15 Best Things to Do in El Dorado, AR

El Dorado, AR
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El Dorado is a popular tourist destination in Arkansas because of its central location.

Visitors and locals alike will find much to keep them entertained with the best things to do in El Dorado.

El Dorado, a city in and the county seat of Union County, Arkansas, was established by Matthew Rainey.

When Matthew Rainey opened a business in the region in 1843, it marked the city's beginning.

According to some accounts, Rainey was trapped and forced to sell his possessions to make ends meet.

El Dorado, or "the Gilded Road" in Spanish, was so popular with the local people that he chose to stay and name the site after it.

In 1843, it became Union County's seat of government.

Until the late 19th century, El Dorado remained a rural agricultural community isolated from the rest of the country.

It was the center of the oil boom of the 1920s.

There was still an essential role for oil, forestry, and chemicals in the economy from World War II when it was a significant chemical manufacturing hub.

Today, El Dorado is home to historical wonders and many recreations or entertainment activities.

Let's explore the best things to do in El Dorado, Arkansas.

Watch a Football Game at the Memorial Stadium

Aerial view of Memorial Stadium
Jessica Denham / Shutterstock.com

El Dorado High School's Wildcats play their home games at the Memorial Stadium, built in honor of Union County's WWII veterans.

There are 6,000 seats in Memorial Stadium, where the El Dorado Wildcats play their home football games and run their track meets.

Teams playing football will thousands of audience seated at the benches.
Brandonrush, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Annually, Southern Arkansas University and the University of Arkansas-Monticello play in a college football match known as the "Boomtown Classic."

Synthetic grass and a video scoreboard were part of a massive stadium and field refurbishment in 2010 that included the whole facility.

Arkansas State University's football team won their first two championships in a row in 2010.

View of the memorial stadium from afar showing the audience.
Brandonrush, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tour the Newton House

This lovely two-story home, established in 1849, has been lovingly restored to represent its antebellum age of construction.

One of El Dorado's few examples of pre-Civil War architecture is available to the public at this house.

John Newton developed a prosperous plantation in 1843 on his homestead of 2,500 acres northeast of El Dorado in the Champagnolle district of Arkansas.

He acquired 546 acres from L. Rainey, one of the earliest residents in El Dorado, after achieving remarkable success with his Champagnolle cotton farm.

He also began construction on the John Newton House, situated at 200 Peach Street.

A half-block away, in 1909, the owners moved the home to its current site after 60 years and multiple ownership changes.

The Newton House was acquired in January 1978 with donations of $15,000 and extensively renovated by various volunteers.

The city inaugurated the Newton House Museum in August 2009.

Catch a Play at South Arkansas Arts Center & Theatre

Culturally, the South Arkansas Arts Center (SAAC) serves as a bridge between southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana.

As part of its educational and entertainment mandate, SAAC hosts monthly gallery exhibits showcasing regional, national, and international artists and an annual season of a community theater show.

SAAC houses a variety of visual and performing arts.

As well as a ballet studio, a theatre with seating for 207 people, a costume and set shop, a variety of courses, and a photography studio and offices, the facility also hosts regular AIE residencies and exhibits and community theater plays and art workshops.

Through its various programs, South Arkansas Arts Center aims to cultivate creative appreciation, education, ability, confidence, and collaboration for people of all ages from all backgrounds and ethnicities.

Explore Creativity at Murphy Arts District

El Dorado's Murphy Arts District is the city's loveliest spot to visit.

It is a terrific place to meet new people and catch up with old friends.

It is also an excellent venue for art exhibitions and live performances.

If you want to be close to fashionable clubs and restaurants, the outdoor performance venue is a great option, and you'll be right in the middle of the entertainment zone.

If you want to obtain a good seat at a famous performance, you might want to arrive early and stake your claim before the crowds gather.

Admire the Historic Rialto Theatre

Rialto Theatre sign board with play schedules.
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The historic Rialto Theatre stands at 117 East Cedar Street.

The theater took into completion in 1929 when oil was a significant industry in El Dorado and is one of the largest and most beautifully adorned performing venues in southern Arkansas.

The local firm Kolben, Hunter, and Boyd designed it, and it has a capacity of 1,400 people.

The stores on each side of the main entryway depict the Egyptian Revival style.

The front face of the building has a cornice, stone frieze, and parapet made of stone.

There is a lot of attention paid to the theater's interior.

The McWilliams family owned the theater for a long time.

A three-screen movie theater ran there until 2007 after its former owners shut it down from 1980 to 1987.

The theater served as a bar before being repurposed to host live performances.

The Murphy Arts District purchased the theater in 2003.

Meanwhile, it became part of the National Register of Historic Places status in 1986.

Go Fishing at Mattocks Park

This lake is a popular fishing place for residents who don't want to travel far for a fishing adventure.

There are 17 acres in this lake.

You may catch Channel Catfish and Largemouth Bass when you're out on the water.

The lake is famous for its largemouth and channel catfish for the most part.

There are several unusual age limits for anglers of all ages, especially those with disabilities or children, so be sure to check them out before venturing out.

The park mandates fisher to release bass immediately.

However, you may keep the bream and catfish if you wish to catch some for dinner.

Let You Kids Have Fun at MAD Playscape

There are two acres of state-of-the-art playground equipment selected for different ages in the MAD Playscape.

A gigantic razorback slide may be seen during the summer, as can various slides and ropes courses.

Water flows from fake pine trees and oil derrick, and water jets buried in the ground at an expansive splash pad.

Change rooms and concessions are also available, including ice cream, pickles, chips, and drinks.

There are also additional seating and giant shade umbrellas in the playground and Splash Pad areas for the convenience of parents and guardians.

Be One with Nature at South Arkansas Arboretum

Visitors to the South Arkansas Arboretum, located just outside El Dorado on Highway 82, are in for a treat when it comes to seeing the area's natural beauties.

This 12-acre woodland area is home to native and non-native flora, including camellias and azaleas.

If you have time, the arboretum grounds are a pleasant place to visit at any time of year.

Accompanied by a rental pavilion, a gazebo, bathrooms, and parking, the South Arkansas Community College manages the nursery.

Spring and summer feature many educational and participatory events, some of which are for children.

It is a relaxing spot to take a break from driving or going on a long road trip.

There are other walking pathways in the outside area and a butterfly garden.

Relax at Old City Park

Despite its lack of spectacular attractions, El Dorado's Old City Park is a haven for those who wish to briefly rest in the middle of the city.

It is a scenic place to go for a walk.

Walking and jogging paths can be found throughout the park, making it a favorite destination for both groups.

Spend some time here resting, whether you're reading a book or just taking a stroll around the grounds.

You'll find it near historic downtown, at Camp Street and North College Avenue, where you'll also find landmark structures.

Well-kept trees and shaded picnic spaces with tables make this park an excellent spot for a picnic or to let the youngsters burn off some energy without disturbing anybody.

Check Out the El Dorado Confederate Monument

A confederate soldier monument.
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the Union County Courthouse, you can see Confederate soldiers striding atop a temple-like tower supported by four Ionic columns.

There are inscriptions on the three sides of the columns that hold up the lintel construction, topped by a plain roof with cannonballs at each corner.

There are 15 pillars in the temple, each standing 10 feet high, and the statue itself is 76 inches tall and 28 inches wide and long.

The creators employed blue-gray striated marble to create the statue and the accompanying temples.

Copper flamingos decorate the water fountain within the shrine.

This Confederate memorial is the first of its kind in the region.

During the worldwide protests in 2020 against police brutality, officials inserted a ballot question on keeping the El Dorado Confederate Monument on the Courthouse grounds.

The results showed 7,904 people voted to save the monument, while 4,163 voted to remove it.

Play Golf at Lions Club Municipal Golf Course

The Lions Club Municipal Golf Course in El Dorado is a popular choice for a day on the links for golfers who wish to play a round of golf without breaking the bank.

With a maximum distance of 6,282 yards from the back tees, the 18-hole "Lions" course is a par-72 test of golf.

Prior visitors have praised the condition of the course's greens and fairways, despite the lack of big-name pros.

Several treed sections, water hazards, and sand traps abound throughout the course.

The summer weekends might be busy, so reserve your tee time in advance if you intend to play.

Lockers, changing rooms, and showers are available at the Lions Club Municipal Golf Course.

It also offers on-site golf-related items and services, such as instruction and equipment.

Get Creative at The Pottery House

In El Dorado, an establishment encourages you to bring out your inner artist.

In The Pottery House, you can paint pottery if you're a creative person, as it's a fun and rewarding hobby.

Located in El Dorado, the Pottery House is a one-of-a-kind local enterprise.

There is a large variety of ceramics available for guests.

You may then personalize your new bowls, plates, cups, and vases.

Various paint colors are available to customers at Main Street Antiques, where you may custom-paint their purchases.

It's a low-cost exercise that's sure to get your creative juices flowing.

If originality isn't your strong suit, purchasing a finished product is an option.

Grab a Book for Young Ones at Jefferson Street Books

If you're looking for books in the south-central Arkansas area, Jefferson Street Books has been your best bet since the late 1980s.

As one of the few locally owned bookstores, your money stays right here in the community when you shop at our store!

Both fiction and nonfiction are available, including a few works by local authors.

It's a great spot to pick up a book about the area's history.

Once you've finished your tour, you'll likely recognize many of the locations you've already seen and pick up a few new historical facts as well.

It also features stunning art items, toys, and cards for various occasions.

Peruse Different Shops at Main Street El Dorado

Main Street El Dorado's mission is to engage the local community in economic development while also protecting the city's rich history and architectural heritage.

El Dorado Main Street has earned this distinction as a recognized member of Main Street America and Arkansas networks.

Its gorgeous plaza is the perfect place to spend a day seeing the finest of South Arkansas.

As a result of the oil boom that began in 1921, the neighborhood has a substantial collection of architecture from the 1920s and 1930s (courthouses, churches, commercial buildings).

You may find everything from shopping to dining to entertainment right on Main Street in El Dorado.

Go Vintage Shopping at Mina Rea's Antiques

With some luck and perseverance, you may unearth a treasure at an antique shop no matter where you are, even if you don't find anything that's worth your time or effort.

El Dorado's historic downtown is home to the antique shop Mina Rea's Antiques.

Customers may have their designs printed, embroideries, and furniture painted in addition to purchasing antiques, knick-knacks, and collector items from the store.

With over two decades of experience in both bridal registration and embroideries, it's the perfect one-stop shop for all of your wedding day needs!

If you're looking for a souvenir to remember your time in El Dorado, this is the place to go.

Final Thoughts

A vacation to El Dorado may be just what you need.

It's no surprise that it has long been a popular tourist destination in the state.

Aside from that, the city is a perfect destination for a family vacation with an abundance of natural landscapes and historical wonders.

Do not miss the opportunity to see El Dorado on your next getaway!