Russellville is the county seat and largest city in Arkansas’ Pope County.
The city is located in the northwest portion of the state and has slightly less than 30,000 residents.
Before it was settled in the early 1830s, much of the land in the area was inhabited by Cherokee Indians. Eventually, it made up part of the Cherokee reservation which was the forced home of Native Americans from Arkansas and Missouri.
Much of the recreation in the area is related to the outdoors; nearby Lake Dardanelle is the largest attraction and draws visitors from all over the region.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Russellville.
1. Lake Dardanelle State Park
Lake Dardanelle State Park is the Russellville area’s leading outdoor recreation destination. With so many available activities, it’s got a little something for everyone.
Stopping at the visitor center before venturing out is a wise idea; you’ll get an insightful overview of all that’s offered, and a sense of how the park is laid out as well.
The visitor center includes interactive displays, maps, and a few cool aquariums displaying some of the fish found in the lake’s waters.
Fishing is one of the lake’s primary draws, but remember, whether you’re a resident or just visiting, you’ll need a license.
2. Ozark-St. Francis National Forest
With its wide-open spaces, majestic mountains, and mostly untouched tracts of forest, Arkansas lives up to its name as The Natural State.
The Ozark-St. Francis National Forest is full of campsites, many of which have access to modern bathroom facilities and even hot showers, which isn’t all too common in the world of camping.
If you’re an RV enthusiast, you’ll appreciate the water and electricity hookups as well. Depending on what time of year you choose to visit, you’ll have a host of outdoor related activities at your fingertips.
Check online for specific information before heading out.
3. Arkansas Tech Museum
The Arkansas Tech Museum is located on the university campus on North El Paso Road in Russellville. It is a great place to check out while you’re in the area.
College campuses are usually full of beautiful buildings, treed areas, and walking paths, and typically host lots of exciting activities, many of which are free.
The Arkansas Tech Museum contains tens of thousands of history and science-related items that make up its many permanent collections.
The university has recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, and the campus museum is free to visit.
4. Historic Missouri-Pacific Railroad Depot
The railroads played significant roles in the development of the area around Russellville.
Arkansas is a big mining and agricultural state, and most of the goods hauled out by the trains were cotton and timber.
The Missouri-Pacific Railroad Depot in Russellville was built in 1916 and was a staging area for freight cars destined for every corner of the developing country.
Since 2004, the depot buildings have operated as a visitor center and railroad museum. There’s no better place in the state to get a unique insight into the region’s development and how it was aided by the railroads.
5. Museum of Automobiles
The Museum of Automobiles in nearby Morrilton is one of the quirky and unique things to do while in the area that shouldn’t be passed up.
Even if cars aren’t your thing, the museum’s scenic location on top of Petit Jean Mountain, and its interesting history make it a worthwhile trip.
The facility was initially built in the ‘60s by a wealthy Rockefeller who wanted a world-class facility to house his rare car collection, which consisted of more than 30 cars.
Now, in addition to cars, the museum displays a few guns, musical instruments, and some old license plates as well.
Check online for the museum’s operating hours.
6. Bona Dea Trails & Sanctuary
Taking a break from the more heavily visited tourist sites is an excellent way to recharge your batteries; the Bona Dea Trails and Sanctuary is a great place to do just that.
Regardless of your age or level of physical ability, you’ll find a trail or two that’s just right. Although the trails are great any time of the year, they’re especially beautiful during the fall.
Rumors abound that there is an alligator or two living in the park’s pond; though that may be an urban legend, always watch where you walk, just to be on the safe side.
7. Petit Jean State Park
Arkansas has some of the most scenic and relatively undisturbed parks in the southwest United States, and Petit Jean State Park southeast of Russellville is one of the area’s main attractions.
With over 21 miles of trails, the park attracts bird-watchers, mountain bikers, and hikers. Since it’s about 45 minutes from the city, you’ll feel like you’re a million miles from civilization.
This was the first of Arkansas’ state parks and includes rivers and streams, waterfalls, lakes and mountains – as well as lots of forested areas worth exploring.
Consider stopping at the visitor center to get your bearings before setting off into the park.
8. Subiaco Abbey
Originally established as a Benedictine Monastery in the 1870s, the Subiaco Abbey fulfilled that role for much of its existence, but now, it’s a Catholic Benedictine boy’s college prep school.
It’s possible to visit and tour the school’s grounds, and since it’s in such a rural area, you’ll score some unique photos.
The grounds are well cared for, and many of the school’s buildings feature impressive architecture. Since it’s a working school, you’ll need to check out their website to verify when it’s okay to visit.
The school is located on Arkansas Highway 22 southwest of Russellville.
9. Mount Nebo State Park
Mount Nebo is another of Russellville’s gorgeous natural attractions. The park grounds are home to whitetail deer that are often seen grazing near the playground. If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of these gorgeous creatures, visit in the early morning or late afternoon.
Due to its mountain location, the park offers unobstructed views of the surrounding area which you won’t find elsewhere. Campsites and cabins are available to rent if you’d like to connect with Mother Nature for a night or two.
Check in at the visitor center or check online for specific activities, hours of operation and prices.
10. Russellville Aquatic Center
Like many municipalities all over the country, the city of Russellville has built an aquatic center for its citizens and guests.
Whether you’re young or old, fit or unfit, aquatic centers provide a myriad of activities – from swimming laps and playing on slides to frolicking in splash pads and wave pools.
Though you won’t find a wave pool at the Russellville Aquatic Center, you will find great swimming facilities that are well-rounded enough to accommodate anyone.
In addition to the physical facilities, the aquatic center offers educational and instructional courses at different times of the year. Short-term passes are available for visitors.
11. Potts Inn Museum
Built by a local couple in the 1850s, the Potts Inn Museum spent much of its life as a family home and was only turned into a museum recently.
By mid-19th century standards, it was quite a posh and elegant abode. Over the years, it has been lovingly restored to near-original condition and offers guests an interesting insight into family life nearly a century and a half ago.
The house was located on an old stagecoach route and operated as an inn where weary travelers could enjoy a decent meal and a clean bed.
It’s conveniently located on 2nd Street in nearby Pottsville, Arkansas.
12. The Center for the Arts
Located on the Russellville High School Campus, The Center for the Arts is a popular local venue that features live music, dance, pageants, drama, and other performances. It boasts a nearly 2,000 seat auditorium.
For a small city like Russellville, it’s a fantastic facility and includes great acoustics in addition to dressing rooms and an orchestra pit.
The center has hosted nationally known performers in the past, and often features local and regional talent as well.
It’s a wonderful community resource. The best way to keep up with what’s on offer is to check their website periodically.
13. The Old Post Road Recreation Area and Campground
The Arkansas River and Lake Dardanelle provide much of the Russellville area’s recreation opportunities; the nearby Old Post Road Recreation Area and Campground is one of the most easily accessible points from which to enjoy these natural wonders.
The facility includes plenty of campsites, with showers, restrooms, and water and electricity hookups if you’re traveling by RV.
Finding fun ways to fill your day won’t be a problem – the campground’s amenities include basketball and tennis courts, a playground, disc golf course and plenty of trails that are open to walkers, hikers, and bikers.
Check out their website for hours and registration information.
14. Fat Daddy’s Bar-B-Que
The southeastern region of the United States is big BBQ country, and Arkansas has its own unique style of the tasty treat.
Russellville’s Fat Daddy’s Bar-B-Que opened its first restaurant in nearby London, Arkansas in 2006. Since then, they’ve expanded, as word spreads that they’re dishing up yummy grub in a comfy setting at reasonable prices.
Of course, their multiple BBQ offerings are the restaurant’s highlights, but if you feel like something different, they also offer burritos, burgers, and salads.
They’re located on North Denver Street near downtown Russellville.
15. Piney Bay Recreation Area
Piney Bay Recreation Area is another of Lake Dardanelle’s most popular places.
The land surrounding the lake is mainly hilly and forested, and the recreation area offers excellent access for boaters, fisherman and swimmers. You’ll find restrooms, campsites and a children’s playground here.
It’s a great place to spend an afternoon with the family enjoying the great outdoors. At various times during the summer months, the park hosts programs in its amphitheater, so a little live entertainment may be on the schedule if you’re there at the right time.
Check their website for campsite information and fishing regulations.