Staycation: Spring Break in the Natural State
Planning a vacation can be stressful, especially one that is out of state or the country. Have you ever thought about planning a “staycation?” A staycation involves activities that are within driving distance, so you don’t have to go through the hassle of finding overnight accommodations. It also gives you flexibility with planning and can save you some money. With spring break coming up, we wanted to put a list together of some places in our home state of Arkansas that are staycation worthy! For this list, we focused on cities and places that are outside of the Northwest Arkansas Metropolitan Area.
Must Visit Cities:
Drivetime From NWA: Approximately 1 hour
A quaint, little town just east of the Northwest Arkansas Metro area, Eureka Springs is known for its charming downtown area with many unique dining choices and shops. Eureka Springs is tucked away in the Ozark Mountains and is full of beautiful scenery that you can enjoy year-round! Here are some places to visit while you are there:
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge- Turpentine Creek is a sanctuary for big cats focusing on lions, tigers, leopards, and cougars. They offer overnight stays on the property in one of their treehouses, tents, or cabins. It is a one-of-a-kind experience to be up close and personal with some of nature’s largest cats! Your visit helps to keep their recuse efforts going.
Must Do: Take the guided trolley and hear more about each animal’s story.
Learn about the Tigers before your trip: https://www.turpentinecreek.org/
Caves & Caverns- The caverns near Eureka Springs bring a whole new meaning to hidden treasure! The Onyx Cave has been giving tours since 1893 making it the oldest toured cave in Arkansas. Just outside of Eureka Springs, the Cosmic Cavern features two cave lakes that are so deep the bottoms have yet to be discovered!
Must Do: Gem panning at Onyx Cave & fossil digging at Cosmic Cavern
Ozark Mountain Zipline- Soar above the treetops at the Ozark Mountain Ziplines. This guided tour allows you to become familiar with the wildlife and nature in Eureka Springs. The tour features 10 ziplines with lengths up to 1,800 feet and heights up to 200 feet!
Must Do: Go with friends and grab pictures of each other zipping through the treetops.
For pricing and group tours: http://www.ziplineeurekasprings.com/
Drivetime from NWA: Approximately 3 and a half hours
The spa town of Hot Springs has attracted visitors since 1875. Believed to have medicinal properties, visitors come to experience the natural springs surrounding the area. The history of the city has been maintained in the Bathhouse Row National Historic Landmark District. With so much to do, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Hot Springs, AR!
Oaklawn Racing & Games- Off to the races! Oaklawn has been showcasing elite Thoroughbred horse racing since 1904. From January to May, there are races to attend every weekend. Be sure to make reservations on big race weekends as the crowds pile in for a fun filled day!
Must Do: Visit the horses and go on a barn tour during Dawn at Oaklawn every Saturday from 7:30 to 9:30.
Plan your race day: https://www.oaklawn.com/
Magic Springs Water and Theme Park- For some family fun you will want to visit Magic Springs Water and Theme Park! The park is a mix of thrill and family rides, as well as water slides if the weather is nice! Magic Springs also hosts concerts and family centered events throughout the summer.
Must Do: Ride the Gauntlet, a steel Roller Coaster featuring 110′ drop and speeds of 50 mph
See all the rides & events: https://www.magicsprings.com/
Hot Springs National Park- Spending the day outdoors can be a refreshing experience, especially at the Hot Springs National Park. The park is known for its 47 hot springs located across its 5,550 acres, but be careful, the average temperature is 143 degrees Fahrenheit! Plan a picnic outdoors or take a hike through the 30 miles of the Ouachita Mountains!
Must See: View the entire city from above in the 215′ Hot Springs Mountain Tower.
Plan your trip to the park: https://www.nps.gov/hosp/index.htm
Drivetime from NWA: Approximately 3 and a half hours
As the capital of Arkansas, Little Rock has a lot of history to be shared. Being in Central Arkansas, Little Rock is somewhat close to everything. Whether you’re passing through, or staying for the weekend, there are many activities that can fill your time. Here are some spots to add to your itinerary!
Museum of Discovery- Are you or your children interested in science, technology, math, or engineering? The Museum of Discovery in Little Rock has over 90 hands-on exhibits for you to experience while learning along the way! The museum rotates featured exhibits all year long.
Must Do: Tornado Alley Theater, a 7-minute simulation of the tornado that destroyed the governor of Little Rocks house in 1999.
Look up current exhibits: https://museumofdiscovery.org/
River Market- The downtown River Market is a must see when visiting Little Rock. There are restaurants, bars, shops, and museums to please the entire family! During the Spring and Summer, be sure to see what artists are preforming so that you can plan your date night or friend’s night out accordingly!
Must Eat: For breakfast or lunch visit Ottenheimer Market Hall for a variety of food from different cultures.
To view a list of all the restaurants, shops, and events for your trip: https://www.rivermarket.info/
Little Rock Zoo- Take a walk on the wild side at the Little Rock Zoo. With over 725 animals, there are plenty of exhibits and sights to see in the only accredited zoo in Arkansas. The zoo hosts many events throughout the year that are fun for the entire family!
Must See: Say “Hi” to Trudy the oldest gorilla in human care
For “Trip Tips” and hours: http://littlerockzoo.com
Other Must See Locations:
Crater of Diamonds State Park
Drive time From NWA: Approximately 4 hours
Feeling lucky? Crater of Diamonds State Park, located in Murfreesboro, AR, is a public park where you can dig for diamonds, rocks, minerals, and gemstones. Whatever you find, you get to keep! This is the only active diamond mine in the United States. Not only can you dig for diamonds, you can camp, fish, and hike the trails!
For more information on park hours & guidelines: https://www.arkansasstateparks.com/parks/crater-diamonds-state-park
Drivetime from NWA- 1 hour and 45 minutes
If you enjoy spending a day in the sunshine, the Buffalo River is the perfect spot! Whether you want to float the river, mountain bike the trails, fish, or embark on their 2-hour wilderness zip line tour, you can’t go wrong. Take a break from the city and get away for the weekend at the Buffalo River.
For more information on park hours & guidelines: https://www.buffaloriver.com/