Spring and Center Streets in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Image credit doug_wertman, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

8 Most Charming River Towns in Arkansas to Visit in 2024

Deservingly nicknamed the "Natural State," Arkansas is dotted with bayous, mountains, lakes, river valleys, and stunning forests. Amidst this beauty are several quaint river towns, each offering something special.

Blues and jazz music, the Ozark National Forest, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, Civil War history, and more, along with Southern hospitality, beckon visitors from across the world, making Arkansas one of the best places to visit in 2024. If you want to explore the heart of Arkansas, make sure to visit these eight charming river towns.

Eureka Springs

Blue Spring Heritage Center, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Blue Spring Heritage Center, Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Nestled in the Ozark Mountains and just 15 minutes from the White River, Eureka Springs boasts a famous historic district with many historic Victorian buildings, including the Palace Bath House and Crescent Hotel. Another must-see attraction is the Thorncrown Chapel, a 48-foot wooden chapel built in 1980, tucked away in the woodlands, and featuring 425 windows and 6,000 square feet of glass. Since its construction, the chapel has attracted over seven million visitors.

Eureka Springs is also home to the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, the largest big cat sanctuary in America. Over 100 rescued big cats and a few bears are cared for in Turpentine. Visitors to the town can enjoy horseback riding, tram tours, music and opera shows, ghost tours around town, and a plethora of other fun and exciting activities.

If you plan to visit in March or April 2024, the town is gearing up to host great events you do not want to miss, such as a Chocolate Lover's Festival on March 23, St Patty's Day Parade on March 16, and the Solar Eclipse at Turpentine Creek on April 8.

Helena-West Helena

The view of Helena-West Helena from Battery C Park.
The view of Helena-West Helena from Battery C Park, Arkansas. Image credit joshczupryk, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Situated on the Mississippi River in Phillips County, Arkansas, is Helena-West Helena. The town is a fishing enthusiast's dream come true, as Helena River Park has one of the largest boat ramps on the Mississippi and offers easy access to some of the largest catfish in the country. For outdoor fun, visitors can enjoy boating, guided canoe tours, paddling, and biking through St. Francis National Forest.

Helena has been a hub for blues musicians since the 1950s. Those interested in music should visit during October to attend the King Biscuit Blues Festival. Additionally, there are many museums dedicated to the Civil War history of Helena. Visitors can even explore the popular Confederate graveyard and spend a day at Fort Curtis.

The Phillips County Museum is a must-visit for avid readers. It features several exhibits dedicated to Mark Twain, the author of Huckleberry Finn, who worked in the area as a young man. Visitors can explore nature by walking or jogging through Freedom Park and the 1,000 acres of Delta Heritage Trail State Park.

In October 2024, from the 9th to the 12th, the town will host The King Biscuit Blues Festival, one of the country's biggest blues fests, which usually draws in thousands. Another unmissable music event you will want to plan your trip around is the Delta Roots Music Festival held on May 11, 2024.


Fall colors in Batesville, Arkansas.
Fall colors in Batesville, Arkansas.

Located on the banks of the White River and only 90 miles from Little Rock is Batesville, Arkansas, it is the second oldest town in the state and is steeped in history. The town has two historic districts that showcase Victorian architecture and other buildings dating back to the 1840s, many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.

One such notable building is the Melba Theater. It was built in 1875 as an opera house and converted to a theater in 1940. The theater is still operational today. Other buildings worth seeing include the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Garrott House, believed to be the oldest building in town.

Batesville hosts many events annually, and 2024 will be no different. Visitors can attend a Renaissance Fair on April 20 or the 44th Annual Scottish Festival and Homecoming in October. The Scottish Festival began in Lyon College as a nod to its Scottish heritage. It is America's very own Highland Games in a way that features dancing, delicious food, pipping contests, and plenty of music.

Apart from exploring the town's history, there are several outdoor activities in Batesville. Visitors can indulge in kayaking, fishing, and canoeing on Poke Bayou. Enjoy running, walking, and cycling along the Batesville Greenway, or play a game of golf at Eagle Mountain.


Bridge over the Arkansas River at Ozark, Arkansas
Bridge over the Arkansas River at Ozark, Arkansas. Image credit Jolee Leonard, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Experience the quintessential small-town living in Ozark, an unspoiled river town surrounded by mountains, lakes, forests, and the Arkansas River. The town square is home to beautiful antique shops, a park, and several gift shops that visitors love to explore. While you're downtown, don't miss the chance to visit the First United Methodist Church, which was built in 1910.

The Ozark Mountain Soul multi-genre music festival is one of Ozark's premier festivals being held on April 4,5 and 6, 2024. The festival features blues, rock, jazz, soul, country, swing and even gospel music.

To learn more about Ozark's history, head to the Missouri Pacific Depot, which serves as the town's museum and houses several interesting artifacts. Don't forget to stroll around town to enjoy the beautiful murals painted on the sides of buildings.

You'll love the Aux Arc Park, which has fun activities for everyone. There is a playground, two boat ramps for ample fishing, and campsites. The Ozark National Forest is not far away, covering 130,000 acres of forest with springs, meadows, and limestone bluffs. Most visitors go there for horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking or to explore the White Rock Mountain Recreation Area and Mulberry River.

Van Buren

Aerial view of downtown Van Buren Arkansas with the Arkansas River in the background.
Downtown Van Buren Arkansas with the Arkansas River in the background. Image credit Jonathan C Wear via Shutterstock

Van Buren is a perfect town for shopping enthusiasts. It offers one-of-a-kind collectibles, art, gifts, antiques, home decor, and crafts. The Van Buren historic district is a must-see as it features beautifully restored Victorian architecture and six blocks of restaurants, shops, and attractions.

Each year, this small town hosts an interesting festival in Van Buren's historic downtown district, the Old Timer's Day Steampunk Festival. This year, the 46th annual event will be held from May 11 to 12, 2024. Fest-goers come dressed to the nine's in Victorian garb to compete for best dressed while vendors sell steampunk gadgets, art, antiques, and more.

To learn about Van Buren's history, you should visit the Drennon-Scott House Museum, which was built in 1838 and overlooks the Arkansas River. If you crave something outdoorsy, you can engage in hiking, biking, golfing, and fishing.

Alternatively, you could board a train at the Old Frisco Depot to take a scenic train tour of the Ozark foothills and forests. Lastly, catch a play at the historical King Opera House, which was constructed in the 19th century.


Aerial flight over the Spring River next to the BNSF railroad in Hardy, Arkansas
Overlooking the Spring River next to the BNSF railroad in Hardy, Arkansas.

Hardy is a historic town surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty and located near the Spring River. Visitors and locals alike flock to Spring River to participate in water activities like kayaking, fishing, and canoeing. Additionally, Hardy is a family-friendly destination, offering an array of restaurants, coffee shops, and diners that cater to families. Rolling hills and a charming community create a picturesque backdrop, while local artisans showcase their arts, crafts, collectibles, and antiques in town.

Apart from popular music festivals and an upcoming event to witness this year's solar eclipse, Hardy also hosts an interesting annual event, Main Street Hardy's Gun and Knife Show. It is a two-day event from March 23 to 24, 2024. All are welcome, from buyers, sellers, Civil War memorabilia enthusiasts, and even curious visitors.

Hardy is also steeped in history, with its downtown district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Explore the Time and Place Clock Museum and the Hardy History Museum, which are both worth a visit.


Looking out over Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas
Looking out over Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas.

Dardanelle is a nature lover's paradise due to its proximity to the Ouachita Mountain range and Arkansas River. Visitors are attracted to the area for birdwatching, hunting, camping, hiking, biking, and various water sports activities.

Mount Nebo is a state park in Dardanelle that offers breathtaking views of the Arkansas River Valley and its stunning sunsets. The park comprises 14 cabins, 35 campsites, hang-gliding sites, and beautiful hiking trails.

The Free State of Yell Fest is a popular event hosted in Dardanelle each year. It is a carnival of sorts that will take place from May 9 to 11, 2024. The festival features cultural food, live music, and vendors selling local art. There will also be games and rides for kids and adults.

For those interested in fishing or water activities, Lake Dardanelle is the place to go. It is a 34,300-acre reservoir that is especially popular for bass fishing. While in the area, make sure to visit Lake Dardanelle State Park, which is a Trail of Tears National Historic Site.

The Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge is another must-see in Dardanelle. It is a 7,057-acre forest bordered by an oxbow and is home to bald eagles, waterfowl, golden eagles, and other migratory birds.


Historic downtown in Pocahontas, Arkansas
Historic downtown in Pocahontas, Arkansas. Image credit Sabrina Janelle Gordon via Shutterstock

Pocahontas is yet another historic Arkansas town located on the banks of the Black River. The town's Victorian courthouse located downtown is especially striking. It was constructed in 1872, and since then, most of the shops and buildings in the vicinity have been reworked to complement it. People who visit the town enjoy catching dinner and a show at the Imperial Dinner Theatre.

On April 8, 2024, the town will be celebrating the solar eclipse, hosting an event called The Shadowside of Spirit, Eclipse Celebration 2024. There is another event planned for visitors and locals to enjoy this upcoming natural phenomenon, the James Ranch Eclipse. Visitors to the ranch can camp or lodge there to witness the solar eclipse.

Much like Dardanelle, Pocahontas is also a popular spot for bass fishing. However, crappie and bream are abundant too. Canoeing and paddling are by far the most sought-after tourist activities in the area. Notable sites to see in Pocahontas include the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was constructed in 1816. It is a great place to visit for a glimpse of Arkansas history.

The Randolph County Heritage Museum is another treasure trove of artifacts dating back 200 years, which even the locals love to frequent. Plus, it is free to visit! If you prefer outdoor activities, you will enjoy Davidsonville Historic State Park. Visitors can enjoy a picnic or go fishing or camping at the park, and there is a playground for kids.

No matter which town you choose to visit, there will surely be something to garner your attention and make your 2024 vacation an unforgettable experience. Whether it be Van Buren's Steampunk Festival, Hardy's Gun and Knife Show, or the ever-popular music festivals of Helena, there is never a dull day in these historic and beautiful Arkansas river towns.

The sweeping landscapes, picturesque views, lush green mountains, and meandering rivers will surely capture your heart and bring you the peace and enjoyment you crave on holiday. So, be sure to visit one or all of these eight charming river towns in Arkansas in 2024 to truly appreciate all they have to offer.

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