Monday, August 11, 2008

OFF DUTY LIFE>> 100 free things to do in the 'Natural State'.

With school out and gas prices on the rise, traveling is a new adventure in many respects. Don’t miss out on family vacations and fun just because gas is high; check out the following fun things to do here in the Natural State for little-to-no money.

Discover which famous entertainers have Arkansas ties by visiting the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame located in the Pine Bluff Convention Center. The collections on display include everything from guitars to drumsticks owned by the likes of Levon Helm, Al Green, Jimmy Driftwood and Art Porter, Sr., and many more. For more information, call 800-536-7660.

Enjoy a warm welcome, a hot cup of coffee and a relaxing place to learn more about the Natural State. Visit one of the new Arkansas Welcome Centers at Texarkana, Fort Smith/Van Buren, Corning or El Dorado. View exhibits of the local area, check e-mail, make online reservations through

In the Ozarks, the Buffalo National River with its towering limestone bluffs is America’s first national river. Hiking trails traverse historic farmsteads, quiet stream valleys, waterfalls and wooded mountainsides, and offer bluff-top vistas. For more information, call 870-439-2502.

Free folk musicals and dancing on the Stone County Courthouse Square in Mountain View have been a local tradition since 1963. Professionals and amateurs join together in impromptu band performances every Friday and Saturday night during warmer months. For more information, call 888-679-2859.

Scenic drives, walking paths and historic Bathhouse Row make up the unique Hot Springs National Park set in the city of Hot Springs amid the Ouachita National Forest. Bring your own containers and take home FREE mineral water. For more information, call 800-SPA-CITY.

An authentic reproduction of a water-powered grist mill, The Old Mill, in North Little Rock appears in the opening scene of the classic movie, “Gone with the Wind.” Tour guides available by appointment. For more information, call 758-1424.

Norfork National Fish Hatchery, located at the base of Norfork Dam east of Mountain Home, offers tours of facilities that produce millions of trout for Ozark streams. Children may try their luck at landing a trout from the waters of nearby Dry Run Creek. For more information, call 870-499-5255

Step into the magic of Terra Studios just outside of Fayetteville to find creatures from another world and to watch “Bluebirds of Happiness” being made. For more information, call 800-255-8995

Waterfalls, lakes, mountainsides and meadows at Petit Jean State Park in Morrilton inspired the creation of the Arkansas State Parks system. For more information, call 727-5441.

The last public ferryboat operating in the state, Peel Ferry transports vehicles and passengers across a section of Bull Shoals Lake. For more information, call 870-743-2100.

Nature Centers at Pine Bluff, Jonesboro and Fort Smith showcase the best of nature found in each region. These range from a 20,000-gallon ox-bow lake aquarium among other exhibits at Delta Rivers Nature Center in Pine Bluff; a surround-sound recreation of the evolution that caused Crowley’s Ridge at the Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center in Jonesboro; and exhibits depicting the diversity of the Arkansas River Valley at the new Arkansas River Valley Nature Center in Fort Smith, built on 170 acres of former Fort Chaffee land next to Wells Lake.

Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs was named among the top four buildings of the 20th century by the American Institute of Architects. The chapel uses 425 large panels of glass to showcase the natural beauty of the Ozarks. Designed by world-renowned Arkansas architect, E. Fay Jones, the non-denominational chapel is open from March through December. For more information, call 479-253-7401.

In Fayetteville, the National Cemetery was established in 1867 to lay to rest the remains of Union soldiers killed in the region. The Confederate Cemetery is located just a few blocks away. For more information, call 479-521-1710 or visit

The “Lum ‘N’ Abner” radio program is remembered at the Lum & Abner Jot ‘Em Down Store and Museum in Pine Ridge, where pieces of Lum ‘N’ Abner history preserve an important era in American life. The museum is open March through November. Call in advance for tours. For more information, call 870-326-4442.

Stroll through Eureka Springs, an Ozark Mountain town known for its beautiful Victorian architecture, winding mountainside streets and block after block of one-of-a-kind shops, fine art galleries, and restaurants. For more information, call 479-253-8737.

Hit the trail the two-wheel kind, and explore the beauty of the Ozark National Forest on the 50-mile Syllamo Mountain Bike Trail, located in Mountain View. This newsworthy trail has been designated by the by the International Mountain Biking Association as an “Epic Ride,” a status only 37 trails across the nation currently hold, These rides are on the top of many mountain bikers to ride lists.

The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center in Piggott includes the home and barn studio where Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote portions of “A Farewell to Arms.” Tours conducted weekdays and Saturdays. For more information, call 870-598-3487.

The beautiful Arkansas River valley is the setting for Arkansas Wine Country, where four wineries on Ark. 186 South offer tours and wine tastings: Mount Bethel; Post Familie Winery; Wiederkehr Wine Cellars; Chateau Aux Arc; And at Cowie Wine Cellars visit the Arkansas Historic Wine Museum in Paris, Ark..

Drive the Boston Mountain Scenic Loop, the only scenic loop in the state. From Fayetteville, take curve-hugging U.S. Hwy. 71 over Mt. Gayler past small gift shops and mountaintop lodging to Alma. From Alma, take Interstate 540 through the rolling hills of a pastoral countryside and a tunnel through a mountain back to Fayetteville.

The Louisiana Purchase added the territory that would become Arkansas to the U.S. Commemorating this historical event is the Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park, located near Brinkley. The main feature of the park is a 950-foot boardwalk into a rare headwater swamp, where sits a marker denoting the initial point for the 1815 survey of purchase lands west of the Mississippi. For more information, call 888-AT-PARKS.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Lake Leatherwood Park in Eureka Springs is a 1,600-acre municipal park with a 100 acre spring fed lake. Located off Ark. 62 at the western edge of town, it is a place of natural serenity. For more information, call 479-253-8624.

Built in 1896, the Pillow-Thompson House in Helena is one of the finest examples of Queen Anne architecture in the South. For more information, call 870-338-8535.

At Devil’s Den State Park hiking and backpacking trails lead to back country areas where you can explore caves, such as the eerie sounding Devil’s Icebox, crevices and bluff overlooks. For more information, call 479-761-3325.

Exhibits at the Arkansas State University Museum in Jonesboro include Native American history, a walk-through pioneer “town,” military items, natural history displays, a priceless glass collection, geology, mastodon and other prehistoric fossils, plus traveling exhibits. For more information, call 870-972-2074.

Cradled by the bluffs of the War Eagle River in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, Withrow Springs State Park near Huntsville is a peaceful setting for exploring nature. For more information, call 479-559-2593.

At the Delta Cultural Center in Helena a restored depot and storefront features gospel and blues music heritage, Civil War history and the settlement of the Delta. For more information, call 800-358-0972.

Learn about Arkansas’s oil and brine industries and the 1920s oil boom at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources in Smackover. The museum’s Oil Field Park has genuine derricks and oilfield equipment. For more information, call 870-725-2877

The Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area extends for 12 miles along the Cossatot River. The wild and scenic river forms Cossatot Falls, a rugged and rocky canyon that challenges the most experienced canoeist and kayakers. South of Mena. For more information, call 682-7777

The Ouachita National Recreation Trail is an east-west corridor extending from Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock to Talimena State Park near Talihina, Okla. This mountain trail offers hikers a wide range of opportunities from scenic vistas and upland hardwood and pine forests to clear streams, high ridges and wide valleys.

Set in the oldest surviving state capitol west of the Mississippi River, the Old State House Museum in Little Rock has been designated a National Historic Landmark, though it is probably best known throughout the country as the scene of President Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 election-night celebrations.

For grand vistas, travel to the highest point in Arkansas 2,753 feet at Mount Magazine State Park, complete with a new lodge, cabins, conference center and visitors center. For more information, call 479-963-8502

Pose with one foot in Texas and the other in Arkansas at Photographer’s Island on State Line Avenue in Texarkana.

On the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville, the Tommy Boyer Hall of Champions Museum in Bud Walton Arena and the Jerry Jones/Jim Lindsey Hall of Champions Museum in the Frank Broyles Center display over a century of Arkansas sports memories. For more information, call 479-575-2000.

The 50 mile Wolf Pen Gap ATV trail near Mena is the first formal trail system in the Ouachita National Forest specifically for four-wheelers and dirt bikes. For more information, call 394-2382

See and feel the history of this important civil rights landmark, Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, and learn about the “Little Rock Nine.” A life-size monument to the Little Rock Nine can be found on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol. For more information, call 374-1957

Go for a hike atop Arkansas’s second-highest peak at Queen Wilhelmina State Park, a cloud-capped hideaway reigning above the Ouachita Mountains. For more information, call 394-2863

Little Rock Campaign Driving Tour outlines the 1863 advance by Union forces who seized the state capital and includes detailed exhibit panels at roadside pullouts that are accessible from Interstate 40 between Little Rock and Lonoke. For more information, call 370-3290.

Miss Laura’s Visitor Center is a restored turn-of-the-century brothel that is now Fort Smith’s visitors center. For more information, call 800-637-1477

Enjoy a self-guided driving tour or walk the one-mile Battlefield Trail at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park in Prairie Grove. For more information, call 479-846-2990

Established in 1878 as a Benedictine Monastery, Subiaco Abbey now serves as a college preparatory school for boys. Pick up a brochure on-site for a self-guided walking tour to view the dramatic stone architecture and manicured grounds. Scenic Ark. 22; For more information, call 479-934-1000

A rare example of a suspension bridge in Arkansas, Beaver Bridge was built in 1943 and is still in use today. Ark. 187, east of Beaver.

Take a driving or walking tour of the Quapaw Quarter Historic District, a historic downtown area with restored antebellum and Victorian structures including a park named for General Douglas MacArthur, who was born in Little Rock, and the Villa Mare, featured in the opening of “Designing Women.” For more information, call 371-0075

The twin towers of Old Main, completed in 1875, preside over the scenic campus of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Former President Bill Clinton once taught law on this campus. (479) 575-2000

The entire downtown of Calico Rock Historic District is on the National Historic register and has served as a movie set. See several antique shops and restaurants. (870) 297-4129

Overlooking the Arkansas River Valley, 14 miles of trails encircle Mount Nebo, the state park seven miles west of Dardanelle on Ark. 155. (479) 229-3655

Watch the working water-powered grist mill at War Eagle Mill. An 18-foot waterwheel splashes and mill stones grind cornmeal daily from organically grown grain in a pastoral setting that includes the War Eagle River and bridge. (479) 789-5343

Boutiques, shops, the historic square and the restored art deco Rialto Theatre are part of the El Dorado Downtown Historic District. The area contains a significant collection of 1920s and 1930s architecture. 888-921-BOOM

Talimena National Scenic Drive, a National Forest Scenic Byway for years and now a Federal Highway Administration national roadway, winding 54 miles from Mena to Talihina, Okla., offers breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding countryside from peaks of nearly 3,000 feet.

Pick up a brochure at the Chamber of Commerce office in the Old Frisco Depot for a self-guided Van Buren Walking Tour featuring 52 interesting stops. The Van Buren Downtown Historic District has six blocks of art galleries, antique shops, historical attractions and restaurants located along a beautifully restored Victorian Main Street. 800-332-5889.

Pick a lane for a spring drive on a scenic wildflower route: in north Arkansas U.S. Highways 62, 412 and 63 from Eureka Springs east through Powhatan; in eastern Arkansas from Jonesboro south along U.S. 49 to Brinkley; south of Little Rock along U.S. 167 to El Dorado; southwest Arkansas on U.S. 70 from Hot Springs southwest to the junction of U.S. 71, and on U.S. 270 from Hot Springs to Mena; in western Arkansas on U.S. 71 from Interstate 40 north to Fayetteville, along Scenic Byway 7 from Hot Springs to Harrison, and U.S. 70 from Carlisle east to Hazen.

White Rock Mountain Recreation Area near Mulberry offers some of the most scenic views in the state from its bluffs, and it has hiking trails and a lake. (479) 667-2191

Visit the sites related to former President Bill Clinton, such as his boyhood home, high school, favorite hamburger hangout and more. Call the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau for self-guided brochures. 800-SPA-CITY

In the Ozark Mountains, the 165-mile Ozark Highlands Trail has been rated one of the most scenic trails in the U.S. It’s great for day hiking, weekend adventures or extended backpacking. (479) 968-2354

A scenic 200-mile route atop the Delta’s only “highlands,” Crowley’s Ridge Parkway passes by or near five state parks, a national forest, Civil War sites and more. (870) 910-8080;

The first permanent European settlement on the lower Mississippi River (1686) and Arkansas’s first territorial capital are commemorated by the Arkansas Post National Memorial and Arkansas Post Museum. The memorial is located on Ark. 169 and the museum is on U.S. 165 in Gillett.

Pick up a brochure at the Arkadelphia Chamber of Commerce for the Arkadelphia Historic Homes Tour, a driving tour of several homes listed on the National Register, some of which date from the 1840s. 1-800-874-4289

The Hillcrest Historic District in Little Rock includes a National Register-listed collection of some of the city’s early residential areas. 1-800-844-4781.

Tour one of the world’s largest fish hatcheries, Joe Hogan Fish Hatchery, on U.S. 70 near Lonoke. (501) 676-6963

A herd of about 450 elk range in the northwest portion of the state along the Buffalo National River. Catch a view of the magnificent beasts and other watchable wildlife in the pastoral setting of Boxley Valley on Ark. 21.

In Bentonville, the Wal-Mart Visitors Center contains exhibits tracing the formation and growth of Wal-Mart stores and includes founder Sam Walton’s desk. (479) 273-1329.

Find flamboyant fall foliage on Ark. 309 from Paris across Mount Magazine to Havana; on the “Pig Trail” from Ark. 23 north of Ozark to its junction with Ark. 16; on Ark. 21 north from Clarksville to the Buffalo River; and on Ark. 5 and 14 from Calico Rock and Allison to Blanchard Springs Caverns.

At the largest free outdoor blues fest in the nation, the Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival, formerly known as the King Biscuit Blues Festival, Delta blues legends and national acts perform in the land where the music was born. The event is held each October in Helena.

There’s ample opportunity to people watch when strolling through the River Market District in downtown Little Rock. Numerous restaurants, shops and bars line the area and benches scattered around provide the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by. Nearby Riverfront Park has a playground for the kids, history banners detailing the capital city’s beginnings, and the original “little rock.” 800-844-4781

Located 10 miles east of Rogers on Ark. 12, Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area is within Hobbs State Management Area, covering 11,750 acres along the southern shore of Beaver Lake. In its initial development, the state park currently offers nature study, trails, and undeveloped access to the 28,000-acre lake. (479) 789-2380

Be dazzled by the masters, one of the country’s finest collections of drawings, and traveling exhibits at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock. (501) 372-4000

Enjoy ice skating, swimming, the gymnasium and numerous other activities at the Jones Center for Families in Springdale. (479) 756-8090

Climb and hike at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Little Rock and enjoy the Arkansas Arboretum, a 71-acre site exhibiting examples of native flora that represents Arkansas’s six natural divisions. (501) 868-5806;

Two of Arkansas’s natural divisions come together at Cane Creek State Park in Star City -- the Mississippi Delta and the hills of the West Gulf Coastal Plain. (870) 628-4714;

The Aerospace Education Center in Little Rock has displays such as a Wright Flyer and a very rare Sopwith Camel airplane and a full-size replica of Apollo command module. (501) 371-0331

At Walnut Hill, an 11-acre historic site makes up Conway Cemetery State Park, which preserves the final resting place of Arkansas’s first Governor, James Sevier Conway.

Pedestal Rocks (2.2 miles) and Kings Bluff (1.7 miles) trails offer up-close looks at Ozark Mountain geology. Both trails in the unique area feature easy hiking, but border high cliffs with steep drop-offs. There are picnic areas and parking available. Take Ark. 7 to Pelsor, turn right (east) on Ark. 16 and go 6 miles.

Take Altus exit 41 off I-40 to Ark. 186 for a drive over St. Mary’s Mountain and past vineyards, wineries and St. Mary’s historic church.

Lake Catherine State Park is nestled on the shores of 1,940-acre Lake Catherine, one of the five popular diamond lakes in the Hot Springs area. (501) 844-4176

A restored 1901 historically furnished home, the Dr. A.G. Anderson House in Eudora serves as the town’s visitors center and museum. (870) 355-8443.

Anglers and nature lovers enjoy Lake Charles State Park’s 645 acres of spring-fed waters in the Ozark foothills near Powhatan. (870) 878-6595

Visit Phillips County Museum in Helena for which Mark Twain helped raise funds. (870) 338-7790.

Enjoy the great outdoors at North Little Rock’s Burns Park. At 1,575 acres, it is one of the largest city parks in the nation and even has a covered bridge.

At Lake Chicot State Park, the Mississippi Delta’s captivating beauty and recreational opportunities come together at Arkansas’s largest natural lake. The 20-mile-long oxbow lake was formed centuries ago when the Mississippi River changed its course. (870) 265-5480

Three state historic sites commemorate the battles of Poison Spring, Marks’ Mills and Jenkins’ Ferry, all part of the Union Army’s Red River Campaign.

Lake Frierson State Park 10 miles north of Jonesboro on Ark. 141 is known for its springtime blaze of dogwoods, picnic sites, playground and self-guided trail. (870) 932-2615

In El Dorado, take a walk through the South Arkansas Arboretum, a 13-acre site that exhibits plants indigenous to Arkansas’s West Gulf Coastal plain region. (870) 862-8131, ext. 170.

View Arkansas’s largest spring, with an hourly flow of nine million gallons of water, at Mammoth Spring State Park on U.S. 63 in Mammoth Spring. (870) 625-7364

On a clear day, you can see three states (Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma) from the 85-foot-high Rich Mountain Fire Tower, located 12 miles west of Mena and open Memorial Day until the second week of November. (479) 394-2912.

A variety of year-round feathered inhabitants and eagles in the winter makes bird watching popular at Millwood State Park in Ashdown. (870) 898-2800

Numerous cities showcase festive spirits with thousands of holiday lights from Thanksgiving weekend through New Year’s Day in the Trail of Holiday Lights tour.

Scenic Ark. 23, a National Scenic Byway connecting from U.S. 71 south of Booneville, northward from Ozark to its junction with Ark. 16, is known as “The Pig Trail” to Razorback football enthusiasts.

Enjoy the hiking trails and recreation areas that are part of the hallmarks of the 7,000-acre Village Creek State Park. (870) 238-9406

Virtually unchanged since the 1920s, the downtown district of Hardy has been transformed into a shopping destination for antiques and crafts. Old Hardy Town boasts 43 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. (870) 625-7364 or (870) 856-3571

Rich in wildlife, White Oak Lake State Park near Bluff City offers regular sightings of great blue herons, egrets, ospreys and green herons and wintering eagles. (870) 685-2748

Pull up a lawn chair or a blanket, break out the picnic basket and enjoy free cinema. These Arkansas communities give a whole new twist on the outdoor movie with huge screens for showing some of your favorite films. The Lucky 123 Cinema in Eureka Springs, Movies in the Park, Little Rock’s Riverfront Park, the Silver Moon Cinema in Conway and Movies in the Park in Texarkana.

Tour authentic and re-created structures from Arkansas’s Grand Prairie region at the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie in Stuttgart. Learn about the German settlers who gave the town its name and how rice farming came to the state. Exhibits include farm equipment, pioneer life and duck hunting. (870) 673-7001;

Enjoy environmental education and interpretation at the visitors center of the 65,000-acre Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is the world’s largest green-tree reservoir consisting of the 15,000-acre Felsenthal Pool that increases in size to 36,000 acres during winter flooding. It is located five miles west of Crossett on Ark. 82. (870) 364-3167.

Housed in a vintage downtown Pine Bluff building, The Band Museum is the only museum in the country devoted to band instruments and the history of the band movement in America. The collection includes hundreds of vintage and antique band instruments, dating back to the early 1700s. (870) 534- 4676

Interpretive exhibits tell the story of the development of the River Valley at the Arkansas River Visitors Center. It also offers wildlife exhibits, a slide tape presentation, some hands-on exhibits and a great location for watching barges pass through the locks. Off of Ark. 7 on Lock & Dam Road at Russellville. (501) 968-5008.

Visit Rapps Barren Settlement, a historic building in a village setting that illustrates Mountain Home’s early days. 800-822-3536.

Surrounding the monument to Private Herman Davis, an Arkansas farm boy and WWI hero, is Herman Davis State Park on Ark. 18 in the community of Manila.

Tracing the progression of Dallas County’s early plantation life, which was dominated by the timber industry, the Dallas County Historical Museum in Fordyce also tells the stories of the people who worked the land. 800-352-7202

The predominately wooded footpath of Bell Slough Nature Trail covers 2.25 miles in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Bell Slough Wildlife Management Area south of Conway. The nature trail is great for birding. 877-470-3650.

The newest outdoor craze is geocaching. Geocaching is a treasure hunt where participants use a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) device to hide and seek containers along with others taking part in the activity. Arkansas’s State Parks are a great place to try your geocaching luck. Information and guidelines can be found on

Take a moderate hike to Eden Falls. From Ark. 43 between Boxley and Ponca, turn onto the road to Lost Valley, which is part of the Buffalo National River. Follow the marked trail to the bluff shelter. Eden Falls is located at the far end of the massive overhang.

No comments: