Welcome to Fort Smith, Arkansas, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of the Natural State. This vibrant city offers a perfect blend of rich history, scenic beauty, and a thriving arts and cultural scene. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, nature lover, or art connoisseur, Fort Smith has something to captivate your interests. In this blog post, we will explore the top things to do in Fort Smith, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this charming city.
- Immerse Yourself in History:
Fort Smith boasts a fascinating history, and a visit to the Fort Smith National Historic Site is a must. Explore the historic grounds, which include the remains of two frontier forts, as well as the restored gallows used during the infamous Judge Parker era. Don’t miss the onsite visitor center and museum, which provide in-depth insights into the city’s past.
- Discover Art and Culture:
Fort Smith is a hub for arts and culture, offering numerous galleries, museums, and theaters. The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum (RAM) showcases a diverse collection of artworks from local and regional artists, while the Unexpected Project brings stunning murals and street art to the city’s walls. For a dose of performing arts, catch a show at the historic Fort Smith Little Theatre or the ArcBest Performing Arts Center.
- Explore Nature’s Beauty:
For nature enthusiasts, Fort Smith is a gateway to the great outdoors. Escape to the scenic beauty of the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, where you can enjoy hiking trails, birdwatching, and educational exhibits on the area’s flora and fauna. The nearby Ozark National Forest offers breathtaking landscapes, including towering bluffs, cascading waterfalls, and opportunities for camping, fishing, and hiking.
- Indulge in Culinary Delights:
Food lovers will find Fort Smith’s culinary scene a delightful surprise. Sample the city’s famous Southern cuisine at one of the many local eateries, where you can savor dishes like fried catfish, barbecued ribs, and soul food classics. Be sure to visit the city’s farmers’ markets for fresh produce and locally made goodies, or sip on craft beer at one of the breweries that have recently emerged in the area.
- Experience Festivals and Events:
Fort Smith is renowned for its lively festivals and events that showcase the city’s vibrant spirit. The Old Fort Days Rodeo, held annually in May, attracts top rodeo performers from around the country, offering an authentic Western experience. The Peacemaker Music Festival in August brings together a diverse range of musical acts, while the Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Festival showcases world-class blues artists.
- Shop ’til You Drop:
Retail therapy is not to be missed in Fort Smith. Explore the charming brick-lined streets of downtown Fort Smith, where you’ll find boutique shops, antique stores, and art galleries. If you’re looking for a wider selection, visit Central Mall, a regional shopping center that houses national retailers and a variety of dining options.
- Visit the Clayton House:
Step back in time and explore the beautifully restored Clayton House, a Victorian mansion that offers a glimpse into the lives of prominent Fort Smith families during the late 1800s. Take a guided tour to admire the elegant architecture, period furnishings, and hear captivating stories about the home’s inhabitants.
- Enjoy Outdoor Recreation at Lake Fort Smith State Park:
Just a short drive from Fort Smith, Lake Fort Smith State Park provides ample opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. Engage in water activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing on the picturesque lake. The park also features hiking trails that wind through the surrounding forests, allowing you to immerse yourself in nature’s tranquility.
- Explore the Fort Smith Trolley Museum:
Take a nostalgic ride on vintage electric streetcars at the Fort Smith Trolley Museum. Learn about the city’s electric transportation history through interactive exhibits and guided tours. The museum also hosts special events, including holiday-themed rides and seasonal festivals.
- Attend a Sporting Event:
Experience the excitement of sports by catching a game at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS) or watching the Fort Smith Twins, a collegiate summer baseball team. Cheer on the teams and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of the local sports scene.
- Discover the Belle Grove Historic District:
Stroll through the Belle Grove Historic District, a charming neighborhood known for its well-preserved Victorian-era homes. Marvel at the architectural details and imagine the stories that unfolded within these beautifully maintained residences. The district’s tree-lined streets and park-like settings make for a pleasant afternoon walk.
- Take a Riverboat Cruise:
Embark on a leisurely riverboat cruise along the Arkansas River and experience Fort Smith from a different perspective. Enjoy scenic views, live entertainment, and learn about the river’s significance to the city’s history and development.
- Learn at the Fort Smith Museum of History:
Expand your knowledge of Fort Smith’s past at the Fort Smith Museum of History. Delve into exhibits that cover various aspects of the city’s history, including its frontier era, military heritage, and contributions to the arts. The museum also offers educational programs and events for all ages.
- Attend a Live Performance at the Blue Lion at UAFS Downtown:
Experience the vibrant arts scene of Fort Smith by attending a live performance at the Blue Lion at UAFS Downtown. This intimate venue hosts a range of events, including concerts, theatrical performances, and art exhibitions, showcasing the talents of local and visiting artists.
- Take a Day Trip to Van Buren:
Located just across the Arkansas River, the neighboring town of Van Buren is worth a visit. Explore its historic Main Street, lined with antique shops, specialty stores, and charming cafes. Visit the Van Buren Historic District and immerse yourself in the town’s rich heritage and architecture.
Fort Smith, Arkansas, invites you to embark on a journey filled with rich history, artistic endeavors, natural wonders, and a taste of Southern hospitality. From immersing yourself in the city’s fascinating past to indulging in its culinary delights and enjoying the great outdoors, Fort Smith promises an unforgettable experience for every traveler. So, pack your bags, and let Fort Smith enchant you with its unique charm and warm-hearted community.