Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Sebastian County, AR

  • Published 2022/10/18

Established in 1851, Sebastian County is in the west central part of Arkansas, named after former United States senator William K. Sebastian.

It has two county seats: the cities of Fort Smith and Greenwood.

Fort Smith is the county’s largest city, built as a military outpost in 1817, while Greenwood was founded years later in 1851.

You can visit several local museums to uncover county history, especially about the military, and reconnect with nature at its scenic parks and natural wonders.

Likewise, you will find several indoor attractions, too, where a mix of exciting, thrilling, and recreational activities await you.

Learn more about the best things to do in Sebastian County, Arkansas, for your next getaway!

Revisit History at Fort Smith National Historic Site

Main building at Fort Smith National Historic Site

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Take a deep dive into history at Fort Smith National Historic Site along Parker Avenue, which preserves nearly 80 years of history and the ruins of two frontier forts.

It encompasses the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas, where Judge Isaac C. Parker, also known as the “hangin’ judge,” held the bench for 21 years.

Cannon on the grounds of Fort Smith National Historic Site

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Explore different buildings and landmarks at the site that will give you a glimpse of the past, from establishing the first Fort Smith in 1817 to ending Parker’s jurisdiction over Indian Territory in 1896.

At its Visitor Center are exhibits describing the military, the federal court’s operation, and its impact on Indian Territory and federal Indian policy.

The center stands on the site of the historic barracks, courthouse, and jail buildings.

Interior of a building at Fort Smith National Historic Site

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You can also walk the grounds where Mexican War and Civil War soldiers drilled and take time to reflect on the Trail of Tears.

Remember to check Belle Point, the site of the first Fort Smith, and bask in the picturesque views of Arkansas and the Poteau Rivers.

Gallows at Fort Smith National Historic Site

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Stop by Miss Laura’s Visitor Center

Start your adventure at Miss Laura’s Social Club, Forth Smith’s visitor center alongside the Arkansas River.

Several travelers and tourists make the first stop at Miss Laura’s, the only former bordello on the National Register of Historic Places.

This Victorian mansion has become a symbol of a rich past since it was a part of the former red light district in Fort Smith’s Old West.

Restored to its original grandeur, the mansion features fine furnishings, artworks, and artifacts.

On North B Street, Miss Laura’s Visitors Center offers guided tours inside the mansion and materials providing information about the city.

Explore the Fort Smith Museum of History

Continue your history tour at Fort Smith Museum of History on Rogers Avenue, a few steps from Fort Smith National Historic Site.

Founded in 1910 as Old Commissary Museum, it served the task of preserving the Commissary, the city’s oldest building from the second Fort Smith.

When the Commissary was restored and became part of the Fort Smith National Historic Site, the museum moved to the historic Atkinson-Williams Warehouse in 1979.

The 1906 structure is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Observe several museum artifacts showcasing the city’s history, culture, and the surrounding region.

Fort Smith Museum of History has exhibits that will walk you through the crucial events leading to the growth and development of the city around the 1817 military fort.

Complete your visit by treating yourself with ice cream, sundae, or float in its old-fashioned soda fountain, which also features artifacts gathered from downtown drug stores.

To remember your day at the museum, buy local items at the gift shop selling various artworks, such as pottery and baskets.

Appreciate Fine Arts at Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

After a quick drive from the history museum, visit Fort Smith Regional Art Museum next for its fine art exhibitions and permanent collection.

View the art pieces produced by world-class artists, as well as the creations of emerging artists, in this 16,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.

The museum traces its roots back to 1948, featuring art exhibits and holding classes in different locations until they acquired a space for a small art center.

After five decades, it relocated near the heart of downtown and opened as Fort Smith Regional Art Museum in 2013.

The museum currently provides classes for all ages, art camps, artist-led workshops, and more.

It also has a specialty gift shop where you can buy different works of local and regional artists.

Beat the Heat at Parrot Island Waterpark

Are you up for some aquatic fun?

Stop over at Parrot Island Waterpark along Zero Street, Fort Smith.

This seasonal “parrot-dise” is a popular destination among families who want to splash around and create memorable bonding moments with their kids.

The waterpark has several attractions, including a variety of twisting and turning water slides, a relaxing lazy river with a waterfall, and a huge wave pool.

The O’Hana Highway, a significant park feature, is a 500-feet tube slide that will give you the similar thrill of riding a roller coaster.

For children, there is the Tiny Turtle Island with slides, waterfalls, and spraying water to keep them entertained.

Bounce around at Spartan Adventure Park

Another amusement site you can visit is Spartan Adventure Park, where you can live like a spartan for an hour or more.

Get your body moving at this indoor trampoline and adventure park with various fun zones and exciting activities.

Engage in a friendly competition in the dodgeball arena and basketball zone, or show off your skills in its courses and climbing walls.

Priding itself as Forth Smith’s entertainment capital, Spartan Adventure Park also has virtual reality simulators to take you on adventures you have never experienced.

Test your capabilities, push your boundaries, and have a blast in this park along Rogers Avenue near Mercy Hospital.

Immerse in Natural Wonders at Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center

Take a break in city life by spending a day in Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, situated along Wells Lake Road.

Surrounded by hickory and oak trees, this nature center occupies 170 acres of land that was once part of Fort Chaffee.

The place offers plenty of recreational and learning opportunities for visitors of all ages, with its exciting exhibits and more than four miles of trails.

Likewise, the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center encompasses Wells Lake, an artificial lake built in the 1940s, a great fishing spot.

Navigate the center’s trails, and you might spot various animals and several species of birds.

Learn more about local wildlife and ecosystem by checking out the main exhibit area, where you will find representations of the Ouachita and Ozark mountains, animal displays, and an enormous oak tree exhibit.

Enjoy the Outdoors at Ben Geren Regional Park

Are you looking for a place to unwind and relieve stress?

Bring your family and friends to Ben Geren Regional Park, the largest county park in Arkansas, which has excellent open spaces for relaxation and different facilities for recreational opportunities.

Spanning over 1,300 acres near South Zero Street in Fort Smith, the park gives you access to fitness stations and winding trails for bikers and hikers.

It houses several sports facilities, including soccer fields, a softball complex, and courts.

If you want to play golf, there are golf courses too that will challenge players with different skill levels.

Other amenities in the Ben Geren Regional Park are picnic areas and a playground for young park-goers.

See the Growing Collection of the Fort Smith Trolley Museum

Birney car at Fort Smith Trolley Museum

Steve Morgan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re into trolleys and trains, take a tour at Fort Smith Trolley Museum along South 4th Street, which has a growing collection of streetcars, locomotives, equipment, and more.

The car barn, which houses the museum, was constructed in 1985 at the previous site of the Midland Valley Railroad yard.

Train caboose at Fort Smith Trolley Museum

Adam Bartlett from Little Rock, Arkansas, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fort Smith Streetcar Restoration Association purchased an additional building later for storing other equipment and vehicles for restoration.

As a “working museum,” the car barn can show enthusiasts how restoration works.

Steam locomotive at Fort Smith Trolley Museum

Adam Bartlett from Little Rock, Arkansas, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Railroad and streetcar memorabilia are also on display at the Fort Smith Trolley Museum.

For additional adventure, you can ride its streetcar that began operating in 1991, traveling in some parts of the city.

US air force locomotive at Fort Smith Trolley Museum

Adam Bartlett from Little Rock, Arkansas, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hop on a Train at Creekmore Park

Creekmore Park is another community park popular among families in the downtown area.

This park has seasonal activities for you to watch out for directly across the Fort Smith Public Library.

You will find three miniature trains stationed at the park and a chance to hop aboard the Creekmore Express Train.

Try to catch the Creekmore Holiday Express during the holidays and admire the animated light displays at Creekmore Park.

Aside from train rides, you can take a dip in Creekmore Park Pool and schedule a game of golf at the privately operated Creekmore Park Putter.

Otherwise, rest at the picnic sites, run around with the kids at the playgrounds, and enjoy a peaceful stroll along the walking trail.

Go Fishing at Carol Ann Cross Park

If fishing is your hobby, bring your rod or pole to Carol Ann Cross Park.

This Fort Smith community park is located on South 74th Street, north of Mercy Hospital.

Carol Ann Cross Park is the site of Wildcat Mountain Lake, where you can catch catfish, bream, and hybrid striped bass.

The park has a fishing pier, a playground, and a walking trail.

Make the most of your visit by soaking in the scenic views of the lake and setting up a picnic in the green space.

Embark on an Architectural Tour at Belle Grove Historic District

Old house enthusiasts will have a delightful day at Belle Grove Historic District, with 22 square blocks of restored 19th-century homes.

The magnificent Belle Grove area of Fort Smith was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Tours are available on-site that will walk you through different Victorian-era architectural styles in the district.

Check out the Clayton House, an Italianate-style mansion on North 6th Street, and observe 19th-century furnishings and its original features like coal-burning fireplaces.

The other prominent landmarks in the Belle Grove Historic District are the Bonneville House, Belle Grove School, James K. Barnes Home, and The Darby House.

Recall Pop Culture at Chaffee Barbershop Museum

You don’t need a haircut to see what’s inside Chaffee Barbershop Museum, a prominent feature within Chaffee Crossing Historic District on Terry Street.

Check out the barbershop where Elvis Presley received his first G.I. buzz cut in 1958 to serve in the army.

This event was dubbed “the haircut heard ’round the world.”

Until now, fans continue to reminisce on the day the international rock and roll star gave up his famous sideburns.

You can also visit the Museum of Chaffee History along the same street.

Both museums have memorabilia, documents, and artifacts that will make you reflect on Fort Chaffee’s 70-year history.

Practice Your Golf Swing at Vache Grasse Country Club

Another place where you can stop by to play golf is Vache Grasse Country Club, which serves fun and affordable facilities in the city of Greenwood along Country Club Drive.

Designed in 1965, Vache Grasse has an 18-hole golf course open to players of all skill levels.

Enjoy a challenging yet relaxing game in the par 72 courses surrounded by charming vistas.

Watch out for special events hosted by the club to shake things up.

If you’re visiting during the summer and want to stay cool with the family, the place also has a pool open from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Spend Your Leisure Time at Bell Park

Greenwood has several parks and playgrounds, such as Bell Park off North Main Street, where families can do bonding activities.

Families visit the park for its natural beauty and several facilities, like picnic areas, disc golf, playgrounds, and lighted courts.

You can also explore walking trails and a new rock promenade for a majestic panoramic view of Greenwood.

For events, there are pavilions and an amphitheater available for reservation.

Bring your cameras to take photos of the beautiful scenery at Bell Park.

Final Thoughts

Sebastian County has several sites and tourist spots for every traveler, from history buffs to thrill seekers.

Several museums are dedicated to preserving and narrating significant events that shaped the region; some also serve various interests, such as art, historic architecture, trolleys, and more.

Meanwhile, numerous parks and amusement attractions are scattered throughout to provide recreational activities and one-of-a-kind experiences.

Bookmark this page listing the best things to do in Sebastian County, Arkansas, for your next adventure.

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