Arkansas is the home of the beautiful Ozark Mountains, which showcase a number of state parks offering spectacular opportunities for mountain hiking and climbing, fishing, and overnight camping. The state's two preserved capitol buildings, including its modern domed building constructed to resemble the United States Capitol, are open to the public for free guided and self-guided tours throughout the year, as are a plethora of public museums and living history sites showcasing the state's pioneer, government, and military history. Visitors can also explore the lovely free-admission attractions of downtown Little Rock's recent urban developments, including the vibrant River Market District and the gorgeous Big Dam Bridge, the longest purpose-built pedestrian bridge in North America.
1.Big Dam Bridge
Big Dam Bridge is North America's longest purpose-built pedestrian and bicycle bridge, named for its location over Little Rock's Murray Lock and Dam. The bridge is elevated 90 feet over the Arkansas River and stretches for a massive distance of 4,226 feet from one end to the other, creating one of Little Rock's most iconic waterfront vantage points. More than 14 miles of scenic riverside trails converge at the bridge, which connects more than 70,000 acres of city, county, and state park lands throughout the area. It provides pedestrian access to some of the city's most iconic attractions, including the Clinton Presidential Center and the River Market.
7700 Rebsamen Park Road, Little Rock, AR, 72207, Phone: 501-340-6800
2.Little Rock Central High School
Little Rock Central High School is best known as the site of a major desegregation event in 1957 during the American Civil Rights Movement, following a United States Supreme Court ruling three years prior deeming racial segregation of African Americans unconstitutional. The accredited public high school, which still operates as an educational facility today, was constructed as the nation's largest public high school facility at the time of its opening in 1927. Today, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is operated as a National Historic Site under the supervision of the National Park Service. Visitors can explore an NPS-operated visitor center located adjacent to the school, which showcases multimedia exhibits on the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957, when the "Little Rock Nine" were denied entrance to the high school despite the prior Supreme Court ruling. A memorial designed by Michael Warrick, installed in 2006, is located across the street from the visitor center, while a commemorative garden is home to nine trees honoring each of the African American students at the heart of the crisis.
2120 W. Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive, Little Rock, AR 72202, Phone: 501-374-1957
3.Collins Creek Cascade and Trout Stream
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Collins Creek Cascade and Trout Stream is the home of the state of Arkansas' only documented population of wild brook trout, located in the town of Heber Springs near Arkansas State Route 25. The wild trout fishery is one of the state's newest fisheries, created by the damming of Greers Ferry Dam. Following the dam's creation, the cascade area became home to naturally reproducing populations of brook and rainbow trout, which are not stocked by artificial means. More than 40,000 gallons of water are pumped into Collins Creek each hour from the nearby dam, restoring the Collins Creek Cascade to its natural habitat. Visitors can enjoy excellent conditions for fishing throughout the year and hike through lovely natural scenery on hot Arkansas summer days, underneath a lovely tree canopy that keeps the area cool year-round.
100-298 Hatchery Rd, Heber Springs, AK, 72543
4.Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a lovely art museum located on 120 acres within Bentonville's beautiful Ozark forest, opened to the public in 2011 by Alice Walton. The museum, which was designed by architect Moshe Safdie, is known for its world-class American art collection, which spans from the country's Colonial period to the modern day. All works featured were created by United States artists, including Normal Rockwell, Romare Bearden, Winslow Homer, Jackson Pollock, and Jasper Johns. Notable works on display include a portrait of United States President George Washington crafted by artist Charles Willson Peale and paintings by Richard Caton Woodville and Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait that were showcased in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life. Visitors can peruse the museum and its lovely grounds for free throughout the year and view additional artwork on display throughout its campus on a network of outdoor sculpture trails, which are home to works by artists such as Mark di Suvero, Vanessa German, and Roxy Paine.
600 Museum Way, Bentonville, AR 72712, Phone: 479-418-5700
Curran Hall is an historic home that was originally constructed in 1842 by Colonel Ebenezer Walters as a gift for his wife, Mary Eliza Starbuck. The home, which served as the residence for a number of prominent Little Rock families over the past century and a half, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976. In 1996, the home was acquired by the City of Little Rock and converted into a living history museum and information center in 2002. Today, its Greek Revival-style architecture has been fully restored to its historic splendor, showcasing an interior that has largely been unaltered since its construction, one of only a few houses from its era to retain its historic character. Visitors can explore the home's lovely landscaped gardens, which are maintained by the Pulaski County Master Gardeners, and learn about attractions and amenities throughout the Natural State from knowledgeable museum staff.
615 E Capitol Ave, Little Rock, AR 72202, Phone: 501-371-0076
6.Devil's Den State Park
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Devil's Den State Park is a beautiful state park in northwest Arkansas near the city of West Fork, located within the gorgeous panoramas of the Ozark Mountains. The park's major structures were constructed beginning in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, adding an eight-acre manmade lake reservoir, a swimming pool, picnic pavilions, and rental cabins to the beautiful Lee Creek Valley region. A visitor center serves as a trailhead for a wide variety of nature trails open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. More than 64 miles of trails include systems like the seven-mile Gorley King Trail, the 15-mile Butterfield Hiking Trail, and the 1.5-mile Devil's Den Self-Guided Trail, a designated National Recreation Trail that passes several of the park's most notable natural wonders. Full-service cabins and primitive campsites are located along Lee Creek, some offering fully-equipped kitchens and stone fireplaces.
11333 AR-74, West Fork, AR 72774, Phone: 479-761-3325
7.Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library
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Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library is a 30,000-square-foot library facility in Little Rock named in honor of First Lady of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was noted for her work with children and families throughout her time as First Lady of Arkansas. The library, which is set on a beautiful six-acre campus, was constructed following funding approval from Little Rock citizens in 2007. Today, it is home to a library and learning center facility that showcases a collection of more than 21,000 books and multimedia items, along with a full-service computer lab, community room, and ample individual and group study and activity areas. A full-service teaching kitchen serves as an educational facility for school groups and workshops, while a 165-seat theater offers both live performances and opportunities for interactive play for young visitors. Outside, walking paths showcase information on native trees and plants.
4800 W 10th St, Little Rock, AR 72204, Phone: 501-978-3870
8.Moro Bay State Park
Moro Bay State Park is a popular natural getaway in the city of Jersey, located at the confluence of Moro Bay and Raymond Lake where they join the lovely Ouachita River. The park is a popular fishing site year-round on its picturesque waters, home to a full-service marina with boat and slip rentals. Charming nature trails include the quarter-mile Deer Run Trail, which showcases unusual Mayhaw tree growth, and the quarte-rmile Low Water Trail, offering opportunities to view some of the state's largest trees on the banks of the Ouachita River. Day-use picnic sites are offered for visitor use, along with a children's playground and community pavilions. An historic tugboat and barge are preserved at the park's Moro Bay Ferry exhibit. 20 overnight campsites are available for rental, along with five fully-equipped cabins overlooking the bay area.
6071 Hwy. 600, Jersey, AR 71651, Phone: 870-463-8555
9.Petit Jean State Park
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Petit Jean State Park is a lovely 3,471-acre public park in Conway County, overseen by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. The park is located atop beautiful Petit Jean Mountain, named for an 18th-century French explorer who disguised herself as a male to board a westward expedition. It spans an area between the Ouachita Mountains and Ozark Plateaus along the banks of the Arkansas River, showcasing rustic architecture constructed the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Historic structures include the 24-room Mather Lodge, which has been converted to offer a restaurant, meeting rooms, and a gift shop today. A boathouse flanks Lake Bailey, offering year-round boat rentals and fishing supplies. Other amenities include a public swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts, and day-use picnic sites.
1285 Petit Jean Mountain Road, Morrilton, AR 72110, Phone: 501-727-5441
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10.Pinnacle Mountain State Park
Pinnacle Mountain State Park is a charming 2.356-acre state park in Pulaski County, located just outside the city limits of state capital Little Rock. The park is anchored around the iconic landmark mountain of the same name, which is surrounded by the lovely bottomlands of the nearby Big and Little Maumelle Rivers. It was opened to the public in 1973, though its lands had long been a popular hiking and rock climbing site since the construction of area railroads in the 1890s. Today, it offers a variety of outdoor adventure opportunities, including a massive network of 15 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails of varying skill levels. Visitors can hike to the summit of the mountain via two trails, including the West Summit Trail, one of Arkansas' most-trafficked public hiking trails. The three-quarter-mile Arkansas Trail also offers access to the beautiful 71-acre Arkansas Arboretum, which exhibits displays of native flora.
11901 Pinnacle Valley Road, Little Rock, AR 72223, Phone: 501-868-5806
Riverfront Park spans 33 acres throughout Little Rock's lovely downtown district, stretching for 11 blocks on the southern banks of the Arkansas River. The park is home to gorgeous Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, which replaces the city's historic 1899 Rock Island Railroad Bridge and connects to the nearby 14.2-mile Arkansas River Trail. Other pedestrian and bicycle bridges include the Junction Railroad Bridge, which connects to the city's River Market pavilion. The Riverfront Park History Pavilion features exhibits depicting the area's landscape during its early exploration and pioneer days, while La Petit Roche Plaza details the history of the city's French Rock, which provided its namesake. Other attractions include charming Peabody Splash Park, which offers children's climbing, play, and spray pad areas, and the First Security Amphitheater, which showcases concerts and special events throughout the year.
400 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock, AR, 72201, Phone: 501-371-4770
12.The Historic Arkansas Museum
© The Historic Arkansas Museum
The Historic Arkansas Museum is Arkansas' official state history museum, located in downtown Little Rock and listed on the National Register of Historic Places within the Arkansas Territorial Restoration Historic District. It was created as part of the Arkansas Territorial Capitol Restoration Commission in 1939 and opened to the public two years later. Today, it is registered as a Smithsonian Affiliate museum, celebrating the state's cultural and material heritage of six galleries of Arkansas-related art and artifacts, including preserved and transportation historic buildings and log structures. Visitors can view four original Little Rock pioneer dwellings preserved as living history structures on the museum's grounds, which can be explored via guided tours from costumed living history actor docents. Other exhibits include an interactive children's gallery and the Giving Voice memorial, which honors 138 enslaved African Americans formerly kept on the museum's site by landowners.
200 E 3rd St, Little Rock, AR 72201, Phone: 501-324-9351
13.The Old State House Museum
© The Old State House Museum
The Old State House Museum, also known as the Arkansas State House, is the eastern United States' oldest surviving capitol building facility, best known as the site of Arkansas' 1861 secession debate and 1868 Constitutional Convention, which established the United States public school system. It served as a capitol building until the construction of the state's current capitol building in 1912. After periods of use as a medical school, office building, and war memorial, the building was designated as a public museum in 1947 by the state's General Assembly. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1997 and is open to the public for free every day, with the exception of major national holidays. Permanent and rotating special exhibits showcase the state's social, cultural, and political history, including the United States presidential campaign and terms of Arkansas governor and state native Bill Clinton.
300 W Markham St, Little Rock, AR 72201, Phone: 501-324-9685
14.The River Market District
The River Market District is the premiere museum and entertainment district in Little Rock, located along the southern shores of the majestic Arkansas River across a 10-block stretch of the city's downtown area. The district, which was mostly desolate and deserted throughout the latter part of the 20th century, was extensively redeveloped and revitalized in the early 1990s and is home today to its namesake market, which has been transformed into the city's main library branch. Lovely Ottenheimer Market Hall showcases year-round indoor vendor stalls selling produce, pantry goods, flowers, and craft items. Other attractions within the district include the Clinton Presidential Library and Heifer International Headquarters, as well as a wide array of boutiques, restaurants, and nightlife destinations.
15.The Arkansas State Capitol Building
The Arkansas State Capitol Building serves as the seat of the Arkansas state government, located atop Capitol Hill within Little Rock's Capitol Mall. The monumental building, which was constructed between 1899 and 1915, replaces the state's first capitol building at the Old State House Museum and is frequently used as a filming stand-in for the United States Capitol in film and television series for its massive dome and architectural resemblance to the nation's capitol. Visitors can enjoy guided tours of the building throughout the week or embark on self-guided tours to explore the building's permanent museum exhibits, which detail the construction history of the building and the state's significant government and civic events. The building's grounds showcase lovely monuments and memorials connected to the state's past and present, including a replica of the Liberty Bell and several war memorials.
500 Woodlane St, Little Rock, AR 72201, Phone: 501-682-3000
16.The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History
The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History is a free-admission public museum showcasing weapons, uniforms, and other artifacts related to the military history of the state of Arkansas. The museum is housed within the Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal, which was constructed between 1840 and 1841 as part of the city's first United States military installation. The fortress, which was constructed to protect the frontier territory from indigenous group warfare, was the site of several pivotal battles between Federal and Confederate troops in the American Civil War. Today, it is preserved within the MacArthur Park Historic District, showcasing exhibits related to the state's military history at home and abroad, including a photo retrospective of the state's involvement in World War II.
503 E 9th St, Little Rock, AR 72202, Phone: 501-376-4602
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© Thorncrown Chapel
Thorncrown Chapel is one of the most-acclaimed examples of 20th-century American architecture, receiving the prestigious 25-Year Award from the American Institute of Architects in 2006. The lovely Prairie School-style chapel, which is located in Eureka Springs, was designed by Jim Reed and meant to evoke the architectural style of iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It was inspired by the famed Gothic design elements of Paris' Sainte Chappelle and was constructed with special attention to the area's natural landscape, developed over the course of several years and completed in 1980. Since its opening, it has attracted more than six million visitors and has been recognized as one of the greatest architectural works in the United States, known for its unique Ozark Gothic architectural design. Visitors can explore the open-air structure as part of guided tours offered throughout the year or attend religious services at the chapel each week for no admission fee.
12968 Highway 62 West, Eureka Springs, AR 72632, Phone: 479-253-7401
18.The Walmart Museum
© The Walmart Museum
The Walmart Museum showcases the history of the modern American retailer, which opened its first store in Newport, Arkansas in 1962 and operates more than 11,000 supermarket retailer stores worldwide today. The company is anchored out of Bentonville today and operates a free-admission museum to demonstrate the company's core values, vision, and growth into a modern icon of capitalism. Exhibits detail the journey of founder Sam Walton from the opening of his first store until his death in 1992, when the chain operated nearly 2,000 stores. Classic Walmart memorabilia is on display, including pieces from the dime-store era of the original Walton's 5&10 store. Visitors can also enjoy retro ice cream treats from the museum's Spark Cafe Soda Fountain or climb aboard Walton's preserved 1979 Ford F150 pickup truck on display.
105 N Main St, Bentonville, AR 72712, Phone: 479-273-1329
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18 Best Free Things to Do in Arkansas
- Big Dam Bridge, Photo: Michelle/stock.adobe.com
- Little Rock Central High School, Photo: mnapoli501/stock.adobe.com
- Collins Creek Cascade and Trout Stream, Photo: Thorin Wolfheart/stock.adobe.com
- Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Photo: guruXOX/stock.adobe.com
- Curran Hall, Photo: stock.adobe.com
- Devil's Den State Park, Photo: Green Heron Photo/stock.adobe.com
- Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library, Photo: Africa Studio/stock.adobe.com
- Moro Bay State Park, Photo: emranashraf/stock.adobe.com
- Petit Jean State Park, Photo: Thorin Wolfheart/stock.adobe.com
- Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Photo: methaphum/stock.adobe.com
- Riverfront Park, Photo: amadeustx/stock.adobe.com
- The Historic Arkansas Museum, Photo: The Historic Arkansas Museum
- The Old State House Museum, Photo: The Old State House Museum
- The River Market District, Photo: lindahughes/stock.adobe.com
- The Arkansas State Capitol Building, Photo: csfotoimages/stock.adobe.com
- The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, Photo: zenobillis/stock.adobe.com
- Thorncrown Chapel, Photo: Thorncrown Chapel
- The Walmart Museum, Photo: The Walmart Museum
- Cover Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com