words: Marla Cantrell Images: courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, and Venues
If you’re looking for fun things to do on spring break, Arkansas is a great place to be. For those of us in the Fort Smith area, let’s start at home. Visit the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center and check out their spring break activities. Stop by the old-fashioned soda fountain at Fort Smith Museum of History. Drop in at the Fort Smith Historic Site and Judge Isaac Parker’s Courtroom. Swing by the Unexpected Project’s breathtaking murals in and around Garrison Avenue. For a link to maps of all the murals, visit 646downtown.com. Don’t forget to grab a bag of popcorn from The Popped Popcorn and a cup of tea from the all new Savoy Tea Company while you’re downtown. Ready to explore the rest of the state? Let’s get started!
55 Heifer Road
Heifer Ranch is a working farm approximately fifty minutes from Little Rock, and is part of the non-profit Heifer International, whose mission is to end world hunger and poverty. There, on 1,200 acres, you’ll find water buffalo, camels, goats, pigs, horses, chickens, ducks, rabbits and sheep. The lambing season should take place the first two weeks in March, so there should be plenty of lambs as well. Tours for groups of twelve or fewer are free of charge. However, if you have more, the guided tour, lasting two and a half hours, is recommended. Call for pricing and reservations.
The Amazeum is a children’s museum filled with interactive exhibits, like the climbable tree canopy, indoor cave, and art studio. The Nature Valley Water Amazements is a series of interactive water exhibits whereyou can expect to get wet. (Consider bringing a change of clothes.) Through March, you can see the Dinosaurs: Fossils Exposed exhibit. There are six full dinosaur skeletal molds including a Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor. You can also use paleontology tools to unearth dinosaur bones in the dig box.
Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper is a family owned and operated dude ranch that offers things like trail rides for those who are at least six years old, hiking, canoeing (in season) on the Buffalo River, fishing, rock climbing, cook-outs, a kids’ program for those three to five years old, a 2,250-foot zip line, and the Big Swing. Stay in one of their cabins and enjoy the cooking of Miss Heather, who serves hearty food all day—everything from seafood pasta and steaks to grilled mahi-mahi and barbecue ribs for supper.
The Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro is the world’s only diamond-bearing site open to the public, where you can dig for diamonds and keep what you find. Get tips on how to search for diamonds at the Diamond Discovery Center. Find out why there are diamonds in Arkansas, and rent digging equipment. Did you know that diamonds come in all colors? The three colors found at the park are white, brown, and yellow. You might also find amethyst, garnet, jasper, agate, or quartz. Campsites are available.
Approximately 150,000 tulips show their colors during the Tulip Extravaganza. While you’re there, check out Daffodil Hill and Singing Springs Gorge, and don’t miss the bonsai garden. See the waterfall on Lake Hamilton, and visit the Anthony Chapel, an architectural wonder that draws visitors from across the country.
The Mid-America Science Museum is Arkansas’ largest hands-on science center. There are more than 100 hands-on exhibits, seventy-five of which were added just last year during a massive renovation. Don’t miss the Bob Wheeler Science Skywalk and the Arkansas Underfoot Gallery. The Tesla Coil, one of the museum’s standards, which can produce 1.5 million volts of electricity, is as popular as ever.
12103 Hazel Valley Road
Some classes charge a small materials fee.
See website for pricing.
Terra Studios is home to the original hand-blown glass Bluebird of Happiness. You can watch as glassblowers form these sweet little birds, and you can even buy one to take home. Inside the shop are arts and crafts by approximately fifty regional artists. The building itself is a work of art, and there’s even a tiny troll door at the entrance. All across the grounds are kid-friendly sculptures, fountains, a labyrinth, a picnic area, and there’s a bridge complete with a troll underneath. Better still, there will be classes where you can make clay pinch pots, bunnies, and even a plaque for Easter, all through the week of spring break. Check website for details. Open every day from 10 A.M. until 5 P.M.
Blanchard Springs Caverns
Arkansas 14 West
See website for pricing.
Blanchard Springs Caverns, a three-level cave system, two of which are open for guided tours, is the only developed cave system operated by the U.S. Forest Service. It’s ranked as one of the ten most outstanding caves in North America. You’ll see calcite formations, stalactites, stalagmites and columns. Wild Cave Tours are also available. They ask that you bring an extra pair of shoes, be at least ten years old for this trek, and be accompanied by an adult. Make reservations at recreation.gov.
Mount Magazine State Park and Lodge
16878 Arkansas 309 South
Mount Magazine State Park and Lodge is situated on the highest point in the state—at 2,753 feet. The visitors center is a wonderful place to explore, with exhibits about the wildlife in the area, and a spot to bird watch. You can hike, have a picnic, or eat at the lodge’s restaurant. Want to spend the night? Check as soon as you can to see if there are rooms or cabins available. Or, if the weather permits, rent a campsite! You’re likely to encounter rock climbers, hang gliders, backpackers, and mountain bikers.
Dry Run Creek and Norfork
National Fish Hatchery
1414 Arkansas 177 South
Dry Run Creek flows from the Norfork National Fish Hatchery and is a catch-and-release stream where only those under age sixteen and mobility-impaired anglers may fish. An eleven-year-old angler from Kansas once caught a rainbow trout that was approximately twenty-five pounds. The catch happened in 2005, but is still talked about today. Make sure you tour the hatchery before you leave. There, millions of rainbow, cutthroat and brown trout are raised for Arkansas waterways.
Have fun this spring break, and be sure to email your family photos to
firstname.lastname@example.org. We love keeping up with your adventures!