Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Fort Smith, AR

  • Published 2023/01/30

The charming city of Fort Smith is the county seat of Sebastian County and is the third-largest city in Arkansas.

It’s located on the border between Arkansas and Oklahoma, the convergent point of the Poteau and Arkansas Rivers, or Belle Point.

Fort Smith was established in 1817 as a western frontier military fort, the center for fur trading.

The trade enabled its growth into a modern city.

Nowadays, Fort Smith is famous as part of the “Wild West.”

It hosts many historical sites, museums, activities, and attractions.

Here are some free things to do in Fort Smith, Arkansas:

Follow the Trail of Tears at the Fort Smith National Historic Site

Welcome sign of the Fort Smith National Historic Site

Scott K Baker /

The Fort Smith National Historic Site is one of the most popular places to visit in Fort Smith for the rich and diverse history found on the site.

This historic site was founded in 1961 to preserve the remnants of the two historic U.S. military forts established in the 19th century.

Here you can visit Belle Point, which is the site where the first fort was erected in 1817 and whose ruins overlook the convergence point of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers.

There is also a cool ¾ mile-walking trail along the Arkansas River, where you can enjoy reading the exhibit panels on the Trail of Tears.

The panels tell the story of the five civilized tribes forced to migrate to Indian Territory.

Cannon on the grounds of the Fort Smith National Historic Site

EWY Media /

You can also see the commissary, the oldest building on the site, which still looks like it was in the 1850s.

It was used to supply the military with food and rations.

If you’re interested in how justice was served in the old days, a replica of the Fort Smith Gallows exists, where many outlaws of the Wild West met their end.

Visit the Fort Smith National Historic Site at 301 Parker Avenue and go back to see, feel, and imagine 19th-century Fort Smith.

Commissary building interior at the Fort Smith National Historic Site

EWY Media /

Watch a Concert at Harry E. Kelley River Park

The Harry E. Kelley River Park is a riverfront park in Fort Smith.

It’s one of the best spots in Fort Smith to catch festivities such as concerts.

You can visit the Riverfront Glass Pavilion, a unique, transparent pavilion that offers a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding Arkansas River.

You can’t miss the Riverfront Park Amphitheatre, an outdoor stage and amphitheater where many bands perform and festivities commence.

The Harry E. Kelley River Park is under the Arkansas River Bridge at 121 Riverfront Drive.

Ride a Train around Creekmore Park

Creekmore Park is one of the most popular parks and attractions in Fort Smith.

The park has many unique attractions and seasonal activities you wouldn’t miss.

Here are some of the free attractions and activities you can do.

There are large play structures and playgrounds where children can enjoy climbing, sliding, and swinging as well as sports courts, tennis centers and 14 tennis courts for you to use.

You can also go to the Creekmore Park Loop, a 0.6-mile trail that allows for a pleasant stroll, jog, or bike as you pass by the beautiful scenery of Creekmore Park.

One of the unique attractions they have here is the Creekmore Express Train, three linked mini trains that go around Creekmore.

The Western Train Company made these trains from Temecula, California, and although donations are encouraged, the rides are free!

There are also tons of seasonal events at Creekmore that you should try to catch on your trip.

Join events such as Baking Bootcamps, Pop-Up Play Days, Movies in the Park, City Play Day, Pooch Plunge, and more during the summer.

When winter comes, visit the Creekmore Holiday Express, a trip through many bright, colorful, animated lights in Creekmore Park.

Creekmore Park is at 3301 S. M Street, opposite the Fort Smith Public Library.

Play Mini-Golf at Ben Geren Regional Park

The Ben Geren Regional Park is the second-largest state park in Arkansas, with over 1,300 acres of beautiful rolling landscape and plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.

The park has one of the premier bike trails in all of Arkansas, with 7.4 miles of paved trails and 14.10 rocky and rugged trails for hiking and mountain biking.

You can also have fun at the region’s largest disc golf course, which has three 18-hole courses: yellow, white, and orange, with challenges like water, buried targets, hanging targets, and tunnel shots. This course is perfect for players of all skill levels.

Speaking of golf, you can also visit Fort Smith’s only mini-golf course, with a 27-hole jungle-themed course, the Gator Golf course.

You can also walk on the park’s 1.5-mile fitness trail and with fitness stations along the route.

There are also plenty of sports facilities: 12 soccer fields, lighted tennis courts, ten softball fields, and four sand volleyball courts.

The kids will love the vast playground right in the middle of the pavilions, with lots of slides, swings, climbs, and more for the children to enjoy.

Finally, you can visit Torraine Lake, also known as Stick Lake, stocked several times a year with rainbow trout and channel catfish.

If you want to visit the Ben Geren Regional Park today, it’s found at 7200 Zero Street.

Walk Your Dog along the Ronnie Udouj Walking Trail

The Ronnie Udouj Walking Trail is a popular nature hike and walking trail here in Fort Smith.

The trail goes for about 1.5 miles, and many trail spurs let you shorten your walk, with a portion of the path paved and the rest just gravel.

You can jog or walk here along with your leashed pup. Just be sure to bring water and a bowl for your dog, as you’ll both be found to be thirsty.

It’s also a fantastic spot to view the golden hour of the sunrise.

If you want to visit the Ronnie Udouj Walking Trail, it’s located at 6600 Grande Avenue in Fort Smith.

Walk around Historic Downtown Fort Smith

Church at the Historic Downtown Fort Smith

Bonita R. Cheshier /

Start your trip with a small stroll in Downtown Fort Smith.

With this pleasant and relaxing walk, you’ll see many historical sites, attractions, and things to do and get an overall feel of what it’s like living here in Fort Smith.

Walk past the Fort Smith Historic Site, the Riverfront Skate & Bike Park, Miss Laura’s Visitor Center, Fort Smith Convention Center, and many more.

You can get to Downtown Fort Smith by crossing the bridge from West Fort Smith, crossing the Arkansas River.

Take Photos at John Bell Jr. Park

John Bell Jr. Park is a riverfront community park in Fort Smith.

It was known as the Riverfront Drive Sports field but was renamed in honor of the late John Bell Jr.

Bell grew up in Fort Smith and became a renowned artist famous for creating beautiful paintings while living with a debilitating muscle condition.

John Bell Jr. Park has 51 acres of nice, flat, green space with a fantastic view of the Arkansas River and appropriately has the city’s first all-inclusive playground.

There are many soccer fields and spaces to run around and do outdoor activities, but the park’s main attraction is the playground.

It’s not only inclusive but it is also built and designed well.

The white and blue design combined with modern architecture with the blue rubber flooring allows for beautiful photos with your family.

Go Skating at Martin Luther King Jr. Park

The Martin Luther King Jr. Park is a community park in Fort Smith.

Found at 1815 North Greenwood Avenue, corner of North O Street, this park honors Martin Luther King Jr.

It has plenty of unique amenities that families will enjoy.

You can reserve sports facilities, such as baseball and softball fields, soccer fields, and basketball courts.

In addition, there are also a large playground and play structures for kids to enjoy, as well as a splash pad, perfect for a hot sunny day.

There’s also a mini skate park and structures complete with half-pipes, ramps, and rails at Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

Take Photos at the Chaffee Barbershop Museum

The Chaffee Barbershop Museum is a unique historical attraction in Fort Smith.

Established in 2008, it’s a restored military barbershop and museum where thousands of American soldiers got their famous buzz cuts as they enlisted.

It’s also most known as the barbershop where Elvis Presley got his hair cut when he enlisted in 1958, dubbed as the “hair cut heard ‘round the world.”.

You’ll get a unique experience walking inside the old building, where you’ll see a glimpse of how it was in the 1950s.

The museum contains many historical photos and artifacts showing Fort Chaffee’s history in the last 70 years.

If you want to visit the Chaffee Barbershop Museum, it’s located at 7313 Terry Street, Building #803.

Learn about Fort Smith at Miss Laura’s Visitor Center

Locomotive in front of Miss Laura’s Visitor Center

Doug Wertman from Rogers, AR, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Miss Laura’s Visitor Center is one of the most helpful places to visit to uncover what Fort Smith offers, as it is the city’s official visitor center!

It’s one of the only bordellos among seven rowhouses that made up Fort Smith’s red light district back in the Old West.

The building has been restored to its original glory as a beautiful and historic Victorian mansion that offers free tours and discovery along the Arkansas River.

As you make your way inside, you’ll see plenty of helpful materials and wayfinding items that’ll help guide you through the city, learn more about events and upcoming events, and more.

Miss Laura’s Visitor Center is in downtown Fort Smith, at 2 N, B Street.

Explore the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum is an art museum that focuses on showcasing the creative talents of the local artists here in Fort Smith.

The museum started in 1948 as the Arkansas Association of University Women.

Following many milestones, it found its home at 1601 Rogers Avenue and adopted its current name in 1968.

The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum has such a diverse and rare collection of art by prominent artists, as well as by lesser-known ones and students.

You can come by and experience their exhibits, such as the Dr. W. E. Knight Porcelain Gallery, Catriona Fraser’s photography, Oil paintings of Michael Colpitts, and many more.

After appreciating the art, you can also visit the Gift Shop Gallery to purchase art in various mediums: paintings, baskets, pottery, photos, textiles, sculpture, woven art, jewelry, and woodcarving.

Learn about Nature at Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center

The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center is a learning center in Fort Smith.

The nature center was opened in 2006 at 8300 Wells Lake Road on 170 acres of land, named after the state’s first lady Janet Huckabee.

It was established to spread awareness of wildlife conservation and appreciation, especially to the youth, with exhibits showcasing the surrounding area’s natural history.

Plenty of educational programs teach about the ecosystem in wildlife conservation and hunting and fishing programs with BB guns, archery, and computer hunting games.

You can also enter the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center building to see the unique 1,700-gallon aquarium exhibit that represents the Arkansas River.

Try Disc Golf at Tilles Park

Tilles Park is one of the community parks here in Fort Smith.

Tilles Park differs from other parks because its amenities rival the bigger parks in the city, perfect for a quiet afternoon with family.

You can play sports on their fenced tennis and basketball courts, and the kids can run around the playground or enjoy the splash pad on a hot sunny day.

Tall trees also surround a small but challenging disc golf course.

You can also take a relaxing walk on the mile-long trail that loops around the park.

There are plenty of pretty views around the park, and you should have fun outdoors with family at Tilles Park, located at 1017 N 37th Street.

Catch Fish at Caroll Ann Cross Park

Caroll Ann Cross Park is a community park here in Fort Smith,

The park is home to the beautiful artificial Wildcat Mountain Lake, which is the main attraction of this quaint park.

You can sit near the fishing pier near the park and enjoy the beautiful view of the lake, bask in nature, or even fish at the lake that’s restocked with fish annually.

You can also find some wildlife here, such as ducks, geese, and other animals.

However, you aren’t allowed to feed them.

There’s also a huge playground for children to enjoy, and the parents can sit on the benches near the lake to relax while keeping an eye out for the kids.

The Caroll Ann Cross Park is located at 1601 South 74th Street.

See the Railcars at the Fort Smith Trolley Museum

Steam locomotive at Fort Smith Trolley Museum

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

The Fort Smith Trolley Museum is a railroad museum and streetcar found at 100 South 4th Street in Fort Smith.

The museum was founded in 1979 to preserve and showcase the transit history of Fort Smith, while the current building was established in 1985.

Here you’ll see their collection of railcars and trolleys, including a working 1926 electric Birney Streetcar and a Frisco 4003 Steam Locomotive.

Caboose at Fort Smith Trolley Museum

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

You can also visit the Western-themed village near the museum with performances that re-enact the “Robbing of the Fort Smith Trolley.”

The Fort Smith Trolley Museum is the right place if you’re interested in trains and locomotives.

Locomotive at Fort Smith Trolley Museum

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

Final Thoughts

Fort Smith is a city filled with so much history.

Likewise, it has many parks to visit and enjoy, each with unique attractions and fun things to do with the family.

Plan your budget-friendly trip with the free things to do in Fort Smith, Arkansas!

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