Southern Living

15 Best Weekend Getaways In Arkansas

The Natural State is full of hidden gems.


Kristy Alpert

Siloam Springs Dogwood Festival

There’s an unspoken rule in Arkansas about not bragging, and it has nothing to do with Southern propriety or humility. The truth is, if the secret got out about how much there is to do in “The Natural State” and how beautiful Arkansas is during every season, the uncrowded trails and easy pace of life wouldn’t be the same. 

The state is packed full of metaphorical hidden gems and literal hidden gems—fun fact: the largest U.S. diamond in the was unearthed at Crater of Diamonds State Park—that include everything from mountain peaks to urban streets. 

A weekend in Arkansas could include wine tasting among indigenous grapevines, rafting down class IV rapids, or even taking in rare and iconic Warhol paintings in the middle of the Ozarks. Every region offers a different experience, and these are the best weekend getaways in Arkansas … but try to keep them a secret, okay?

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Altus Mount Bethel Winery Altus

Arkansans have been producing grape juice and wine longer than any other Southern state. Altus is in the heart of Arkansas Wine Country—an official American Viticultural Area (AVA)—and it’s the best place to sample the official state grape and the oldest North American grape, the Cynthiana (a.k.a., “the Cabernet of the Ozarks”). Sip your way through the town with stops at Post Familie, Chateau Aux Arc, and Mount Bethel, stopping at Wiederkehr Wine Cellar & Weinkeller Restaurant to experience the city’s Swiss roots.

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Bentonville, AR

The famed home of the Walmart Headquarters is also home to one of the world’s best (yes, world’s) art museums, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The walkable town square is just around the corner from the 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville, where you’ll find craft coffee shops (like Onyx Coffee Lab), eclectic restaurants (like The Preacher’s Son or Tusk and Trotter), and even the Walmart Museum adjacent to one of the first ever Waltons 5 & 10 stores (i.e., the distant ancestor or Walmart Supercenters). 

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El Dorado 

El Dorado Murphy Arts District

The oil boom swept through this South Arkansas town in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until the Murphy Arts District (MAD) opened in 2017 when El Dorado felt its first “Festival City of the South” boom. There’s always something going on along the historic Main Street—even PJ’s Coffee and Creamery becomes a stage for live music on certain nights—but during festival weeks is when the city shines. Favorites include Mayhaw Festival, May on Main, Soul Fest, MusicFest, and Summer on the Square.

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Eureka Springs 

Eureka Springs Crescent Hotel

The winding roads of this Victorian village will guide you through mountainous side streets, past natural “cold springs” (don’t miss Grotto Spring), and into charming boutiques and independent restaurants. The historic downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places, and, just up the hill, visitors can check in to another nationally recognized historic property. The 1886 Crescent Hotel is a beauty to behold and even more beautiful inside, despite its sinister history and ranking as the “most haunted hotel in America.”

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Fayettville Motorcycle

Expect to hear a hog call (“Woo. Pig. Sooie!”) or two while in this Northwest Arkansas town, especially if you’re in town during a University of Arkansas game day. This college town loves a good tradition, whether that’s hanging at Puritan Coffee & Brew after a live show on Dickson Street or strolling the year-round farmers market with an Arsaga’s coffee in hand. Bring hiking shoes, too, because another favorite Fayetteville tradition involves hiking to the top of the cliffs at Devil’s Den State Park.

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Fort Smith 

Fort Smith, AR mural

There’s tons to see in this former frontier town, from historic attractions to famous pop culture sites. The electric trolly that rides through town is the same one that began service in the 1930s, and the Fort Chaffee Barbershop is forever paused in time at the exact moment when Elvis Presley sat down to get his “haircut heard ‘round the world.” 

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Hot Springs 

Hot Springs Magic Springs

Al Capone, Bugs Moran, and Lucky Luciano had a thing for Hot Springs … and it’s not hard to see why. Explore the town’s nefarious history at the Gangster Museum of America or just soak in the history and hot waters—like these infamous characters did—along historic Bathhouse Row. For a full immersion, grab a pint at the Superior Bathhouse Brewery, which is the first craft beer brewery in the nation and the only one brewing with Hot Springs thermal spring water. 

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Jasper Bluff Dwellers Cabins

The valley that runs along Jasper’s southeastern border is sometimes called “Arkansas’s Grand Canyon” (which is great for hiking), but there’s nothing comparable to the beauty this small town boasts. Many come to Jasper as a stopover while journeying on Scenic Highway 7—often rated as one of the most scenic drives in America—but you’ll only get to witness the impressive star-lit night sky from the deck of your cliff-side room if you book a room at the Cliff House Inn. 

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Little Rock 

Snow in Little Rock, AR

Arkansas’ capital city is loaded with small-town charm and big-city charisma, but is just the right size for a weekend exploring its top sites. You can ride the METRO Streetcar from the buzzy River Market District to the artsy Argenta District or take it to The Clinton Presidential Center & Park, which sits at one end of the Arkansas River Trail. The trail winds its way through the (free) Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden all the way across the Big Dam Bridge and back into town on an 88-mile loop popular with bikers. 

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Mountain View 

Mountainview, AR

This aptly named town is famous for more than just its namesake view; it’s also the site of the Ozark Folk Center State Park. The park is wholly dedicated to the Ozark way life, where it preserves the region’s culture, craft, and music through live demonstrations, classes, and artists in residence who are happy to share their creations with visitors.  

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Murfreesboro, AR diamonds and rocks

If you’re heading to Murfreesboro, you’ll likely have your eye on landing a striped bass or unearthing a diamond. Lake Gleeson is one of the state’s hidden gems for fly fishing and Crater of Diamonds State Park is literally famous for its hidden gems, where visitors are armed with buckets, shovels, and screen sets before being let loose to sift through gravel in hopes of finding the next record-setting diamond in the park. [Note: to date, there have been more than 35,000 diamonds discovered in the park, but none bigger than the 40.23-carat diamond, Uncle Sam.]

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Paris, AR mini Eiffel towel

Unlike in its French counterpart, it’s a mountain, not the town’s own Eiffel Tower, that claims the highest point in the city. Mount Magazine is actually the highest point in the entire state, although many Paris visitors are still impressed by the town’s 25-foot-tall Eiffel Tower fountain. Don’t leave without enjoying a pint at Prestonrose Farm and Brewing Co., a farm-to-table restaurant and brewery.  

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Rogers Daisy Airgun Museum

If the brick-lined streets that wind through this Northwest Arkansas town don’t charm you, the vast beauty—and network of hiking and biking trails—will. Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area reaches more than 12,000-acres, all the way to the shores of Beaver Lake where the Ozark Forest reflects off 28,000-acres of clear water. Step inside War Eagle Cavern for a cool break or chill out instead at with a craft brew at the Ozark Beer Company.

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Van Buren 

Van Buren, AR

It was a performance of “Faust” that first graced the stage of the King Opera House back in 1901, and the city of Van Buren’s love of live performances continues even to this day. The restored building is part of the town’s Main Street National Historic District, where boutiques, galleries, and innovative restaurants operate inside preserved buildings. The Old Frisco Depot doubles as a visitors center and a launching point for the Arkansas Missouri Railroad, which whisks guests away for scenic rides along the historic rails of Arkansas. 

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Siloam Springs 

Siloam Springs Dogwood Festival

The natural spring waters that flow through Siloam Springs were reported to have medicinal qualities when the town was settled back in the 1880s, and today it’s the manicured greenspaces and flowing fountains that remain a healthy part of the reason for visiting. Main Street is the first stop for exploring the creative businesses and restaurants in town, but most residents spend their days strolling the mixed-use Memorial Park, home to the farmers market and an interactive water feature.