Part of the Travel Local, COVID getaway, series– this post is meant for locals in Arkansas that are getting stir crazy and will travel regardless of guidance from our government. The suggestions below are to keep the spread of the virus in a place that has the resources necessary should an outbreak occur. The outdoor recommendation(s) is a place not far from the city stop. To contain the virus please fill up your gas tanks before leaving your town and bring snacks and other essentials. Outdoor recommendations are typically in areas with limited resources.
City stop: Bentonville
A small town north of the Ozark. Bentonville is a totally walkable, safe, small town with a historic district and city square. Every Saturday, from 7:30AM to 3PM a Farmer’s Market takes over the Bentonville Square. Vendors sell local produce and handmade goods, at the time of this post the market is re-opened and operating with face coverings. All patrons over the age of 10 are required to wear a mask. Arkansas is known for the produce farmed all over the state- including the purple hull pea, so be sure to stock up! Save some room- or start your day with a handheld crepe from Crepes Paulette. You can actually walk main street to the farmers market from here. The only catch is Paulette’s doesn’t open until 9AM on Saturday.
And if you happen to be coming from OK or maybe want to spend a few hours on the open road, head west to Vinita to have some Rocky Mountain oysters right off Route 66. Even just for novelty, the idea of bull testicles doesn’t seem appetizing… yet, I have had this place pinned on my Google map for over a year. The notes to myself on the pin: ‘order rocky mountain oysters with a side of calf fries.’ I don’t recall who or where I got this recommendation from but you’ll see over 1100 people rating this restaurant as a Route 66 MUST. Click here to see the Café that was once featured on Dinners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Outside: Northern Arkansas
The Ozark National Forest is a paradise for all outdoor enthusiasts. Everyone will tell you it’s breathtaking. Depending on where you decide to explore, there are attractions within 1 to 2 hours South or Southeast of Bentonville. Of course, EVERYONE knows about the Ozarks by now… but in case someone found my site while living under a rock, you’re welcome.
Even closer to Bentonville is Hobbs State Park, with views similar to the Ozarks and over 52 miles of trail this park will provide more solitude for those not hiking backcountry. Hobbs is only 30 minutes East. Currently the Ozark Plateau trail is closed for construction and otherwise the park is open to the public. Click here for updates pertaining to COVID-19 and all Arkansas State parks.
City Stop #2: Hot Springs
When regulations lift and places are fully open- check out Hot Springs. Pre-COVID, I stayed in Hot Springs and booked an appointment to Quapaw Baths and Spa. The town itself is part of a National Park and boasts a lot of history. It’s mostly known for their row of bath houses- I highly recommend checking this area out AFTER the Pandemic has settled. The spas are temporarily closed at the moment due to the virus. If by the time you are reading this Hot Springs is open and lively, check it out! The bath houses are something special, worth a visit even for just that experience alone.
Outdoors: Southern Arkansas
An hour south of Hot Springs is the Gold Mine of Arkansas’s parks… actually a literal Diamond Mine- Crater of Diamond State Park. This is a park where you can dig for diamonds. There is a ticket admission of $10 for adults and $6 for children. Pre-COVID there were rental tools to help dig. As it stands today, you must bring your own shovel- no power operated tools are permitted. Hopefully you find the hour drive worthwhile, any diamond (or stone and mineral) found is yours to keep. So far, over 33,000 diamonds have been found- the largest being a 40.23 carat; rare diamonds are found here in all colors. So get out there and mine- COVID protection is required in some places, click here for more details. This park is just under 2 hours from Little Rock and 4 hours south of Bentonville.
Finally, Just under 2 hours from Hot Springs is Petit Jean State to continue the chase for waterfalls; 1 hour from Little Rock, and 3 hours from Bentonville.
Keep Nature Wild
Please leave the places you visit better than you found them. Pack out whatever you bring in- this includes compostable (and non- DUH!) dog waste bags. It also includes fruit/vegetable or other food scraps- if it’s not growing wildly there, it doesn’t belong; an INVASIVE SPECIES. Leaving seemingly harmless and compostable waste is SEVERELY HARMFUL TO THE ENVIRONMENT AND ECOSYSTEM. This includes bringing firewood from out of town to local campsites. Wood carries insects and disease- a rule of thumb is to buy firewood within 10 miles of where it’ll be burned. And of course- check the daily fire danger rating to prevent a wildfire.
If you are venturing in from a bordering state, be on the lookout for Cavender’s Greek Seasoning. This is a staple in kitchens across Arkansas- much like Old Bay is to Maryland. They put this sh*t on everything.