Located in rural Arkansas’ Jackson County, the small town of Newport is positioned between Jonesboro, Little Rock, and Memphis, making visits to some of the state’s most popular cultural, historical and natural sites easy day trips.
It’s also well-known locally as the town where a young Sam Walton owned a small retail store before founding Wal-Mart and is home to 10 locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
There’s a satellite campus of Arkansas State University in town which gives visitors and residents other recreation options – from sports and arts to the theater.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Newport, Arkansas.
1. Blue Bridge Center for the Delta Arts
Located inside the Newport Business Resource Center on Hazel Street downtown, the Blue Ridge Center for the Delta Arts is one of the area’s most complete repositories of all things related to the arts in the Mississippi and Arkansas River Delta regions.
The center has a permanent collection of art on display, and they often host guest exhibits. The proceeds from sales go towards increasing the center’s scope and offering the educational and instructional art-related courses for which it’s known.
They also host the Delta Arts Festival every year, which draws guests from all over the southeast.
2. Rock and Roll Highway 67 Museum
Arkansas, Tennessee, and the entire Mississippi Delta region of the American south are considered by many to be the birthplace of some iconic forms of music, like blues and rock ‘n roll.
Located on Hazel Street in Newport, the Rock and Roll Highway 67 Museum is focused on preserving and showcasing the lives and histories of the music legends whose names are synonymous with American music.
The museum sports exhibits on The King, Elvis Presley, and country music greats like Patsy Cline and Conway Twitty.
The museum is inexpensive to visit; for music lovers, it’s like a walk down memory lane.
3. Jacksonport State Park
Located just a few miles northwest of Newport, the town of Jacksonport sits on a bend in the Arkansas River, and for much of its existence was a thriving port.
During the Civil War-era, freighters provided most of the transportation between the south and midwest, but as the railroads grew, the town’s strategic importance waned.
Jacksonport State Park is located on Avenue Street and includes a museum located inside a courthouse from the late 1800s, river access, and plenty of campsites with full RV hookups.
If you plan on visiting the museum and going camping, consider booking your campsite in advance, especially during peak season.
4. Harding University Theater
Harding University in Searcy is a Christian University that has been around for decades.
In addition to the attractive campus grounds, the university offers a lot of free and inexpensive recreational opportunities to locals and visitors.
With productions suitable for all ages, it’s a great way to spend an evening taking in a show put on exclusively by local talent.
Their fall and spring variety shows are big hits, and during the summer months, they offer a dinner theater as well.
If you’ll be traveling with kids, their Pied Piper troupe travels the area putting on shows specifically designed with children in mind.
5. Pioneer Village
Small towns across America are full of unique historical sites that give visitors a fascinating insight into the past of the place they’re visiting.
Pioneer Village on Higginson Street in Searcy is one such place, and it’s free to visit.
In addition to old buildings and an all-volunteer staff dressed in pioneer-era clothing, Pioneer Village offers many unique items for sale, like handmade quilts, arts and crafts, and locally made food products like honey and jam.
There’s a petting zoo as well. If you go on a weekend, you’ll have the option of joining one of the guided tours that are offered.
6. Do Some Fishing
Packed full of forests, mountains, rivers, and lakes, Arkansas is a wonderland for hunters and fishermen, and the areas around Newport and Searcy include some of the most popular destinations.
Trout fishing in the Little Red and Arkansas Rivers can be excellent, but for those visiting from out of state, it would be a great idea to book a guided service so you won’t waste your time fishing unproductive water.
Tailwater Fishing Company and Beau’s Guide Service are both located in Searcy and have years of experience putting anglers on the fish.
Give them a call before you travel to find out about seasons, options and prices.
7. Searcy Art Gallery
Located on East Race Avenue, Searcy Art Gallery is another local gem that doesn’t get much outside attention but is definitely well worth a visit, especially if you’ll already be in town.
Most of the items on display rotate at regular intervals, so to avoid showing up between exhibits, it’s best to check online to see what’s on their calendar.
Previous guests have noted that they weren’t expecting much but were pleasantly surprised by the small gallery’s exhibits.
The house in which it’s located has an interesting historical background as well, so swing by and take a look when you’re nearby.
8. Hourglass Escape Rooms
The escape room concept hasn’t been around for long, but it’s quickly gaining in popularity.
It’s relatively inexpensive, can be experienced anywhere, and fosters a sense of suspense, camaraderie, and teamwork that aren’t found in most other recreational activities.
Hourglass Escape Rooms on Race Avenue in Searcy offer a variety of packages for different group sizes; some are suitable for groups with kids as well.
The idea is to use your brainpower to solve riddles and uncover clues that will help you reach your objective, which may be solving a crime, preventing a murder, or saving humankind from hordes of bloodthirsty zombies.
9. Mark Martin Museum
Even if NASCAR isn’t your thing, it’s still a popular sport nationwide, especially in the southern states like Arkansas.
Mark Martin is one of the sport’s legends; he owns a car dealership in Batesville, and there’s a museum on site that details his life and rise to stardom that’s free to visit.
As you’d expect, the museum is full of racing paraphernalia, like helmets, trophies, uniforms, and photographs. There are even some television clips of the most memorable moments in his career.
The dealership and museum are located on Batesville Boulevard, so look for the big Ford sign out front.
10. Melba Theater
Also located in Batesville, the Melba Theater on West Main Street has recently undergone a renovation, restoring the icon to its former glory.
The theater offers movies and live entertainment events, like theater productions and concerts.
Tickets are inexpensive by today’s standards. It’s a pleasant mix of traditional and contemporary and includes all the modern amenities you’d expect.
Most of the movies offered are a few months old, which means you won’t pay much to see them. If live events are more your thing, check out their website to see what’s on their calendar for when you’ll be in the area.
11. Old Independence Regional Museum
For such a rural town, Batesville offers guests an impressive variety of recreational options. And since it’s so close to Newport, it’s a great place to spend a few morning or afternoon hours.
The town’s Old Independence Regional Museum is chock-full of historically significant items and exhibits related to the Old Independence County, which is now 12 distinct counties.
The cost of admission is just a few dollars, and much of what you’ll see relates to the area’s pioneer and Civil War eras – both formative times in the region’s history.
For amateur historians or those with relatives in the area, it’s a great place to explore.
12. Batesville Community Center & Aquatics Park
During the summer months, Arkansas is often sweltering, making outdoor activities unpleasant, to say the least.
For those families with children, finding activities during this time of year can be tough. A trip to the Batesville Community Center and Aquatics Park would be a great way to get out of the house, get some exercise, and some much-needed relief as well.
The facility’s amenities include a full-size gym, an Olympic-size pool, therapy pool, and a shallow pool for toddlers too.
The outdoor aquatics park is open seasonally and includes covered seating areas, a lazy river, and tanning lounges.
13. Craighead Forest Park
Craighead Forest Park in Jonesboro is full of hiking trails that weave their way through some of the city’s most beautiful scenery.
The most popular is the one that follows the lake’s shoreline and is a loop a little more than three miles long.
It’s a great place to catch a sunset, and since it’s within city limits, you won’t need to spend hours in the car to enjoy it.
The park also has interactive exercise stations along the trail, a big playground for kids, and it’s possible to go fishing in the lake as well.
It’s a convenient and free resource.
14. Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center
Also located in Jonesboro, the Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center on East Lawson Road is an especially inviting place to visit for those with kids.
It’s full of interactive exhibits that encourage them to get their hands dirty while learning about the natural world.
There’s an onsite audio-visual center that’s a great place to start; it’ll give you an overview of what you’ll see when you tour the facilities.
In addition to learning about plants and animals, a good portion of the center focuses on northeast Arkansas’ unique geology.
Plan on spending a few hours to see everything at a leisurely pace.
15. ASU Museum
Located on the campus of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, the ASU Museum is one of the state’s most complete museums. It includes exhibits, artifacts, and interactive displays that showcase the pioneer and Native American histories of the region, in addition to its natural wonders.
The museum is always free to visit, and it’s located inside the Dean B. Ellis Library.
It’s a great option for an indoor activity when the weather outside isn’t too pleasant. There are often other activities available on campus, like sporting events, theater productions, guest speakers, and arts and crafts courses, so check online before you go.