Here in Central Arkansas, we all know about escaping to some of our better known tourism towns for a weekend - like Hot Springs, Eureka Springs and Bentonville. But what if you want to go somewhere new and have a reasonably priced, close-by adventure. With gas prices rising again, it's time to evaluate good values within a short distance.
Here are ten great daytrips you can take within an hour of Little Rock, with all sorts of amusing activities to boot.
Plantation Agriculture Museum, which chronicles cotton agriculture from Arkansas statehood in 1836 up to the second World War. Head over to the Scott Plantation Museum to learn more about how the community came together, and tour the 13 buildings located to the site, including a hand-hewn cypress corncrib, a blacksmithy, an 1840s log cabin, and a railroad depot, and a blacksmith shop. Choose lunch at
Minnow Capital of the World. It's located in Arkansas at Lonoke, and you can spend a day with fish of all sorts along this portion of US Highway 70. Start off your morning at the Joe Hogan Fish Hatchery, where you can learn about all things aquatic, investigate aquariums and find out why there are so many rectangular ponds around the town. Check out the shops downtown and drop in for fries with cheese dip at Tidwell's Dairy Bar.
Enjoy an 80s sort of day in Cabot. The Lonoke County community has expanded these past several years into a decent sized city, and it's home to many of the great things we Gen-Xers enjoyed as kids. Spend hot summer days indoors by taking in a movie at the Silver Screen Theater, going skating at Joyland Skating Center and bowling at Allfam Bowling and Entertainment Center. Don't forget to pick up some strawberries at Holland Bottom Farm's stand.
Hit the lake. You can enjoy an entire day on Greers Ferry Lake, whether it's on Sandy Beach for a swim or taking a boat out. For non-waterborne activities, head downtown to explore eclectic shops, and stop in at the William Carl Garner Visitors Center to learn how Greers Ferry's dam and lake were constructed and filled.
A flea market paradise. Refined shoppers call it antiquing, and TV fans call it picking. Whatever you're doing, you can find a bevy of great resale shops along US Highway 65 between Conway and Greenbrier along US Highway 65. Start at Pickle's Gap Village for a snack, then edge your way up the highway for bargains and buys and all sorts of cool things to take home.
Heifer Ranch, where you can see how people who live in other places around the world manage to make a living - and see some cool animals to boot. Grab lunch at Mustang Sally's, then roll south to Lake Sylvia for an afternoon of swimming and relaxing.
Get dirty and then take a swim. A drive to Jessieville, north of Hot Springs on Scenic Highway 7, will take you to Coleman's Rock Shop. Sign up and head out to dig your own crystals or just delve through the cool rocks in the store. Then head to Lake Ouachita State Park and enjoy a dip in the lake's perfect clear waters.
Stay close and explore a riverfront. North Little Rock's shore is home to so many cool attractions. In the morning, walk or bike the Arkansas River Trail. If you're into skateboarding, check out the Riverview Skateboard Park west of Rockwater Marina. Grab lunch in the Argenta Arts District and crawl down into the USS Razorback at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum. And, if the Travelers are in town, catch an evening game at Dickey-Stephens Ballpark.
Get a Grant County memory or two. Pack a picnic or pick up salads at Brew Haven Cafe, then head out to the Grant County Museum in Sheridan, with its almost endless exhibits and neat reconstructed village. Spend the afternoon checking out the shops downtown and finish your day with dipped cones at the Yellowjacket Drive In.
Tinker, sinker, singers and steak. A trip to Pine Bluff with kids is a great time to check out the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, with its incredible tinkering studio and activities for kids to explore science. Drop in at the Delta Rivers Nature Center and explore the natural formations of the Arkansas Delta and the bottomlands of the Arkansas River. Visit the Arkansas Entertainer's Hall of Fame, and then treat the whole family to the Prime Rib of Beef or any of the other seriously large and delicious steaks at Colonial Steakhouse.