Looking for family fun near Little Rock? Search no more–I’ve compiled the ultimate Little Rock Arkansas Family Fun Guide for you. There is so much to do, and a lot of it is free. You’ll never run out of fun family-friendly entertainment with this list!
Mount Magazine Arkansas’s highest point at 2753 feet!
Petit Jean / Native American Cave Drawings Rock House Cave is not a true cave, but a large rock shelter. It is also the premier spot in the state for viewing Native American rock art- created over 500 years ago. This trail also includes some of the most interesting geological formations in the park: Turtle Rocks.
Lake Catherine Waterfall A beautiful two-mile streams and hills hike.
Historic Washington State Park An important stop on the Southwest Trail, James Bowie, Sam Houston, and Davy Crockett famously traveled through here. James Black, a local blacksmith, actually forged the legendary Bowie knife. From 1863-1865, it served as the Confederate capital of Arkansas. The 1874 Courthouse serves as the park visitor center. Start there, and continue to the Blacksmith Shop, Weapons Museum, Print Museum, and other historic locations that make up the largest collection of 19th-century buildings in the state. Williams Tavern Restaurant serves home cooking daily from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (Teachers looking for fun lessons about Arkansas history for kids and other group leaders planning a trip to Historic Washington should call 870-983-2660 and request the current Teacher’s Guide.)
Crater of Diamonds State Park $10 adults/$6 kids. One of the only places in the world where the public can search for real diamonds in their original volcanic source, Crater of Diamonds is a one-of-a-kind experience that brings people from all over the world to Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Visitors to the park search a 37-acre plowed field, the eroded surface of a volcanic crater, for variety of rocks, minerals, and gemstones – and any rock or mineral you find is yours to keep.
Civil War Red River Campaign State Parks
Three Civil War battles took place in south-central Arkansas in the spring of 1864 as part of the Union Army’s Red River Campaign. The sites of these skirmishes – Poison Springs, Marks’ Mills, and Jenkins Ferry – and the 1836 Courthouse at Historic Washington State Park, which served as Arkansas’s Confederate capital, comprise the Red River Campaign National Historic Landmark. You can download a brochure with more information HERE.
Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.
There are 1,550 geocaches around Little Rock.
Coleman Crystal Mine ($5-10/person) Ron Coleman Mining has been the premier destination for hands-on quartz crystal mining and precious gem gifts for 30 years. Families and visitors come from all over the country to see our mine in Jessieville, Arkansas, and to dig their own treasures.
Big Dam Bridge – Experience the longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge in North America, built specifically for that use. This impressive structure was named the Big Dam Bridge because of its massive 4,226 foot span built atop Murray Lock and Dam.
Old Mill – A historic re-creation of an 1880’s water-powered grist mill. It is in the opening scenes of the classic movie “Gone With The Wind.” It features sculptures by Senor Dionicio Rodriguez and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A highlight for visitors traveling Arkansas is the Old Mill, a favorite attraction that provides both a glimpse of history and a very beautiful photographic opportunity. (Don’t forget to bring your camera!)
Pinnacle Mountain State Park – Just west of Arkansas’s capital city of Little Rock, Pinnacle Mountain stands as the centerpiece of this geographically diverse state park. This day-use park offers a variety of outdoor adventure on the Big and Little Maumelle Rivers, in the Arkansas Arboretum, and along over 15 miles of trails including 7 miles of challenging mountain bike trails. Hike to the top, explore the rivers, or take in one of the many interpretive programs offered by park staff. Visit the park visitor center, enjoy a picnic, or reserve a pavilion for a larger gathering.
Lorance Creek – Lorance Creek Natural Area is primarily a shallow, ground-water swamp. Handicapped-accessible trail and boardwalk that winds down through a mixed pine/ hardwood forest into a bald cypress-water tupelo swamp. Interpretive panels line the trail and boardwalk, illustrating the value and functions of wetlands, natural divisions of Arkansas, and plant and animal life of forested wetlands.
William Kirsch Preserve It is nestled in the community of Ranch North Woods and at the foot of Pinnacle Mountain State Park. It has over 230 acres of land, with awesome views of Pinnacle Mountain. There’s also a 1.2 mile walking trail, biking trails, and a canoe launch.
Bernice Garden – The Bernice Garden is located at the southeast corner of Daisy Bates Avenue and South Main Street in downtown Little Rock. Created to celebrate the community and host events, the garden also fosters neighborliness and a sense of pride in the area.
The garden features permanent and temporary sculptures created by Arkansas artists and sponsored by The Bernice Garden Sculpture Fund. Mosaics, rock formations, the hand-crafted sign and additional art installations add to the multi-staged development plan for the space.
H.U. Lee Garden – The H.U. Lee International Gate & Garden is an exquisite South Korean gate and garden, containing foliage, symbolic statues and structures, including a fountain and reflective pool. Its purpose is to educate people about the late Haeng Ung Lee’s (Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee) contributions to society, the country of South Korea and the Songahm Taekwondo style developed by Eternal Grand Master Lee. The gate welcomes people to Little Rock and Arkansas.
Garvan Gardens – The botanical garden of the University of Arkansas. Nestled in the picturesque Ouachita Mountains of Southwest Arkansas, the Gardens are a wonderful gift to all people from local industrialist and philanthropist Verna Cook Garvan.
Travelers Baseball – The Arkansas Travelers, also known informally as The Travs, are a Minor League Baseball team based in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The team, which plays in the Texas League, is the Double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
Oaklawn Horse Racing – It’s free to watch the horse races for families.
State Capitol – To schedule a guided tour of the Capitol, call the Visitor Services Specialist, at 501-682-5080. The free tours of the Capitol Building are offered weekdays from 9am-12pm and from 1pm-3pm. Walk-in visitors requesting personally guided tours will be scheduled on the next available guided tour. Or you can explore on your own. You can pick up a free copy of these tour booklets at the Visitor Center on the first floor. (Note: Our favorite part is visiting the treasury on the top floor. They will let you hold $500,00!)
Clinton Library (Adults $10/youth $6) – The permanent exhibits at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum reflect the events, ceremonies, day-to-day workings of the White House, the lives of the President and the First Family, and the accomplishments and work of the Clinton Administration. The exhibits display the story of President Clinton’s life before becoming president, during his terms in office, as well as his post-presidential work.
Alligator Farm ($9/$6) – The Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo includes a petting area with emu, pygmy goats, and sheep; feed is furnished to all guests. And, the farm not only includes both adult and baby alligators, it is also now home to four types of primates, Arkansas mountain lions, wild ducks, wolves, turkeys, peacocks and more.
Family Farm – Family Farm has been blessed over the years by hosting school field trips at the farm. Field trips are in the spring and fall, Monday – Friday, by reservation only, so please call ahead to set up a date.
Little Rock Zoo – The Little Rock Zoo creates engaging experiences that inspire people to value and conserve the natural world. With more than 500 animals.
Civil War Trail – Civil War sites all around Arkansas.
Trail of Tears – The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail passes through the present-day states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The Trail of Tears was a series of forced relocations of approximately 60,000 Native Americans in the United States from their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States, to areas to the west of the Mississippi River that had been designated as Indian Territory. Here is a worksheet for their Junior Ranger program.
DOWNTOWN LITTLE ROCK
Trolley – METRO Streetcar operates on two routes throughout the Little Rock and North Little Rock downtown areas seven days a week, and it’s free!
City Walking Tour – There are monumental historical landmarks in Little Rock. The landmarks are mainly located in the downtown area of the city. The most prominent among them are Capitol Building and Old State House Museum. Take this self-guided walk to explore the main landmarks of the city but also the interesting shopping and entertainment sights.
Discovery Museum – Ranked 6th best U.S. science museum by MENSA!
Central High School Museum (Free) – Preserving the legacy of the 1957 desegregation crisis and its role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Fordyce/Hot Springs – In 1915, reviews proclaimed the Fordyce Bathhouse as the best in Hot Springs. Now you can tour the Fordyce and see the splendor. In May 1989, the Fordyce Bathhouse opened as the Park Visitor Center; the bathhouse had actually gone out of business in 1962. It took extensive restoration, but the result is a look at the bathhouse as it was in the early years of business, complete with beautiful stained glass ceilings, marble walls, and statues. You can tour the building, look at exhibits and watch movies on taking the baths and the park story.
MacCarthur Museum (Free) – The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History was created to interpret our state’s military heritage from its territorial period to the present. Located in the historic Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal–the birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur–the museum preserves the contributions of Arkansas men and women who served in the armed forces. Exhibits feature artifacts, photographs, weapons, documents, uniforms and other military items that vividly portray Arkansas’s military history at home and abroad.
Historic Arkansas Museum (Free) – Recalling Arkansas‘ frontier days with restored pre-Civil War houses plus a museum center featuring full-scale galleries, interactive exhibits and more.
Old Statehouse Museum (Free) – Old State House is the oldest standing State Capitol West of the Mississippi River
Mount Holly Cemetery – The self-guided Walking Tour of Mount Holly is an easy way to explore the cemetery. Check at the Victorian bell house in the center of the cemetery for our brochures, which provide a map of the cemetery and a path for self-guided tours. Images of the cemetery map and directories for it appear below.
Grant County Museum/Nature Trail – One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War occurred over a two day period, April 29-30, 1864 in Grant County– The Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry. The Union Army was led by Major General Fredrick Steele. The Confederate Army was under the command of General E. Kirby Smith.
General Steele and 5000 Union troops were attempting to get back to Little Rock while retreating from Camden, Arkansas after having been mauled at Mark’s Mill and Poison Springs. On the afternoon of April 29, Union forces reached Jenkins’ Ferry on the Saline River. This location is about 15 miles from the present-day location of the Grant County Museum. When General Steele and his men reached the Saline River they saw it was flooded. The Union forces at this time employed a large inflatable pontoon bridge that was placed over the swift river allowing them to cross over. In addition to approximately 5000 men, General Steele had hundreds of wagons, mules, horses, and supplies to have to get across the bridge before being attacked by the Confederate forces. Fighting broke out as they attempted the crossing and became very fierce the following day, April 30. Although the battle waged back and forth, late on the 30th General Steel and the last of his men crossed over the bridge and then cut it into pieces sending it down the river and preventing the Confederate forces from following them. To continue reading this historical story, please click here.
Rohwer Japanese Internment Camp – War hysteria, racial prejudice, and failure of political leadership led to the forced removal of 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. One third of those removed were foreign-born Issei. Many Issei were more than 50 years old and prohibited from becoming American citizens. The remaining two-thirds were American born citizens–Nisei. Most Nisei were under 21 years old. These Americans left their entire lives behind, including possessions, homes, businesses, and communities and were imprisoned in 10 relocation camps across the United States, including Rohwer and Jerome (south of Rohwer) in Desha County, Arkansas.
Scott Plantation – Depicts early farming life from statehood through mechanization; original area working plantation structures include a hand-hewn cypress corncrib, 1840s dog trot log cabin, Big House from one of the local plantations; commissary, one-room schools, doctor’s office, tenant houses, blacksmith shop. Civil War interpretive sign explains the Battle of Ashley’s Mill, part of the 1863 Little Rock Campaign conducted by Union General Frederick Steele that led to the fall of Little Rock in 1863.
Plantation Museum – Located in Scott, Plantation Agriculture Museum preserves Arkansas’s farming history. Housed in a series of buildings is the main museum originally built as a general store in 1912, the Dortch Gin Exhibit containing a 1916 cotton gin, Seed Warehouse #5 which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a Historic Tractor Exhibit completed in 2018. Live demonstrations include water pumping and cotton ginning. At the Plantation Agriculture Museum, kids and adults alike can explore where and how crops were grown and harvested in Arkansas from the time of statehood in 1836 through World War II.
Blanchard Springs – Located in Stone County, approximately 2 miles off Highway 14 near Mountain View, the Blanchard Springs Caverns is one of the most spectacular and carefully developed caves found anywhere. Visitors enter a “living” cave where glistening formations like stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and flowstones are still changing. These crystalline formations are the result of minerals deposited by dripping water. Forest Service interpreters guide all tours.
Stroll through large, beautifully lighted rooms with handrails and paved trails for comfortable walking. Climb over rocks, crawl through and slide down red clay mud in an undeveloped section of the Caverns. Tour the “Water Works” exhibit hall and view the movie “The Amazing World Below” which introduces you to the underground world.
More Caves to Explore – Located across northern Arkansas, these six destinations make for easy day trips. The formations are like nothing you find above ground, and kids will learn about a seemingly whole new world as they discover stalactites and stalagmites, cave curtains, and even structures with names like cave bacon and cave popcorn! Check out these six caves and caverns and explore them with the whole family.
Magic Springs – Magic Springs is a Top Arkansas attraction and Arkansas’s only theme & water park. Roller coasters, wild water slides & more.
LOCAL EVENTS 2020
Pinnacle Homeschool Fridays (1:00 – 2:30) – Through a variety of experiences including hiking, crafting, nature programming, audio-visual presentations and more, kids will discover the basic principles of biology, ecology, and conservation. These programs are recommended for students 7-10 years old and will provide an assortment of educational classes as well as outdoor activities. Be sure to send your student with a refillable water bottle, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a sense of adventure. Space is limited and registration is required. Please call for course descriptions.
Guided Tour of Mound Lake/Toltec Mounds (kayaking) Adults $10/Kids $8 April 18
Join a park interpreter at the visitor center for an introduction to canoeing and kayaking. Following the class, we will have an opportunity to explore Mound Lake, which was used by the Plum Bayou Culture over 1,000 years ago. Visitors will learn how Native Americans used the plants and animals that make Mound Lake their home. Prior canoeing or kayaking experience is not necessary. Canoes, kayaks, life vests, and paddles are provided, and families are welcome. Reservations are required, as space is limited.
Arts in the Park/Hot Springs April 24-May 3 – “Attending an arts festival in America’s first National Park is an experience that is unrivaled, and it really showcases the beauty of our city, teeming with the artistic inspiration and talent of our citizens,” said Ashley Campbell, HSACA Board President.
Annual Territorial Fair, 10-4 May 9 – Since 1973, the museum has hosted a family favorite, the annual Territorial Fair where visitors experience frontier life first hand. The fair features Dutch oven cooking, blacksmithing, traditional music and dance, and other 19th century demonstrations.
Jacob Wolf House Pioneer Days – May 15-16
The two-story dogtrot structure was constructed by Jacob Wolf in 1829 as the first permanent courthouse for Izard County in Arkansas Territory. The annual Pioneer Days Event celebrates the region’s heritage and offers visitors a fun-filled day of activities. The Jacob Wolf House Historic Site preserves, protects and promotes Arkansas’s oldest public structure and interprets the cultural and historical significance of this Ozark region.
Arkansas Folk Festival, Mountain View (Court Square, Ozark Folk Center State Park) April 17-18 (third full weekend) – Annual Spring celebration featuring handmade crafts, frontier life demonstrations, parade, folk and bluegrass music, dancing on the courthouse Square, and window decorating contest. A great fun family festival. Ozark Folk Center opens for the season. Free admission to the Crafts Village during this weekend. Free shuttle from downtown to the Folk Center. Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, 870-269-8068, www.YourPlaceInTheMountains.com.
Toad Suck Days. Festivalgoers gather for food-on-a-stick, local and national entertainment, arts & crafts, activities for kids, and of course, the World-Famous Championship Toad Races. Several festival-sanctioned events sponsored by local nonprofit organizations take place throughout the weekend as well, including a 5K/10K race and the Tour de Toad bicycle race. CONTACT: 501-327-7788, http://toadsuck.org/
Little Rock Arkansas Family Fun Guide
With so much to do and see in our great state of Arkansas and especially in Little Rock, I know you’ll enjoy visiting with your family.