Sunset Over Downtown Bentonville, Arkansas, USA. Editorial credit: shuttersv /

6 Best Towns in The Ozarks to Visit in 2024

The Ozark Mountains are a traveler's dream — but the region is oddly under-appreciated. A mountainous zone west of the Mississippi River that includes parts of four states, the Ozarks are beloved by those who know and travel them. The Ozark plateau runs from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Arkansas River, including sections of MissouriOklahomaArkansas, and a sliver of southeastern Kansas. The entire region covers a distance of some 75,000 square miles. Long a magnet for vacationers and their varied tastes, the Ozarks offer culture, outdoor wonders, and historical interest for just about everyone. These six small towns showcase much of the best the Ozarks have to offer. 

Neosho, Missouri

Neosho, Missouri: World's Largest Flower Box and American Flag made from a 66-foot-long green railroad gondola car.
Neosho, Missouri: World's Largest Flower Box and American Flag made from a 66-foot-long green railroad gondola car.

The town of Neosho, with 13,000 residents, offers equally generous helpings of history and charm. Like elsewhere in the Missouri Ozarks, the town has a number of its buildings included on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). For local folklore and a novel place to take a walk, stop at the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery, a final resting place since 1855. The cemetery hosts at least one US Civil War veteran.

Though small, Neosho offers lots of choices for recreation. Green zones like Big Spring Park and the Bicentennial Conservation Area provide four-season opportunities to stay healthy and visit alongside friends and family. The Neosho National Fish Hatchery — the first federal hatchery ever built in 1888 — supports aquaculture of various kinds. Its visitor center is a local favorite and continues a long tradition of fish conservation through the US National Fish Hatchery System. 

Branson, Missouri

Branson, Missouri skyline from a lookout.
Branson, Missouri skyline from a lookout.

Branson, Missouri, has a population of 12,900 and a considerable reputation for entertainment. Like a cleaner-cut Broadway or Nashville, the town has drawn fun-hungry travelers for over a half-century. Branson's Theater District offers family-friendly shows of many types; Dolly Parton's Stampede, named after the legendary country and western performer, stands out. Another famous option is a ride aboard the showboat Branson Belle, an old-fashioned steamboat that offers a dinner-and-entertainment experience while sailing Table Rock Lake. 

The town's position between Table Rock Lake and Cooper Creek makes for natural scenery that justifies a trip on its own. Moonshine Beach, on the water at Table Rock, draws big summertime crowds. 

Grove, Oklahoma

Houses on Hancock Avenue, east of Grove Street, in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, United States.
Houses on Hancock Avenue, east of Grove Street, in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, United States.

Grove, population 7,200, is located in northeastern Oklahoma near the Missouri state line. At one time a section of Cherokee Nation land, the town draws modern-day tourists to Grand Lake of the Cherokees, a popular warm-weather destination, which becomes a professional bass fishing site for the sport's pro circuit. The Honey Creek area of Grand Lake State Park sits conveniently close to town. For boating enthusiasts, the Wolf Creek Park and Boating Facility offers a ramp for your vessel just northwest of downtown.  

Fans of sculpted parkland may prefer Lendonwood Gardens, a botanical garden in town that stretches across eight acres and sustains more than one thousand plant species for viewing. If that garden is not enough, head down the road to the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, 70 miles southeast of Grove and across the Arkansas state line.

Claremore, Oklahoma

Old Business District on Will Rogers Boulevard, Claremore, Oklahoma, USA.
Old Business District on Will Rogers Boulevard, Claremore, Oklahoma, USA. Editorial credit: Roberto Galan /

Claremore, home to 20,200 people northeast of Tulsa, is a celebrated historical district with deep cultural roots. In fact, the town's historic center has since 2016 been NRHP-listed. The town and its surrounding area once formed part of the Cooweescoowee District (real name), a section of the northwest zone of the Cherokee Nation. The downtown today includes the Belvidere Mansion, built in 1907 — the same year Oklahoma became a state — and which is also listed on the NRHP.

Claremore is, famously, the birthplace hometown of Will Rogers, the iconic mid-20th-century country and music performer. His family history reads like that of the state itself: descended from one of the territory's earliest settler families, he also has Cherokee tribal members in his genealogy. The Will Rogers Memorial Museum tells these and many other stories for the curious traveler. 

Batesville, Arkansas

Garrot House, the Oldest House in Batesville, Arkansas, Built in 1842, Covered in Snow.
Garrot House, the oldest house in Batesville, Arkansas, was built in 1842.

Batesville, Arkansas, population 11,200, is the state's oldest town (called a "city" in its local administrative terms) and was long a critical Arkansas transportation hub. Sited on the White River, a significant waterway in the mid-continental United States, the town flourished from river commerce and the waves of new people it would bring. Settlers coming to the Ozarks often passed through Batesville. The rest, as so many say, is history. 

Batesville's attractions today include NRHP-listed addresses like the Garrott House, an 1840s stately home. The town is home to Lyon College, a school affiliated with the US branch of the Presbyterian Church. As many Presbyterians came from Scotland, Lyons College puts on the Arkansas Scottish Festival every fall, a celebration of culture and heritage from Scotland. 

Bentonville, Arkansas

The Walmart Museum in Downtown Bentonville, Northwest Arkansas, USA.
The Walmart Museum is in downtown Bentonville, Northwest Arkansas, USA. Editorial credit: shuttersv /

Sometimes best really does come last. Bentonville, Arkansas, is a northwest Arkansas town with 37,000 inhabitants and ranks among the Ozarks' best-known towns. The retail chain Wal-Mart has long made Bentonville its corporate home, supporting thousands of local jobs in the process. For a bit of culture, seek out the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art or the Scott Family Amazeum, which are considered two of the finest children's museums in America. Bentonville's vibrancy has made it the fastest-growing town in the state; as a region, northwest Arkansas ranks among the fastest-growing areas in the United States. 

For outdoor enthusiasts, Bentonville has nearly two dozen parks awaiting visitors. The town likewise sustains a mountain-biking scene active enough to inspire the nickname "the Mountain-Biking Capital of the World." The sport's local investment and moral support comes in part from one Tom Walton, a Wal-Mart heir and, more importantly, a fellow mountain-biking fanatic.  

Discover the Diverse Appeal of the Ozarks

The Ozarks have long offered opportunities in commerce, art, relaxation, and great outdoors vacations. Though some do not know of the area's charms, that only means its visitors have more of the place to enjoy for themselves. Branson promises entertainment for the whole family, while Neosho and Grove support local fishing and fish cultivation. Claremore and Batesville boast historic places in abundance. Bentonville offers dynamic economic and just-visiting opportunities in and out of doors. Whatever a traveler's preferences, they will find stories and points of interest in Ozarks towns like these.

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