The town of Batesville is the most populous in Arkansas’ Independence County, and it’s the county seat as well.
It’s located about an hour and a half to the northeast of the state’s capital, Little Rock, and is surrounded by much of Arkansas’ most amazing natural beauty, including the Ozark Mountains.
Due to its rural location, you’ll probably need to spend some time in the car to see and experience all the region has to offer. But its relative proximity to larger urban areas and neighboring states makes it a convenient and inexpensive place to stay while visiting the area.
1. Lyon College
College campuses are great places to check out when you’re visiting an area and looking for activities to fill your time.
Lyon College is a small undergraduate college located in Batesville, and it was founded in 1872.
It’s affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, and like nearly all colleges, it offers a variety of activities on campus, many of which are free.
Lyon College is the oldest independent college in the state. Guest speakers, theater performances, and art shows are all held on the campus, but if you’d rather stretch your legs in a quiet setting, the campus is great for that as well.
2. Batesville Municipal Golf Course
Since it opened in 1974, the Batesville Municipal Golf Course has been drawing locals, who enjoy hitting the links, wearing funny pants, and chasing a white ball around without breaking the bank.
Like most golf courses, it’s got 18 holes and has a variety of tees available for every age and gender.
During peak times on the weekends in summer, the tee times can fill up quickly, so if you’d rather miss the crowds, consider booking the earliest morning slot or playing on a weekday instead.
There’s a pro shop and snack bar on site if you’d like a cold drink or a new golf glove.
3. Melba Theater
Located on West Main Street, Batesville’s Melba Theater has recently been renovated. It is the town’s premier movie theater and all around entertainment venue.
Concerts, theater productions, and a host of live entertainment are offered. If you don’t mind watching movies that are a few months old, you’ll appreciate their bargain basement ticket prices.
They’ve got a concession stand that sells all the movie-house standbys like popcorn, soda, and soft pretzels, and previous guests have commented on how comfy the new seats were.
The Melba Theater is a great place for a family-friendly night on the town, so check it out.
4. Mark Martin Museum
For those who aren’t big NASCAR fans, the name Mark Martin may not mean much to you; but if you are, you’ll already know that he’s one of the auto sports biggest names.
He now owns a Ford dealership on Batesville Road in Batesville. On the same grounds as the new car lot is the museum that bears his name.
It’s full of authentic equipment, photos, and first-hand accounts of the racing star’s career, and the humble beginnings from which he rose to the top of the country’s elite drivers.
The museum is free to visit and includes a cool gift shop with lots of great hats, shirts and other knick-knacks that make excellent gifts.
5. Old Independence Regional Museum
Located on 9th Street in Batesville, the Old Independence Regional Museum is the county’s top destination for those interested in learning about the region’s history and culture.
In years past, much of the land in the area was one large county called Independence County.
The museum does a great job of presenting artifacts, exhibits, and displays in a way that engages visitors and gets them interested in delving into the pioneer culture that was responsible for exploring and settling the area more than a century ago.
The museum is a rare historical gem, so check out their website or ask a local how to get there when you arrive in town.
6. Batesville Community Center & Aquatics Park
Even in rural towns, community centers and aquatic parks are sprouting up and are popular with locals and tourists alike.
Batesville’s Community Center and Aquatic Park is located on 20th Street and includes a full-size gymnasium, indoor pools for adults and children, and a heated whirlpool that’s great for those in rehabilitation or suffering from sore muscles and bones.
The outdoor aquatics park is a big hit with the young ones and a great place to let kids be kids, especially in the dog days of June, July, and August, when the Arkansas heat and humidity can be unbearable.
7. Dean Baker’s
Dean Baker’s has been one of Batesville’s icons for years. It’s located on Central Avenue in town and is the place to go for value-minded shoppers looking to pick up some items on the cheap.
Whether you’re looking for housewares, tools, patio furniture or an old suitcase for your kids to take to college, you’ll likely find it here.
They’re famous for their low prices and great value; it’s not uncommon to fill a shopping cart and walk away without spending anywhere near a hundred bucks.
You never know what you’ll find, so set aside an hour or so to scour through their offerings. You may just find what you’ve been looking for.
8. White Ranch Conservation Area
Though you’ll have to spend a bit of time in the car to reach it, the White Ranch Conservation Area in neighboring Missouri is about 10 miles south of the town of West Plains.
It’s comprised of nearly 7,000 acres of land that’s mostly forested and includes plenty of rolling hills.
Fishing in the South Fork and Spring Rivers is a popular activity, as are hunting for deer and turkey.
Many of the public areas are handicap accessible. If you plan on hunting or fishing, you’ll need to check up on the open seasons, regulations, and buy the correct license or permit – whether you’re from in state or are just visiting.
9. Norrell Lock and Dam #2
Located roughly between Batesville and Stuttgart Arkansas, the Norrell Lock and Dam 2 has largely halted the water’s flow upriver, creating a long stretch of calm water that’s a favorite with boaters, fisherman and all-around outdoor enthusiasts.
The waters are known for bass, bream, and catfish, and fishing is good either from shore or a boat.
The working lock provides the means to lift freighters and barges over the nearly 400-foot change of elevation; watching it in action is quite an impressive spectacle.
The boat launch and park offer picnic areas, restrooms and plenty of walking trails along the water as well.
10. Eleven Point National Scenic River
Located in southern Missouri, the Eleven Point National Scenic River was created in 1968, when the United States Senate created the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, which now includes a portion of the Eleven Point River that’s more than 40 miles long.
It’s a favorite destination for anglers, and there are nearly a dozen access points for boaters. The nearby campgrounds include tables, bathrooms and fire pits.
For a truly unique adventure, consider camping for a night at one of the seven campgrounds that are only reachable by boat.
You may have it all to yourself, and it’ll feel like you’re a million miles from civilization.
11. ASU Museum
Located on a nearly 1,400-acre campus in nearby Jonesboro, Arkansas State University is a great place to stop and see when you’re in the area.
The ASU Museum is the biggest and most complete museum of its kind in the state. It includes displays, exhibits, and artifacts that relate to the state’s history, culture and geography. You’ll learn more than you ever thought possible about The Natural State.
It’s free to visit, and after you’ve seen all there is to see, consider taking a stroll around the campus. There are often sporting, instructional and art events on campus – many of them are free.
12. Bradbury Art Museum
The Bradbury Art Museum on Olympic Drive in Jonesboro features a nationally-renowned collection of contemporary art in a wide variety of mediums.
It’s a great community resource, and since it’s free to visit, you may want to give it a slot on your Arkansas itinerary.
In addition to their permanent exhibits, they also host a variety of temporary ones throughout the year. They even possess a few pieces by noted international artists like Andy Warhol.
They also offer workshops and guest speakers that are big hits with local artists and art lovers, so check out the calendar section on their website.
13. Skirmish at Jonesboro
During the Civil War, the state of Arkansas was a frequent meeting place between Union and Confederate troops determined to claim it for their side.
The Skirmish at Jonesboro isn’t too well known outside the local area, but it’s a unique bit of local history that’s worth a quick look.
The site also includes a memorial to World War I soldiers and is located near the downtown area close to plenty of local businesses, government agencies, and churches.
It doesn’t take that long to see, so you’ll have plenty of spare time to take in the area’s other popular attractions.