Touring Arkansas – the Natural State
I would like to take you on a tour of our great state of Arkansas. We will be traveling by car. because one of the greatest aspects of our state is that each place we visit, can be a day trip. First we would start in my hometown, Vilonia. It is located in the central part of the state, about 45 miles from our capital city, Little Rock. Vilonia is a close knit community which has endured two devastating tornadoes, one in 2011 and another in 2014. But through it all, the people of our small town stand together and help each other in every way possible.
We would leave Vilonia and go to our closest town, Conway, which is the home of Toad Suck Park. I know that’s a strange name for a park but it’s based on the following legend:
“Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn’t, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern there, to the dismay of the folks living nearby, who said: “They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.” Hence, the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend and fun live on at Toad Suck Daze.” * Each year on the first weekend in May, an event called Toad Suck Daze is held in downtown to raise money for local scholarships. Live music, food and craft vendors, carnival rides and yes, toad races fill up the fun-filled weekend.
Our next stop on our tour would be Petit Jean State Park. It’s one of the 52 state parks in Arkansas. Petit Jean mountain is a wonderful place to hike and enjoy some of Arkansas’ natural beauty. You can hike to the majestic Cedar Falls or follow the Seven Hollows Trail to see natural bridges and caves. The legend of Petit Jean is:
“In the 1700s, a young French girl named Adrienne disguised herself as a cabin boy named Jean in order to follow her beloved to the New World. Because of her small size, the other sailors nicknamed her “Petit Jean,” French for “Little John.” At some point after arriving in Arkansas, Petit Jean became ill. Her identity was revealed. Unfortunately, she succumbed to the illness, died, and was subsequently buried atop the mountain now called Petit Jean. ”
Now let’s travel to the beautiful Historic town of Hot Springs. It is known for its natural hot springs. People travel from far away to experience the therapeutic healings from the natural springs and tubs. My favorite place to stay in Hot Springs is the Arlington Hotel. It was originally built in 1875 but was destroyed by fire in 1923. It was rebuilt in 1924. Many famous people have stayed there including Al Capone, whose favorite room was 443. He had the whole floor for his staff and bodyguards. He could look across the street from his window and see the activities at the Southern Club, now the Wax Museum. *
The Arlington Hotel – Hot Springs
Now on to Northwest Arkansas, a favorite part of the state for many people. We will travel via “The Pig Trail”. It’s called this because it is the scenic highway leading to Razorback Stadium at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. We will head there first to enjoy a Razorback football game. Arkansas is famous for calling the hogs to cheer on their favorite team. From then, we would go to my favorite place to stay in the Northwest part of the state, The Lodge at Elm Springs. This Bed and Breakfast is amazing! It’s a beautiful place to stay, the owners are wonderful. You will be served a homemade afternoon dessert and wake up in the morning with a delicious hot home-cooked breakfast. Just right down the street is a fantastic eclectic-styled antique/flea market shop, The Mercantile at Elm Springs. Also, a great place to eat is Mama Z’s which serves the best Italian food around.
Next we will travel to Murfreesboro to the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Arkansas if the only natural diamond producing state. In 1906 a farmer discovered diamonds in his field. Years after, diamonds are still being found there. Anyone can go to the 44 acre diamond mound and try your luck at finding that great diamond. Some have been very lucky. There’s also a cafe, water park and gift shop. I went last summer with my grandsons. We had fun digging in the dirt but we weren’t able to find any precious gems. Maybe next time!
Our last stop on this tour of the Natural State is the Buffalo National River. This natural river is a main attraction for spring and summer canoeing. There are many places along the river that offer canoe rental. We love to grab a group of family and friends and make a day of enjoying this beautiful river. There’s always something different around every bend. Beautiful landscape, large rock formations, wildlife and even places to stop and swim and enjoy the lunch you packed for the trip.
I hope you enjoyed your tour of some of my favorite places in Arkansas. There are so many places to see and things to do for all ages in our beautiful state. It’s easy to see how it got the name of the Natural State.
About the author:
I have lived in the great state of Arkansas my whole life. I have been married to my wonderful husband for 33 years. We have three daughters and now four grandkids. I have recently retired from teaching first grade for 29 years. My hobbies include: sewing, quilting and blogging. I have a part-time job at a local fabric shop where I enjoy meeting and being around other quilters. I am very grateful for my life and know that is only by the Grace of God that I have the life that I have now.
Paula, thank you so much for sharing with us Arkansas! I visited Hot Springs one year with my family and had a wonderful time there! I would love to go visit all the places you listed, but that Diamond spot looks pretty interesting to me!