Historic Washington County Court House in downtown Fayetville.

6 Oldest Founded Towns To Visit In Arkansas

Arkansas, a state steeped in history, boasts several charming towns with a legacy that spans centuries. From the rolling Ozark Mountains to the fertile river valleys, these towns offer a glimpse into the past and a vibrant sense of community. Experience the allure of Van Buren, founded in 1836 as a bustling hub along the Butterfield Overland Mail route. Explore the enchanting streets of Fayetteville, settled in 1828 and home to the University of Arkansas. Delve into the town where pioneers made their mark in the early 19th century. Step back in time and embrace the timeless charm of Arkansas's oldest towns.

Hot Springs

Hot Springs, Arkansas, USA town skyline from above at dawn.
Skyline of Hot Springs, Arkansas, at dawn.

Nestled in the picturesque Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs, Arkansas, stands as one of the oldest towns in the state. Founded in 1807, it has a fascinating history rooted in the healing powers of its natural thermal springs. This charming town flourished as a popular health and leisure destination in the 19th century, attracting visitors seeking relaxation and rejuvenation. Today, Hot Springs preserves its historic charm with beautifully preserved Bathhouse Row and the enchanting Hot Springs National Park. In downtown, visitors can immerse themselves in the town's rich past, explore art galleries, sample delicious cuisine, and soak in the soothing waters that have made Hot Springs an enduring landmark of Arkansas's heritage.

Fort Smith

National Historic Site sign at Fort Smith, Arkansas.
National Historic Site sign at Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Situated along the scenic Arkansas River, Fort Smith, Arkansas, is one of the state's oldest towns. Established in 1817 as a military post, it played a pivotal role in the early expansion of the American frontier. During the 1830s, Fort Smith played a significant role in the forced removal of Native American tribes, particularly the Cherokee, as part of the infamous Trail of Tears. Over the years, Fort Smith evolved into a thriving city, blending its rich history with modern amenities. Efforts to preserve this rich history led to the establishment of the Fort Smith National Historic Site in 1961. Visitors can explore Fort Smith's colorful past through museums and cultural attractions.

Little Rock

Little Rock, Arkansas, USA skyline on the river at twilight.
Skyline of Little Rock, Arkansas, at twilight.

Originally a trading post for the French Empire, Little Rock, Arkansas, was founded in 1821 after the United States acquired the city and Arkansas Territory from the Spanish in the Adams-Onis Treaty. Today, Little Rock is a vibrant city with a diverse population and opportunities for visitors and locals alike. As with any town, head to the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum for a little history recap. Pinnacle Mountain State Park and River Trail provide hiking, biking, and incredible natural views for outdoor enthusiasts. You can find delicious food, local art, and live music at the Little Rock River Market District. No matter your interests, Little Rock offers something for everyone.


Historic home on Main Street Batesville, Arkansas in Winter
Historic home on Main Street Batesville, Arkansas, in winter.

Once occupied by the Union and Confederate forces at different times, Batesville, Arkansas, was also a center of guerrilla warfare, with raids and attacks by both sides. Founded in 1822, Batesville today has much to offer residents and visitors who explore this thriving city. Stroll through the Batesville Community Park with walking trails, playgrounds, and sports fields. Head to the Old Independence Regional Museum to learn about the area's history. Try fishing, boating on the White River, or hiking at Lake Charles State Park. Visit the Batesville Creamery for a scoop (or two) of homemade ice cream, and do not miss the White River Water Carnival, featuring live music, a parade, and fireworks.


Historic Washington County Court House in downtown Fayetville.
Historic Washington County Court House in downtown Fayetville.

Did you know that Fayetteville, Arkansas is home to one of the oldest towns in the state? Nestled in the stunning Ozark Mountains, Fayetteville was founded in 1828, making it one of the oldest settlements in Arkansas. The town gained its name from Fayetteville, Tennessee, where many of its original settlers lived. Dickson Street, located near the University of Arkansas, offers visitors and locals an eclectic mix of restaurants, live music venues, and art galleries, highlighting Fayetteville's rich history. There are plenty of hiking, biking, and river rafting opportunities near Lake Fayetteville and the Illinois River in Fayetteville. Come and experience the timeless allure of Fayetteville, where history and progress harmoniously coexist! 

Van Buren

 The old business district on Main Street in Van Buren, Arkansas.
The old business district on Main Street in Van Buren, Arkansas.

Van Buren, Arkansas, is an old town founded in 1836 along the Arkansas River. It was an essential stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail route and had elegant historical buildings in the Main Street Historic District. The town's railway history is showcased at the historic Van Buren Depot, now a visitor center. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking, fishing, and parks in the Arkansas River Valley or take a river adventure. The Main Street Historic District is a must-see for visitors looking to explore an array of elegant structures, including Italianate, Greek Revival, and Queen Anne-style buildings. Enjoy the natural beauty of the Ozark Highlands Trail, or take a river trip.

As you traverse the historic towns of Arkansas, you will witness the enduring spirit of the past blending seamlessly with the present. Van Buren, Fayetteville, and Batesville stand as testaments to the state's rich heritage, offering a unique glimpse into bygone eras. From architectural marvels to scenic natural beauty, these towns captivate visitors with their timeless charm. Immerse yourself in the history, soak in the local culture, and create lasting memories in the oldest cities of Arkansas.

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