Spring Break in the Natural State
Looking to plan a spring break getaway that offers something for everyone in the family? These four destinations will make kids and teens forget about playing games on their electronic devices and give the whole family Insta-worthy moments to share.
By Jill Rohrbach
This vacation destination is eye candy—ornate Victorian architecture, outdoor art and indoor galleries, merchandise-filled store fronts, parks and unique attractions. Lodging options include bed and breakfasts, guesthouses, name-brand hotels, historic hotels, tree houses, safari cabins, hobbit caves and castles. Restaurants run a wide gamut, but local favorites include Sparky’s Roadhouse Cafe, Local Flavor and Mud Street Cafe. Nestled in the heart of the Ozarks, outdoor opportunities abound.
Don’t miss the historic downtown full of shopping, dining, springs, parks and entertainment. Take a tour by trolley for insights on all it has to offer. Daytime fun should include a visit to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, Thorncrown Chapel, Ozark Mountain Ziplines and the Christ of the Ozarks statue. At night, the whole family is sure to enjoy the Great Passion Play, Intrigue Theater or the haunted ghost tour at the Crescent Hotel.
Eureka Springs is also part of the Oz Trails system of Northwest Arkansas and offers a huge variety of trails for mountain bikers of any experience level.
• Go horseback riding at a guest ranch.
• Cast a line for fish in Beaver Lake and the
• Visit Pivot Rock and Natural Bridge.
• Find the huge Humpty Dumpty sitting on
• Take on a challenge at Escape Room 13.
• Tour Blue Spring Heritage Center.
• Enjoy a lake cruise on Belle of the Ozarks.
• Learn about flight at Aviation Cadet World.
This lakeside resort town is packed with recreational opportunities. Lodging includes condos and luxury residences with resort-style amenities such as fitness centers, swimming pools, tennis courts and golf courses. The Country Club offers casual and formal dining. Cobblestone Inn & Suites, a new 63-room, pet-friendly hotel with a spa and restaurant, is set to open spring of 2019. It’s the city’s first hotel.
Make sure you visit Sugar Loaf Mountain in the middle of Greers Ferry Lake for a two-part adventure. Getting there is half the fun. Take the shuttle from Fairfield Bay Marina or rent a motorboat or kayaks to make your own way over to the island. Once you’re docked, hike through the woods on Arkansas’s first designated National Scenic Trail and up a series of wooden stairs at the southern end to the top of the mountain for amazing vistas.
Back on the mainland, Indian Rock House Cave is a fun place to explore and see petroglyphs. Look for three hand-carved totem poles throughout the resort community and for the Indian Thong Tree at Woodland Mead Park.
• Climb aboard The Belle of the Bay at the marina for a scenic cruise.
• Take a guided ATV tour.
• Fish Greers Ferry Lake, stocked with every type of gamefish native to the state.
• Take a glimpse back in time at the Old Log Cabin and Museum.
• Pick a park to play shuffleboard, volleyball, basketball, horseshoes or have a picnic.
• Feed the huge school of carp splashing around the marina and take a photo with the Fish Feeding Frenzy sign.
• Play foot golf, where you kick soccer balls into giant holes on the regular golf course. Miniature golfand disc golf are available too.
Buffalo National River
America’s first national river is tranquility all wrapped up in a cocoon of rippling water, hardwood forests and tall limestone bluffs in earthy hues. The National Park Service oversees 95,730 acres and three designated wilderness areas along this river corridor that flows 135 miles and is one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states. You can easily find canoe, raft and kayak outfitters, campsites, hiking trails and cabin rentals for your family getaway. You’ll be amazed at the good eats you can find: Low Gap Cafe and Ozark Cafe in Jasper, Fergusons Country Store and Restaurant and Big Springs Trading Co. Restaurant & Smoked Meats in St. Joe, and Buffalo Point Restaurant in Buffalo Point.
Canoeing the river is one of the most popular activities, but you also don’t want to miss seeing the elk herds roaming along the upper river corridor. Morning and evening are the best times to watch them, and Boxley Valley is a popular viewing area.
Tyler Bend Visitor Center, offering exhibits, books, films and more, is a great place to obtain park information. The NPS also provides ranger-guided tours and activities.
• Take your pick from 100 miles of maintained trails for
hiking or biking.
• Visit historic areas containing preserved pioneer
homesteads ranging from the 1840s to the 1930s,
including Boxley Valley Historic District, the Parker
Hickman Homestead and the Villines Cabin.
• Stay in rustic housekeeping cabins constructed in the
late 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps at Buffalo Point.
• Fish the river for over 60 species, including smallmouth bass,
largemouth bass, Ozark bass and goggle-eye.
• Skip rocks in the river and marvel at the night sky.
• Visit Horseshoe Canyon Ranch for dude ranch fun,
plus zip-lining and rock climbing.
• Buffalo Outdoor Center also offers zip-lining.
The crown jewel of this city is its array of springs that still supply naturally heated water for thermal baths. Hot Springs National Park, preserving 47 naturally flowing thermal springs on the southwestern slope of Hot Springs Mountain, is located right in the middle of town. Lodging is offered in historic hotels and chain brands as well as resorts and lodges located downtown and lakeside. The area is known for outdoor fun on lakes Catherine, DeGray, Greeson, Hamilton and Ouachita. Great food is easy to find. Try SQZBX for pizza, Taco Mama for casual Mexican or 501 Prime for the finer foods.
Head to the Mountain Tower and take the elevator up to the observation deck for breathtaking panoramic views of the Ouachita Mountains. To get there, either take the scenic drive up to the parking lot or hike the 1.5-mile trail from Fountain Street.
Also walk the paths of the national park, then stroll Central Avenue for family-friendly dining, shopping and entertainment. Make sure to hit Bathhouse Row, a collection of eight architecturally significant bathhouses built in the early 1900s. Two of the structures again now operate as bathhouses while others house an emporium, cultural center, the park visitor center and Superior Bathhouse Brewery.
The newly renovated Mid-America Science Museum is a great stop for families. Arkansas’s largest hands-on museum brings science to life and outdoor paths lead to the dinosaur age.
• Dig for quartz crystals.
• Experience Maxwell Blade's Theatre of Magic.
• Expend some energy at Magic Springs/Crystal Falls theme and water parks (open seasonally).
• Stroll the 210-acre Garvan Woodland Gardens.
• Tour the Gangster Museum of America and the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum.
• Zip-line through the trees at Adventureworks Outdoor Adventure Park.
• Mountain bike, hike, fish and golf throughout the area.
• Shop this renowned arts community’s plethora of galleries.
Keep It Local!
Don’t have time to travel? Get in some quick family fun in Central Arkansas!
Adventures in science abound at Little Rock’s Museum of Discovery. Come see more of what has captured the admiration and fascination of many, including Jimmy Fallon, host of “The Tonight Show.” You and your children will enjoy the hands-on activities, rotating exhibits and frequent special events. 501-396-7050 or museumofdiscovery.org.
Take a walk on the wild side at the Little Rock Zoo. More than 700 animals live there and provide an opportunity for lessons in conservation. Children also learn about agriculture while feeding and grooming animals at the Zoo’s Arkansas Heritage Farm. 501-666-2406 or littlerockzoo.com.
No trip to the capital city is complete without a tour of the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, which is a treat for adults and children alike. Explore from the first floor, where a presidential limo takes center stage, to the top floor, where exhibits highlight the Clintons’ White House years. 501-372-4242 or clintonlibrary.gov.
Let the kids roll up their sleeves and get messy at the Innovation Hub’s spring break art camp on March 21. Kids will enjoy an afternoon filled with creative fun at this unique North Little Rock makerspace! Sign up at arhub.org.