Thursday, December 28, 2017

The 2018 Arkansas Bucket List - 9 Experiences To Try Out in The Natural State.

With a new year there are new opportunities to experience in Arkansas. Here are nine suggestions on places to go, things to see, activities to do and things to eat around the state in 2018.

Everyone has something they've always wanted to do.  Those daring acts and adventures you'd like to tackle is often called a "bucket list" (things to do before you kick the bucket) -- and it usually includes a good deal of places people want to go, see and do in their lifetime.

When I talk about Arkansas, there's usually a person in the crowd who mentions they've always wanted to go to a place I've mentioned, or eat something I've talked about.  Get a head-start on your planning.  Make your reservations now to cross these items off your bucket list.

1. Visit Searcy County.  Enjoy a particularly Arkansas vacation in the heart of the Ozarks. Spend time on a real, working farm at Dogwood Hills Farm & Breakfast, view real living buffalo at Ratchford Farms, catch a movie at the Kenda Drive-In, dine locally at Daisy QueenMarshall Restaurant or the Skylark Cafe, pick up smoked meats at Coursey's, and of course enjoy the Buffalo National River. Enjoyable for a weekend, even better for a full week.

2. Listen To Music Under the Stars in Mountain View. The Folk Music Capital of the World is tucked into the north central part of the state, and during the warmer months there's music everywhere - at the Ozark Folk Center, sure, but also on the Square downtown. Book a hotel room or bed and breakfast and stay out late with your picnic blanket or folding chair, a relaxing beverage and the resonating tunes of local musicians performing live.

3.  Drive the length of the Great River Road in Arkansas. This is more of an adventure than you might imagine - while great swaths of the path that follow the length of the Mississippi River are highway, other portions are rural roads and still others go down to gravel. But you'll see the river and its levees in new ways - and get to visit some remarkable locations. See what our trip looked like in 2017.

4.  Put a Little Spice in Your Life with a Culinary Adventure through Southwest Little Rock. Talk about a new sort of staycation... the old Southwest City is now home to a splendid array of restaurants with owners and chefs that hail from south of the border. Forget the idea that all Mexican food is the same and sample delights from Jaliscos to Veracruz to the Yucatan, all without leaving Pulaski County.

5. Enjoy Camping, Without a Tent. Arkansas State Parks now has camping cabins for those who don't want to pitch their tent. These units are hard structures with roofs and porches, mattresses on frames inside and a fire ring and table outside. Nearby bathhouses offer showers and facilities for campers. Best of all, there's air conditioning - something you don't get when it gets hot in a tent! Check out these camping cabins at Devil's Den State Park. You'll also find them at Lake Ouachita State Park.

6. Soak Up History in Helena-West Helena. The only Arkansas town right on the Mississippi is a bevy of history, perfect for the buff in your life. Helena's deep history doesn't just cover the Civil War we're used to; it's a location of a major Union fort and battle. Retrace the Battle of Helena at Battery C Park and Fort Curtis, follow the path of slaves from plantations to service at Freedom Park, and delve into the lives of the men and women who lived through the war at the Helena Museum of Phillips County (which also includes exhibits featuring works of Thomas Edison, signed books by Mark Twain and Mississippian pottery). Downtown, experience the blues any time of year at the Delta Cultural Center's two locations, and if you're fortunate, catch a ride on the American Queen steamboat.

7. Escape Into the Past With A Stay in Shangri-La. The Shangri-La Resort on Lake Ouachita's south shore has changed little since it originally opened in 1956. You can still stay in one of the preserved classic motel rooms or cabins along the lake's edge, pull up to an old-fashioned marina and even dine in the cafe on-site, which still has its original low lunch bar and a packed pie cabinet. Leave your electronics behind.

8.  Paddle Arkansas. A boat, a paddle, and you... floating through some of the more relaxing portions of our state. Arkansas Game and Fish has a whole slew of sloughs, streams and swamps to slip through and enjoy - complete with marked water trails. Check out these listings.

Or if you want to tackle whiter water, consider floating the Mulberry River. The free-flowing stream north of Ozark brings in water-loving canoers from all over, who enjoy this feisty water path on their own or with a guide. The folks at Byrd's Adventure Center can set you up.

9.  Take a Trail to Great Pie in Arkansas. A bit of a plug here, but I'm forging paths across the state - paths that include lots of great stops with pie. Whether it's Highway 62 from Harrison to Rogers, the drive from Prescott to Emerson or Highway 65 from Pine Bluff to Lake Village, there are numerous routes offering delicious pie across the state of Arkansas. Stay informed by following Arkansas Pie on Facebook. See what one such trip is like.  More announcements will come through the year.

Still looking for more ideas? How about these Cool Places to Stay in Arkansas? Or these Secret Romantic Getaways? Or check out my suggestions for previous years (2017, 2016, 2015).


  1. I would add a sunset kayak tour on the Arkansas River (when it is warmer!) with Rocktown River Outfitters ! The owner, Sam is a great certified guide.

  2. I'm sure it's just a coincidence you and Sam have the same last name.


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