military Park/Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park -- The site of one of the largest Civil War battles west of the Mississippi River, Pea Ridge marks the successful culmination of the Union's effort to secure control of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and protect the arsenal at St. Louis, which made easier the supply of General Grant's Vicksburg campaign. The park encompasses 4,300 acres and includes a seven-mile, self-guided tour with 10 stops featuring wayside exhibits, a nine-mile horse trail and seven-mile hiking trail. It also has a visitors center, museum and bookstore, and a 30 minute film of Battle of Pea Ridge. The park is located on U.S. 62 in Pea Ridge. 479-451-8122; www.nps.gov/peri.
The 1862 Battle of Prairie Grove was the last time two armies of almost equal strength faced each other for supremacy in northwest Arkansas. When the Confederate Army withdrew, it was clear Missouri and northwest Arkansas would remain in Federal hands. Today, historic homes are located on the 838-acre Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, which has a self-guided walking tour and driving tour. The park's visitors center has a gift shop, museum and bookstore. Pavilions, a picnic area and a playground are also at the park. On U.S. 62 in Prairie Grove. 479-846-2990; www.ArkansasStateParks.com/prairiegrovebattlefield.
Shiloh Museum of Ozark History -- Dedicated to the study, interpretation and preservation of the rich history of the Arkansas Ozark Mountains, the museum offers lectures, films, classes, tours and frequently changing exhibits. It contains a significant research library and a collection that includes tens of thousands of artifacts and 150,000 photographs illustrating Ozark life. The handicapped-accessible museum campus of more than two wooded acres includes seven historic buildings ranging from the 1830s to the 1930s. The museum is located at 118 W. Johnson, Springdale. 479-750-8165; www.springdaleark.org/shiloh.
Terra Studios – Home of the original “Bluebird of Happiness,” this unique Art Park contains fountains and walking paths, Pottery Gallery, Blown Glass Showroom, Art Guild of American Arts and Crafts, and a coffee shop. Glass blowing demonstrations (call for demo schedule) are available. The compound also contains picnic tables and an RV park. Ark. 16 E., 14 miles east of Fayetteville. 479-643-3185, 800-255-8995; www.terrastudios.com.
The Muse Gallery and Coffee House at Terra Studios – Features over 40 regional crafts people. Coffee house has Artisan breads and pastries from the Ozark Natural Breads Bakery, culinary art goodies from chef Susan Lovett, and Arsaga's fresh roasted coffees. Terra Studios is home of the original Bluebird of Happiness. Ark. 16 E., 14 miles east of Fayetteville. 479-643-3185, 800-255-8995. Terrastudios.com
Wal-Mart Visitor's Center -- The origin and growth of the nation's largest corporation is encapsulated at this Bentonville museum housed in the building that gave birth to the retail giant. In 1962, Sam Walton opened his first discount store in Rogers at 8th and Walnut streets and employed 25. Today, Wal-Mart is one of the world's largest company with more than 1.3 million employees. The center was created as an educational and informative facility about this American retailing success story.105 N. Main, Bentonville. 479-273-1329; www.walmartstores.com.