Arkansas’s Affordable Spring Break Ideas
By Jill M. Rohrbach, Ark. Dept. of Parks and Tourism
First posted on 03-03-2011
Buffalo National River – Spring and early summer are the prime times to float the Buffalo National River, although the lower section can be floated year-round. The first stream to receive the designation (1972), the Buffalo flows roughly 150 miles and includes nearly 95,000 acres of public land along its corridor. The river descends nearly 2,000 feet through layers of sandstone, limestone and chert. Hidden away, ready for discovery, are other geologic marvels, springs, caves, waterfalls, natural bridges and box-like canyons, where trails are abundant. Numerous outfitters (for canoeing, rafting, horseback riding and fishing) service the river, and there are several campgrounds, cabins, motels and other lodging options nearby. For more information visit http://www.arkansas.com/outdoors/canoeing-rafting-kayaking/ or phone 870-741-5443.
Arkansas North by Northwest – A glittering gem of northwest Arkansas, Beaver Lake’s 28,000 acres of clear water attract thousands of water sport lovers, fishermen, hikers and birdwatchers. The lake is surrounded by forests, tall bluffs and meadows crisscrossed by hiking trails. Campgrounds, resorts, marinas, outfitters, restaurants and shops serve the lake area, which is located in the Ozark Highlands near Rogers, Eureka Springs, Springdale and Fayetteville. Trout fishing on the White River is popular below Beaver Dam. Rogers has a variety of retail stores in its historic downtown district that covers eight square blocks. Brick-paved streets lead to old-fashioned storefronts filled with unique furniture, antiques and gifts, to cafes, and to the Daisy International Air Museum and the Rogers Historical Museum. Springdale is the place to catch a ride on the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad in a beautifully restored turn-of-the-century passenger car. Its downtown is also home to the Shiloh Museum, which offers Ozark history and buildings dating back to the 1850s. The Fayetteville square is known for its colorful gardens, unique shops, and Farmer’s Market that runs three days a week beginning in spring. Just blocks away, Dickson Street is the hip place for shopping, dining locales and tons of live music venues. Completing the scene are symphony concerts and dance and theatrical performances at the Walton Arts Center. For more information on Rogers visit http://www.rogerslowell.com or phone 479-636-1240. For more information on Springdale visit http://www.springdale.com or phone 479-872-2222. For more information on Fayetteville visit http://www.experiencefayetteville.com or phone 800-766-4626.
Eureka Springs – Haunted hotels, great food, unique shops, natural springs and homes built on the sides of rock cliffs make up this picturesque town. Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, Eureka Springs’ entire downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s packed with attractions such as gardens, caves, an exotic wildlife ranch, live music, and train excursion rides. Unique boutiques offer everything under the sun – antiques, fine art, contemporary and vintage clothing, handmade crafts, fine art and more. A portion of history is uniquely preserved through ghost tours at the Crescent Hotel and Basin Park Hotel, two of the historic hotels. Eureka Springs has been named one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information visit http://www.eurekasprings.org or phone 1-800-6EUREKA.
Mount Magazine State Park – Near Paris, the highest point in Arkansas rises from the Arkansas River Valley to an elevation of 2,753 feet. It offers hang gliding, rappelling, rock climbing, horseback riding, camping and hiking. The mountain’s main road has bicycle lanes, and from its eight scenic overlooks visitors can see hundreds of miles of beautiful forested lands and mountains. It is also known for its outstanding butterfly population. A visitor center has an exhibit gallery and gift shop. Thirteen cabins, a 60-room lodge with restaurant and conference center, plus an indoor swimming pool, exercise room, and gift shop make it a perfect place to take a break. Nearby, Blue Mountain Lake offers more camping and outdoor recreation. Mount Magazine Scenic Byway leads travelers across the top of Mount Magazine and past the Cove Lake Recreation Area and the Cove Lake Trail. For more information visit http://www.MountMagazineStatePark.com or phone 479-963-8502.
Blanchard Springs Caverns – Ranked among the most beautiful underground discoveries of the 20th Century, Blanchard Springs Caverns is located deep in the Ozark National Forest, 15 miles north of Mountain View. It is the only developed cave system operated by the U.S. Forest Service and is open throughout the year. Lighted walkways lead to stunning limestone formations and massive rooms, one as long as six football fields. For the more adventurous, Blanchard Springs also offers guided hikes into undeveloped reaches of the federally protected underground system. Helmets, lights, gloves and kneepads are provided for the four-hour tour. Reservations are required for the Wild Cave Adventure. (Reservations are recommended, but not required, for normal cave tours.) Blanchard Springs Recreational Use Area provides scenic campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails, a massive natural spring and a trout-stocked lake. Located off Ark. 14 near the town of Fifty-Six. For more information visit http://www.BlanchardCaveTours.com or phone 1 (888) 757-2246.
White River and Bull Shoals Lake – Another favorite family destination, Bull Shoals has almost 1,000 miles of rugged shoreline. People come to fish, scuba dive, houseboat, water ski, camp, hike and relax. Camping and picnic facilities can be found around the lake. Fishing on Bull Shoals is excellent all year with peak action in March, April and May. Internationally famous for its beauty and great fishing, the White River flows through the Ozark Mountains and across the Delta (over 700 miles) before joining the Mississippi River. Trout fishing below the dam, which is the fifth largest concrete dam in the U.S., is a major draw. Resorts and full-service marinas are available as are many accommodations and guide services. For more information visit http://www.ArkansasStateParks.com or phone the Corps of Engineers at 870-425-2700 or the State Park at 870-431-5521.
Buffalo River Canopy Tour – This guided zip line canopy tour let’s you experience the flora and fauna that is unique to the Ozark Mountain hardwood forest. The tour is a system of cables and platforms, wherein the participant “glides” or “zips” through the treetops while connected to the cable via a harness. A large wooden platform serves as a landing base in each tree that you “zip to.” The canopy tour facility was built in accordance with Association of Challenge Course Technology recommended guidelines. The tour takes approximately three hours. The total length of the course is the equivalent of about 7.3 football fields, or 2,200 feet long. It consists of seven zips. The elevation ranges from 40 to 60 feet above the ground. Reservations are required. Group discounts and private group tours are available. The tour is located at the Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca. For more information call 800-221-5514 or visit http://www.buffaloriver.com
Loco Ropes at Ozark Folk Center State Park – Loco Ropes is a multi-faceted treetop adventure with 30-plus challenges on a high wire zip line course. This family-friendly attraction excites adrenaline junkies and outdoor enthusiasts, alike. Participants swing, zip, and leap from tree to tree. Adventurers will remain safely connected to a cable wire using cutting edge technology. For those looking for an introduction into their adrenaline fueled world, they can try the Flying Pig – Loco Ropes’ dual 300-foot zip lines, named after the historic locomotive. Loco Ropes is located off Ark. 5, 9 and 14 at the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View. Call 888-669-6717 or visit http://www.locoropes.com for more information. Cabin reservations can be made at http://www.ozarkfolkcenter.com
The Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival – Lasting from March 20-26 in Hot Springs, this multi-day festival takes place in various venues around town each night. The event attracts bands from around the world and organizers are saying it’s becoming a pit stop for those making the trek to or from the South by Southwest festival in Austin, TX. For more information visit http://www.valleyofthevapors.com
Hot Springs – The First Ever Eighth Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place on March 17 in Hot Springs. The parade is held annually on Bridge Street and includes floats, dancers, belly dancers, the Irish Order of Elvi, Irish Wolfhounds and more. The celebrity grand marshal is John Corbett. Hot Springs, the boyhood home of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, also hosts a national park, a Thoroughbred racetrack, a 210-acre botanical garden, and a thriving arts community. Fishing, water-skiing, sailing, boating, and scuba diving are popular lake activities. Three area lakes – Hamilton, Catherine and Ouachita – accommodate water-based recreation, private resorts and two state parks. Oaklawn Park offers live racing from late January to mid-April and simulcast races during the rest of the year. The Tulip Extravaganza takes place at Garvan Woodland Gardens March 21-April 3. Approximately 100,000 vibrantly hued tulips will line the Flowering Border and Camellia Trail. This lavish floral display is one of the most anticipated events of the year for the gardens. Hot Springs and Hot Springs National Park owe their existence to an array of springs that still supply naturally heated water for thermal bathers. The Fordyce Bathhouse, located on famous Bathhouse Row, serves as the park’s visitor center. For more information on Oaklawn Park visit http://www.oaklawn.com or phone 1-800-OAKLAWN; for more information on Garvan Woodland Gardens visit http://www.garvengardens.org. The Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau provides information on other attractions and area lakes at http://www.hotsprings.org or by phone at 1-800-SPA-CITY.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park – Sitting atop Arkansas’s second highest peak and located on the byway 13 miles west of Mena, Queen Wilhelmina State Park’s lodge accommodates travelers , a restaurant and gift shop. A miniature golf course, miniature train rides and hiking trails, lined with colorful wildflowers in the spring, provide family activities. Guests using the park’s campground often include hikers traversing the 223- mile Ouachita National Recreation Trail which runs through the park. For more information on Queen Wilhelmina State Park visit http://www.queenwilhelmina.com or phone 479- 394-2863.
Ouachita National Forest – Within the 1.8 million-acre Ouachita National Forest (est. 1907) are back roads and hiking trails that provide visitors with an up-close experience of the aged mountains. The forest hosts six wilderness areas (five in AR and one in OK) and two Wild and Scenic Rivers. The Talimena National Scenic Byway winds along the top of Winding Stair and Rich Mountains on its way into Arkansas. Other highlights in the forest include the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, which traverses a lengthy 223 miles across the region, and the Womble Trail, one of the most popular single-track mountain bike routes in the nation. For more information visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/ouachita. For more information on the Talimena Scenic Byway visit http://www.talimenascenicdrive.com
Little Rock/North Little Rock – The big city hosts numerous attractions, including the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Arkansas Arts Center, the Old State House Museum, the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, and the Museum of Discovery. The River Market District offers fine accommodations, dining and shopping. Heifer Village is a $13.5 million project, an interactive global education facility designed as a sustainable and environmentally sensitive building. Adjacent wetlands, which support native species, complement the building’s design. More than 700 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians are on display at the Little Rock Zoo. Don’t miss the chance to ride a one-of-a-kind antiquity, the restored Over the Jumps Carousel, the only one of its kind still in existence and located at the zoo.
La Petite Roche Plaza offers a scenic new area along the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock. It highlights the “little rock” for which the capital city is named. History panels along paved pathways plus landscaping with native plants complete the park.
You can take your own Black History tour of Little Rock by visiting Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site and accompanying museum across the street, EMOBA-The Museum of Black Arkansans, Testament: the Little Rock Nine Memorial on the State Capitol grounds, and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.
Across the Arkansas River in North Little Rock, the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum now has a replica of a ship’s bridge just for kids. It contains a combination of controls from an ocean-going ship and a river tugboat. The museum is also home port for the USS Razorback submarine, open for tours. Not far away is the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, complete with interactive exhibits, located on the ground level of Verizon Arena.
The Junction Pedestrian Bridge downtown and the Big Dam Bridge in west Little Rock allow visitors to amble, run, hike or walk from one town to the other. For more information on Little Rock visit http://www.littlerock.com or phone 800-844-4781. For more information on the Little Rock Zoo visit http://www.littlerockzoo.com or phone 501-666-2406. For more information on North Little Rock visit http://www.northlittlerock.travel/ or phone 501-758-1424.
Exploring Nature – Two Little Rock facilities provide visitors with opportunities to discover the complexity and beauty of The Natural State’s natural world. The Central Arkansas Nature Center is located on 3.4 acres in Little Rock, within Riverfront Park overlooking the Arkansas River. Exhibits highlight the role of fish and wildlife management and many of the projects conducted throughout the history of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The riverfront location provides many watchable wildlife opportunities within an urban area, including basking water turtles, butterflies and migrating pelicans. A portion of the Arkansas River Trail crosses the grounds offering more options for exploration. Beds of native plants found throughout the state are a major part of the landscaping, while the main building includes an exhibit hall, aquariums, a gift shop, a theater and a venue for special educational programs. For more information visit http://www.centralarkansasnaturecenter.com/ or phone 501-907-0636. The Little Rock Nature Center is an Audubon facility surrounded by Fourche Creek wetlands and the unique soils and plants of Granite Mountain in adjacent Gillam Park. The 2,000-acres available for use offer a vast and richly diverse outdoor lab for young people to learn about conservation, restoration, wildlife and plants. Trails designed for a variety of learning experiences surround the Center. For more information visit http://www.ar.audubon.org/naturecenterlr.html or phone 501-244-2229.