The birthplace of former president, Bill Clinton, and retail giant, Walmart, Arkansas is surprisingly “under-the-radar” with a state full of residents who wouldn’t mind keeping it that way.
Arkansas is a dreamy natural wonderland that feels like a secret when you’re there. At some point, along thick green meandering draped with the whirring of distant waterfalls, you suddenly get it, and decide to keep it that way. Perfection isn’t prone to boasting.
Arkansas is nicknamed the Natural State, not for giant, sharp-edged mountains, or dramatic expanses of red rock deserts outlined by olympic-rated, rapid-filled rivers, but for its expansive forests, hidden caves, undulating mountains, sprawling lakes, hot springs and an extensive cache of wildlife.
Arkansas’s natural wonders are plentiful and in rare form. The Ozarks and Ouachita mountains wrote the book on hidden drama, and hikers, kayakers, and cyclists from around the world flock to the national parks, national forests, and river and lake laced state parks that consume most of the state. Buffalo National River and miles of mountain bike trails provide rough riding adventures while the area’s hot springs bring the finer side of nature’s provisions to the end of long excursions.
And, then, there’s the city. Little Rock is the champion of culinary nuances and James Beard mentions, the micro-brew capital, and the arts and culture hub of The Natural State. But, smaller towns and cities, like Bentonville, Fayetteville, Hot Springs, and Jonestown are coveted stops on the cultural and culinary trail. A member of the Americana Music Triangle, there are plenty of musician-dedicated attractions along the way. Thanks to the Waltons, the Walmart foundation made Bentonville the home of one of the most modern and well-funded art museums in the Midwest -Crystal Bridges American Museum of Art.
Add Arkansas to the list of places to be discovered, but give yourself some time there. It’s road trip kind of place.
Places to See
1 – Whitaker Point
One of the most photographed locations in Arkansas, Whitaker Point was named one of the top ten places in the country to be kissed. The reasons for both will be clear when you get there.
2 – DeGray Lake State Park Resort
Bike through the park, play 18 holes, or cruise along the lake; then, finish the day in a more rustic campsite setting, at the resort-style lodge, or at glamping sites nearby for more glamorous camping.
3 – Lake Ouachita
The state’s largest lake, Lake Ouachita, surrounds 210 islands in the center of Ouachita National Forest. A water sport Mecca, crystal goldmine, and lake lovers dream, Ouachita is breathtaking, and close to Hot Springs, AR. Major bonus.
4 – Buffalo River Waterfall
In the Ponca Area, also the home of Whitaker Point, you’ll find Arkansas’s most breathtaking scenery, including Buffalo River Waterfall. If mountain biking is your mode of transportation expect to surprise a few Elk on your way.
5 – Pinnacle Mountain State Park
This day use only state park is an uber-popular single-track mountain biking and destination.
6 – Hot Springs
Both a city, and a state park (big surprise!) in the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs is known for the obvious, and has been a “natural spa” resort destination since the 19th century. Hiking, shopping, boating, and horseback riding are favorites among visitors.
7 – Blanchard Springs Caverns
A trip to the Ozarks isn’t complete with out a Blanchard Springs Wild Cave Tour.
8 – Little Rock
Take the River-Rail Electric Streetcar through town to the Clinton Presidential Center, the Rocktown Distillery, the Museum of Discovery, and to some of the quaint boutique shops and local restaurants. Be sure to hit The Big Dam Bridge – the longest walking and biking bridge in the country – that connects Little Rock to North Little Rock.
9 – Crystal Bridges Museum of American Modern Art
The Walmart-backed Bentonville museum is, architecturally-speaking, as much a work of art as is the pieces curated there. It’s a sight to see, and an experience not to be missed.
10 – The Hive
Five-time James Beard Semi-finalist Matthew McC.ure continues to wow guests with unparalleled “fine-country” cuisine.
Where to Live
Hot Springs Village
Sprawled out over 26,000 acres near the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs Village is the country’s largest gated community with homes ranging from the $100,000’s to $1 million. It’s an active adult haven with nine golf courses, indoor and outdoor pools, 30 miles of hiking trails, endless boating and water sports opportunities on the village’s 11 lakes, and proximity to Hot Springs and Little Rock.