Fort Smith proved to be a treasure trove of experiences, where history, culture, and natural wonders intertwined harmoniously. Each attraction I visited offered a unique window into the city’s past, leaving me with a profound appreciation for the stories and legacies that shaped Fort Smith into the captivating destination it is today. I had the pleasure of immersing myself in the vibrant atmosphere of this historically rich city. As the state’s second largest city, with a population nearing 90,000, Fort Smith offered a fascinating blend of heritage and natural beauty.
Situated on the banks of the majestic Arkansas River, the city bore witness to a remarkable history that stretched back to the frontier era. In those early days, various Native American groups called this region home, adding to the cultural tapestry of the area.
Delving deeper into the city’s past, I discovered that Arkansas itself has a storied history. It was once a French territory known as New France, later becoming part of the state of Louisiana. This historical context added a layer of intrigue to my exploration of Fort Smith, as I traversed its streets and appreciated the remnants of its diverse heritage.
One aspect that particularly fascinated me was the city’s connection to the Civil War. Fort Smith proved to be a captivating destination for amateur historians like myself, offering unique opportunities to delve into the stories and events that unfolded during this tumultuous period in American history.
To make the most of my time in Fort Smith, I embarked on a quest to uncover the city’s hidden gems and engaging attractions. Below, I have compiled a list of 15 fun and entertaining things to do, each one offering a delightful blend of history, culture, and natural splendor.
1. Rivervalley Artisan Market
As I embarked on my adventure in Fort Smith, I decided to kickstart my experience by immersing myself in the vibrant atmosphere of the Rivervalley Artisan Market. This free, open-air market provided the perfect opportunity to connect with the locals, explore a wide array of locally made products, and soak in the lively ambiance.
Upon arriving at the market, I was immediately captivated by the diverse range of arts and crafts on display. From stunning paintings to intricately crafted pottery and exquisite jewelry, the market showcased the immense talent and creativity of the local artisans. To my surprise, there were also health and body products as well as delicious prepared food offerings, making the market a true haven for all senses.
What made this market truly special was the fact that nearly everything available for purchase was crafted by talented residents of Fort Smith. By supporting these local artisans, I felt a sense of pride in contributing to the growth and prosperity of the community.
It’s important to note that the market operates on specific days, typically on the 1st, 3rd, and last Saturday of each month. However, I recommend checking their online schedule beforehand, as operating hours may vary depending on the season. This way, you can ensure that you don’t miss out on the opportunity to immerse yourself in this vibrant gathering of local talent.
2. Fort Smith National Cemetery
During my exploration of Fort Smith, I felt compelled to visit the hallowed grounds of the Fort Smith National Cemetery. Situated near the intersection of Garland Avenue and South 6th Street, this historic site beckoned to both history enthusiasts and those seeking to pay their respects to the fallen.
As I entered the cemetery, I was struck by the meticulous care and attention given to its maintenance. Fresh wreaths and vibrant flowers adorned the graves, creating a solemn and poignant atmosphere. It was clear that this was a place of profound significance.
What struck me most were the countless headstones that spanned the centuries, some dating back to the era of the Civil War. These weathered markers, bearing witness to the sacrifices made during a tumultuous period in our nation’s history, served as a solemn reminder of the lives lost in that devastating conflict. It was particularly poignant to note that many of the headstones lacked names, likely belonging to anonymous soldiers who perished in the war that claimed so many lives.
Visiting the Fort Smith National Cemetery was a humbling experience, one that allowed me to reflect on the valor and sacrifice of those who have gone before us. The serene and dignified atmosphere of the cemetery, combined with its historical significance, left an indelible impression on me. I departed with a renewed appreciation for the bravery and resilience of those interred there, and a deep sense of gratitude for their enduring legacy.
3. The Clayton House
As I get on with my trip to fort Smith, I had the pleasure of exploring the remarkable Clayton House on North 6th Street. Whether you choose to embark on a self-guided tour or opt for a guided experience, this historic gem is an absolute must-see.
Upon entering the Clayton House, I was immediately immersed in a world of history and elegance. The displays and exhibits, showcasing the rich heritage of the area, captivated my attention for about an hour. The best part? The admission fee was quite affordable, allowing me to delve into the region’s history without straining my budget.
Constructed in the 1880s, the Clayton House exuded the opulence and modernity of the Victorian era. It served as a testament to the sophisticated lifestyle of the time, symbolizing the town’s progress amidst the largely unexplored Indian Territory that lay on its outskirts.
As I walked through the rooms of this exquisite Victorian residence, I couldn’t help but imagine the bygone era when Fort Smith was a small town perched at the edge of the untamed frontier. It was a humbling reminder of the transformative journey this community had undertaken, evolving from a rugged outpost to a thriving city.
The Clayton House left an indelible impression on me, offering a glimpse into the past and painting a vivid picture of the town’s early days. I left with a deeper appreciation for the history and heritage of Fort Smith, grateful for the opportunity to experience its captivating story firsthand.
4. Fort Smith National Historic Site
I also had the incredible opportunity to step back in time and explore the Fort Smith National Historic Site on Parker Avenue. This site, nestled in the no-man’s-land between the civilized and untamed territories of the United States, offered a fascinating glimpse into the area’s rich history and heritage.
Upon entering the historic site, I was pleased to find that the entry fee was quite reasonable. Before embarking on my self-guided tour, I made sure to watch the informative orientation video, which provided valuable insights into the site’s significance.
As I made my way through the grounds, I discovered a trove of historical treasures. The presence of a jail, gallows, and remnants of an old courtroom transported me back to an era characterized by lawlessness and frontier justice. It was here that one of the region’s most notorious and unforgiving judges held court, leaving an indelible mark on the area’s history.
One of the highlights of the site was the path that led down to the river. It offered a picturesque stroll, allowing me to soak in the natural beauty that surrounds Fort Smith. The tranquil ambiance was a stark contrast to the tumultuous past that once unfolded on these very grounds.
5. The Park at West End
Historic downtown Fort Smith is quaint, charming, and a great place to walk around in the afternoon or early evening.
The Park at West End is one of the area’s main attractions; it even sports a Ferris wheel left over from the 1935 World’s Fair, which was held in San Diego.
In addition to fun rides, there are also historical exhibits like railroad cars and an antique bus.
There’s no entry fee, but each ride is paid for individually, making it a fun and economical way to spend a day.
The park is known for its delicious food, too.
6. Fort Smith Museum of History
As I made my way through the Fort Smith Museum of History, I was captivated by the diverse array of items on display. Old photographs provided a window into the city’s early days, while weapons showcased the realities of the frontier era. One particular highlight was the presence of an old fire engine, a testament to the city’s commitment to fire safety throughout its history. I was also fascinated by an antiquated piece of telephone exchange equipment, a relic from a time when telephones were considered luxurious and rare. This two-story museum was a treasure trove of artifacts, antiques, and exhibits that brought the city’s vibrant past to life. It is located on Rogers Avenue
One of the most popular exhibits in the museum paid tribute to the brave local men and women who played their part during World War II. Their stories, displayed with photographs and personal artifacts, served as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by the community for their country.
The museum provided an affordable and enriching opportunity to learn about the city’s history. Even young visitors could find something of interest to engage their curious minds. The exhibits were thoughtfully curated, offering a well-rounded exploration of Fort Smith’s past.
7. Downtown Splash Pad
One of the main attractions in the area was the Park at West End, Downtown Splash Pad. It immediately caught my attention with its iconic Ferris wheel, a relic from the 1935 World’s Fair held in San Diego. The sight of this historic ride added a touch of nostalgia to the surroundings.
As I explored further, I discovered that the Park at West End, Downtown Splash Pad, offered more than just thrilling rides. Historical exhibits, including railroad cars and an antique bus, provided glimpses into the city’s past. It was fascinating to see these well-preserved artifacts and imagine the stories they held.
What impressed me most was the affordability of the park. There was no entry fee, and each ride could be enjoyed individually, allowing visitors to customize their experience according to their preferences and budget. It was a fantastic and economical way to spend a day, especially for families or those seeking a fun-filled outing.
Aside from the rides and exhibits, the park was also renowned for its delicious food. I savored the opportunity to indulge in some local culinary delights, immersing myself in the vibrant flavors and savoring the unique tastes of Fort Smith.
8. Fort Smith Trolley Museum
The Fort Smith Trolley Museum, conveniently located on South 4th Street in the downtown area. It was a short walk from the convention center, making it an ideal destination for anyone with a few hours to spare.
Upon arrival, I discovered that even if the museum wasn’t officially open, visitors were still welcome to wander around and admire the antique trolleys on display. These beautifully preserved relics provided fascinating insights into the public transportation systems of bygone eras. Each trolley seemed to tell a story, transporting me back in time and offering a glimpse into the daily lives of those who relied on these modes of transportation.
As I explored the museum grounds, I was delighted to encounter a group of friendly cats. They seemed to have made the museum their home and were well-cared for by the museum staff. These feline companions were particularly fond of children, providing a source of delight and amusement for the younger visitors.
9. Saint Scholastica Monastery
During my visit, I had the privilege of exploring the serene Saint Scholastica Monastery, a place that exuded tranquility and spirituality. It was a unique experience, as the monastery is an active cloister, and the opening of the beautiful buildings was contingent upon the schedule and activities of the Franciscan nuns who resided there.
Although I couldn’t access the interiors of the buildings, the peaceful grounds alone made the visit worthwhile. The meticulously maintained surroundings provided a serene environment, allowing me to immerse myself in the beauty of nature and find solace amidst the bustling world outside.
As I strolled through the grounds, I couldn’t help but marvel at the stunning architecture of the monastery. The buildings stood as testaments to the rich history and craftsmanship that went into their construction. Each intricate detail told a story, reflecting the dedication and devotion of those who had inhabited these sacred spaces.
The monastery grounds were also a haven for wildlife. As I wandered along the paths, I was delighted to encounter various creatures such as birds, squirrels, and other local critters. Their playful antics brought a smile to my face, and I could only imagine the joy they brought to the younger visitors who accompanied me. It was a gentle reminder of the interconnectedness of all living beings and the beauty of the natural world.
One of the highlights of the monastery grounds was a serene pond adorned with a grotto and statues. It was a place of quiet contemplation, offering a moment of respite and reflection. Unfortunately, the gift shop, nestled within the monastery, was only accessible during designated hours. While I couldn’t explore its treasures, I imagined it held mementos and religious artifacts that would have made meaningful souvenirs.
10. Elevate Trampoline Park
I discovered the perfect spot for kids to unleash their energy and have a blast at Elevate Trampoline Park. This trampoline park, located in the heart of the city, offered an exciting experience for children of all ages.
As I entered the park, I couldn’t help but notice the array of trampolines that catered to different age groups. From toddlers to teenagers, there was something for everyone to enjoy. The park’s vibrant and lively atmosphere made it an excellent choice for hosting memorable birthday parties.
While the trampolines may appear to be all about fun and games, I quickly realized that bouncing up and down was an incredible cardiovascular workout. Not only were the kids having a fantastic time, but they were also burning calories and staying active without even realizing it.
Before planning your visit, I recommend checking Elevate Trampoline Park’s website for accurate information on their hours of operation and pricing. This will ensure that you can make the most of your time at the park and plan accordingly.
11. Fort Smith Farmer’s Market
Welcome to the vibrant and lively atmosphere of the Fort Smith Farmer’s Market. This bustling marketplace proved to be the perfect place to connect with enthusiastic locals, gain insights into the region’s geography, and discover an array of unique, locally made products that were truly one-of-a-kind.
The Fort Smith Farmer’s Market was renowned for its exceptional selection of locally grown produce. As I strolled through the market, I couldn’t resist indulging in the enticing aromas of fresh honey, flavorful jams, delectable candies, and mouthwatering cookies. It was a true culinary delight, offering a diverse range of delectable treats.
Additionally, the market catered to the needs of coffee enthusiasts, providing a comforting cup of hot coffee to sip on while exploring the various stalls. Beyond the culinary treasures, the market showcased an impressive array of local arts and crafts. From captivating paintings to exquisite jewelry and stylish clothing, there was no shortage of creative expressions on display.
What impressed me the most was witnessing the market’s steady growth as new vendors joined its ranks. It was truly inspiring to see the support and dedication given to local entrepreneurs who showcased their talents and products at the market. By participating in the Fort Smith Farmer’s Market, I felt a sense of fulfillment in supporting the local economy and contributing to the community’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Exploring the Fort Smith Farmer’s Market was an enriching experience that allowed me to engage with the vibrant local community, indulge in delectable culinary delights, and appreciate the immense creativity showcased by talented artisans. This lively marketplace truly embodied the spirit of Fort Smith and provided a unique glimpse into the region’s culture and passion for locally sourced products.
12. Chaffee Barbershop Museum
As part of my visit, I was able to explore the unique and captivating Chaffee Barbershop Museum. This offbeat attraction pays tribute to the dedicated barbers who have tirelessly served the residents of Fort Smith throughout the years, and although my opening may have been slightly dramatic, I assure you that the museum is truly a fascinating gem worth experiencing.
The Chaffee Barbershop Museum holds a special place in history, being renowned as the very barbershop where the iconic Elvis Presley once had his hair cut. This little tidbit of pop culture adds an extra layer of intrigue to the museum’s charm. Moreover, the museum’s captivating history is closely tied to the U.S. Army, offering a unique perspective on the role barbers played in military life.
If fortune smiles upon you and the museum is open during your visit, you may have the pleasure of meeting the museum’s passionate curator. Their enthusiasm and knowledge further enhance the experience, providing valuable insights into the barbershop’s significance and its historical context.
13. Fort Smith Brewing Company
Stepping into Fort Smith Brewing Company’s comfortable taproom, I was greeted by a diverse selection of beers that catered to every palate. What impressed me most was the brewery’s commitment to seasonal brews, ensuring that regardless of the time of year, there was always a beer that would perfectly suit my taste buds. The variety and quality of their offerings truly showcased the craftsmanship and passion that went into their brewing process.
For those with a passion for home brewing, the Fort Smith Brewing Company had you covered. They provided all the necessary supplies and equipment to brew your own batch, offering an opportunity to unleash your inner brewmaster.
If you preferred to enjoy your beer in a convivial atmosphere surrounded by good company, the brewery offered a relaxing and inviting environment. It was the perfect place to unwind and savor their flavorful brews, complemented by delicious food options that tantalized the taste buds.
14. Fort Smith Regional Art Museum
The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum was a haven for art enthusiasts like myself. The museum showcased a captivating array of professionally exhibited art that left a lasting impression.
One of the museum’s primary objectives was to foster appreciation and education within the community, and they accomplished this through a variety of programs and cultural events. It was evident that they were dedicated to creating a vibrant and engaging atmosphere where visitors could immerse themselves in the world of art.
With its roots dating back to the 1950s, the museum had a rich history of showcasing the talent and creativity of local and regional artists. It was truly inspiring to witness the diverse range of artworks on display, each with its own unique style and perspective.
For art lovers passing through Fort Smith, a visit to the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum is an absolute must. The museum’s commitment to excellence and its world-class collection of art make it a cultural gem worth exploring. To make the most of your visit, I would recommend checking their website to stay informed about any additional events or exhibitions planned during your time in town.
15. Massard Prairie Battlefield Park
During my visit to Fort Smith, I had the opportunity to explore the, a remarkable destination that offers a captivating glimpse into the area’s Civil War era history. Stepping foot into the Massard Prairie Battlefield Park, I was immediately greeted by a team of enthusiastic and knowledgeable docents who were eager to share their expertise.
The park not only provides a historical experience but also serves as a source of inspiration. As I delved deeper into the rich history of the battlefield, I couldn’t help but feel a desire to learn more. Before leaving, I couldn’t resist the temptation to browse the well-curated gift shop, where I picked up a couple of books to further satisfy my newfound interest.
Nestled amidst encroaching neighborhoods, the Massard Prairie Battlefield itself stood as a poignant testament to the past. This hallowed ground served as the final resting place for many brave soldiers who fought valiantly during that tumultuous period. The park’s serene ambiance allowed me to reflect on the sacrifices made and the impact of those historical events.
Parking at the park is limited, but depending on your accommodation, it may be feasible to take a pleasant stroll to the site. I found this to be a convenient option, as it allowed me to immerse myself in the surroundings and appreciate the historical significance of the area.