Here in the Natural State, you can teach your kids how to fish, float, camp and ride bikes, making it the perfect place for a great family vacation. Whether you prefer toy shopping or souvenir shopping, white-water rafting or theme park rides, cave spelunking, or horseback riding, you’ll find plenty of exciting Arkansas activities for the whole family. You can even add an educational aspect to your 4th of July vacation with a visit to a world-class museum, nature center, zoo, or presidential library. Stock up your vacation rental, because you might never want to leave! Here are the ten best places to go for the perfect Arkansas 4th of July family getaway.
1. Mississippi Delta
The mighty Mississippi River has etched its way into the land and hearts of the Arkansas people. Try your hand at calm and whitewater canoeing, kayaking, or just floating. Maybe you’ll even catch “the big one.” Despite its name, the Mississippi Delta is not actually a delta of the Mississippi River, but actually part of an alluvial plain, created by the regular flooding of the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers over thousands of years. The plain covers more than 15,000 square miles in Arkansas alone, including all or part of 27 of the states 75 counties. Visit the Delta Cultural Center, a state museum in Helena, which explores the Mississippis natural and historical legacies and its influence on regional culture, especially Delta blues music. Helena’s Reach River Park is also a great place to catch a view of the river from an elevated boardwalk.
2. Hot Springs
With Hot Springs National Park and Magic Springs Water and Theme Park, Hot Springs is one of the most popular destinations for families in Arkansas. Dating back to 1832, Hot Springs National Park is the smallest and oldest of the parks in the National Park System. It’s 40 years older than Yellowstone! The park protects 47 naturally flowing thermal springs that still supply naturally heated water for thermal baths, and visiting the park is free. Magic Springs provides a few more thrills with roller coasters, water slides, and kids rides. Another great place in Hot Springs to take the kids is the MidAmerica Science Museum. It’s the states largest science center with more than 100 hands-on exhibits in a newly renovated space.
3. Little Rock
With a population of nearly 200,000 people, Little Rock is the largest city in Arkansas and definitely the place to find a good time for your Fourth of July. The first thing on your list should be a visit to the bustling River Market District. It features restaurants, shops, museums, and the city’s main library. Other great places to visit are the Clinton Presidential Center & Park, the nearby world headquarters of Heifer International, and the Central Arkansas Nature Center. Nearby, you’ll find the family-friendly Museum of Discovery which provides a great time for kids and adults alike.
4. Fort Smith
In Fort Smith, you can relive history through stories and reenactments of outlaws, lawmen, soldiers, and the Trail of Tears. Explore the Fort Smith National Historic Site which houses the remains of two frontier forts, plus the Federal courtroom of the Western District of Arkansas. Here, you can learn about the court’s impact on the Indian Territory, outlaws, and more of the area’s history. Learn even more at the Fort Smith Museum of History, and then finish your day at the old-fashioned drug store with a working soda fountain. It’ll be a fun time for kids and a blast from the past for adults.
Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and head to the small-town feel of Bentonville. Established in 1836 as the first county seat in the state of Arkansas, Bentonville is still oozing with history. Here, you’ll find 72 historical buildings and homes, including the 1875 Peel House Mansion and Historical Gardens, and 140 Civil War sites. One of the main attractions is the Walmart Museum. Housed at the location of Sam Walton’s original variety store, it now traces the origin and growth of Wal-Mart. Another must-see is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Explore the exhibits and grounds, including trails, scenic overlooks, and outdoor installations. Best of all, admission is free!
6. Buffalo National River
One of the most beloved pastimes in Arkansas is a float trip down the Buffalo National River, the first National River in the United States. The Buffalo National River became America’s first national river in 1972, and long before that, it had been proclaimed as one of the country’s greatest natural treasures. The free-flowing river meanders through the heart of the Ozarks for 135 miles before joining the White River south of Mountain Home. Enjoy the natural wilderness on a hiking trail, a rent a canoe or kayak. You can also camp on the river or book a vacation rental nearby.
7. Mountain View
In Mountain View, there are rivers to be floated, trails to be hiked and biked, and fish to be caught. Experience scenic natural beach, exciting outdoor adventures, and explore the unique Ozark culture. Visit the Ozark Folk Center or enjoy live music on the historic Courtsquare where you can also browse the local chops with one of a kid crafts and gifts. Then, enjoy some good old fashioned Fourth of July Fun with the Mountain View parade, pre-firworks party, food, music, and of course, fireworks!
Alma, located in the Arkansas River Valley and at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, is the perfect place for any outdoor enthusiasts who want to hike, bike, fish, hunt, camp and canoe. It’s also the home to Eagle Crest, one of Arkansas’s finest golf courses, and the Alma Performing Arts Center, making it a cultural center for western Arkansas. Alma earned a place on this list thanks to the Alma Aquatic Park. If your kids want a little more excitement, they’ll love the huge water slides, diving boards, swim area, and covered wading pool. There’s also a picnic area, firetruck play station for youngsters, professional 18-basket flying disc course, and brand new tennis courts. Come a day early for their July 3rd fireworks display with vendors, live music, and more.
Halfway between Little Rock and Memphis, lies the historic town of Brinkley. This town is located along historic trails such as the Butterfield Overland Mail Route from Memphis to Fort Smith, the route used by U.S. Generals Steele and Curtis during the second phase of the Pea Ridge Campaign, and the historic relocation movement of the southeastern Indian tribes during the Trail of Tears. All of these historic routes are not part of the Arkansas Heritage Trails System. Learn even more history with a visit to the Central Delta Depot Museum and Visitors Center in the downtown district or the Fargo Agricultural School Museum which preserves items from an early 20th century African-American school.
10. Lake Catherine
Our Fourth of July vacation list wouldn’t be complete with a trip to the lake. Lake Catherine is most popular for water-skiing, swimming, and other water sports, but it’s also a great place to fish. Anglers come here for its largemouth bass, spotted bass and striped bass, crappie, bream, and catfish and walleye fishing. Lake Catherine State Park also offers 17 fully-equipped cabins with kitchens, 70 campsites, and a marina where you can buy bait and rent a boat. Guided horseback trail rides, guided hikes and boat tours are also available during the summer.