Often referred to as the Ozark Highlands or even the Ozark Plateau, four US states can lay claim to possessing at least a little of the Ozark Mountains. Although the lion's share of the Ozarks are located in Missouri and Arkansas, both Oklahoma and Kansas are lucky enough to have a share of this beautiful region of the United States.
Dotted across the region's beautiful rolling countryside are numerous unique small towns waiting to be explored, the best of them offering a fascinating glimpse into the Ozarks' rich history and cultural fabric. Find out more with a read of this list of 8 top-rated small towns In the Ozarks that are worth exploring.
The pretty Ozarks town of Versailles was founded in 1866 and is believed to have been named by descendants of the region's original French settlers after the city in France. Thanks in part to its attractive setting and its romantic European name, Versailles has become a popular tourist destination for day-trippers and weekenders looking for fun things to do in Missouri.
Its proximity to the scenic Lake of the Ozarks and a short drive to the south also don't hurt, as the area's a popular tourist destination for sightseeing as well as outdoor activities and watersports. It's here you'll find Jacob's Cave, the largest cave in the area and one that's known for its unique rock formations. Be sure to spend time in downtown Versailles, where highlights such as the historic courthouse and public square make for a great photo. It's also where you'll find the Hawthorne Inn, which provides accommodations just steps away from the town square.
Van Buren, Arkansas
Set on a bend of the Arkansas River in Western Arkansas close to the Oklahoma border, Van Buren's historic core is fun to explore. Van Buren's Historic Downtown area features a number of surviving old buildings dating from the town's foundation, including Wilhauf House, dating from 1838, and the attractive Crawford County Courthouse, dating from 1842. An even older building, the Albert Pike School, dates from 1820 and is the oldest building in the state; it stands on the grounds of the courthouse.
The King Opera House, a Victorian-era performance hall, is also located in the downtown area. Built in 1891, this cultural landmark still hosts live performances. Van Buren is also the main terminus of the Arkansas Missouri Tourist Train, a scenic railway through some of the most attractive scenery in the Ozarks. Make a weekend of it with a stay at any one of the big brand-name hotels along the I-40, including Hampton Inn Van Buren or Holiday Inn Express & Suites Van Buren.
Its relatively remote Ozarks location has led to the community of Eminence in Missouri being labeled one of the region's most enchanting small towns. Situated in the beautiful Ozark National Scenic Riverways region, it's especially popular with outdoor enthusiasts, here for everything from hiking, biking, and watersports like kayaking and canoeing along the Jacks Fork River, which cuts right through the town.
Popular attractions include Alley Spring & Mill, built in 1893 and known for its striking red color and picturesque setting. Blue Spring, Missouri's largest spring, is another must-see. For an authentic accommodation experience, the centrally located Rich Country B and B comes highly rated.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Stunning natural water features were also a factor in establishing Eureka Springs in Arkansas. It is often touted as one of the best small towns in the Ozarks for its pretty winding streets and Victorian-era buildings. One of Eureka Springs' most famous landmarks, the Crescent Hotel and Spa, also just so happens to be one the best places to stay in the Ozarks... and one of the most haunted hotels in America. Built-in 1886, five unique ghostly spirits are said to reside here, each with a name and a history.
Other fun things to do include visiting the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville and enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and bird-watching. The nearby Beaver Lake and the Kings River are perfect for water sports and fishing.
Mammoth Spring, Arkansas
Located mid-way between the Ozark Mountains and the Arkansas Delta, Mammoth Spring's small population of just 935 souls live in what must certainly be one of the prettiest spots in Arkansas. The big draw here is the town's Mammoth Spring, one of the world's largest in terms of flows, with an incredible nine million gallons of water reaching the surface here every hour and forming a picturesque 10-acre lake. The Spring River flows from the lake and is popular for trout fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.
The adjacent Mammoth Spring State Park is a must-visit and features picnic spots, walking trails, and a playground, as well as a restored 1886 Frisco train depot and a railroad caboose. You'll get great views from your accommodations at the Riverview Cabins resort.
With a population of only around 500, there's little chance of ever feeling lost in a crowd in the small and remote Arkansas town of Jasper. Highlights of a visit include exploring the Buffalo National River. The country's first designated National River, here you'll experience no shortage of breathtaking scenery, along with plenty of fun outdoor activities, including canoeing, kayaking, fishing, swimming, and hiking.
After all that outdoor fun, make a pit stop at the Ozark Café. Over 100 years old, this historic eatery is a great place to not only grab a bite to eat but also to get in some people-watching, especially fun in the warmer months. Need somewhere to stay? The Riverview Motel is centrally located and affordable.
Mountain View, Arkansas
Mountain View in Arkansas is a great small town to visit if you're into music. Affectionately known as the "Folk Music Capital of the World," Mountain View's musical heartbeat can best be experienced in its town square, where informal music gatherings are common sights. These often spontaneous music sessions feature traditional folk tunes and are no end of fun to participate in (no talent needed, just clap along!).
For a more structured musical experience, the Ozark Folk Center State Park is a must-visit. This living history museum preserves the music, crafts, and culture of the Ozarks and presents an opportunity to step back in time and engage with the region's rich heritage through fascinating hands-on exhibits. Popular places to stay in Mountain View include the rustic charm of the Knotty Squirrel, the Inn at Mountain View B&B, and the Wildflower Bed and Breakfast on the Square.
While one of the better-known small towns in Missouri, no list of the best places to visit in the Ozarks would be complete without Branson. This vibrant tourist destination is famous for its lively Entertainment District, boasting an incredible selection of 120 world-class live shows staged in its 30 theaters. Some of the best-known are Dolly Parton's Stampede and the Sight & Sound Theatre, both of which combine dining and entertainment. Branson Landing on the waterfront features shopping, dining, and entertainment options, not to mention a spectacular fountain show.
Step outside the town boundaries, and you'll find spectacular Ozark scenery, including Table Rock Lake, the perfect spot for boating and fishing, while the surrounding hills offer numerous hiking trails. Another natural must-visit is the scenic Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. Given its tremendous popularity, there's no shortage of places to stay in Branson. Popular options include the Thousand Hills Resort Hotel and the Stone Castle Hotel.
Stretching across four US states, the Ozarks is an area of outstanding natural beauty that simply begs to be explored. One of the best ways to experience the region is through its many quaint small communities, with places like Versailles, Missouri, and Van Buren, Arkansas, being particular standouts. Find out more with this list of 8 top-rated small towns In the Ozarks.