Families Will Find Much to Love in The Natural State
From the city to the mountains and everything in between, Arkansas offers a wide range of fun and entertainment for a family vacation. Historical sites, science museums, outdoor recreation and even a national park are just some of experiences families can enjoy when visiting The Natural State.
Live It Up in Little Rock
Not surprisingly, given its place as Arkansas’ capital city, Little Rock has no shortage of family entertainment. Animal lovers will have a great time at Little Rock Zoo (1 Zoo Drive, Little Rock, AR), home to nearly 700 animals representing 200 different species. At the Museum of Discovery (500 President Clinton Ave., Suite 150, Little Rock, AR), kids and adults can learn about science, math, history and more, all while playing on interactive exhibits. And don’t miss the Clinton Presidential Center (1200 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock, AR), which documents the life, history and administration of Bill Clinton. Other activities include parks, walking and biking trails, and so much more. Visit the Little Rock website for more suggestions and information.
Head to Hot Springs
Arkansas is home to the only city that is a national park in the country: Hot Springs. Downtown Hot Springs is half city and half Hot Springs National Park (101 Reserve St., Hot Springs, AR), and both have plenty keep families busy. A free national park, Hot Springs National Park welcomes families to learn about the famous springs that gave this town its name. Tour its visitor center housed in one of the legendary bath houses that rose to prominence when visitors flocked to the springs for their reported healing properties. The park also contains hiking trails and an overlook that provides panoramic views of the area. In downtown Hot Springs, families also can enjoy some magic at The Magic & Comedy of Maxwell Blade (121 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR), or explore mob history in Hot Springs at the Gangster Museum of America (510 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR). These suggestions barely scratch the surface of all that families can enjoy in Hot Springs, so check out the website for more information.
Find Fun in Fayetteville
Home to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville is well-known for the school’s sporting events, but this city is so much more than a college town. For example, you can tour the Clinton House Museum (930 W. Clinton Drive, Fayetteville, AR), the home where Bill and Hillary Clinton married and lived long before their tenure in the White House. The kids will love exploring the 6-acre grounds of Terra Studios (12103 Hazel Valley Rd., Fayetteville, AR), a free art park and gardens. Play in the playhouses by the pond, wind your way through the stone labyrinth, and check out the art in the gardens and inside the studio. Challenge your kids to a round of arcade fun at Arkadia Retrocade (1478 N. College Ave., Fayetteville, AR), which features a large selection of 1980s arcade games.
Be Adventurous in Bentonville
Known as the home of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, Bentonville is a small, charming town that overflows with family entertainment. Start any visit by stopping in at the Walmart Museum (105 N. Main St., Bentonville, AR) on the downtown square, which documents Walton’s business evolution from his original five-and-dime store (where the free museum is located) to the creator of one of the world’s largest big-box stores. Then head a few minutes out of town to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (600 Museum Wy., Bentonville, AR), a free art museum that includes 120 grounds of gardens and walking trails. Right down the street from Crystal Bridges, the Scott Family Amazeum (1009 Museum Wy., Bentonville, AR) welcomes families to explore the arts and sciences through interactive, hands-on exhibits. This is only the beginning of family fun in Bentonville, so plan to come, stay and play a while.
Enjoy Nature in Eureka Springs
Located in the Ozarks, Eureka Springs is filled with natural beauty and activities that families will love. Mountain bikers can tackle more than 25 miles of trails, and outdoor enthusiasts can go horseback riding or fishing. In town, consider taking a tram tour to learn more about the city’s history, including a look at the area springs that inspired the town’s name. Also a large draw, the Great Passion Play, Bible Museum and Sacred Arts Museum (935 Passion Play Rd., Eureka Springs, AR) cover Biblical history with a focus on the Christian faith. Depending on the age of the kids, you also may want to check out Eureka Springs’ haunted history by taking a ghost tour. There’s quite an eclectic mix of things to do for family vacations, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
When to Visit
Given its central location in the country, Arkansas easily enjoys all four seasons and the typical weather conditions that come with those seasons. Thanks to the warming temps after winter, May is one of the most popular months for visitors, with October a close second. Arkansas is quite hot during July and August, so avoid those months to stay out of the heat. Also, when perusing the aforementioned attractions, it’s clear that Arkansas offers something for every family vacation budget, so build an itinerary that works for both the family and the budget.
Karon Warren has covered travel for nearly 20 years with numerous print and online publications. Her byline has appeared in USA Today, USA Today’s 10 Best, WorkingMother.com, FamilyVacationCritic.com. and many others. She is a member of both the Society of American Travel Writers and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. In addition to her freelance work for other clients, she also writes for her own travel site, ThisGirlTravels.com