Arkansas is replete with a moderate climate, lush terrain, mountains, and lakes and rivers required for a vacation in the Great Outdoors. Arkansas is also an affordable destination, with thousands of free events offered throughout the year, including festivals, art exhibitions, and craft fairs in Eureka Springs, Fayetteville and Hot Springs. From concerts in Little Rock, art walks and galleries in the evening to mouthwatering local cuisine and historic buildings, Arkansas has plenty of activities for culture, history, and nature lovers alike. Hours/availability may have changed.
1. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
© Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art celebrates the American spirit in a setting that unites art and nature. Designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, Crystal Bridges consists of galleries, meeting rooms, and a glass-enclosed gathering hall grouped around two ponds. The museum's collection includes representative American work from five centuries, such as major works by Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, and James Turrel. The 120 acres upon which the museum sits offer visitors a unique opportunity to appreciate the local Ozarks landscape, with over 3.5 miles of trails. Crystal Bridges hosts programming for all ages, such as lectures, performances, and continuing education. Things to do in Bentonville
600 Museum Way, Bentonville AR, 72712, Phone: 479-418-5700
2. Thorncrown Chapel
© Thorncrown Chapel
A 48-foot-high wooden chapel that features not only 425 windows but over 6,000 square feet of glass, Rush Thorncrown Chapel is a simply designed structure in a beautiful woodland setting. The chapel has been visited by over six million people since it opened in 1980, and has been the darling of the architectural world, winning numerous prestigious awards. Tour groups can take in a brief presentation about the chapel before exploring both it and its surroundings. The chapel is available for rent for ceremonies and offers unparalleled acoustics in which to hear music on the special day.
12968 Hwy 62 West, Eureka Springs, AR 72632, Phone: 479-253-7401
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3. Garvan Woodland Gardens
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Functioning as the botanical gardens for the University of Arkansas, Garvan Woodland Gardens allows visitors to sample the flora and fauna of the Ouachita Mountains in southwest Arkansas. Located across 4.5 miles of wooded shoreline, the mission of the gardens is to preserve and protect the mountains’ natural environment while providing natural resources that promote learning, research, and culture. Reservations for groups of 20 or more are required by booking 2 weeks in advance. Visitors can also take a self-guided tour through the gardens’ 210 acres, while groups of 10 or more can partake in docent-guided tours. The recommended time to tour the gardens is a minimum of 2.5 hours.
550 Arkridge Road, Hot Springs National Park, AR 71913, Phone: 501-262-9300
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4. Museum of Native American History
© Museum of Native American History
The Museum of Native History tells the history of America’s First Peoples. The museum contains sections devoted the Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian, Pre-Historic and Columbian time periods. With artifacts dating back to more than 14,000 years ago, the museum’s displays include cultural items from its permanent collection, such as tools, weapons, household objects, and arts and crafts, in order to recount Native American history through the millennia. This collection provides a unique opportunity to learn about the existence of America’s First Peoples on the continent long before explorers from the Old World landed on American shores.
202 SW 'O' Street, Bentonville, AR 72712, Phone: 479-273-2456
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5.Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
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Nestled in the Ozarks, TCWR’s 459 acres is home to big cats including tigers, lions, ligers, leopards, cougars, servals, and bobcats as well as bears and four other animal species. Visits begin in the Welcome Center, where visitors learn about TCWR’s mission before embarking on a ½-mile guided walking tour. Tours start at 10:00am daily and run on the hour until one hour before the animals’ feeding time. Tours are guided by a biologist or zoologist intern who discusses each animal while visitors get to view the animal within its natural habitat. Twenty-minute Keeper Talks occur on weekends, and permit Q&As with facility staff.
239 Turpentine Creek Lane, Eureka Springs, AR 72632, Phone: 479-253-5841
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6.Things to Do in Arkansas: Fordyce Bathhouse
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Replete with marble and stained glass, visitors can revel in the opulence that made Fordyce Bathhouse the top bathhouse in the region. In operation as a bathhouse from 1915 to 1962, Fordyce began its new function as the visitor center for Hot Springs National Park in 1989. Watch a 9-minute movie about the bathhouse during its operation, take a self-guided tour of the dressing rooms, men’s massage room, music room, state room, the original elevator, bowling alley, and so on that make up the bathhouse, and peruse the bookstore’s offerings on the history of bathhouses and the national park.
369 Central Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71901, Phone: 501-620-6715
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7. Little Rock Central High School
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Little Rock Central High School was the location of a pivotal moment in the desegregation of American public schools. In 1957, nine African-American students persisted in attending an all-white high school despite being the target of ridicule and hatred. The controversial nature of the nine students’ attendance displayed the entrenched Southern defiance against desegregation. The students were dubbed the Little Rock Nine, while the controversy was termed the Little Rock Crisis. This seminal event is the recounted in guided 1-hour tours, which are available by appointment at 9:00am and 1:00pm on weekdays during the school year.
2120 W Daisy L Gatson Bates Dr., Little Rock, AR 72205, Phone: 501-374-1957
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8.What to Do in Arkansas: The Old Mill
© The Old Mill
Completed in 1933, the Old Mill is a replica of an abandoned 1880s hydro-powered grist mill located in T.R. Pugh Memorial Park. This bit of American history, which is a National Register of Historic Places site, has been featured in Hollywood movies, including the classic Gone with the Wind, and contains sculptures by Mexican-born naturalistic artist Dionicio Rodriguez. Rodriguez also worked on the details that makes each piece of concrete represent wood, iron or stone. The mill contains many historical artifacts, including the grist mill itself. Thirty-minute guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more on a reservation basis.
3800 Lakeshore Dr., North Little Rock, AR 72116, Phone: 501-758-1424
9. Fort Smith National Historic Site
© NPS Photo
Fort Smith National Historic Site contains exhibits that covers the fort’s history from its establishment in 1817 to 1896, when its jurisdiction over the territory ended. The exhibits speak of a life on the edge of the territory from the perspective of soldiers and lawman, as well as from the Cherokee perspective of the Trail of Tears. The site contains jails, the judge’s courtroom, a storehouse, barracks, gallows, and a book store. Exhibits focus on deputy marshals, the military, outlaws, and the Trail of Tears. Visitors can participate in programming led by rangers, including a walking tour of the building and grounds. Children can obtain junior ranger badges using educational workbooks.
301 Parker Ave, Fort Smith, AR 72901, Phone: 479-783-3961
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10.What to do in Arkansas: TheatreSquared
TheatreSquared entertains approximately 40,000 guests annually and is the only professional theater in Northwest Arkansas offering 220 productions throughout the year. Located in a 175-seat space at Walton Arts Center’s Nadine Baum Studios, TheatreSquared patrons include students through school programming in order to allow youth exposure to arts-based learning. TheatreSquared was recognized in 2011 as a top ten emerging American theatre group. Home to professional playwrights, TheatreSquared produces newly developed scripts that are performed in world premieres by the troupe as well as at the Arkansas New Play Festival. Due to its dedication to making professional theater available to all, TheatreSquared operates access programs to provide tickets for as little as $5 each at every performance.
477 W Spring St, Fayetteville, AR 72701, 479-445-6333
11.William J Clinton Library and Museum
© William J Clinton Library and Museum
The William J. Clinton Library and Museum is the presidential library of 42nd president Bill Clinton. Located in Little Rock on 17 acres beside the Arkansas river, the 68,698-square-foot library and its archives are currently the largest of the 13 presidential libraries. The museum includes artifacts from Clinton’s time in office, such as his Cadillac One and saxophone, as well as to-scale replicas of his Oval Office and Cabinet Room. An eight-panel timeline in the main gallery covers his presidency, along with displaying state gifts and other items, while 14 alcoves focus on specific events. The museum also houses an orientation theater. The archives contain several million photographs, documents, and emails as well as additional artifacts.
1200 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock, AR 72201, Phone: 501-374-4242
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12.Things to Do in Arkansas: Hot Springs Mountain Tower
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Hot Springs Mountain Tower is a 216-foot-high observation tower on High Springs Mountain. Constructed from lattice steel, the structure is the third built on the mountain and was opened to the public in 1983. Visitors can take in a panoramic 140-mile view of Hot Springs National Park, the Ouachita Mountains, the Diamond Lake region, and other natural landmarks. A gift shop is located at ground level, as is a grab-and-go food area where visitors can buy snacks and sandwiches. The tower is open all year round starting at 9:00am; closing time varies from 5:00pm during the November to February off-season, to between 6:30pm and 9:00pm March through November.
401 Hot Springs Mountain Dr., Hot Springs, AR 71901, Phone: 501-881-4020
13. Things to Do in Arkansas: The Walmart Museum
© The Walmart Museum
The Walmart Museum opened in 1990 as the Walmart Visitor Center. The museum’s mission is to educate visitors about Walmart in an engaging, inspiring manner, and to serve the community. The museum includes a fully functional 5&10 shop, a gallery, and a café with a soda fountain. Walton’s 5&10 is where Walmart began, while the interactive exhibits in the gallery provide a look at the company’s history. Visitors can even watch a video of founder Sam Walton doing the hula hoop. The Spark Café Soda Fountain is a true small-town soda fountain shop, with ‘50s music and soda jerks, and recalls Sam’s love of ice cream. Museum tours are typically self-guided, but group guided tours are available with advance notice.
105 N. Main Street, Bentonville, AR 72712, Phone: 479-273-1329
14.Arkansas Attractions: Old State House Museum
© Old State House Museum
The Old State House Museum is housed in the Old State House of Arkansas and commemorates the house’s history, including its role as the location of such historic events as Arkansas being admitted to the Union and its joining Confederation. The Old State House remained in operation as a government building until 1911, when construction on the current State House was completed. Visitors can view the museum’s permanent and circulating exhibits either through a self-guided tour assisted with a tour map or cell phone guide or through an hourly guided tour. Hourly tours are offered on the hour during museum hours and last 50 minutes.
300 W. Markham, Little Rock, AR 72201, Phone: 501-324-9685
15. President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home
© NPS Photo
The President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home is a National Historic Site dedicated to conserving the birthplace of America’s 42nd president. The home is where William Jefferson Blythe III spent the first four years of his life with his mother and maternal grandparents. Clinton continued to visit his grandparents at the home until 1956, when his grandfather passed, and attests to the many life lessons that he learned while living in the home. The visitors center presents exhibits about the president’s early life, including photos and videos, and guided tours are available.
117 South Hervey St., Hope, AR 71801, Phone: 870-777-4455
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16. Arkansas Attractions: Clinton House Museum
© Clinton House Museum
The Clinton House Museum is dedicated to preserving an early period in 42nd President Bill Clinton’s career. A one-bedroom, 1,800-square-foot house nestled in the Ozark Mountains, this was the first home shared by Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham. Clinton and Rodham got married in the house’s living room, and the museum contains memorabilia from Clinton’s early campaigns, including some of his first political speeches and television ads as well as personal items such as Rodham’s wedding dress. A timeline of the couple’s time in Fayetteville provides additional context. The house is available for private events, including meetings and weddings, and tours are available. Closed on Wednesdays.
930 West Clinton Drive, Fayetteville, AR 72701
17.What to do: Arkansas Governor's Mansion
© Arkansas Governor's Mansion
The Arkansas Governor’s Mansion is located on 8.5 acres in the historic quarter of Little Rock. The mansion has been the location of First Family celebrations and dinners since January 10, 1950. Forty-five governors have lived in the mansion, and every aspect of the mansion and its grounds speak of their time here. Mansion tours are available by reservation. Tours allow visitors to view the mansion’s formal living room, state dining room, library, grand foyer, atrium, lower atrium, and grand hall and admire the artwork and furnishings on display, such as customized china with the state seal.
1800 Center Street, Little Rock, Arkansas, Phone: 501-324-9805
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18.Magic Springs Water and Theme Park
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Magic Springs Water and Theme Park has been rated one of the top three family amusement parks by Better Homes and Housekeeping. The amusement park has five roller coasters, five thrill rides, four family rides, and eight children’s rides. The water park area (Crystal Falls) includes a children’s area and splash zone, four thrill rides including boogie boarding and slides as well as eight family attractions. Cabana rentals are available at additional cost. The Timberwood Amphitheater is home to concerts every Saturday during the season, and the park hosts annual events throughout the year. The park opens weekends from April through October and daily from late May through mid-August.
1701 E. Grand Ave., Hot Springs, AR 71901, Phone: 501-624-0100
19.Arkansas points of interest: South Arkansas Arboretum
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South Arkansas Arboretum is a 12-acre site featuring native and rare West Gulf Coastal Plain flora and fauna. The arboretum is dedicated to preserving the region’s natural beauty for educational purposes, and the site serves that purpose for students of all age groups as well as the public. The arboretum includes an active use area that is popular with walkers and joggers, a transitional zone where the natural area with ponds and a creek begin, and a butterfly garden that is in bloom from May through August. The arboretum has paved walking trails with signage, as well as restrooms and parking. A pavilion and gazebo are available for rent, and the arboretum can be scheduled for private events.
Mt Holly Rd, El Dorado, AR 71730, Phone: 870-862-8131
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© Hampson Museum
The Hampson Museum features exhibits that interpret the farming lifestyle of the upper Nodena site, a 15-acre village that existed between 1400 and 1650 AD. The museum’s collection is the result of the excavation and preservation of the Nodena site by James K. Hampson and his family. The collection of archeological artifacts is nationally renowned and gives a glimpse into this Late Mississippian civilization, including its religion, trading network, and art and crafts. Half-hour guided tours are available at 10:00am and 2:00pm, although drop-ins are typically accommodated. The museum also hosts special programming and operates a gift shop.
33 Park St, Wilson, AR 72395, Phone: 870-655-8622
21. Arkansas points of interest: Compton Gardens
© Compton Gardens
Compton Gardens is a 6.5-acre woodland garden that includes native flora and fauna. The gardens are located at the home of Dr. Neil Campton, who was devoted to protecting the region’s biodiversity. The gardens’ ½-mile system of trails are meant to operate as a free green space and function as an access point to the Crystal Bridges Trail. Each plant in the gardens is carefully marked for educational purposes and the collection includes two Arkansas Champion trees. The gardens also operate as a private and non-profit event venue and hosts several events throughout the year. Open daily from dawn to dusk.
312 N. Main St., Bentonville, AR 72712, Phone: 479-254-3870
22. Things to Do in Arkansas: Castle Rogue's Manor
© Castle Rogue's Manor
Castle Rogue's Manor is perched over Tablerock Lake and covers 20 acres in the Ozark forest. Along with enjoying its panoramic views, visitors can participate in a private guided tour of the manor (by appointment only). As an example of the craftsmanship and majesty that define the manor, the medieval fireplace was constructed from 7,000 pounds of stone and includes bronze fire-breathing dragons. After being featured on HGTV’s Home Strange Home in 2007, the manor has operated primarily as a premiere event and wedding venue. Event packages include indoor seating and catering for up to 120 guests, exquisite place settings (china, glassware, and silverware), and a dedicated entertainment stage.
Arkansas 187, Beaver, Arkansas, Phone: 479-981-6816
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23. Fun Things to Do in Arkansas: Rush Historic District (Rush Ghost Town)
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The Rush Historic District preserves a 1,300-acre zinc mining town that operated from the mid-1880s to the mid-1930s. Entered onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, Rush is deemed significant to the history of mining in the region. The district is referred to as a Gold Rush ghost town and includes (steep) hiking trails with educational exhibits and signage. Viewing the site by driving is also an option. While entry to the district’s three mines is strictly prohibited, visitors can peruse the Taylor-Medley Store, livery barn site, smelter, blacksmith shop, mine level, processing mill, tailings, Hicks store, Boiling Springs, New Town, 1960s mining exhibit, and Ore Wagon Road.
Buffalo National River, Yellville, AR 72687, Phone: 870-741-5443
24. Arkansas Air Museum
© Arkansas Air Museum
The Arkansas Air Museum features static exhibits of aviation artifacts and memorabilia in an authentic 1943 aircraft hangar. The museum features two aircraft that are still in operation as well as vintage aircraft like pre-World War II racing planes. Other notable items in the collection include 15 military vehicles, twelve static aircraft. and relics like a Civil War tent stove, home front WWII items, and German WWII weapons. Certain aircraft in the museum are the only existing American plane of a given model, while others are replicas of famous pieces. Cutaway engine displays allow visitors to see the aircraft’s inner workings.
4290 South School Avenue, Fayetteville, AR 72701, Phone: 479-521-4947
25. Arkansas Attractions: Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center
© Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center
The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center is a converted barn that served as a studio for Ernest Hemingway at the family home of his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. The studio was where Hemingway wrote several short stories and parts of A Farewell to Arms. The museum and educational center focuses on educating the world about Arkansas life in the 1920s and 1930s, including literature, world events, family relationships, and the New Deal era development of Northeast Arkansas. The museum operates a museum store, which sells articles related to Hemingway and Arkansas during the 1920s and 1930s.
1021 West Cherry Street, Piggott, Arkansas 72454, Phone: 870-598-3487
25 Best Things to Do in Arkansas
- Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Photo: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
- Thorncrown Chapel, Photo: Thorncrown Chapel
- Garvan Woodland Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of Mike - Fotolia.com
- Museum of Native American History, Photo: Museum of Native American History
- Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Courtesy of Pierre - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Arkansas: Fordyce Bathhouse, Photo: Courtesy of Aleksandr Matveev - Fotolia.com
- Little Rock Central High School, Photo: Courtesy of m napoli 501 - Fotolia.com
- What to Do in Arkansas: The Old Mill, Photo: The Old Mill
- Fort Smith National Historic Site, Photo: NPS Photo
- What to do in Arkansas: TheatreSquared, Photo: TheatreSquared
- William J Clinton Library and Museum, Photo: William J Clinton Library and Museum
- Things to Do in Arkansas: Hot Springs Mountain Tower, Photo: Courtesy of Bram - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Arkansas: The Walmart Museum, Photo: The Walmart Museum
- Arkansas Attractions: Old State House Museum, Photo: Old State House Museum
- President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home, Photo: NPS Photo
- Arkansas Attractions: Clinton House Museum, Photo: Clinton House Museum
- What to do: Arkansas Governor's Mansion, Photo: Arkansas Governor's Mansion
- Magic Springs Water and Theme Park, Photo: Courtesy of Jasmin Merdan - Fotolia.com
- Arkansas points of interest: South Arkansas Arboretum, Photo: Courtesy of imagenavi - Fotolia.com
- Hampson Museum, Photo: Hampson Museum
- Arkansas points of interest: Compton Gardens, Photo: Compton Gardens
- Things to Do in Arkansas: Castle Rogue's Manor, Photo: Castle Rogue's Manor
- Fun Things to Do in Arkansas: Rush Historic District (Rush Ghost Town), Photo: Courtesy of Craig Hanson - Fotolia.com
- Arkansas Air Museum, Photo: Arkansas Air Museum
- Arkansas Attractions: Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center, Photo: Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
Located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge aims to provide refuge for all abandoned, neglected, and abused big cats. Visitors can see a large variety of large cats who have been rescued and now call the wildlife refuge a home, specifically tigers, leopards, lions, and cougars. These majestic creatures are sure to delight visitors of all ages as they learn about their habits, personalities, and heart-breaking yet uplifting stories.
The Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was recognized by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries in 2015 but it took years of tireless work to get there. It all started back in 1978 when the Jackson family rescued their first large cat – an 8-month-old lion named Bum.
The lion cub was abandoned in a hotel parking lot in Little Rock, Arkansas and the Jackson family intervened to help care for the cub. At this time, the founder of the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, Tayna Jackson, was merely 11 years old and she remembers the event as one of the most exciting of her life.
In the early 1980’s, the Jackson family recued a second lion. This was maintainable for the time being, however, they reached a turning point in 1991 when a notorious black-market dealer was caught and law enforcement removed 42 big cats from her possession.
Suddenly, the Jackson family was responsible for 44 big cats and their backyard was not going to accommodate such a large number of cats. The Jackson family decided it was time to move the 44 big cats, the 70 small cats and their 30 horses to a 460-acre ranch in Eureka Springs.
Tayna and her family spent countless hours moving these animals, building their enclosures, tending to their health issues, and finding enough food to feed more than 100 wild animals. Finally, in 2015, the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was nationally recognized and began to receive unbelievable support and funding from the community.
Currently, Turpentine Creek is one of the top animal sanctuaries in the United States. There are a large variety of cats who reside at the refuge and all kinds of tours and programs to entertain and educate visitors. Everything from lions, tigers, cougars, leopards, and bobcats call the TCWR home and love to interact with visitors.
There are even accommodations on site to ensure that visitors get the most out of their visit to the TCWR. There are safari themed lodges, luxury suites, RV and tent spaces and the tree house bungalow. Guests are sure to find a cozy place to stay and prolong their entertainment.
Programs and Education:
There are variety of educational programs and specialized tours at the Turpentine Wildlife Refuge. The owners believe that this is one of the most important things they can provide to visitors of all ages. Spreading awareness about the dangers of the exotic pet trade and telling the stories of these poor animals is invaluable to the preservation of wildlife.
The refuge is open year-round and offers zoo keeper talks and special group tours as well. Visitors can watch and interact with a variety of big cats while learning about their rescue stories, habits, and natural habitats. There are tons of fun animal facts to learn for visitors of all ages!
There are all kinds of family-friendly events hosted year-round at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, some highlights include the following:
Howl-O-Ween Spooktacular: This annual Halloween-themed fundraising event allows visitors to witness the big cats after dark! Guests will enjoy a variety of activities and special spooky themed tours while the refuge raises money for their programs.
Bam Bam Day: This annual event is fun for the entire family and invites visitors to celebrate Bam Bam and the TCWR. Guests can show their support and help the festivities kick off!
#GivingTuesday: This event is hosted online and asks for donations from giving members of the community to help fund the TCWR as a non-profit. The whole day will be filled with interactive and fun online-based events to make the giving more exciting.
For more information about upcoming events, visit the calendar of events on the wildlife refuge’s website.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, 239 Turpentine Creek Lane, Eureka Springs, AR 72632, Phone: 479-253-5841
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Attraction Spotlight: Little Rock Central High School
Located in Little Rock, Arkansas, Little Rock Central High School is a notable site of the American Civil Rights Movement, serving as a focal point of mandated school desegregation with the integration of nine African-American students in 1957. Though the school still operates as an accredited Arkansas state public high school, the site’s historic significance is commemorated as part of a National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service, offering tours and multimedia exhibits.
The high school’s origins come out of the Sherman School, established in 1869, which operated out of a small wooden structure on the corner of the city’s Sherman and 8th Streets. The school was renamed the Scott Street School as the result of a facility move in 1885, although it was commonly referred to as City High School during this period. The school was combined with the nearby Peabody School in 1905, moving to a new facility at the corner of 14th and Cumberland Streets. The combined school, named Little Rock Senior High School, renamed to Little Rock Central High School in 1953, was intended to serve as the city’s only public high school.
The current school building was constructed in 1927, modeled after the Gothic Revival architectural style. At a final budget of $1.5 million in construction expenses, the school was billed as the nation’s largest and most elaborate high school building, with its opening drawing national attention. At the time of its opening, the school only served white students, but the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s fostered increased public concern over the issue of segregation in the public school system. The culmination of the debate was the landmark Brown v. Board Supreme Court case of 1954, which declared segregation unconstitutional and mandated the integration of public schools throughout the country.
The upholding of the Supreme Court decision facilitated an integration crisis in the city of Little Rock, which culminated in a denial of entrance for nine African-American students at Little Rock Central High School on September 23, 1957. A mob of more than 1,000 protesters met the students at the school’s doors in the morning, resulting in the issuing of United States Army protections to escort the students to school the next morning. The escorting event was the first major test for the Supreme Court decision’s implementation and resulted in a delay of full integration for the state until the start of the 1960 school year.
In 1977, the school was added to the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the American Civil Rights Movement. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982, and in 1992, an adjacent facility was established as a National Historic Site, under the operation of the National Park Service.
Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
Today, a Visitor Center, opened in fall of 2006, operates across the street from the high school, serving as the main site for the Historic Site park. Open daily throughout the year, the Center offers a range of multimedia exhibits contextualizing the events of the Civil Rights Movement that led to the desegregation mandate, and a short interpretive film is shown periodically, chronicling the events of the Little Rock Integration Crisis. Nearby, the Central High Commemorative Garden memorial, designed by Michael Warrick, showcases nine trees and benches to honor the Little Rock Nine, and features archways with embedded photographs of integrated students participating in school activities. Across the street, a Mobil gas station, formerly used as a site for news reporters and later as a makeshift visitor center, remains preserved in its condition at the time of the integration.
Ongoing Programs and Events
Guided tours of the high school are offered twice daily on most days aside from holidays, school breaks, and student body special event days. Tours embark from the Visitor Center facility and cover school facilities and grounds as daily student body activities allow. An elevator within the school provides handicap access for tour participants with disabilities. As the school is an operating public education facility, tours are provided by reservation only and must be made at least 24 hours in advance, although scheduling of at least two weeks in advance is recommended. Field trip opportunities are also available for school groups, incorporating history and social studies curriculum.
Periodic events are held at the high school in commemoration of its role in the Civil Rights Movement, including lectures, workshops, and public talks regarding diversity topics. Cultural events, including concerts highlighting African-American music styles and film screenings pertaining to the Civil Rights Movement, are also hosted at the school’s auditorium. A yearly Civil Rights Educator Institute professional development program is offered, bringing together educators and cultural activists for discussion of diversity issues facing modern public schools.
2120 W. Daisy Gatson Bates Drive, Little Rock, AR 72202, Phone: 501-374-1957
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Attraction Spotlight: Scott Family Amazeum
The Scott Family Amazeum, found in Bentonville, Arkansas, is a fun and child focused learning experience meant to be as hands-on as possible. Children and their families should plan to spend the entire day exploring all this children’s museum has to offer.
Coming in at just over 50,000 square feet of interactive experiences, the Amazeum opened to the public in July of 2015. The museum was designed specifically to cater to children from age four to age nine, but all the experiences can be enjoyed by older elementary school students and even junior high school kids. There is even an additional acre of outdoor space for children to enjoy. The Amazeum crossed the threshold of welcoming its 200,000 visitor in 2016 and is always seeking to expand both in space and in additional learning experiences.
The Amazeum is chock full of interactive exhibits for children.
- Tinkering Hub: Sponsored by 3M, the Tinkering Hub was created for children to have active engagement with engineering, technology, science, mathematics, and art. Focusing on STEAM, the creative workshops allow children to actively learn about the subjects while also being creative and using their imaginations.
- Hershey’s Lab: Is there a more fun way to learn about science than experimenting with candy? The experiments are guided by the child and the six available options rotate on a weekly basis so that there is always something new and different to do. Entrance does need a special ticket in addition to admission to the Amazeum. Not all experiments will include chocolate.
-The Market: Sponsored by Walmart, the Market was designed to look like an average neighborhood marketplace. Children can shop for ingredients, learn about how vegetables grow, order from the cafe, design a flower arrangement… the options are endlessly fun.
? Art studio: Often one of the most talked about parts of the Amazeum is the glass painting art wall, found in the art studio. There are also art options to create with crayons and markers, clay, cardboard, paper, and other art media. There are also different display cases and frames around the studio so that children can display their work for all to see.
-Canopy Climber: This indoor climber, made to look like the top of a canopy, allows brave children to climb far above the museum in a safe way. Allowing for unique views of the museum, the canopy climber is fun and adrenaline pumping.
- Lift, Load, and Haul: Sponsored by General Mills, this area is meant to help children work together and cooperate. Designed like a distribution center, only scaled down for child-sized visitors, children can move, ferry, lift, transport and convey objects through a complete series of tubes, conveyors, and chutes.
- Cloud Theater: One of the quieter places in the Amazeum, the Cloud Theater is a place for reflecting and dreaming, with pillows on the floor, a video installation of clouds, and calming music.
In addition, the Amazeum also offers other exhibits and attractions like the Water Amazements exhibit, the cabin and farm, the cave, the play lab, Emerging Explorers, nature, and weather, and the outdoor playscape.
The Amazeum offers a vast variety of special events, catered to interactive child-led learning.
Monthly, there are Community Spotlight events where the Amazeum brings in different community groups to share their specific skills and knowledge. Community groups can apply by contacting the staff at the museum.
A favorite event at the Amazeum is the “On the Rocks” night, which allows adult guests 21 and over to have time at the museum without children. Each night has a theme with different facilitated evenings and these events make for perfect date nights.
An annual fundraiser held at the museum is the UnGala - a fundraiser like no other. The Amazeum tries hard to celebrate everyone who makes it possible for it to continue to run and educate children every single day.
There are also other events held at the Amazeum, like the Tinkerfest, Zinging in the New Year, and multiple member only events. Check out the website for additional information.
Dining and Shopping
For guests who get hungry while visiting the Amazeum, there is the Zing Cafe. Located in The Market exhibit portion, the menu is full of fresh snacks, sandwiches, salads, and other sides meant to soothe even the hungriest guest, so they can spend more time enjoying the building. Guests can also bring their own food, as well. If visitors would like to commemorate their visit with a souvenir, the Curiosity Corner Store offers a wide variety of toys and other child centered merchandise.
Scott Family Amazeum, 1009 Museum Way, Bentonville, AR, 72712, Phone: 479-696-9280
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