Not always the first state to spring to mind when people think of the United States of America, Arkansas has many hidden gems that never cease to impress travelers. You should consider visiting this southern gem of a state with its majestic Ozark Mountains, famous healing springs and revolutionary Civil Rights movements that add a little bit of something special to what Arkansas has to offer. Whether you’re in search of a nature retreat or a bit of pampering and rest and relaxation, there are some out-of-the-way towns that still have that special combination of small town charm and Southern Hospitality that make them must-sees.
Check out our list of the 15 best small towns in Arkansas:
1. Jasper, Arkansas
Jasper is located in Newton County on the Ozark Plateau. A formerly sleepy little town, the state decision to reintroduce elk to the nearby Buffalo National River Valley has breathed new life into the town. Come stop by to get reacquainted with nature and enjoy a retreat from city life.
Book yourself a few days at the Arkansas House Inn, a historic stone building that is sure to charm you. Bring your hiking shoes, head out to Boxley Valley and go elk-seeing. You can also head out onto the water at Little Buffalo River or explore their Mystic Caves. The food is excellent as well! We recommend the cinnamon buns at Blue Mountain Bakery, or a steak at Boardwalk Cafe.
2. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Located in Carroll County, Eureka Springs is in the Ozark Mountains. A town on the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Eureka Springs has been compared to Switzerland for its gorgeous mountain backdrop and is a Victorian resort village known for its healing springs. The town buildings are constructed from local stones and wind through the mountain curves, blending in with nature.
Eureka Springs is an ideal getaway from everyday life – there are no traffic lights in town and it is a beautiful place to get away from city life. Pamper yourself at the Palace Hotel and Bath House Spa. Wander the historic, picturesque streets and visit Blue Springs Heritage Center. Explore the Onyx Cave Park and enjoy your mountain retreat.
3. Siloam Springs, Arkansas
Siloam Springs is located in Benton County, and was settled in 1882. The original Native American occupants visited the springs that feed the Sager Creek for their healing powers. Nowadays, the town has preserved their historic downtown and beautiful natural scenery and continues to draw tourists in interesting in relaxation.
Wander the quaint old town, and visit the local Siloam Springs Farmers’ Market. Leave your business clothing at home and head out to Siloam Springs Kayak Park for some outdoor fun, or go skydiving at Sky Ranch if you’re feeling adventurous. Enjoy a delicious meal at 28 Springs and relax at the Inn at the Springs, you deserve some time off.
4. El Dorado, Arkansas
El Dorado is located in Union County. Nicknamed “Arkansas’s Original Boomtown” for the oil boom of the 1920s, El Dorado still continues to maintain its place in the oil industry and is the headquarters Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission and other refineries.
Explore the downtown area – it is an award-winning renovated area full of shops, galleries and restaurants. Jefferson Street is especially recommended; you can see a typical London red telephone booth on the street corner! If you’re feeling artsy, visit the Pottery House, or the South Arkansas Arboretum. Treat yourself to a luxurious meal at Fayrays and catch up on some rest at Union Square Guest Showers.
5. Mountain Home, Arkansas
Mountain Home is in Baxter County located in the Southern Ozark Mountains. It is also the hometown of the actor, Wes Bentley. The town is nestled in a rustic mountain environment and close to three major rivers: the White River, Buffalo National River, and North Fork River, which features the well-known Norfork Tailwater!
Take some time to stop by Bull Shoals Dam or see some eagles’ nests along David’s Trail. Have a glass or two at Raimondo Winery or enjoy some catfish at Fred’s Fish House. You can always relax at Mountains Memories Bed and Breakfast and put your feet up.
6. Van Buren, Arkansas
Van Buren is located in Crawford County. A lumber community that grew once Arkansas was incorporated as a territory, the town was named after Secretary of State Martin Van Buren. During the Civil War, Union and Confederate forces clashed here, resulting in the defeat of the Confederate forces. Van Buren continues to retain that historical essence that charms visitors to this day.
Visit the oldest courthouse still used west of the Mississippi River, or the King Opera House, a Victorian performance hall that still stands in the historic downtown area. Van Buren has also preserved the Old Frisco Station, an original railroad station. The town offers a quaint, small-town feel – they open Main Street for a Fall Festival. You can stay at the local Travelers Inn and enjoy the low-key environment Van Buren offers.
7. Batesville, Arkansas
Batesville is located in Independence County, and was a popular port town on the White River and access point to the interior of Northern Arkansas. The town was also a major land office during the settlement of the Arkansas territory and developed a lot of quarries. Nowadays, Batesville still has a lot to offer the passerby.
Pay a visit to the Old Independence Regional Museum, or the Mark Martin Museum if you’re a NASCAR fan. Check out a show at the Melba Theatre or go shopping at the Southern Belle Flea Market. Enjoy breakfast at the Triangle Cafe and stretch your legs with a walk around downtown, you’ll enjoy the day trip and perhaps stay longer.
8. Heber Springs, Arkansas
Located in Cleburne County, Heber Springs was founded by Max Frauenthal and originally named Sugar Loaf, named after his Sugar Loaf Springs Company. Later, the name was changed to Heber Springs in honor of Max Frauenthal’s physician, an unexplained and rather random choice for this waterfront town.
Relax along Sandy Beach and bring snacks bought from Ozark County Market. There is excellent fly fishing nearby at Cameron Lester Fly Fishing, or take a boat out at Dam Site Marina. Kick back at the Abbe House Inn and treat yourself to breakfast at Rustic Inn.
9. Magnolia, Arkansas
Magnolia is in Columbia County and was an agricultural, marketing and cotton based society until oil was discovered at the Magnolia Oil Field 1938. This town produced the most oil during WWII, which greatly aided the war efforts, and today is a quirky, steak-loving town.
The downtown area is known for its famous murals and shopping on the square. It is also home to its Magnolia Blossom Festival and World Championship Steak Cook Off, as well as the Festival of Lights in late November. Enjoy home-style barbecue at Backyard BBQ and relax for a few nights at the Loft on the Square.
10. Mountain View, Arkansas
Located in Stone County, Mountain View is in the Ozark Mountains and is known as the “Folk Music Capital of the World”. The town is nestled in a valley near the Blue Mountain Range and is named for the surrounding views. Perfect for the music and nature lover, take some time from your busy schedule and make the trip out here.
Visit in April for the Ozark Folk Festival at Ozark Folk Center State Park featuring visiting folk artists and beautiful music. There are also weekly music gatherings on the courthouse steps. You can also explore the Ozark National Forest or go fishing on the White River. Explore the Blanchard Spring Caverns and rest up at Hotel Avante a Joie de Vivre.
11. Elm Springs, Arkansas
Elm Springs is located in between Benton and Washington Counties, and sandwiched between the Boston Mountains and the Springfield Plateau in the Ozark Mountains.The town was originally a mill community, and still flourished even after the mill burned down.
Visit the historic downtown area and shops, or take a walk in the park at Steele Stevens Heritage Park. Find something unique at the Paisley Pig or walk out to the actual Elm Springs, the inspiration for the town name and still in existence today. Enjoy the quaint, laid-back rhythm of life here and bring your camera – the view is worth it!
12. Lake Village, Arkansas
Located in Chicot County, Lake Village is named for its spot along Lake Chicot, an oxbow lake on the Mississippi River. Legend has it that the remains of Hernando de Soto are buried under the lake. Charles Lindbergh also made his first night flight over the lake in 1923!
Visit the Lakeport Plantation for some history, or explore Lake Chicot State Park. Head out to the Ditch Bayou Battlefield and Guachoya Art Center, or shop for something unique at Nonie’s Antiques. Have a burger at LJ’s Cafe and Bait Shop, and put your feet up at the Lighthouse Inn, you deserve the time off.
13. Ponca, Arkansas
Ponca is an unincorporated community in Newton County, off Arkansas Highway 43, and nestled in the Ozark Mountains. The community is known for its access to the Buffalo National River, and attracts many nature enthusiasts, hikers and photographers. Elk are also known to wander through from the Boxley Valley.
Bring your hiking shoes – you’ll need them to explore Lost Valley Hiking Trail, or make it up to Hawksbill Crag. Rent a canoe to explore the valley at Lost Valley Canoe Rental. If you are an animal lover, spend some times at the Ponca Elk Education Center, and go for a steak at Don’s SteakHouse after your visit. Rent a cabin and have a truly rustic getaway.
14. Calico Rock, Arkansas
Calico Rock is located in Izard County, and was said to have been named by the original settlers for the color of the surrounding rocks that apparently resembled the colors of a piece of calico fabric. The town is right on the White River in the Ozarks Mountains, and embodies the true charm of small town life.
Bring your camera and take in the views from the top of the rocks, or visit the Calico Rock Museum to learn more about the area. Go fishing on the White River, or explore the river banks. Take a trip back in time and have something sweet at the Printing Press Cafe and Ice Cream Parlor, or relax in this mountain paradise at Forest Home Lodge.
15. Tontitown, Arkansas
Tontitown is located in Washington County, and was originally settled by Italian immigrants who moved out to the Ozark Mountains. They chose the name in honor of Italian explorer, Henri de Tonti, and Tontitown has worked hard to preserve this charming Italian heritage through continuing the cultivation of grapes.
Drop in for the Tontitown Grape Festival in August, and enjoy a big bowl of pasta served in town. Visit the Tontitown Flea Market and Antique Mall to shop and their Tontitown Historical Museum. Enjoy some authentic Italian cuisine at Mama Z’s and rent a cabin to complete the rustic mountain experience. Don’t forget to go wine tasting at the Tontitown Winery before you leave!