Located in east-central Arkansas’ Francis County, Forrest City was named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Civil War-era general who managed a railroad construction project in the area after the war.
With a population of just 15,000, Forrest City is often referred to as ‘The Jewel of the Delta.’ It’s conveniently located between Memphis and Little Rock on Interstate 40, which makes it a great base of operations for those who don’t mind doing a bit of traveling to see many of the region’s most popular sites.
Below are 14 of the best things to do in and around Forrest City.
1. Village Creek State Park
Known for its interesting geology and geography, the area around Forrest City is a popular destination for hikers, nature lovers and amateur rock-hounds from all over.
Village Creek State Park is a picturesque mix of hardwood forests, dramatic rock formations, rivers, and lakes, and is the second largest park in the entire state.
Comprised of nearly 7,000 acres, the park is full of trails that cover nearly seven miles; they’re open to walkers, bikers, and runners.
The park’s two lakes are known for their excellent fishing, and it’s possible to book a guided tour with one of the park’s staff.
2. St. Francis National Forest
If getting away from the crowds and convening with Mother Nature is your idea of a good time, then spending a day or two in the St. Francis National Forest would be a wise choice.
Consisting of more than 11,000 acres, the national forest has 25 separate camping areas and dozens of miles of trails, rivers, and streams that are just waiting to be explored.
Much of the park’s amenities were created during the CCC days, and there are large tracts of old-growth forest that have been largely undisturbed for decades.
Fishing, bird watching, and mountain biking are a few of the most popular activities.
3. East Arkansas Community College Fine Arts Center
Even in rural parts of the country, it’s possible to find world-class cultural and artistic venues if you know where to look.
Just an easy drive off Interstate 40, the East Arkansas Community College Fine Arts Center was opened in 2010. Since then, it has been wowing visitors with its unique blend of performing, traditional and contemporary arts.
With more than 30,000 square feet of space, it’s a venue that’s big enough to host live events and exhibits, while still maintaining an intimate feel.
Check their website to see what’s on the calendar for when you’ll be in the area.
4. National Civil Rights Museum
Arkansas and neighboring Tennessee both figured prominently in the Civil Rights Movement that swept the country in the ‘50s and ‘60s. In 1968, its most notable figure – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
It was a pivotal moment in American History, and since Memphis is an easy drive from Forrest City, it’d be a great way to spend a few hours familiarizing yourself with an iconic historic event and larger than life figure.
The museum is full of interactive exhibits and first-hand accounts of those who lived through that tumultuous time. Not surprisingly, it can be an emotional place as well.
Memphis, Tennessee is considered by many to be the home of Rock ‘n Roll. If you believe that’s true, there’s no better place to visit while in the area than Graceland.
Graceland was home to ‘The King’ (Elvis Presley) for many years of his life; it’s now a museum that documents his fascinating story, with an incredible variety of exhibits, displays, and memorabilia that are second to none.
The home and museum are open daily, and guided tours are available. Recently renovated portions of the grounds include a car exhibit, shops, and a restaurant.
Graceland can be very crowded during peak season, so plan accordingly.
6. Slave Haven & Burkle Estate Museum
The Underground Railroad was a vast network of tunnels and safe-houses set up in the south to assist slaves fleeing from oppressive and brutal conditions that existed during the 19th century.
Slave Haven, on the Burkle Estate on North Second Street in Memphis, is one such place that’s been preserved over the years.
It’s a fascinating yet macabre look into an ugly portion of the country’s history. As you might imagine, many previous guests have commented on how emotional it can be.
Guided tours of the estate’s grounds and tunnels are available; the local docents are amazingly knowledgeable and will lend an air of suspense to your visit.
7. Sun Studio
When 18-year-old Elvis Presley walked through the doors of Sun Studio back in the day, few probably suspected that he’d go on to become the international phenomena that he was.
Elvis recorded his first song here, and over the years, the famous studio has played its part in the career of other great legends, like Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
During the day, Sun Studio is open for tours, and during the evenings, it still functions as a music production facility.
It’s located on Union Avenue in Memphis and contains an incredibly in-depth collection of music-related items.
8. Memphis African American History Tour
With so many sites related to music, history and civil rights, scheduling all the things you’d like to see and do on your trip to Memphis might seem a bit daunting.
Since the history of African Americans is so intertwined with these topics, seeing them all on an African American History tour would be a great way to utilize valuable vacation time efficiently.
The guided tour generally lasts a few hours and hits many of the most popular sites; it will include snippets of history that you may not hear elsewhere.
The tour is entertaining, educational and unique, so book in advance.
9. Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Consisting of nearly 20,000 square feet of space dedicated to the history of soul music, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music is one of the region’s preeminent destinations for lovers of soul music looking to take a leisurely stroll down Memory Lane.
The Museum is full of interactive exhibits, displays, and odds-and-ends that are related to every aspect of the lives and times of some of the country’s biggest stars, like Al Green, James Brown and Aretha Franklin.
Conveniently located on McLemore Avenue in Memphis, the museum is close to other city sites, making it an easy side excursion if you find yourself with an hour or two of free time.
10. The Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange
Few things have played such a vital role in the history and economy of the southern United States than cotton.
It’s something we take for granted, but it’s a vital part of our everyday lives. The tremendous amount of labor required to harvest it played a significant role in driving the slave trade for decades.
Memphis’ Cotton Museum and Exchange is a fascinating look into the science, politics, and economics of this staple crop.
The exchange has plenty of displays and interactive exhibits that are both interesting and enlightening. Since it’s close to other area attractions, it’s convenient to see without going out of your way.
11. Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum
Maybe there’s something in the water in Memphis; the city seems to attract musical talent like the pied piper lured children.
The Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum is dedicated to chronicling the lives and careers of the amazing talents that have molded soul music into what it is today.
Their current exhibit, entitled ‘Social Crossroads,’ does a fantastic job of blending the worlds of music, history, and culture into an all-encompassing story that has played out over generations of social and artistic evolution.
Consider starting with the welcome video then giving yourself a self-guided tour.
12. City of Memphis Tour
If you’re staying at a hotel or visiting family in Forrest City, then spending a full day in Memphis would allow you to see nearly all the sites for which the city is famous.
Memphis tours include bus and walking portions, and come with a local guide, who will impress you with his or her insight into the history of the area, and how it had national implications – especially in the areas of music and civil rights.
If you’re staying in Memphis, hotel pickup and drop-off can be arranged; stops will include Graceland, Sun Studio and the Mississippi River Waterfront.
13. Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art
Comprised of an eclectic mix of Asian and Judaic Art, the Belz Museum is a truly unique gem that deserves a coveted spot on your itinerary, especially if you’re a lover of art.
The museum is slightly off the beaten path on South Main Street in Memphis, so call before you go to ask for directions.
Nearly all the items on display are one of a kind, and though it doesn’t look like it from the outside, it’s professionally done and includes more items of unique art than you’d think possible.
Since it’s not on most visitors to-do lists, it’ll be a pleasantly uncrowded experience.
14. Mississippi River Museum at Mud Island
In many ways, the Mississippi River is the cultural and economic heart of the country. That was even truer in years past when it was a primary source of transportation and migration in the days before cars, trucks, and trains.
The museum includes exhibits on the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, flood control, and the towns and industries that sprouted up by the river.
The displays include many miniature recreations of riverboats and other equipment vital to travel in bygone eras. Since most tourists are busy at Graceland and other pop-culture icons, you’ll likely have limited company as you take a look around.