The beautiful downtown of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Editorial credit: shuttersv /

7 Most Overlooked Towns In Arkansas

At one time called the ferocious "Bear State" in the 19th century, its bite and claw have dulled. Arkansas is, unfortunately, never on a list of must-sees like New York or California. But what it lacks in crowds of people and overpriced merchandise, it more than makes up for with underappreciated but beautiful towns and special landmarks. The Bear State is more than deserving to be a "must-see," and proof of this can be found in its towns that find themselves overlooked but are deserving of much more.


White County Courthouse in Searcy, Arkansas.
White County Courthouse in Searcy, Arkansas. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM via

Beginning in the 1820s as White Sulfur Springs, this spa town attracted many with tales of health cure-alls and longer lives. Soon, meeting the fate of nearly all spa towns, the legendary springs would run dry. It was only here that the true tale of Searcy began, as today, the small town has now become a renowned center for art and museums that still remember its past.

A trip to Searcy is never complete without Art Alley, a colorful modern art gallery and museum that displays a more playful side to the town and its more recent history. For an older and more formal time, its contrast is the Searcy Art Gallery, which places more emphasis on local artistic styles and ideas from the founding of White Sulfur Springs. The art gallery itself is part of the historic Benjamin Clayton Black House, an 1879 creation that managed to land a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Although the spas and waterworks are no longer around, Searcy carves a name for itself as not an entirely slow-paced adventure town filled with the arts.


Historical buildings in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Historical buildings in Bentonville, Arkansas. Editorial credit: shuttersv /

Calling itself the "Heart of Arkansas", and becoming a town synonymously when the state was charted in 1836, Bentonville's legacy is much more substantial and profound than that of its peers. Culminating into a town filled to the brim with museums, parks, and gardens, Bentonville has too much for it to be unnoticed. 

Firstly, Bentonville is home to the prestigious Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. A collection of sculptures, paintings, and even buildings that are based on a purely American style. On its grounds, it even has the Frank Lloyd Wright Bachman-Wilson House. Once created by the great American architect of its namesake (Frank Lloyd Wright), the house is its own historic landmark and neighbors with many of the other structures contained within this treasure of a museum. However, a more outdoor experience may include the Peel Museum and Botanical Garden. Noted for the variety of its colorful flora, the gardens are right outside the museum and are sure to capture the awe and beauty of grounds carefully made to be appreciated.

Eureka Springs

The beautiful downtown of Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
The beautiful downtown of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Editorial credit: shuttersv /

With the nickname "The Magic City", Eureka Springs brings magic due to the fact that it's a spa town that never went dry. Not content with acquiring novelty through other means, the entire town has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places for good reason. 

A lively attraction for vibrant, crystal-clear blue waters, Eureka Springs, has many spots that allow visitors and guests alike to dive into their cold springs for refreshment and much-needed cleansing. Claiming the most popular spot, the Blue Spring Heritage Center offers a verdant park with a clean lagoon that the native Sioux once used and believed to have special healing powers. On a more mysterious note, and one meant for fans of the paranormal, the town offers guided tours of the legendary 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa. Speaking with the bold claim as America's most haunted hotel, staying here at this historic site is said to be a chilling experience in its own right. 


Downtown Ozark, Arkansas.
The charming Arkansas town of Ozark. Image credit: Brandonrush via Wikimedia Commons.

Shortly after the Louisiana Purchase, and at a tiny bend on the Arkansas River, the site of a soon-to-be great town would sit. Ozark's humble origins are connected to that great flowing river, which seemed so vital for many groups of people. Today, those origins are still not forgotten, nor have they really left. Using the natural resources from the river, Ozark would blossom in an unusual way: it would become a town meant to please epicurean delights. Wineries, restaurants, vineyards, and Ozark's very lifeblood are in the blessing of the surrounding area. Perhaps the best-known attraction is Kinney Family Farms, a u-pick that allows visitors to claim the freshest and plumpest strawberries around.

But Ozark's strength, too, lies in its beauty, for the town is also home to many parks and bodies of water that are perfect for recreation. Ozark Lake and the Arkansas River itself provide many opportunities for a more relaxed and quiet pastime. On the whole, the entire town excels at providing precious moments and scenery of quietness.


Downtown Paris, Arkansas on Highway 309.
Downtown Paris, Arkansas on Highway 309. Image credit: Brandonrush via Wikimedia Commons.

Named in admiration for the city in France and taking the city's delight in wines, Paris is a tiny town with much character. Known for its scenic peaks and its order of Benedictine monks, the locale proves itself to be a miniature paradise by the mountain tailor-made for the epicurean type. Proof of this can be found in Cowie Wine Cellars and Vineyards, a celebrated family winery that offers tastings and tours and doubles as a B&B. A crucial piece of Paris' history, the vineyard is open today, awaiting the next visitor to try its award-winning creations.

For an open view and high peak of the valley, Mount Magazine State Park offers something all state parks should: a 60-room lodge, 13 cabins, miles of trails, hills, hang gliding, and rappelling. A state park that not only accommodates but ensures that the precious element of nature is not lost in the process. Everything that it promises, it delivers, not unlike how much Paris does and satisfies.

Fairfield Bay

Museum in an 1850 log cabin in Fairfield Bay, Arkansas
Museum in an 1850 log cabin in Fairfield Bay, Arkansas. Image credit: Brandonrush via Wikimedia Commons.

A recent town only created within the last 60 years, Fairfield Bay was created to be a great place to settle down or retire. If anything reigns king here, it is the sheer amount of activities and sites surrounding Greers Ferry Lake. Perhaps the largest amusement is the Fairfield Bay Marina. Making use of the lake's 30,000 acres of water surface, the marina offers tame activities like swimming and boating, all the way to extremities like cliff diving and scuba diving. There is never a short list of things to do or experience, especially considering the town thrives off its waters.

While the lake and marina will attract many, the town still harbors much in things like art and history. Its best example is likely the North Central Arkansas Foundation for Art & Education. It's not merely a cultural center but an art gallery and a museum that showcases Fairfield's softer side and dips into other forms of art, such as music and dance.

Calico Rock

Calico Rock on White River, Arkansas.
Calico Rock on White River, Arkansas. Editorial credit: Travel Bug /

Calico Rock is a very interesting case. Noted by the French for its one-of-a-kind picturesque bluffs, the site of this town-to-be would grow with the rich promise of wealth in the form of yellow pine timber. Today, its beauty remains long-standing, and while there certainly has been change, there is an eerie yet historical landmark from Calico's beginning.

Not too far from modern downtown, Calico Rock's old buildings and historic district can be seen from a distance, looking as if it's right out of the frame of an old Western. Essentially, the historic district is a ghost town and the original town itself. While the buildings themselves are privately owned, many do self-guided tours as they take a step back into the past. Sometimes eerie, often beautiful, a trip to the ghost town East Calico (the original name of the town) pairs well with the Calico Rock Museum, which also recounts the story of the area, its lumber industry, and its mining past.

Arkansas is a place of both wonder and beauty and while most of its towns are often overlooked, it means that for those in the know--they are even more special. In this dictum, one should take with them when they travel, not only to the Bear State but to anywhere that falls beneath the view of the crowd. For where the eye does not reach, there may be treasure.

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