Springdale, for some, may be just an industrial city with drab surroundings less worthy of being on the itinerary of a leisure trip.
But make no mistake about it, this city is as desirable to visit as its next-door neighbors in Benton and Washington counties of Arkansas.
Springdale has an endearing appeal to visitors, given its wonderful location on the Springfield Plateau on the cradle of the lush forests of the Ozark Mountains.
Platted in 1866 under the name Shiloh, this city also has a deep and colorful history that makes for an interesting visit.
It was incorporated in 1878 as Springfield and emerged as an important stop, first for stagecoach mail and then later, railroad travel between Arkansas and Missouri.
Certainly, there are more elements that build the essence of this city as a charming travel destination.
Learn more in this list of the best 15 things to do in Springdale, Arkansas.
Take the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad Excursion
You will ride on a turn-of-the-century train passenger car perfectly restored for this unique excursion.
This trip can be taken from the Springdale train station on East Emma Avenue and will show nature at its best.
It will traverse the expansive Arkansas River Valley and the majestic Ozark and the Boston Mountains.
Notably, the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad is one of the last few US commercial train lines that run passenger and freight service.
What’s also unique is that the passengers ride on 1917–1920 parlor coaches or 1940 refurbished antique passenger train cars plying on the regular working rails.
Bait the Trout and Catfish at Lake Springdale
This lake is located on the northern side of Hunt JB Park, and its entrance is at the corner of Silent Grove Road and West Pump Station Road.
Ringed by a 0.79-mile asphalt trail, Lake Springdale receives regular fish stock and is open to fishing with pole or rod only.
Casting a fishing line in Lake Springdale can reel in largemouth bass, catfish, trout, or bream.
Bass reeled in, however, must be released immediately, and there are daily limits also for catching the other fish species in Springdale Lake.
Bring the Kids to C.L. "Charlie" and Willie George Park
A big splash pad adorable for kids is one of the main attractions of this park on Hylton Road.
It also features a large play area with several zones rated for ages from 5 to 12 but could nonetheless give fun to older kids.
The facilities here include a rope climbing cube, swing areas, slides, and large, fenced enclosures for soccer.
In addition, this park offers a short hiking trail, plenty of picnic tables, two pavilions, and restrooms.
Sample the Famed AQ Chicken House Servings
This long-running family-owned restaurant on North Thompson Street celebrates the famed flavor of Southern-style chicken recipes.
AQ Chicken House opened in 1947 and has become one of the icons of Springdale since then.
The AQ banner of the restaurant stands for Arkansas quality in the famous pan-fried chicken that it serves.
Besides this traditional pan-fried offering AQ Chicken House also serves a pan-fried version with a “smoked grill” flavor.
Other dishes on the restaurant’s menu include the award-winning hickory-smoked ribs, southern-style catfish, and homemade spaghetti.
Visit the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks
Located on North Crossover Road at the boundary of Springdale and the city of Fayetteville, this green sanctuary boasts 12 themed gardens and a butterfly house.
Run by a nonprofit, the 44-acre Botanical Garden of the Ozarks attracts over 70,000 visitors a year.
Many of these visits were during the events and celebrations that the garden holds annually.
These special occasions include the annual Greening of the Garden Gala and Chefs in the Garden.
The other annual events at the Garden of the Ozarks offer unique outdoor experiences to thousands of children, like the Firefly Fling, Butterfly Days, Little Sprouts, and Earth Day.
Pitch and Catch at JB Hunt Park’s Ballfields
At 200 acres, this park on Fleming Drive is one of the mainstays for outdoor recreation in Springdale.
Its major facilities include two adult softball fields and four fast-pitch softball fields for youth tournaments.
In addition, JB Hunt Park provides an 18-hole disc golf course and two paved trails stretching over 3 miles.
The park also offers swing sets and two play structures with wood chip fall zones, suitable for kids ages 5 to 12.
It also flaunts a concession stand, mountain bike trail, and a pump track.
Watch the Rodeo of the Ozarks
Reserve your visit to Springdale during the Independence Day weekend, as this is typically the time of the year that the city holds its long-running Rodeo of the Ozarks.
This four-day annual event draws professional cowboys and cowgirls to Springdale for an event-filled outdoor gathering at the Parsons Stadium on East Emma Avenue.
The spectacles to expect include a parade and grand entrance to the stadium, plus a beauty pageant, the Miss Rodeo of the Ozarks.
The Professional Bull Riders likewise join in the Buckin' in the Ozarks number of the annual rodeo.
There are motorized exhibitions for pros and amateurs as well, like Arenacross and Bikes Blues culminating in a BBQ weekend.
Shop at Springdale Farmers Market
Regular visitors of Springdale between May and October would typically drop by the city’s seasonal Farmers Market at the grounds of the Jones Center on East Emma Avenue.
This outdoor market was established in 1997, drawing vendors of fresh produce from Benton, Washington, Madison, and Carroll counties.
They bring in a great selection of apples, pumpkins, tomatoes, as well as other high-quality fruits and vegetables.
Also available at the Springdale Farmers Market from morning till 1:00 p.m. are local honey, USDA frozen meat, and farm-fresh eggs.
Other delightful choices include decorative plants, fresh flowers, jams and jellies, baked goods, wood furniture, and handicrafts.
Music and cooking demos further enliven the atmosphere at the Springdale Farmers Market.
Enjoy a Tasting Experience at the Historic Tontitown Winery
This family-owned winery and its tasting room are located on North Barrington Road.
Tontitown Winery has been operating since 1923, starting with a home-based production.
It has now moved to the circa 1917 Taldo House that formerly housed the "Dixie Pride Bonded Winery #40".
The wines of Tontitown Winery are all made on-site from the grapes it grows.
This winery uses an Italian wine-making process passed down through generations.
Tontitown Winery takes pride in its History Room, featuring the proud Italian tradition of grape-growing and wine-making.
For the winery’s onsite wine tasting, it boasts a lounge and bistro with outdoor tables.
Tontitown Winery hosts live music entertainment and also features a small kids’ playground.
Shop at Ozark Center Point Place
A 269,500-square-foot mall, Ozark Center Point Place manifests the growth that Springdale has achieved over the years.
This mall is located on West Sunset Avenue near Interstate 49 and hosts more than 30 specialty and discount stores with popular brands on their shelves.
One of the top local retailers in this mall is Back at the Ranch, where you can have a wide variety of choices not only on jeans, dress clothes, shirts, boots, hats, and wallets.
It also offers lots of decors, including dressers, log beds, end tables, kitchen tables, couch sets, benches, and pictures.
On this mall, you will also find the Springdale location of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, a homey chain restaurant popular for its American comfort food and onsite general store.
Tour the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History
Located on West Johnson Avenue, this museum is a large regional facility featuring six historic buildings.
The research library and interactive exhibits of the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History cover the geographic regions of six counties.
These include the Northwest Arkansas counties of Benton, Boone, Carroll, Madison, Newton, and Washington.
Besides its exhibits, the museum also holds events relating to the preservation of Northwest Arkansas’ history, including Ozarks crafts and culture.
The museum, for instance, has a sheep-to-shawl program offering a hands-on experience with a traditional Ozarks craft.
It has been holding this program since 1987.
Play at the Jones Center
Visit this large recreational facility on East Emma Avenue for a wide variety of activities for a family to choose from.
The Jones Center is a Springdale downtown destination with 220,000 square feet of space masterfully developed for different activity venues.
It boasts a year-round ice skating rink, basketball court, a fitness center, an indoor track, a conference center, and a chapel/auditorium.
The Jones Centers also flaunts a junior-Olympic size lap pool and an activity pool with a slide.
It likewise offers a world-class, 2.75-acre bike park featuring a large pump track, a skills course, and a bicycle playground.
Additionally, gymnastics, ballet, aikido, taekwondo, figure skating, and fitness classes at affordable pricing for families are available at the Jones Center.
Pedal on Fitzgerald Mountain Trail
This mountain biking trail, which is also ideal for hiking, is located in the 15-acre Bayyari Park on Deer Valley Street.
Well-designed and well-maintained, the Fitzgerald Mountain Trail stretches for 11 miles and presents challenges to mountain bikers of all levels.
It features punchy climbs, rocky descents, and technical terrain traversing bridges, jumps, and rock gardens.
These features were built with stone from the locality of Fitzgerald Mountain, thus giving authenticity to the trail system.
Non-bikers and non-hikers visiting Bayyari Park can enjoy other facilities, including a pavilion, a grill, picnic tables, a playground, and restrooms.
Golf at Brush Creek or Springdale Country Club
Budget-conscious golfers visiting Springdale will find a happy choice in the 9-hole Brush Creek Golf Course on Har-Ber Avenue.
It features a par 36 play over 2,926 yards from the longest tees of the course, which has a rating of 35.5 and a 113 slope rating on Bermuda grass.
The Bush Creek layout, which opened in 1994, spreads on former farmland that became the setting for wide-open fairways and small slightly-sloped greens.
Golfers on a visit to Springdale can also seek guest privileges at the Springdale Country Club on West Lakeview Drive.
It features an 18-hole golf course featuring 6,673 yards from the longest tees for a par 72 play.
This country club was established in 1927 and also features a clubhouse and restaurant.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Go Fishing at Lake Fayetteville Park
This lake-based park is located off south Thompson Street in the city of Fayetteville, about 5 miles south of Springdale.
It is comprised of 458 acres of land and 194 acres of lake waters which is a haven for fishing.
Fish up for the taking in Lake Fayetteville include Carp, Crappie, Bass, Blue Gill, Catfish, Red Ear, and Goggle-eye.
On the lake’s north shore, the Lake Fayetteville Boat and Bike offers fishing pole rentals plus an assortment of tackle, live bait, and fishing supplies for sale.
A 5.5-mile nature trail rings around the lake, which is replicated in a 4.3-mile hard-surface multi-use trail that also circles the lake.
Other outdoor recreational facilities in Lake Fayetteville include a disc golf course, boat dock, and marina.
Ride Go Karts at Lokomotion Family Fun Park
This family amusement center is located on North Thompson Street in the city of Fayetteville, 4 miles south of Springdale.
Lokomotion Family Fun Park is the only amusement center in the area with go-karts and bumper boats.
Other fun offerings in this amusement park include two 18-hole mini-golf courses, bumper cars, and Lazer Tag.
It also boasts a Virtual Reality Experience with choices of 7 minutes up to one hour.
This fun park also has a restaurant with pizza, chicken wings, and other food items on its menu.
For an even wider selection of dishes, the family-friendly Golden Corral Buffet & Grill is just across the street.
This buffet chain offers all-you-can-eat American fare, plus dessert and salad bars.
Springdale is unlikely to be missed out by holiday-makers planning a trip to northwest Arkansas.
Its long years of exposure as a strategic link in the northwest Arkansas region have kept this city in the consciousness of those seeking destinations with many unique points of interest.