Arkansas, “The Natural State,” is an outdoors wonderland, with mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, and other natural features that draw in tourists. The state has several lovely and lively cities as well, such as Little Rock, Fayetteville, and Fort Smith. But Arkansas is also filled with picturesque small towns, many of which have timeless, postcard-perfect main streets. We have done our best to identify the seven most exemplary small-town main streets in Arkansas, focusing on factors like beauty, historical interest, and business activity. Think of the list as your starting point for exploring the wonderful downtowns of Arkansas, and get ready to add some of your own favorites!
Located in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains and along the Ouachita River in the southwestern part of Arkansas, the town of Arkadelphia is the seat of Clark County and has a population of about 10,000. Nicknamed “The Delph” by locals, Arkadelphia has maintained the historic character of its downtown corridor, with a range of buildings from the 1800s and early 1900s on and near Caddo Street. Architectural highlights include the county library and county courthouse, among others. As the home of two universities and the county government, Arkadelphia has a bustling downtown commercial district as well as a lively arts scene, with several galleries and performance venues.
The town of Blytheville sits less than 10 miles from the Mississippi River and is the seat of Mississippi County, facts that support its reputation as the state’s gateway to the Mississippi Delta. There is even a concrete gateway arch spanning Old Highway 61 just outside of town at the border with Missouri! Meanwhile, Main Street and the rest of the downtown area has timeless quality, with a range of small shops, restaurants, cafes, and bookstores. Blytheville has had its share of challenges since the closure of the nearby U.S. Air Force base, but the local steel industry has helped keep the town population around 13,000 and maintain an active downtown corridor.
The town of El Dorado is the seat of Union County, which sits along the state’s southern border with Louisiana, and has a population of approximately 17,000. Named for the mythological city of gold, El Dorado became a boom town in the 1920s due to the “black gold” of the local oil industry. The boom times have passed on even though the oil industry remains, yet El Dorado has managed to maintain a picturesque and active downtown area along Main Street. Visitors can check out a movie or live show at the 1929 Rialto Theater, or enjoy one of the many festivals and parades that downtown El Dorado hosts each year.
Tucked away in the Ozark Mountains of northwestern Arkansas, the entire town of Eureka Springs was named a National Historic District in 1970. Established as a spa resort in the late 1800s due to the local springs, downtown Eureka maintains a Victorian era look and feel. The limestone buildings, winding streets, and numerous hills and steps make a visit to Eureka Springs unlike any other in Arkansas. Home to only about 2,000 residents, the downtown area is not only picturesque but vibrant due to the town’s popularity among visitors to the Ozarks. Eureka Springs hosts an annual arts festival, a monthly “art gallery stroll,” and even “Opera in the Ozarks!”
The magnolia flower is a symbol of the American South, and the southwestern Arkansas town of Magnolia looks and feels like a quintessential southern community. Home to about 11,000 residents and the seat of Columbia County, Magnolia’s downtown is centered on its picturesque courthouse square. Alongside the impressive courthouse, murals throughout the area depict images of Magnolia’s history and culture. Several local businesses call these mural-adorned buildings home as well. The downtown area becomes even more lively each May during the annual Magnolia Blossom Festival and World Championship Steak Cook-Off. For Magnolia visitors who need to walk off all that great steak, nearby Lake Columbia offers several walking trails.
The town of Ozark, like the nearby mountain range, got its name from “Aux Arcs,” the name early French traders and fur trappers gave to the area’s rolling and undulating terrain. Located on a bend in the Arkansas River and the winding, scenic Highway 23 (known as the “Pig Trail” due to its former use), the small town of 3,500 residents is situated in one of the most picturesque parts of the state. Ozark’s main business district is focused around its courthouse square, and several of the downtown businesses take advantage of the town’s location in the middle of the state’s primary wine country. A restored 1911 train depot now serves as Ozark’s history museum.
While not quite as romantic and glamorous as its much bigger and more famous namesake in France, the town of Paris, Arkansas (population 3,200) possesses many charms of its own. This Paris even has its own 25 foot tall version of the Eiffel Tower in a downtown park! The stately Logan County Courthouse stands nearby, and the courthouse square serves as the bustling hub of the downtown area, with a range of local shops and restaurants. Situated in the Arkansas River Valley and surrounded by the Ozark Mountains, including Mt. Magazine (the highest point in the state), Paris is a little town of lovely sights, both man-made and natural.
As befitting its moniker as “The Natural State,” Arkansas is full of natural wonders and stunning beauty at every turn. But it is also worth taking the time to check out the beauty (as well as the buzz of activity) of the picturesque main street areas found in many of the state’s small towns. Stopping at a local cafe, taking in a show, or just strolling the sidewalks can be a nice change of pace from hiking, canoeing, or sightseeing.