Fort Smith is the second-largest city in Arkansas full of historical places, as it has been a military post during the frontier era.
Known for its natural beauty, the said city is an exciting place, especially for those interested in tradition, culture, and history.
You will indeed find Fort Smith charming, with its combination of old and new architectures, vibes, and other things that will help you understand more about the area.
There are many things you can do in this town at any time of the day, so you’ll never run out of things to do.
Plan your trip and check these 20 best things to do in Fort Smith, Arkansas:
Immerse in History in Fort Smith National Historic Site
If you want to go to one of the areas dedicated to preservings history and heritage, you need to visit this landscaped park that has a great insight into frontier life and stories of soldiers.
Fort Smith National Historic Site preserves its history from its establishment in December 1817 until the final days of Judge Isaac Parker, who secured pensions for veterans and worked on fair treatment policies of the tribes residing in the Indian Territory.
This historic site is on the bank of the Arkansas River, and once you go for a visit, you will begin in the Visitor Center, located in the former jail buildings or courthouse.
It’s best if you spend at least an hour going around the place, exploring the Commissary building, seeing the exhibits that highlight the role of Fort Smith in the expansion in the west, and checking the reconstructed gallows and remnants of the old courtroom.
You can do other things in the park, such as walking to the river loop trail, visiting the museum gift shop, and exploring the parade ground.
Don’t forget to take a stroll in the path leading down to the Arkansas River.
Check Exhibits in the Chaffee Barbershop Museum
One of the must-see attractions in the heart of the Chaffee Crossing museum district is the Chaffee Barbershop Museum, dedicated to the brave men and women who died but spent their lives cutting the hair of the residents of Fort Smith’s.
The place is famous because Elvis Presley had his iconic G.I. buzz cut in 1958, known as the “haircut heard around the world.”
Since its opening in 2018, the visitors experiences the 1950’s barbershop era, where thousands of US Army enlistees received their army buzz cut.
The barbershop museum has photos, artifacts, and memorabilia that documents the history of Fort Chaffee.
There are items of displays used by the US Army, Cuban refugees, and relocated Vietnamese citizens.
Do Recreational Activities in Creekmore Park
In the downtown area of Fort Smith, you’ll find Creekmore Park, which is the best place for you to rest or to try different recreational activities because it has an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, and even the region’s largest swim and dive facility.
You can swim in the Olympic-size outdoor lap and the community pool, but kids can also have shallow-depth splash areas.
There is also a community center in the park, where you can have meetings, gatherings, birthday parties, reunions, and other types of events.
If you want to walk and find peace in a great forest setting, you can go to the Creekmore Park Loop, a one-kilometer loop trail used for walking, hiking, running, and other nature trips.
There are plenty of things to do in the park, so make sure you have fun and enjoy this moment with your family and loved ones.
Make sure you’ll follow the rules and regulations of the park so that everyone will have safe, enjoyable, and engaging experiences within the area.
Have Fun at The Clayton House
You should not miss out on an essential house in Belle Grove Historic District and North 6th Street.
The Clayton House was built in 1882 in Victorian-era architectural style.
The mansion opened as a historic house museum in 1977 after several years of restoration works, and today, the house has antique and Victorian furniture.
Visit the Clayton House and see the historical items on display and exhibits full of history.
With expansive grounds and elegant style, this mansion is also the perfect place to have your private gatherings or your wedding celebrations.
Taste Local Beverages in Fort Smith Brewing Company
If you are in Fort Smith, make sure you have the time to visit this local brewery that offers delicious locally-produced beverages.
The Fort Smith Brewing Company has a taproom with different kinds of beers, so you have many options to choose from.
Spend your afternoon and night in this inviting and relaxing environment.
If you want to brew your home, they also have all the things you need in brewing.
Ensure to check if the place is open because its hours of operation are from 5 PM to 10 PM from Tuesday to Thursday, 12 PM to 10 PM from Friday to Saturday, and 12 noon to 8 PM on Sunday.
Ride on a Ferris Wheel at The Park at West End
One of the main attractions in the historic downtown of Fort Smith is The Park at the West End, with its Ferris wheel from the 1935 World’s Fair held in San Diego.
Spend your day walking and just relaxing in the charming and quaint downtown.
You can ride the vintage carousel hand-painted in Treviso, Italy, or pay $1 for the Ferris wheel ride, or buy delicious food in the refurbished Pullman Railcar Diner or Double Decker Bus.
There’s no entry fee to the park, but you need to pay for rides individually.
Know the Past in the Fort Smith Museum of History
Are you interested to know about the political, cultural, and economic development of Fort Smith?
Then visit the two-floor museum full of exhibits, artifacts, and antiques of the city and its past.
The museum is on Roger Avenue, and one of the popular exhibits here is dedicated to the people who did their part in World War II.
You will find different weapons, telephone exchange equipment, old photos, and other objects with historical significance that are all important for the progress and history of the city and the surrounding region.
Take the time to visit the museum gift shop where you can buy art, baskets, pottery, books, and historic prints about Fort Smith.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM, and you need to pay $7 for the admission fee for adults, $5 for veterans and military, and $2 for children.
Buy Fresh Produce in Fort Smith Farmers’ Market
What’s the best place to meet locals and buy interesting locally made products in the area?
Well, it’s the Fort Smith Farmers’ Market where you can buy local jams, honey, coffee, and fresh fruits and vegetables at an affordable price.
More than 90 growers, crafters, and other merchants each day offer fresh produce, baked goods, homemade candies, organic eggs, and many more.
Aside from fresh food, there are plenty of arts and crafts you can see in the market, and you can choose from a variety of paintings, clothes, and jewelry.
You can also talk to locals because there are many great and kind vendors, and they will offer you samples of the finished product or produce.
Every Saturday, local musicians and community organizations set up live street performances to serenade the tourists and the public.
The Fort Smith Farmers’ Market is located on Garrison Avenue and is open year-round.
It is open from 7 AM to 12 PM every Wednesday and Saturday.
Know the Civil War History in the Massard Prairie Battlefield Park
In the southeast part of Fort Smith, where there are residential and industrial areas, you will find a park, the core site of the Civil War battle.
The government added Massard Prairie Battlefield Park to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places in November 2001, and it was a historic landmark that ended up as the resting place of soldiers who fought for the country.
The Battlefield park was one of the grazing grasslands for Union troops during the Civil War, and the men fought to preserve four significant areas of the camp such as Companies B and D, the parade ground, and the kitchen area.
You can see historical markers, memorial flags, monuments, a walking trail, and much of the battlefield scene in the park.
Have a walk in the grassy land and spend a good afternoon here with your family and friends.
Visit Miss Laura’s Visitor Center
Take the time to visit Miss Laura’s Visitor Center, the prominent symbol of the past, Fort Smith’s Old West former house of prostitution.
Fort Smith was one of the historic towns that invited prostitution, and people know that the ladies are the most sophisticated and healthiest in town.
In the historic downtown alongside the Arkansas River, you will find this Victorian mansion known as “The Row.”
Miss Laura’s kept its unique style of architecture, having elaborate Victorian-style touch, and the mansion’s interior has wallpapers and furniture in Ziegler’s time.
This visitor center is the first one to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and they have restored its original grandeur.
Have Fun and Bring Your Family to Parrot Island Waterpark
This tropical-themed waterpark is a famous destination for your family!
You’ll surely love the outdoor waterpark with waves, activity pool, aquatic play area, and four twisting and turning slides you can try.
You must check other attractions, like the FlowRider, to experience the thrill of surfing.
Or you may let your kids go to the Tiny Turtle Island, where there are pools for children.
You can also rent a place to have your special events, birthday parties, team buildings, and other fun activities you have in mind.
It’s a great place to cool off, especially on summer days when the weather is too humid and dry.
You can buy tickets for one-day general admission, but if you want to go back frequently, you can avail the blue pass and the gold pass ticket for your family.
Plan and Book Your Next Event in Fort Smith Convention Center
The Fort Smith Convention Center is a 166,800-square-foot art center you can rent if you need any event place.
The convention center has eight standards meeting rooms, 40,000-square-foot exhibit halls, 1,331 seating performance arts center, outdoor areas, and other meeting places suited to your events.
The things you can do here are the shop, explore local boutiques, discover public art, dine, and even experience the nightlife and entertainment of the area.
So what are you waiting for today?
Plan and book your events or your meeting in the most flexible convention, which is an ideal place for any event you’ve wanted to have.
Take a Look at the Fort Smith National Cemetery
Fort Smith National Cemetry, established in 1867 as a national cemetery, started as the founding of military outposts into a small post cemetery.
The small cemetery has expanded several times over the decades, and its total land is about 32 acres; the government placed it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Should you visit this place, you will notice that many private monuments face west because, in Arkansas communities, they have a religious custom to bury the dead with the feet facing the east, so the inscription is facing west, which is the proper position to say a prayer for the deceased.
The burial in the national cemetery is open to the members of the US army who met the minimum year of active duty.
If you visit the cemetery, make sure you understand the policies well, especially the floral arrangements, time of burial, or putting artificial flowers in the graves.
Enjoy a Ride in Fort Smith Trolley Museum
Do you want to see a collection of railcars?
If so, the Fort Smith Trolley Museum offers you the 1926 electric Birney Streetcar, which can offer you a tour from Garrison Avenue to the downtown of Fort Smith.
The trolley Museum is a railroad and streetcar museum dedicated to preserving the buses, electric streetcars, and railcars.
Enjoy a leisure ride on the trolley with the company of the “Trolley Cats,” such as the cats named Casey, Uncle Pete, Daylight, Narrow Gauge, and Midnight, which will surely win your heart.
Should you visit it, the trolley schedule on Tuesday to Friday is from 12 noon until 5 PM; Saturday is from 10 AM to 5 PM; and Sunday is from 1 PM to 5 PM.
But if you want to explore the museum, it is open on Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM.
You can purchase tokens at the Trolley Museum or from the operator on the streetcar, which costs $4 per adult and $2 per child.
Enjoy Exciting Adventures in the Elevate Trampoline Park
If you are looking for fun and crazy adventures with your friends and family, you should go to the indoor trampoline park.
Enjoy good games and activities in the Elevate Trampoline Park and try out the climbing pillars, high-speed zip rail, dodgeball, trampoline, and ninja course.
After trying out new activities, you can eat and dine at the designated area, so you don’t need to go out and buy some food.
Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center
The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center Visitors may spend the day hiking, fishing, or watching local animals.
There is much to see and do on the 170 acres that make up the property.
If you are traveling with young children, you should not miss this—everyone from locals to tourists flocks to Wells Lake to cast a line.
Take advantage of the Nature Center's free fishing poles and gearboxes loan, but remember to supply your bait.
If you're 16 or older, you'll need a fishing license, which you can get at the local nature center.
If fishing isn't your thing, you may spend a pleasant day hiking the trails at the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center.
The trail map and guide for the nature center are available for download.
At the nature center, you may interact with fascinating displays and see real animals up close.
You may spot Arkansas River's native fish and turtles in the aquarium.
Gaze at Local Art Pieces at Fort Smith Regional Art Museum
One of the best things to do in Fort Smith is to explore local art.
The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum, known as RAM, is an excellent place to start doing this.
It opened in 1948.
A 16,000-square-foot structure houses the museum providing many helpful resources to artists in the area.
You may appreciate world-class art from various mediums in the museum's permanent and seasonal exhibits.
In addition to the exhibitions now on view, it holds talks, receptions, camps, galas, seminars, programs, and lessons taught by professional artists for aspiring artists of all ages.
Catch a Play at Fort Smith Little Theatre
Since its inception in 1947, the Fort Smith Little Theatre has been run entirely by unpaid volunteers.
It's the longest-running volunteer-driven community theater.
From January through December, the theater presents six productions that run for their whole scheduled period.
Each performer has four practice weeks and then does eight shows over two weeks.
Catching a play in Fort Smith Little Theatre is one of the best things to do if you want to learn more about Fort Smith's culture.
Ride Your Wheels at Riverfront Skate & Bike Park
Riverfront Skate Park in Fort Smith is a local favorite with good reason.
The Riverfront Skate & Bike Park is open daily from dawn until dusk, providing a safe and fun environment for riders of all skill levels.
This unique 12,000-square-foot recreation area opened to the public in the fall of 2018.
The park treats you to the views of the Arkansas River.
It's got everything from a mountain bike playground to some pump tracks to a Plexiglas wall to some art that doubles as skating equipment to a 12-foot vertical wall.
With a bridge leading to the 7-mile Greg Smith River Trail, this park is perfect for cyclists and skateboarders of all skill levels.
Hit the Mark at Civil Axe Throwing
At Civil Axe Throwing, you and your pals can have a blast channeling your inner lumberjack while throwing axes at targets.
If you ask the experts and self-proclaimed "Axeperts," axe throwing is surprisingly simple to master.
Before attempting to attack targets with thrown axes, be sure you know how to do it safely and correctly.
Drink and eat well as you see who can come the closest to the target in a friendly competition.
Although walk-ins are welcome, the staff at Civil Axe Throwing recommends making a reservation in advance because sessions can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Now that you have known all the things you can do and all the places you can visit in Fort Smith, make sure you plan and enjoy all the moments you have on your trip.
Fort Smith is truly a place full of historical events and spaces.