18 Best Things to Do in Sebastian County, AR

Sebastian County, AR

Living nestled in the heart of Sebastian County, Arkansas, I've had the pleasure of delving into this region's charismatic charm and natural beauty.

My time here has been filled with countless adventures, from exploring historical landmarks to indulging in local gastronomy.

I've been fortunate to experience what makes this county a hidden gem. Now, I eagerly invite you to embark on this journey with me.

Discover the allure of Sebastian County through the eyes of someone who calls it home.

Whether you're an adventurer, a history buff, or a foodie, allow me to guide you to the best things to do in Sebastian County, Arkansas.

About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Spend the Day in Ouachita National Forest

Mountain views at Ouachita National Forest
Sari ONeal / Shutterstock.com

I've called the edges of the Ouachita National Forest home my entire life.

There's something genuinely magical about waking up to the sun cresting over the tops of the dense canopy, the early morning mist hanging like a blanket over the rolling hills, and the sound of the forest coming alive with the break of day.

Wandering through the serene trails of this expansive national forest is like stepping into a different world.

The towering trees sway like dancers in the wind, their leaves whispering ancient secrets.

I often find myself lost in thought, my footsteps lightly treading the well-worn paths that weave through the wilderness.

There's always a sense of discovery, of stumbling upon something no one else has ever seen.

I adore exploring the forest on horseback.

Clipping along the miles upon miles of horse trails, I've found no better way to take in the sweeping views, the shimmering streams, and the tranquil lakes.

A world of lush greenery framed between a horse's ears feels like entering a fairytale.

The diverse trails will enthrall beginners and seasoned riders alike, perfect for every skill level.

Welcome sign of Ouachita National Forest
All Stock Photos / Shutterstock.com

Seasons here paint the forest with different brushes.

The trails open and close, keeping time with nature's clock.

Crisp autumn days turn the forest into a palette of yellows, oranges, and reds.

Winter blankets the forest in a hush of white silence, only broken by the crunch of boots on snow.

Spring breathes life back into the forest, the air buzzing with renewed vitality.

My favorite summer turns the forest into a theatre of life, a symphony of sounds, and a canvas of brilliant greens.

Living here isn't just about horseback rides or hikes along scenic pathways.

It's about late-night campfires under a sky full of stars, listening to the nocturnal orchestra of the forest.

It's also about lazy afternoons spent fishing by the lakeside, the peace of the moment broken only by the occasional splash of a catch.

And, finally, it's about the Albert Pike recreational area, where generations have enjoyed Arkansas' natural beauty.

Life in Ouachita National Forest is an experience, an adventure, a story waiting to be told.

A pond at Ouachita National Forest
Angela Feltes / Shutterstock.com

Explore Art at Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

You get a kick out of art, don't you? The splash of colors, the intricate designs, and the stories they tell?

Yes, that's the experience I get when visiting the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum.

The first thing you notice even before you walk in is the groovy sculptures and vibrant flower beds that grace the exterior.

Parking your car is a breeze and the best part? Admission is free!

Upon entering, I was received warmly by the lovely staff, who gave me a brief on the current exhibits.

The museum, spread across three levels, boasts an impressive 16,000 square feet of indoor space, each offering a unique take on the art world.

My favorite was the basement level, with artist Boehm's elaborate collection of handcrafted, painted porcelain scriptures.

From beautiful birds to intricate patterns, his work was simply exquisite.

The main level had a diverse array of mixed media representations of how artists were affected by the Covid pandemic.

These pieces, filled with raw emotion and strength, offered an incredible insight into the artists' lives amidst the pandemic.

On the topmost level, I was awe-struck by the phenomenal photography of Dena Creamer.

Her splendid shots of the local area, capturing the beauty of nature, were incredibly moving.

I strongly recommend looking up her work. It's simply breathtaking.

The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum has frequently changing exhibits that keep the experience fresh and vibrant.

Once, I visited just before closing time on a Thursday and was thrilled to interact with a beautiful photography exhibition using a tablet.

The photos were large, vibrant, and truly mesmerizing.

Visiting this museum is like walking through a book of art, where each page turn presents a new world to explore.

If you love art and find yourself in Fort Smith, Arkansas, this museum is a must-visit.

Discover Nature at the AGFC Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center

When it comes to finding something exciting and wallet-friendly to do, the AGFC Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center never disappoints.

I am always drawn to this place, yearning to explore its interactive exhibits, hiking trails, and other outdoor activities.

My family and I are frequent visitors.

It's a joy to watch the kids pretend to fish in the center's small artificial setup – the excitement on their faces as they imagine reeling in a big one is something to behold.

The center has hands-on exhibits that keep the kids engaged and learning.

On Sundays, my partner and I often take advantage of the trails for a relaxing evening stroll.

The trails are easily manageable for a leisurely walk and stretch a comfortable 1.7 miles – just perfect for winding down the weekend.

We've found that visiting in April tends to be the best time of the year.

The weather during this month is usually optimal for outdoor activities, and there's the added benefit of having no pesky bugs to contend with.

It's quite a stroke of luck!

Beyond the outdoor fun, the nature center has a neat little museum and a gift shop.

And if it's raining? No worries!

There's plenty of indoor play to keep the children entertained.

And the best part? Admission is entirely free for everyone!

Whether for fishing, hiking, or even archery, the AGFC Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center has something to offer everyone.

Visit a Jogger's Paradise at Bell Park

I can't count the number of times I've laced up my running shoes and hit the paved trail at Bell Park.

It's my little slice of paradise in the heart of Greenwood.

There's something about the early morning solitude, the birds chirping, and the unparalleled city views that help me clear my mind and set the rhythm for the day.

One of the hidden gems of the park is the disc golf course. Sure, it could use better signage to direct players to the baskets, but that's part of the fun.

Navigating the fairways and putting greens helps you get a little mental workout along with your physical one.

The grass, while not always perfectly manicured like at a professional golf course, is maintained well enough for an enjoyable game.

There's more to the park than exercise, though.

The playground brings back fond memories of my childhood; now, watching my kids play there is a joy.

Likewise, the pavilion is a popular spot for community events, and I've even attended a few beautiful weddings there.

If you're into photography, this park provides the perfect backdrop, especially during sunset.

And, let's not forget the hammock city.

It's my go-to spot for a peaceful afternoon break. Swinging gently on a hammock, with the panoramic view of the city in front, is an experience that never gets old.

Whether you're a jogger, a disc golf player, a photographer, or someone simply seeking a quiet spot for relaxation, Bell Park has something for everyone.

Step into History at the Fort Smith Museum

There's something quite magical about stepping off the busy streets of downtown Fort Smith and being transported back in time.

That's the experience you get at the Fort Smith Museum of History.

It's like you can almost feel the past come alive as you walk through its halls, each room filled with artifacts that tell the story of our city's development.

Despite having two floors filled with exhibits, the museum never feels overwhelming.

They've done an excellent job of making it accessible to everyone, with an elevator that makes it easy to navigate.

It's an engaging space, especially for kids who'll probably be drawn to the interactive exhibits.

And speaking of kids, they love the 1920s-era soda fountain.

It's a unique experience, sipping on old-fashioned sodas and feeling like you've traveled back in time.

The museum's location couldn't be more perfect either.

It's smack in the heart of downtown Fort Smith, just a stone's throw away from other popular attractions like the National Cemetery and Jude Parker's old court.

Plus, it's conveniently close to the trolley, making fitting into any sightseeing itinerary easy.

So, if you ever need an escape from the hot afternoon sun or want to quench your thirst for knowledge, the Fort Smith Museum of History is the place to be.

Whether you're a history buff or simply curious about our city's past, you will learn something new every visit.

But don't just take my word for it; see for yourself - the past is waiting to tell its story.

Adventure Awaits at John Bell Jr. Park

Every town has its hidden gem; in our beloved Fort Smith, it is undoubtedly John Bell Jr. Park.

As a frequent visitor, I've seen how this park has transformed into an outdoor paradise for kids and adults alike.

First of all, the playground is extraordinary. It features a zip line for the kids, swings, a teeter-totter, and much more!

Many parts of the playground are covered, providing a much-needed respite from the hot Arkansas sun.

But what sets it apart is the soft, rubber ground that cushions any tumbles, keeping the kiddos safe while they play.

Moreover, the park is fenced, ensuring children can play safely without worrying about straying too far.

Inclusivity is another big plus - the park provides many handicapped pieces of equipment, ensuring the fun is accessible to all.

Nothing beats the joy of seeing the little ones running around, their laughter filling the air, and the peace of mind of knowing they're in a safe and fun environment.

John Bell Jr. Park truly is the heart of our community.

Take a Journey Through History at Fort Smith National Historic Site

Main building at Fort Smith National Historic Site
richardamora / Shutterstock.com

Oh, the tales I could tell about my Fort Smith National Historic Site visits.

Nestled in our humble town, this preserved 19th-century fortress complex is a testament to our rich history.

Infused with historical narratives of the Indian territories and the Old West's law and order, it is a place that never ceases to amaze me.

If you're fascinated by history, like me, you'll love what it offers.

To walk through the grounds is to take a stroll through time itself.

The original floor plans of buildings, which have long since met their fiery demise, are still visible.

I've spent countless hours tracing the faded lines of these remnants of the past, trying to imagine the stories they could tell.

But that’s not all. The site is also home to the first Fort Smith, a sight that evokes a sense of awe every time I see it.

The first time I laid eyes on it, I was struck by the palpable aura of history that it carries.

What makes the Fort Smith National Historic Site truly special is how it honors our town's past.

Cannon on the grounds of Fort Smith National Historic Site
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

It wasn't just a military installation or a prison but a peacekeeping place in the Indian territories.

Every visit feels like a lesson, a story unfolding right before your eyes.

There's a serene river walk by the first fort for those seeking tranquility.

I've spent many an afternoon there, letting the gentle rustling of the water soothe me as I soak in the surroundings.

Whether for a family outing, a school trip, or a quiet afternoon stroll, the Fort Smith National Historic Site is a destination.

So, if you're ever in town, don't miss out on experiencing this vibrant slice of our history.

Who knows? You might find yourself just as captivated by it as I am.

Interior of a building at Fort Smith National Historic Site
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

Explore The Beauty Of Harry E. Kelley River Park

When the sun sets, and the breeze sweeps across the river, there's no better place to be in town than the Harry E. Kelley River Park.

We, locals, consider this gem to be the heartbeat of the town - a recreational haven that offers something for everyone.

Roaming around the park, you'd see people engaged in various activities - from adventurous souls skating or biking down the paved trails to those seeking tranquility with a fishing rod.

The park truly caters to all your recreational needs.

Even the music festivals periodically held at the outdoor amphitheater add a lively rhythm to the park's everyday charm.

Walking along the river trail is my favorite part of the park - a peaceful experience rivaling some of the best walking trails I've encountered in other cities.

It's not just about the scenery, though - the vibe and camaraderie among the folks give this trail its unique charm.

If you're a skating enthusiast, the excellent skate park built right next to the river elevates your skating experience to another level.

Not every day, you get to do tricks and flips with a stunning riverside view as your backdrop!

But the real magic happens at sunset.

The sun setting over the river paints the sky with hues of orange and pink, making it an incredibly scenic spot.

You can grab a picnic table, unwind, and let nature's spectacle captivate your senses.

The Harry E. Kelley River Park is an emblem of the town's spirit - a testament to the community's love for outdoor recreation.

It is truly a joy to have such a place in our town, a spot that combines nature, fitness, and entertainment most delightfully.

Embrace the Outdoors at Ben Geren Regional Park

I've lived near Ben Geren Regional Park all my life, and it's always been my go-to place for outdoor fun.

There's something for everyone: a game of disc golf with friends, a thrilling mountain biking trail adventure, or a peaceful walk.

This vast park is a playground for both kids and adults alike.

Last year, I attended a softball tournament there.

The park was bursting with energy - teams strategizing, spectators cheering, friends and families picnicking.

Despite the massive size of the park, locating the fields was a breeze.

Moreover, the concession stand offered a variety of refreshments at reasonable prices, a definite plus during an all-day event.

Yes, the restrooms could use a little attention, but with the huge crowd, it's understandable that keeping up might be challenging.

There was a time when I played a lot of golf at the park. But these days, my interests have pivoted towards bike riding and photography.

The park's sprawling landscape offers myriad photo opportunities, from vibrant sunsets to watchful deer.

The multi-access trail road was recently repaved, and bathrooms were added near Torraine Lake - a fantastic upgrade for regular visitors like me.

Walking along the trail, breathing in the fresh air, and soaking in the peaceful ambiance is a rejuvenating experience.

Just a word of caution to walkers, though - be mindful of the mountain bikers. Not all call out when they're near, so just watch.

All in all, Ben Geren Regional Park is a gem in our community.

A place to play, relax, stay fit, and enjoy the great outdoors. I'm grateful to have it right in my backyard!

Unwind at Sugar Loaf Lake

Every step around Sugar Loaf Lake is a step back into my cherished memories.

Watching the sun set over the lake is a sight as peaceful as it is beautiful, one that continually captivates me every time I witness it.

One structure that always catches my eye is an A-frame cabin, an architectural beauty built by my parents in the 1960s.

It stands in its grandeur, looking as great as it did decades ago, and is now home to a new owner who cherishes it as much as we did.

But Sugar Loaf Lake is more than just a nostalgic retreat. It's a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

Activities include swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, biking, and tanning. Whether you're seeking adrenaline or tranquility, this place has it all.

I often escape the city's clamor, immersing myself in the serenity of the lake and the surrounding nature.

A hidden gem in this tranquil oasis is a nearby waterfall. Hiking there, feeling the cool water on my skin and the sun's warmth, is therapeutic.

The clean, crisp air fills my lungs, rejuvenating my senses and casting away any remnants of city life's stress.

Sugar Loaf Lake is an experience, a sanctuary, my little paradise.

I couldn't recommend it enough as a getaway location, especially for those seeking solace in nature's embrace.

Explore History at the Drennen Scott House

Imagine stepping back in time, right into 1836, in a town that was only just beginning to find its roots.

That's precisely what it feels like when I walk into the Drennen Scott House.

Built by one of the earliest settlers in the town, this landmark home stands as a testament to the rich history of Arkansas.

The house itself is a treasure trove of antiques and period relics.

Each room tells a story of a bygone era, immersing you in the lives and experiences of those who lived here.

Yet, the house's history extends far beyond the walls.

Every day, I discover something new - an untouched corner of the garden, a hidden architectural detail, or a fresh perspective on the house against the backdrop of the setting sun.

The Drennen Scott house is integral to Arkansas' history despite not being connected to anyone famous.

And the best part? It's free to explore!

There's even a knowledgeable tour guide who can share intriguing tales about the house, adding depth to your visit.

And if you are a photography enthusiast like me, you're in for a treat.

With its lush greenery and blooming flowers, the garden makes for stunning pictures.

The trestles provide a unique, rustic charm to your shots.

It's a beautiful blend of history, nature, and art. Trust me, a visit here is a truly enriching experience.

So, the next time you're in the area, don't miss out on the chance to explore the Drennen Scott House.

Discover History at the United States Marshals Museum

Living in the historic town of Fort Smith, I've been eagerly awaiting the opening of the United States Marshals Museum.

Once it opened, I was simply blown away by the beauty of the museum and its prime riverfront location.

The architecture is thoroughly modern yet blends seamlessly with the natural surroundings, creating a truly stunning sight.

Walking through the museum, I was entirely captivated by the rich history and heroic deeds of the U.S. Marshals, displayed fascinatingly and engagingly.

I was particularly impressed by the numerous interactive exhibits that make the museum experience enjoyable for all ages.

Trust me; the museum is an immersive journey through time that paints a vivid picture of the Marshals' crucial role in our nation's history from 1789 to the present day.

Moreover, the museum does an excellent job of honoring the Marshals, showcasing their courage and dedication throughout the years.

As a retiree of the Marshal Service, my heart swelled with pride seeing the recognition they rightfully deserve.

The museum exceeded my expectations, and I felt profoundly grateful for having such a remarkable institution in our town.

After touring the museum, I recommend taking advantage of its picturesque location and going for a bike ride along the trail behind the museum, bordering the stunning Arkansas River.

The breathtaking views perfectly complement the enriching experience at the museum and make the whole visit worthwhile.

Whether you're a history enthusiast, a U.S. Marshal admirer, or just someone looking for an enjoyable day out, the United States Marshals Museum is a must-visit.

I guarantee it will be an experience that will stay with you long.

Take a Stroll through Memory Lane at Cisterna Park

The grounds of Cisterna Park
Kit Leong / Shutterstock.com

Even if I've lived here for years, the charm of Cisterna Park never fails to captivate me.

Nestled in the city's heart, this compact park is a constant reminder of our rich history, particularly our connection to World War II.

It is home to a commemorative statue that honors a hero from that era, a poignant symbol that never fails to stir a sense of pride and gratitude in me.

Every time I stroll in the park, the beautiful view of the old downtown area, with its calm and serene ambiance, always takes my breath away.

It's a peaceful refuge that starkly contrasts the hustle and bustle of the city.

There is also this spherical fountain in the park that's mesmerizing.

I remember this one time in June when I was driving by.

Seeing water gracefully spraying into the pool from the fountain was such a refreshing sight.

A statue at Cisterna Park
Kit Leong / Shutterstock.com

It was magical, beautiful - an experience created by someone who had a vision of this unique feature in our beloved park.

Oh, and don't get me started on the pictures and videos I've taken of this place.

They are treasures I keep in my digital album, a visual journal that chronicles my wonderful experiences at Cisterna Park.

I am lucky to have such a beautiful piece of history at my doorstep.

For me, Cisterna Park evokes nostalgia, gratitude, and an appreciation for the beauty in our history and surroundings.

Take a Trip Down Memory Lane at Chaffee Crossing Historic District

As the sunlight hits the old, rustic buildings of the Chaffee Crossing Historic District, it casts a warm glow over the memories that echo through these streets.

Being lucky enough to grow up in this area, I've had countless first-hand encounters with the heartwarming community that inhabits this historic corner of our town.

One of my favorite things about living here is the yearly Veterans Parade.

It's not just a parade. It's a celebration of sacrifice, courage, and service.

The locals put their heart and soul into organizing an event that appreciates our veterans.

You can see the love and respect in the eyes of every child waving the flag and every adult participating in this parade.

While the prices of food vendors might sometimes raise an eyebrow, the feeling of being part of something special makes it all worth it.

The district also proudly holds a unique piece of pop culture history.

It's known to be where the music legend Elvis Presley got his first Army haircut, immortalizing this otherwise ordinary barber shop.

The energy of the place is almost palpable, and the efforts to restore the building where Elvis stayed are adding to the excitement.

Additionally, the district is home to a museum, a treasure trove of information about our local history.

It's surprising how much you can learn, even as a local.

From the tales of German POWs during the 40s to the Vietnamese refugees in the 70s, it's like peeling back the layers of time.

If you're interested in taking a deeper dive into the history of our town, I urge you to visit the Chaffee Crossing Historic District.

Understand how our community has evolved and recognize the steps we've taken to get where we are today.

Enjoy a Week of Rodeo and Livestock Show at Kay Rodgers Park

Nothing beats the energy and excitement at Kay Rodgers Park, especially when the Old Fort Days Rodeo rolls around.

This year marked the rodeo's 90th anniversary, and we celebrated it in style!

I remember waiting a tad longer for the show to start, but every minute of anticipation was well worth it.

The food was delicious, as always, and the atmosphere was perfect for a family day out.

You can tell the community puts their heart and soul into organizing this event annually.

This year, I took my daughter to the rodeo's opening night for the first time.

It was her birthday; she had dreamed of this since she was a little girl.

We had an absolute blast watching the riders perform their daring feats.

But the rodeo isn't the only event we look forward to at Kay Rodgers Park.

There's also the livestock show, which we practically live at for over a week, hopping between market steer and commercial heifer shows.

Despite occasional hiccups like the flooding of Beef Barn 1, the park has been well-maintained and loved by all of us.

And let's not forget the concerts! The decision to host them under Hugh Harding instead of in the big arena was a pleasant surprise.

The star selection was spot-on and added to the magic of our week at the park.

A week spent at Kay Rodgers Park is more than just a visit. It's a tradition, a celebration, and a testament to our vibrant community spirit.

Make a Splash at Parrot Island Waterpark

If you're looking for a way to beat the summer heat, look no further than Parrot Island Waterpark.

I must say, it's my go-to place to take the kids for a day of fun.

Just a short drive away, it's a haven of relaxation and excitement all rolled into one.

The first time I took my family, there was a two-hour drive, but it was worth every minute.

We all had a great time soaking up the sun and enjoying the various water attractions.

The lazy river is my personal favorite. You just float along, letting the water carry you while soaking up the sun.

It's a safe and fun place for the little ones to play and splash.

They also have a selection of giant slides!

The nights can get crowded, but that's when the atmosphere comes alive.

Every visit offers a new form of entertainment.

But, if you prefer a quieter experience, I recommend going early or after 4 pm.

If you visit more than twice a year, it's also worth getting a pass for the additional discounts.

The food at the park is a tad pricey, but you can always bring a cooler or check out the local eateries.

Seeing our river valley offering such a vibrant and family-friendly place is pleasing.

It's a beautiful place to spend a sunny day and create lasting memories with your family.

Take a Walk Through the Belle Grove Historic District

Every day as I step outside my front door, I am greeted by the charming sight of preserved Victorian-era homes that line the streets of the Belle Grove Historic District.

A visit to this 22-block area is like stepping back in time, with the architecture of each house telling a unique story of the past.

As you stroll through the district, you'll be enamored by the grandeur of these Victorian-era homes, each beautifully preserved to retain its original charm.

Don't forget to stop by the Clayton House, a stunning reminder of the district's rich history.

Its vintage charm and beautiful architecture are indeed a sight to behold.

Another hidden gem is the School House Apartments, a transformed 1800s schoolhouse that now houses stunning apartments.

Unfortunately, gaining entrance to the building might be a challenge, but the majestic sight of the building from the outside is enough to leave you in awe.

For performing arts enthusiasts, the local theater in the district is a must-visit.

I've heard rave reviews about the performances there, although I've yet to catch one.

The Belle Grove Historic District is a fantastic sight.

It's brimming with history, and each day spent here is an opportunity to learn something new and fascinating.

Likewise, it's a unique blend of the past and the present, and I wouldn't trade my experiences here for the world.

Take a Trolley Ride Through History at the Fort Smith Trolley Museum

Birney car at Fort Smith Trolley Museum
Steve Morgan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you ever want to take a trip back in time, you'll want to visit Fort Smith Trolley Museum, nestled in my beloved hometown.

This outdoor museum looks like it came from a history book featuring vintage streetcars and an authentic trolley that trundles along a 3/4-mile track.

It's a fascinating spectacle, especially for train enthusiasts like myself.

As someone who's taken the ride countless times, it can be quite a unique experience.

The pace may be slow, but it's entirely in sync with the museum's old-world charm.

Likewise, the trolley is a nearly a century-old relic, and it gets warm inside.

Train caboose at Fort Smith Trolley Museum
Adam Bartlett from Little Rock, Arkansas, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

But fret not, the windows open, allowing a gentle breeze to waft in and to take the edge off the heat.

The museum also showcases a collection of parked train cars and locomotives, each maintained to varying degrees.

For me, the Fort Smith Trolley Museum is a journey through time that I, as a resident, have come to adore.

Steam locomotive at Fort Smith Trolley Museum
Adam Bartlett from Little Rock, Arkansas, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Living in Sebastian County, Arkansas, has been an adventure.

Whether you are a history buff, a nature lover, or an art fanatic, the County has something to offer everyone.

You can only truly appreciate its beauty once you've experienced it yourself.

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