Located in Arkansas’ southeast region near Mississippi and Louisiana, Monticello is the county seat of Drew County.
It has a population that hasn’t changed much in decades, hovering just below the 10,000 residents mark.
For such a small town that’s without a direct connection to any major metropolitan centers, there are a surprising number of cultural, historic and outdoor recreation options available within a small radius.
There are plenty of inexpensive hotels nearby too, making the quaint town a great place to stay when visiting the area.
Below are 14 of the best things to see and do in and around Monticello Arkansas.
1. Drew County Historical Museum
Located on South Main Street in Monticello, the Drew County Historical Museum is the town’s most complete repository of historical artefacts, antiques and exhibits that relate to the culture and history of the area that was explored and settled more than 150 years ago.
The grounds also include a log cabin from the 1800s and a Victorian-style home built in the early 1900s.
Guided tours and a variety of educational activities are available, so plan on spending an hour or more seeing all there is to see.
If you’ll be travelling with a large group consider calling ahead to schedule a tour.
2. Lake Monticello
At nearly 1,600 acres, Lake Monticello is relatively big and has become a regional hotspot for boaters, hikers, campers and fisherman from all over the state.
The bass fishing is particularly good, and the lake holds a good record of being where one of the state’s largest bass was caught.
Amenities include boat ramps, picnic areas, an archery range and designated area for remote-controlled aeroplane enthusiasts.
The park’s entrance is located just off Arkansas Route 35 west of downtown Monticello. If you plan on visiting during the peak summer months when school is out expecting the park to be crowded.
3. Turner Neal Museum of Natural History
Located on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Monticello, the Turner Neal Museum of Natural History houses an expansive collection of artefacts, exhibits and animal reproductions relating to the state’s natural history.
Additionally, they also offer temporary exhibition as well as host educational and instructional classes both for adults and children and guest speakers at different times of the year.
The museum is behind the university’s Math and Science Center and is free to visit.
At your leisure, consider checking out the university’s bookstore, student center and campus as well.
4. Pomeroy Planetarium
Also located on the campus of The University of Arkansas at Monticello, the Pomeroy Planetarium is a great place to visit, especially when the weather outside is particularly unpleasant.
In addition to a fascinating guided tour of the galaxy, you’ll appreciate their comfy seats and climate control.
The planetarium offers special community events as well as guest speakers and education classes for both retired citizens and school-age children.
It’s located inside the aforementioned Neal Museum of Natural History, making it convenient to visit them both on the same day.
5. UAM Fine Arts Galleries
At the University of Arkansas at Monticello’s, there is an endless season of fun and recreation, thanks to the presence of UAM Fine Arts Gallery on site as well.
In addition to the art and exhibits on display, the arts center offers live concerts, dance recitals and theater productions, nearly all of which feature college students and another local talent.
They’re either free or inexpensive making the center a great venue for value-minded lovers of the arts.
Check out their website to see what’s on the calendar for when you’ll be in the area.
6. Weevil Lake & Walking Trail
Referred to local as Weevil Pond, the Weevil Lake and Walking Trail isn’t the longest or most rugged walking trail in the world, but what it lacks in length it makes up for the inconvenience.
It’s located near the campus of UAM and includes a well-maintained trail that’s only about half a mile long.
You won’t need to drop bread crumbs or set off an emergency flair for a national guard helicopter rescue, but you will get some good exercise and you just might see some wildlife too, especially if you go in the early morning or evening twilight hours.
7. Deer Creek Disc Golf
If you’ve never played disc golf, your trip to Monticello would be a great time to give it a whirl.
In general, it’s like traditional golf, but you don’t need expensive clubs, overpriced balls, ugly pants, metal-spiked shoes or a caddie to play.
The main idea is to get your Frisbee, or disk, inside the hole in as few throws as possible. It’s inexpensive, challenging and family-friendly making it the perfect vacation activity.
Deer Creek Disc Golf is located on Highway 278 in Monticello behind the River Restaurant, and it can be surprisingly busy during perfect spring and summer days.
8. Splash Pad & Community Pool
Located in Monticello’s Jordan Park, the Splash Pad and Community Pool is the town’s premiere destination for aquatic fun in the often gagging summer months.
The park is on North Larkin Street just off Highway 278 and is owned and managed by the town’s parks and recreation department.
Admission is cheap, and the park sports all the amenities you’d expect, and though much of the park is for children, there are also designated areas for adults to swim laps that are off-limits to the little ones.
There are plenty of covered seating areas for parents who’d rather watch the action from a safe distance without getting wet.
9. Allen House Tours
Built in the first decade of the 20th century, Monticello’s Allen House was built in the stunning architecture so popular in the Victorian era and includes many original items of furniture, art and housewares that were considered swank and luxurious by the standards of the time.
The home includes gothic and Greek architectural influences as well, and it’s open to tours by appointment.
If you sign up for a tour there are a lot of lessons to learn about the history and culture of the area in general.
The house is located on North Main Street near the town center.
10. Arkansas Railroad Museum
Like much of the rural south, the railroads played a big part in the economic development of Arkansas and the surrounding states.
They were largely responsible for hauling natural resources like cotton and timber to the industrial centers of the northeast and returning with the finished products that locals needed in their everyday lives.
The Arkansas Railroad museum in nearby Pine Bluff focuses on the St. Louis Southwestern Railway which was one of the area’s largest networks and part of the ‘Cotton Belt Railroad.’
The museum features a refurbished steam locomotive and is located inside a terminal from the -40s. It features an impressive collection of photographs, equipment and exhibits that are a must-see for amateur railroad enthusiasts.
Large group tours are available but you’ll need to call ahead to schedule.
11. Delta Rivers Nature Center
Pine Bluff’s Delta Rivers Nature Center is one of the region’s most complete and often visited nature centers, and it focuses on the natural world and animals in and around the Mississippi and Arkansas River delta areas.
In addition to plenty of kid-friendly animals on display, the center includes a gift shop and a few outdoor trails that are located near an adjacent golf course.
There’s a bar and grill inside the golf course if you’d like to stop for a bite, and there’s also a playground next to the trail that the kids will love.
This place was great for the young children that really love white sharks.
The center is located on Black Dog Road in Pine Bluff.
12. The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas
In addition to its permanent exhibits on display, The Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas regularly hosts live entertainment including music, theater, dance, and guest speakers, making it a popular place for those with varied tastes.
Their Life at Five events are held in the evenings on the first Friday of each month and have included blues, jazz and folk music in the past.
The cost of admission is less than a happy meal at McDonald’s, and the venue has great acoustics and comfortable seats as well.
Advance ticket purchases are available if you see an upcoming show that you don’t want to miss, so check online.
13. South Arkansas Arboretum
Located on Highway 82 in the nearby town of El Dorado, the South Arkansas Arboretum is only one of its kind in the area and includes a number of professionally cultivated gardens each with a unique theme.
The arboretum is open seasonally and includes native and non-native species of flowers, plants and trees, and there’s even a butterfly garden that’s a favorite with visitors.
Well-maintained paths lead between gardens and include informational signs and plaques to let you know what it is that you’re viewing.
The arboretum is open seasonally, so give them a call or check for specific information on their website.
14. Murphy Arts District
El Dorado’s Murphy Art District is one of the town’s trendiest venues and includes restaurants, bars, coffee shops and stores that are all conveniently located close to one another near downtown.
During the summer months it hosts live entertainment nearly every weekend, and it can get surprisingly crowded for such a small, rural town.
Many of the nearby eateries are the most popular and known for their good food and relaxed but contemporary atmospheres.
The district even sports a free splash pad area for kids that a big hit with families during the miserably hot summer days of June, July and August.