Do you have big plans for this summer with your family? Is your budget holding you back? The two are not mutually exclusive you know. You can plan exciting activities for your family without spending a lot of money. Y’all, I just love Arkansas. I used to live there (went to University of Arkansas – woo pig sooie!) and go back to visit any chance I get. Those of you in (or visiting) the great state of Arkansas are quite lucky in that there are some amazing free or low cost things to do in Arkansas that are a lot of fun for the whole family.
So, if you are ready to start making plans for fun, here are some free (or low cost) things to do in Arkansas:
Movies in the Park.
If you are in the Little Rock Area, head on down to Little Rock’s River Market and enjoy the Movies in the Park series that they hold every summer, typically weekly from June to July. This free event has been created to build a sense of community and help bring residents together. I mean, the location alone is enough to make a person want to experience this event, don’t you think? An outdoor movie along the banks of the beautiful Arkansas River sounds pretty amazing.
King Biscuit Blues Festival.
This is a fun one that is a little different because it’s outside of the typical spring/summer timeline. The King Biscuit Blues Festival is a great place to experience many free concerts and activities. This event, held in Helena in October brings fans year after year.
Museum Of The Arkansas Grand Prairie.
This museum is a great place to go for those who love to learn about the history of Arkansas’s pioneers and its agriculture.
This is one of my all-time favourite places to visit. Architecture buffs and church enthusiasts alike will love to visit Thorncrown Chapel that is located in the Ozark Mountains. This Chapel has become quite the famous attraction in Arkansas after being named, by the American Institute of Architecture as one of the “Top 10 Designs of the 20th Century”, One of the Top 10 Fascinating Churches (by Cheapflights Travel Blog) and was designed by Arkansas native E. Fay Jones, who is a famous and nationally-honored architect from Arkansas.
The Jones Center.
If you are in the Springdale area, the Jones Center is a great, low cost activity to plan for the day. At the Jones Center you will find a plethora of activities, including the only indoor ice-skating rink in Northwest Arkansas, a fitness center and gymnasium, indoor swimming pools, and much, much more.
Located in NW Arkansas, this is considered one of the up and coming theatre companies in the country. Every performance is eligible for “Lights Up!” tickets. These give access to tickets for those who might not usually be able to afford them – the tickets are either free or $5 each depending on the situation. They also provide $10 tickets for school-aged students and young adults under the age of 30 with their 30 under 30 program.
Hot Springs National Park.
This National Park is right in the middle of town (Hot Springs) and has had visitors coming from near and far for centuries to use the thermal hot springs for relaxing and therapeutic baths. In fact, this National Park has some of the oldest and grandest bathhouses in the United States. This is a must-do activity for anyone who loves the healing benefits of natural mineral springs. Be sure to bring your own empty jugs – you can fill them up for free with hot spring water!
Arkansas State University Museum.
This museum in Jonesboro features free admission and very exciting exhibits. You will see features of Native American history, prehistoric fossils, natural history displays, Imaginate and Steam exhibits. If you like to wrap some learning into your activities, this museum is ideal!
Rapps Barren Settlement.
Historic buildings in a village setting in Mountain Home. Includes a historic cabin, shotgun style house, and a school. Free admission.
Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden.
70 outdoor sculptures worth well over $2 million. Located just north of the Little Rock Marriott Hotel.
The Old Mill in North Little Rock.
This mill is a reproduction of a water powered grist mill and was used in the opening scene of the movie “Gone with the Wind”. It’s a beautiful location (and just happens to be where my daughter’s engagement photos were taken!).
Kids can fish for free at any of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Family and Community Ponds.
Located in North Little Rock, this is one of the largest city parks in the country (at 1575 acres). The park includes disc golf courses, tennis courts, and a BMX track as well as a pre-Civil War log cabin, covered bridge, dog park, camping, and playgrounds. Much much more. Some, of course, require fees while others are open to free public use.
Crystal Bridges Museum of Modern Art.
Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection spans five centuries of American masterworks ranging from the Colonial era to the current day. The building itself is a stunning piece of art nestled in a gorgeous natural location. If you are an art fan, this is a must visit. Visiting the permanent collection is free.
Museum of Native American History.
This museum in Bentonville not only offers free self-guided tours but if a child under the age of 15 finds one of the hidden modern-made, hand-knapped arrowheads, they can keep it for free!
Peabody Splash Pad.
Again in Little Rock, the Peabody Splash Pad is a beautiful park feature created, in part, by children. Officials took suggestions from local children during the design phase of the splash pad creation. As splash pads go, this is a great one! Some of its features include outdoor splash pad equipment, underground rooms, large climbing stones and a giant water spray in the middle of the park with water spouts that are motion sensored. The parks also features a view of the Arkansas River for the adults to enjoy during their visit.
Christ of the Ozarks.
This statue of Christ with arms outstretched to form a cross shape stands 65.5 feet high and is quite impressive to see. During the summer months, they hold passion plays and have a Holy Land attraction that can be visited for a fee as well.
Calico Rock Ghost Town.
Located in Calico Rock, this town was formed around 1890. By 1903, with the train making regular stops there, it was booming. But by the 1960s, its trade in zinc, timber, and cotton had mostly died out and the train no longer stopped in Calico Rock. Approximately 20 buildings from the town still remain, although empty and abandoned, including the old jail, cotton gin, lumberyard, funeral parlour, and more. Pick up a self-guided tour map in town.
Pillow Thompson Home.
Tour this beautiful, historic Queen Anne-style home built in 1896 for free. Located in Helena.
Crater of Diamonds State Park.
You can search for diamonds here. Yes actual diamonds have been found and if you find it, you get to keep it! $10 for adults. Children under 6 are free.
Ozark Highlands Trail.
The Ozark Highlands Trail has been named one of the most scenic trails in the United States. There are over 200 miles of trail to explore ranging from very easy to more advanced. You will get a chance to experience Arkansas like you never have before with the beautiful landscape surrounding these trails.
Mountain View is a place that I highly encourage all residents (and guests) of Arkansas to visit. This community is famous for the love, preservation and celebration of folk and traditional music. From mid-April through late November, you will find every weekend in this community is full of musicians, both local and visiting, playing throughout town square late into the night. This celebration is incredibly unique and special to this part of the state. Whether you are a lover of music or a history buff, you will really enjoy the Mountain View experience.
Am I missing anything? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to add them to this list!
You mentioned 2 places in Eureka Springs, but the old town, with its Victorian era buildings hugging the hillsides and charming little stores, is worth a visit.