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Arkansas is an affordable and family-friendly place to visit if you love the outdoors and small-town charm. There is so much beautiful nature to explore here, from hiking and biking trails to lakes, rivers, and public parks. On a weekend trip to Arkansas, you can go camping, stay at a cozy cabin or B&B, and learn a thing or two about history.
To inspire your next solo adventure, couple’s trip, or a family vacation, here are some ideas for the best weekend getaways in Arkansas.
Ozark National Forest
Ozark National Forest is a beautiful place to visit with over a million acres of land and the highest mountains in the area. This is a fun place to come for hiking, camping, kayaking, hunting, and fishing. The neighboring Ozark-St. Francis National Forests are two separate forests, with St. Francis being the smaller one in eastern Arkansas and Ozark having the tallest mountain in the state, Mount Magazine. There are national forest campgrounds that you can stay at, plus primitive camping and cabins. The official National Forest Service website provides a recreation map and listing of the various recreation area names within the forest with updates about environmental conditions.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, you can learn about history at the Clinton Presidential Library and Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. There’s the state capitol building and some great hotels to stay at in the downtown area. To get outside and active, make sure to visit Pinnacle Mountain State Park and Maumelle Park for hiking and camping. Top attractions to add to your Little Rock travel list include taking a ride on the Metro Streetcar, River Market for special events and the local farmers’ market, and the Little Rock Zoo. For arts and entertainment, there’s the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, while Funland is a small amusement park that the kids will enjoy.
Hot Springs, Arkansas is a city within the Ouachita Mountains and home to Hot Springs National Park. Here you can see the historical Bathhouse Row and soak your worries away in the soothing and steamy thermal baths. Some bathhouses have overnight accommodations too, such as the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa. You can hike around the national park and also see the Garvan Woodland Gardens just south of downtown. A few fun ideas for your trip to Hot Springs are the Gangers Museum of America, Arkansas Alligator Farm, and Superior Bathhouse Brewery for craft beers.
Bull Shoals Lake
Lake vacations are fun for everyone in your travel group, so consider planning a trip to Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas. The lake has clear waters and miles of lakeshore to enjoy. It’s an ideal place for trout fishing, boating, swimming, water skiing, and tubing. Boat rentals are available at the lake. On land, there are wildlife viewing opportunities, plus plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails.
One of the best places to visit in Arkansas, Fayetteville is a northwest destination and college town. It has a historic downtown square and lots of boutique stores to see. There are live music venues in town and outdoor attractions to help you enjoy the nice weather, including the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks and Kessler Mountain Regional Park. If you enjoy sports, plan to visit during football or basketball season to see the University of Arkansas teams play. Terra Studios, the Walton Arts Center, and the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market are the top sites to see in town. If you enjoy craft beer, check out the Fayetteville Ale Trail that has a trail map and passport available at the visitors’ center to keep track of the local breweries you visit.
Buffalo National River
The Buffalo National River is an undammed river that runs for more than 135 miles. It is one of the few rivers that has remained undammed in the U.S. Also, it is a hot spot for kayaking and canoeing, and you can bring your own along or rent one from the park. Aside from the water, the river area is ideal for hiking and camping. There is no fee to visit the national river area, but there are fees to camp here. You’ll find multiple camping options at the park, including RV camping sites with hookups and primitive sites with no water and just vault toilets.
Bentonville, Arkansas is best known for being the home of Walmart, and there is a Walmart Museum here that you can visit. The town is in the northwestern corner of the state and is a good place to get outdoors. There are the Ozark Mountains nearby and many mountain biking trails in the area. For arts and culture, check out the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The Bentonville Brewing Company is in town to grab a local beer, and the Peel Museum & Botanical Garden is worth a visit. There are painted murals to see in downtown Bentonville as well.
El Dorado is a fun weekend getaway spot in Arkansas because of its historic downtown district that is reminiscent of its 1920s past during the oil boom. There is the Union County Courthouse that dates back to 1928, and the Murphy Arts District for catching a live musical performance. There are some murals in the downtown area that depict the history of the area. You can also spend your days checking out the South Arkansas Arboretum, John Newton House, antique shops, and Lake Columbia nearby in Magnolia for some fishing. Golf enthusiasts can tee off at Mystic Creek Golf Club in El Dorado, which is the #38 ranked Golf course in the U.S. (and #1 in Arkansas).
Located in northwestern Arkansas, Eureka Springs draws in weekend travelers each year. It is a historic place where you can hop on a trolley to learn more about the area. There is a nice downtown area in Eureka Springs where you can attend a local event, such as the Christmas Parade of Lights of Ozark Mountain Music Festival. You can spend time in the summer at Beaver Lake, which has beaches and boat launches. Lake Leatherwood is also nearby for hiking trails, while Harmon Park is near downtown and a convenient place to get outside.
For your water-themed getaway in Arkansas, head to Beaver Lake in the Ozark mountains. The lake is popular for fishing tournaments and water sports, including scuba diving, boating, and kayaking. The lake spans over 28,000 acres of water and is located nine miles northwest of Eureka Springs, so it’s fun to combine these places into one weekend getaway.
A trip to Van Buren, Arkansas will take you toward the Oklahoma border and give you lots of charming small-town vibes. Van Buren is just off Interstate 40, making it a popular stop along road trips. There is a historic downtown here with impressive architecture, plus the King Opera House, where you can watch a show. The Drennen-Scott House is in the area and a house museum to learn about history. The Van Buren River Valley Museum and Lee Creek Reservoir with hiking trails should be on your itinerary for the weekend. Also, visit Fort Smith nearby to round out your weekend plans and visit the Parrott Island Waterpark in the summer to let the kids play and splash around.
The town of Jasper, Arkansas is charming and along the Little Buffalo River. It is also near the Buffalo National River, so it’s fun to combine these places into a weekend getaway. During your trip to Jasper, look into visiting the Boxlery Valley Historic District nearby and the Arkansas Grand Canyon. Trips to Jasper can also allow you to learn about wildlife at the Hilary Jones Wildlife Museum & Elk Information Center and enjoy a delicious meal at The Ozark Café. Bradley Park, Emma’s Museum of Junk, and the Newton County Library are must-visit spots during your weekend. Meanwhile, nearby Mystic Caverns is another place near Jasper to explore with your family.
Mountain Home is an Arkansas town known for being a watersports and fishing destination. During your trip to Mountain Home, you can join a guided fishing tour and shop for antiques and collectibles. There’s a fish hatchery in the area that you can visit and the Bull Shoals area nearby via a scenic drive through the country. It is in the Ozarks region and also close to the small town of Calico Rock, which has a history museum.
Situated in the Arkansas Delta region and along the Mississippi River, the town of Helena is the site of a Civil War battle. You can learn about the Underground Railroad at Freedom Park and see historic homes during a trip to Helena. There’s a boardwalk in Helena River Park and also St. Francis National Forest nearby, which is great for taking a bike ride. In Helena, it’s also fun to take a ride down the river in a canoe. The King Biscuit Blues Festival takes place in Helena in October and is a favorite event among blues music enthusiasts. The 10-bedroom Edwardian Inn is a quaint and cozy B&B stay when exploring Helena.