15 Best Things to Do in Russellville (Arkansas)

Written by Ariel Foster
Updated on
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I found myself in Russellville, a charming city nestled in Pope County. Serving as the county seat and the largest urban center in the region, Russellville captivated me with its rich history and vibrant community.

Situated in the northwest corner of the state, the city boasted a population of nearly 30,000 residents. However, its roots stretched far back into the past. Prior to its settlement in the early 1830s, the land was inhabited by the Cherokee Indians, who left a profound imprint on the area’s cultural heritage. Russellville had the honor of being part of the Cherokee reservation, which became the forced home for Native Americans from Arkansas and Missouri.

One of the highlights of Russellville was its abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities. Nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike flocked to the nearby Lake Dardanelle, a magnificent attraction that lured visitors from across the region. Whether it was boating, fishing, hiking along the picturesque shores, or simply immersing oneself in the serene beauty of the surroundings, Lake Dardanelle provided a perfect escape into nature.

Now, let me share with you the 15 unforgettable experiences I encountered in and around Russellville, each offering a unique glimpse into the city’s culture, history, and natural splendor.

1. Lake Dardanelle State Park

Lake Dardanelle State ParkSource: ANNAMALAI RAJENDRAN / shutterstock
Lake Dardanelle State Park

I also had the chance of exploring the magnificent Lake Dardanelle State Park, which stood out as the premier outdoor recreation destination in the area. With its diverse range of activities, there was something to suit every taste and interest.

Before embarking on any adventures within the park, I highly recommend stopping by the visitor center. It proved to be a valuable resource, providing a comprehensive overview of all the park had to offer and offering a glimpse into its layout.

Inside the visitor center, I found myself captivated by the interactive displays, informative maps, and fascinating aquariums showcasing the diverse array of fish that inhabit the lake’s waters.

Fishing was undoubtedly one of the main attractions at Lake Dardanelle. Anglers, both local residents and visitors alike, were drawn to the opportunity to cast their lines into the lake’s abundant waters. However, it’s important to note that a fishing license is required for anyone looking to engage in this popular pastime.

2. Ozark-St. Francis National Forest

Ozark-St. Francis National ForestSource: Forest Service Photography / Flickr
Ozark-St. Francis National Forest

I couldn’t help but be captivated by the state’s vast expanses, magnificent mountains, and pristine forests, all of which perfectly justified its nickname as “The Natural State.” One particular gem I discovered was the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, a haven of natural beauty and tranquility. The forest boasted a multitude of campsites, each offering a unique experience. What stood out to me was the availability of modern amenities such as bathroom facilities and hot showers—a rare find in the camping world.

For those traveling in RVs, the forest provided convenient water and electricity hookups, ensuring a comfortable stay amidst the wilderness. No matter the time of year, the forest offered a myriad of outdoor activities to suit every adventurer’s preferences.

To ensure the most up-to-date information and plan your visit accordingly, I recommend checking online resources before embarking on your journey. The Ozark-St. Francis National Forest promises an unforgettable outdoor experience, and I was fortunate to have witnessed its natural splendor firsthand.

3. Arkansas Tech Museum

Arkansas Tech MuseumSource: Valis55 / Wikimedia
Arkansas Tech Museum

The Arkansas Tech Museum, situated on the university campus along North El Paso Road. It quickly became a highlight of my trip.

As I strolled through the campus, I couldn’t help but appreciate the stunning architecture, lush green spaces, and inviting walking paths. The vibrant atmosphere was buzzing with numerous engaging activities, many of which were offered free of charge.

The Arkansas Tech Museum, in particular, caught my attention with its extensive collection of tens of thousands of historical and scientific artifacts. Each item held a story, contributing to the museum’s captivating permanent collections.

Notably, the university had recently commemorated its 100th anniversary, making the campus museum all the more meaningful. The best part? Admission to the museum was completely free, allowing visitors like myself to delve into its treasures without any constraints.

If you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend paying a visit to the Arkansas Tech Museum. It not only offers a fascinating glimpse into history and science but also provides an opportunity to appreciate the rich heritage of the university.

4. Historic Missouri-Pacific Railroad Depot

Historic Missouri-Pacific Railroad DepotSource: Valis55 / Wikimedia
Historic Missouri-Pacific Railroad Depot

As a prominent mining and agricultural state, Arkansas heavily relied on the transportation of goods, primarily cotton and timber, via the rail system. The railroads served as the lifeline for connecting the region’s resources to various destinations.

The Missouri-Pacific Railroad Depot, constructed in 1916, stood as a testament to this pivotal era. It served as a bustling staging area where freight cars were prepared for transportation to every corner of the expanding country.

In 2004, the depot buildings underwent a transformation, converting into a visitor center and railroad museum. Stepping inside, I was immediately immersed in the rich history and significance of the railroads in the region. The museum provided a unique insight into the area’s development, showcasing the symbiotic relationship between the railroads and the growth of Russellville.

5. Museum of Automobiles

Museum Of AutomobilesSource: Museum of Automobiles / Facebook
Museum Of Automobiles

During my visit to the area, I also explored the Museum of Automobiles in Morrilton, and it proved to be a delightful and unique experience that I highly recommend.

Even if automobiles aren’t your primary interest, the museum’s picturesque location atop Petit Jean Mountain and its intriguing history make it a destination worth exploring.

Originally constructed in the 1960s, the museum was the brainchild of a wealthy Rockefeller who envisioned a world-class facility to showcase his extensive collection of rare cars, consisting of over 30 impressive vehicles.

Today, the museum offers more than just cars. Alongside the fascinating automobile exhibits, visitors can also appreciate displays featuring guns, musical instruments, and vintage license plates, providing additional insights into the past.

Before planning your visit, I recommend checking the museum’s operating hours online to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience.

6. Bona Dea Trails & Sanctuary

Bona Dea Trails & SanctuarySource: exit78 / Flickr
Bona Dea Trails & Sanctuary

I discovered a hidden gem that provided the perfect escape from the bustling tourist sites – the Bona Dea Trails and Sanctuary. It proved to be an excellent opportunity to recharge and rejuvenate.

Regardless of age or physical ability, there were trails suitable for everyone. Exploring the trails was a treat in any season, but the beauty reached its peak during the vibrant fall foliage.

While wandering through the sanctuary, I couldn’t help but hear rumors of the presence of alligators in the park’s pond. Although the validity of these claims may be uncertain, it’s always wise to exercise caution and be mindful of where you step while exploring the area.

The Bona Dea Trails and Sanctuary provided a serene and refreshing retreat, offering a variety of trails that catered to different preferences and abilities. It was a welcomed break from the more crowded tourist attractions, allowing me to connect with nature and unwind in a tranquil setting.

7. Petit Jean State Park

Petit Jean State ParkSource: SharpFocus Photos / shutterstock
Petit Jean State Park

Petit Jean State Park is located southeast of Russellville, it stood out as a prominent attraction in the area. Spanning over 21 miles, the park boasted an extensive network of trails that catered to various outdoor enthusiasts, including bird-watchers, mountain bikers, and hikers. As I ventured deeper into the park, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of seclusion and detachment from civilization, despite its relatively short distance from the city.

As the state’s inaugural park, Petit Jean showcased an array of natural wonders. From meandering rivers and babbling streams to captivating waterfalls, serene lakes, and majestic mountains, it was a paradise for nature lovers. The park’s dense forested areas invited exploration and discovery, revealing hidden gems at every turn.

Before embarking on my adventure, I made a point to stop by the visitor center. It proved to be a valuable resource, providing helpful information and guidance to ensure I made the most of my time in the park. Armed with knowledge and a sense of direction, I eagerly set off to uncover the wonders that Petit Jean had to offer.

8. Subiaco Abbey

Subiaco AbbeySource: Wikimedia
Subiaco Abbey

The historic Subiaco Abbey has undergone a significant transformation over the years. Originally established as a Benedictine Monastery in the 1870s, the abbey faithfully served its purpose until recent times when it transitioned into a Catholic Benedictine boy’s college prep school.

Curiosity piqued, I decided to pay a visit and tour the grounds of this remarkable institution. Situated in a serene rural area, the abbey offered a picturesque setting that provided the perfect backdrop for capturing unique photographs.

As I strolled through the well-maintained grounds, I marveled at the stunning architecture displayed in the school’s buildings. The attention to detail and craftsmanship were evident, showcasing the historical and cultural significance of the site.

Since the Subiaco Abbey is a functioning school, it was essential to plan my visit accordingly. I made sure to consult their website to confirm the availability of tours and determine the most suitable time to explore this captivating establishment.

For those interested in discovering the Subiaco Abbey, it can be found along Arkansas Highway 22, southwest of Russellville. It’s a destination that offers a blend of rich history, captivating architecture, and a glimpse into the educational pursuits of its students.

9. Mount Nebo State Park

Mount Nebo State ParkSource: Tammy Chesney / shutterstock
Mount Nebo State Park

Nestled within the park grounds, Mount Nebo, I discovered a delightful surprise – a population of graceful whitetail deer that often gathered near the playground. To increase my chances of observing these majestic creatures, I made a point to visit during the early morning or late afternoon when they were most active.

One of the distinct features of Mount Nebo is its elevated location, granting visitors unparalleled panoramic views of the surrounding area. The vistas from this vantage point were truly awe-inspiring and unlike anything I had experienced elsewhere. To fully immerse myself in the natural splendor, I opted to rent one of the available campsites or cabins, allowing me to forge a deeper connection with Mother Nature during my stay.

Before embarking on my exploration of Mount Nebo, I made sure to stop by the visitor center to gather relevant information. The friendly staff provided me with details about specific activities, operating hours, and pricing, ensuring I had all the necessary information for an enjoyable visit. Additionally, I found it helpful to check the park’s online resources for any updates or additional insights.

Mount Nebo is undoubtedly one of Russellville’s must-see destinations, offering a unique blend of wildlife encounters, breathtaking views, and serene camping opportunities.

10. Russellville Aquatic Center

Russellville Aquatic CenterSource: Russellville Aquatic Center / Facebook
Russellville Aquatic Center

As I stepped into the aquatic center, I was delighted to discover a wide range of activities suitable for individuals of all ages and fitness levels. The center offered a diverse array of options, from swimming laps and exhilarating slides to playful splash pads. While there wasn’t a wave pool at the Russellville Aquatic Center, I found the swimming facilities to be comprehensive and capable of accommodating everyone’s preferences and needs. It was evident that like many municipalities across the country, Russellville had recognized the importance of providing its community with a space dedicated to aquatic activities and recreation.

Beyond the physical amenities, the aquatic center also provided educational and instructional courses at various times throughout the year. This demonstrated their commitment to promoting water safety and skill development among visitors. Whether one sought to improve their swimming techniques or simply wanted to learn more about aquatic activities, the center’s offerings were both informative and engaging.

For those visiting Russellville, the aquatic center offered the convenience of short-term passes, ensuring that even temporary visitors could enjoy the facilities and partake in the aquatic fun. It was evident that the center aimed to create an inclusive and welcoming environment, fostering a sense of community and promoting the importance of active and enjoyable water-based experiences.

11. Potts Inn Museum

Potts Inn MuseumSource: David Homen / shutterstock
Potts Inn Museum

Walking through the halls of the Potts Inn Museum, I couldn’t help but marvel at its splendor, which had made it a luxurious and esteemed dwelling during the mid-19th century. The meticulous restoration efforts undertaken over the years had beautifully preserved the home, offering visitors like myself a captivating glimpse into the lives of a family living almost 150 years ago. It was as though time had stood still, allowing us to immerse ourselves in the stories and memories embedded within its walls. The origins of this unique establishment dated back to the 1850s when a local couple, undoubtedly filled with ambition and vision, constructed the grand structure.

One intriguing aspect of the Potts Inn’s history was its location along an old stagecoach route. In its early years, the residence also operated as an inn, providing weary travelers with a welcome respite. Those journeying along the stagecoach route could find solace in the inn’s comforting atmosphere, enjoying hearty meals and a restful night’s sleep in a clean and cozy bed.

Located conveniently on 2nd Street in Pottsville, Arkansas, the Potts Inn Museum beckoned visitors to step back in time and explore the rich history preserved within its walls. The museum’s close proximity to Russellville made it a worthwhile and accessible excursion for those seeking a deeper understanding of the region’s past.

12. The Center for the Arts

The Center For The Arts, RussellvilleSource: russellvillecenter.net
The Center For The Arts

The Center for the Arts offered a wide array of captivating performances, including live music, dance showcases, pageants, and dramatic productions. With a seating capacity of nearly 2,000, the auditorium provided an impressive setting for these artistic expressions.

What struck me most about The Center for the Arts was the remarkable quality of its facilities. Despite Russellville being a relatively small city, this venue boasted excellent acoustics that enhanced the auditory experience for the audience. The presence of well-equipped dressing rooms and an orchestra pit further showcased the center’s commitment to providing a professional and immersive experience for both performers and spectators.

Over the years, The Center for the Arts had attracted both national acts and local and regional talent, creating a diverse and vibrant program of events. It was a testament to the thriving arts community within Russellville and the surrounding region. The center’s ability to showcase such a wide range of talent contributed to its reputation as a wonderful community resource, enriching the cultural landscape of the city.

To stay informed about the exciting lineup of performances, I found it helpful to regularly visit The Center for the Arts’ website. This ensured that I didn’t miss out on any upcoming shows or events that caught my interest. The website provided a convenient platform to explore the diverse offerings and plan my visits accordingly.

13. The Old Post Road Recreation Area and Campground

The Old Post Road Recreation Area And CampgroundSource: Arkansas State Tourism / Facebook
The Old Post Road Recreation Area And Campground

The Old Post Road Recreation Area and Campground, a prime location that offered easy access to the breathtaking Arkansas River and Lake Dardanelle. Situated nearby, this recreational haven provided ample opportunities to immerse myself in the natural wonders of the region.

The campground itself was well-equipped, offering a range of campsites that catered to different preferences. Whether I was camping in a tent or traveling in an RV, the facility had me covered. The availability of showers, restrooms, and water and electricity hookups for RVs ensured that my stay was comfortable and convenient.

What truly impressed me about the Old Post Road Recreation Area and Campground were the abundant recreational amenities available. There was never a shortage of activities to keep me engaged and entertained. From basketball and tennis courts to a playground and a disc golf course, there was something for everyone. Additionally, the well-maintained trails welcomed walkers, hikers, and bikers, inviting me to explore the stunning surroundings at my own pace.

To ensure that I made the most of my time at the Old Post Road Recreation Area and Campground, I found it helpful to visit their website. The website provided essential information about operating hours and registration procedures, ensuring a seamless experience during my visit.

14. Fat Daddy’s Bar-B-Que

Fat Daddy's Bar-B-QueSource: Fat Daddy's Bar-B-Que / Facebook
Fat Daddy’s Bar-B-Que

One BBQ joint that stood out to me was Fat Daddy’s Bar-B-Que. I learned that their first restaurant opened its doors in nearby London, Arkansas back in 2006. Over the years, they gained a well-deserved reputation for serving up delicious fare in a cozy atmosphere and at reasonable prices. It wasn’t long before their popularity grew, drawing in locals and visitors alike who were eager to savor their tantalizing dishes.

Of course, the star of the show at Fat Daddy’s Bar-B-Que was their assortment of BBQ offerings. The succulent meats, cooked to perfection and slathered in their signature sauces, truly stole the spotlight. However, what impressed me was that they also offered a diverse menu to cater to different tastes. If you were in the mood for something different, they had options like burritos, burgers, and salads, ensuring there was something for everyone.

Conveniently located on North Denver Street near downtown Russellville, Fat Daddy’s Bar-B-Que was easily accessible. It was the perfect spot to satisfy my cravings and indulge in a memorable dining experience.

15. Piney Bay Recreation Area

Piney Bay Recreation AreaSource: TAH Media / shutterstock
Piney Bay Recreation Area

With its prime location on the shores of Lake Dardanelle, Piney Bay Recreation Area offered excellent access for boaters, fishermen, and swimmers alike. As I explored the area, I noticed the presence of convenient amenities such as restrooms, campsites, and a well-equipped children’s playground. It was clear that this place was designed to cater to the needs of families and provide them with a comfortable and enjoyable experience in nature.

One of the highlights of Piney Bay Recreation Area was the opportunity it provided to immerse oneself in the beauty of the great outdoors. Spending an afternoon here with my family was an absolute delight. We relished in the tranquil surroundings, engaging in various activities that the area had to offer. Whether it was boating on the serene lake, casting a line in hopes of catching a fish, or simply taking a refreshing swim, there was something for everyone to enjoy.

To my pleasant surprise, Piney Bay Recreation Area also had an amphitheater where they hosted programs during the summer months. This meant that, if you happened to visit at the right time, you might have the chance to experience live entertainment amidst the natural beauty of the park. It added an extra touch of excitement and further enhanced the overall appeal of the place.

For those planning to camp or engage in fishing activities, I recommend checking their website for campsite information and fishing regulations. This way, you can ensure that you have all the necessary details to make the most of your visit to Piney Bay Recreation Area.

15 Best Things to Do in Russellville (Arkansas):

  • Lake Dardanelle State Park
  • Ozark-St. Francis National Forest
  • Arkansas Tech Museum
  • Historic Missouri-Pacific Railroad Depot
  • Museum of Automobiles
  • Bona Dea Trails & Sanctuary
  • Petit Jean State Park
  • Subiaco Abbey
  • Mount Nebo State Park
  • Russellville Aquatic Center
  • Potts Inn Museum
  • The Center for the Arts
  • The Old Post Road Recreation Area and Campground
  • Fat Daddy's Bar-B-Que
  • Piney Bay Recreation Area