Stone church at top of the rock in Branson Missouri

6 Most Inviting Towns In The Ozarks

Located in the heart of the central United States and covering an area roughly equivalent to New York State, the Ozark Mountains span southern Missouri, northern Arkansas, and parts of Oklahoma and Kansas. Known for its rugged beauty, dense forests, and clear waterways, the Ozarks offer a unique blend of natural splendor and small-town charm that has proven extremely popular with travelers. This makes them a perfect backdrop for hiking, fishing, boating, and sightseeing adventures.

From the Victorian-era architecture of Eureka Springs to the lively entertainment hub that is Branson, find six most inviting towns in the Ozarks that embody the essence of the region’s hospitality and the diverse attractions that make it a popular place to explore.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Historic downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Historic downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Editorial credit: Rachael Martin /

Located an hour's drive east of Fayetteville and Bentonville, Eureka Springs is well-known for its beautifully preserved and extremely attractive downtown area. Historic downtown Eureka Springs features numerous well-preserved Victorian homes and buildings, many now housing quaint B&Bs and inns, unique boutique shops, and even art galleries. Walk to the southern end of Main Street for a peek at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum, which has fascinating displays related to local history.

Visitors are always welcome at The Great Passion Play, an annual theatrical event held just outside town in a purpose-built amphitheater used to stage a dramatic portrayal of the last days of Jesus Christ. And just 15 minutes further away, the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is a must-visit sanctuary for big cats and other exotic animals. Eureka Springs also makes for a good jumping-off point to explore the Beaver Lake recreational area.

Branson, Missouri

Downtown Branson, Missouri
Downtown Branson, Missouri. Editorial credit: NSC Photography /,

Its location a few hours from Kansas City and St. Louis makes Branson an ideal destination for a weekend getaway. Famous for its lively entertainment scene, visitors flock to the theaters, live shows, and family-friendly attractions along the Branson Strip. Topping the list here for families is Silver Dollar City, an 1880s-themed amusement park with thrilling rides, displays of traditional crafts, and, yes, live shows. The Titanic Museum is another highlight. Set in a scale replica of the ill-fated vessel, it features interactive exhibits and artifacts from the infamous ship.

Nature lovers will also find plenty of excuses to explore Branson. Highlights include Table Rock Lake, known for its excellent fishing, boating, and camping; Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, an attractive scenic area offering hiking, biking, and fun tram tours; and Lake Taneycomo, with its trout fishing and scenic boat tours.

Mountain Home, Arkansas

The Baker Building Mountain Home, Arkansas
The Baker Building Mountain Home, Arkansas. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM via

Its location 90 minutes southeast of Branson makes Mountain Home a great addition to any Ozarks road trip. In addition to its inviting downtown area with the Baxter County Courthouse, Mountain Home Plaza, and brewery (Rapp's Barren Brewing Company is a must-do!), pop into the Baxter County Heritage Center for insights into local history and culture.

This quaint town is also only a short drive from the Norfork National Fish Hatchery with its fascinating exhibits about fish conservation efforts. Scenic Norfork Lake is another nearby destination and is popular for outdoor activities including fishing and boating. If planning to stay a few nights, check out Teal Point Resort with its easy access to both downtown Mountain Home and Norfork Lake.

Harrison, Arkansas

Historical Hotel Seville in downtown Harrison, Arkansas
Historical Hotel Seville in downtown Harrison, Arkansas. Editorial credit: Victoria Ditkovsky /

Located about an hour from Branson and a few hours’ drive from the Arkansas capital city of Little Rock, Harrison has much to commend it for those seeking an authentic Ozarks small-town experience. In-town highlights include the historic Lyric Theater, which continues to host live performances and movies, and the Boone County Heritage Museum, with its exhibits on local history and culture.

Harrison also serves as a gateway to the Buffalo National River, the first National River in the United States. This 135-mile-long area of outstanding natural beauty attracts canoeists, kayakers, hikers, and camping enthusiasts, and many of them basing themselves in Harrison as they explore this unique natural attraction. Another must-do, the Mystic Caverns and Crystal Dome provides tours of stunning underground formations.

Heber Springs, Arkansas

Heber Springs, Arkansas.
Arkansas State University's Heber Springs Campus. Editorial credit: Melissa Tate /

As its name suggests, Heber Springs is a great spot for those wanting to enjoy some of the best natural springs in the Ozarks. The town grew up around the seven natural spring water wells discovered here, and which can be visited at the town’s Spring Park just off Main Street. In addition to its natural springs, this historic park also features picnic areas, a playground, and a pavilion.

The town is also home to Greers Ferry Lake and Little Red River, both of which are popular spots for trout fishing (especially near the Greers Ferry Dam). While there, check out the Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery for its educational displays about the region’s fish. Finally, take a hike to the scenic Sugarloaf Mountain for its panoramic views of the surrounding area.

West Plains, Missouri

More details Washington Avenue in West Plains, Missouri.
Washington Avenue in West Plains, Missouri. Image credit: Paltron via Wikimedia Commons.

The small town of West Plains has a rich cultural heritage and offers visitors a great chance to learn more about the history of the Ozarks. Head first to the Harlin Museum, just a few minutes walk from central Court Square, for its fascinating displays and artifacts relating to local history. Afterward, check

West Plains also serves as a great base to explore the Mark Twain National Forest. A must-do in the Ozarks, this beautiful area was established in 1939 and boasts well over 1.5 million acres of preserved forests, along with over 750 miles of trails suitable for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The Eleven Point National Scenic River is also just a short drive away and consists of a 44-mile stretch of relatively unspoiled waterways offering canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.

The Final Word

For those who have visited the region, there’s little doubt the Ozarks offer a unique and inviting escape. And for those who haven’t yet been there, be sure to include at least a few of the region’s smaller towns on your Ozarks travel itinerary. Whether it's Eureka Springs, Branson, Mountain Home, West Plains, Harrison, or Heber Springs—or better still, all of them—these six most inviting towns in the Ozarks provide distinct experiences that highlight the best of this picturesque region.

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