Exploring Natural Wonders: Your Ultimate Guide to Arkansas’ Adventures

Alright, buckle up adventurers! Today we’re diving deep into the heart of the natural state – Arkansas! Get ready for a wild ride, filled with jaw-dropping landscapes, quirky roadside attractions, and more southern charm than you can shake a stick at. So, grab your map, pack some snacks and let’s hit the road! But first let me tell you about my flea market story…

My friends and I would go to the same flea market every Saturday, and the vendors never typically changed. There was always the same jam lady (which I always bought at least $30 in jam from because she was so sweet and old), the same tie-dye T-shirt guy, and the same giant overhang, filled with old tools that you probably wouldn’t do anything with.

On one particular Saturday, November 2, 2019 to be exact, we were walking our normal circle and came across one particular booth. At first I didn’t notice anything drastically different about this booth, he had lots of chickens for sale just like a bunch of other vendors. Except, I noticed he had a table with a small dog crate on it. This dog crate was no bigger than 3 feet wide, and had about 6 chickens stuffed inside.

No joke this was the size

There was a man to my right, who is holding this little dog by its head, and no, not the scruff. He was holding it literally by its neck. He gave the dog back to its owner, who proceeded to shove the dog into the crate with the chickens.

The dog immediately went to the corner and cowered, which seemed like it’s normal routine. The chickens immediately came over to the dog, and started pecking at it, pulling out it’s fur and making it cry.

I myself was about to start crying in the middle of this flea market, so I asked the guy if I could hold the dog. As soon as I grabbed her, she immediately crawled up my chest and laid her head in the crook of my neck.

I couldn’t bear giving her back and letting her be attacked by chickens for who knows how long, so I asked the guy how much to buy her, which he proceeded to tell me only $25.

I literally only had $20 in cash on me, but my amazing friends had the other $5.

Definitely did not plan on getting a dog that day, I honestly didn’t even know if my apartment allowed dogs, and getting a dog at a flea market just seemed like such an ethical mistake. But once that little girl curled up in my arms, I didn’t care about anyone else or their opinion. My friends got the other dog he had, and we walked out of there happy as could be and went to Petsmart. The rest is history.

You’ll probably hear me reference Phoebe a lot, and yes, I named her after the infamous Phoebe Buffay. She is the bestest friend I didn’t know I needed, but I couldn’t imagine my life without her.

Just look how perfect and sweet she was🥹 this was her just after Petsmart!

Okay I’m sorry, I’ll get to the travel stuff now, I just get so giddy about my Phoebe.

So, you’re interested in traveling to or learning about the Natural State huh? It’s full of way more adventure than the average person thinks! Where to start….

The Great Outdoors

Falls Creek Falls: Hot Springs

Diving into the heart of the Ozarks, Falls Creek Falls greets you with an awe-inspiring spectacle. The hike, which can be challenging, rewards you with panoramic vistas and the thundering cascade plunging into the valley below. It’s a must-see for any nature lover seeking a true Arkansas adventure.

Lake Catherine State Park: 1200 Catherine Park Rd, Hot Springs, AR 71913

Woolly Hollow State Park: Greenbrier

Wandering through Woolly Hollow State Park feels like stepping into a tranquil oasis. The gentle hike leads you to a hidden waterfall, where the cool mist and soothing sounds of rushing water create a sense of peace and serenity. It’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Woolly Hollow State Park: 82 Woolly Hollow Rd, Greenbrier, AR 72058

Collins Creek: Heber Springs

Hidden within the Ozark National Forest, Collins Creek offers a slice of secluded paradise. Following the mostly flat trail, you’re rewarded with the sight of a pristine waterfall cascading into a crystal-clear pool below. It’s the ideal spot for a quiet picnic or a refreshing dip on a hot summer day.

Collins Creek Trailhead: Hatchery Rd, Heber Springs, AR 72543

Falling Water Falls: Pelsor

Standing in the presence of Falling Water Falls is nothing short of breathtaking. The lengthy dirt road through the Ozark wilderness only adds to the anticipation, and when you finally reach the falls, the sheer power and beauty will leave you speechless. It’s a reminder of nature’s awe-inspiring magnificence. The best part, this waterfall is right on the side of the road which allows anyone to gaze upon its beauty.

Falling Water Falls: Upper Falling Water Rd, Sand Gap, AR 72856

Middle Fork Illinois Bayou: Hector

Don’t let the name fool you, it’s not muddy or swampy by any means. Tucked away in the picturesque landscapes of the Ozarks, Middle Fork Illinois Bayou feels like a well-kept secret. Following the meandering trail, you’re treated to glimpses of tranquil streams and towering trees before stumbling upon the hidden waterfall. It’s a peaceful retreat that invites you to camp out and soak in the beauty of nature’s wonders. The entrance to this access can be easy to pass by, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled.

Address of the trailhead we parked at: 14059 AR-27, Hector, AR 72843

Places to go & things to do

Old Mill: North Little Rock

Walking up to Arkansas’s Old Mill, it felt like I was entering a time warp. Surrounded by worn-out stone and the sounds of nature, it’s a peaceful escape from the rush of today, especially considering it’s in the heart of busy North Little Rock.

Exploring around the mill, I couldn’t help but smile at its old-fashioned charm. Covered in ivy and surrounded by trees, it’s like something out of a fairy tale.

Inside the mill, it’s a whole different world. With creaky floors and old machines, it’s like peeking into Arkansas’s past – kinda cool if you’re into that sorta thing.

Did you know? The Old Mill has some serious Hollywood cred. It was featured in the movie “Gone with the Wind,” adding an extra layer of history and coolness to the whole place. More on the Old Mill’s history here.

All in all, Arkansas’s Old Mill is a chill spot to kick back and soak in some history. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or just looking for a cool photo op, it’s worth checking out.

Anthony Chapel & Garvan Woodland Gardens

Garvan Woodland Gardens is like stepping into a botanical wonderland straight out of a storybook. Imagine wandering through lush gardens bursting with vibrant colors, aromatic blooms, and the soothing sounds of nature all around. It’s a place where every turn reveals a new hidden gem – from tranquil ponds to whimsical bridges adorned with delicate flowers. There’s also a substantial playground area for the littles. Purchase tickets here.

And then there’s Anthony Chapel – a true architectural marvel nestled amidst the natural beauty of the gardens. With its sky high glass walls and open-air design, the chapel seamlessly blends with its woodland surroundings, creating a sense of serenity and awe. Inside, the sunlight filters through the trees, casting a warm glow over the simple yet elegant interior. It’s a space that invites quiet contemplation and reflection, a sanctuary amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Crater of Diamonds State Park

The spot to find bling… or not. Armed with shovels, buckets, and tons of hope, my friend and her kids and Nick and I hit the dirt. Spoiler alert: we were as lost as socks in the dryer.

Despite our lack of rock-hunting skills, we dug in like champs. But every glint we found turned out to be just dirt, not diamonds. Still, we laughed till our sides hurt and had a blast together.

Even though we didn’t strike it rich, Crater of Diamonds State Park was a blast. The scenery was gorgeous, and we made memories that’ll shine brighter than any gem. So, if you’re up for a hilarious day of dirt-digging fun with your crew, this place is a must. Definitely bring chairs, blankets, and food as it’s an all day adventure.

But don’t worry about what tools to bring, as they have everything available for rent.

All you need to know here!

Pinnacle Mountain

It was a bit challenging of a trek, especially as we neared the summit. The trail became steep and rocky, and at times, it felt like every step required all of our effort. But as we pushed through, the anticipation of reaching the top kept us going.

And when we finally made it to the summit, it was truly a moment to remember. The panoramic views were absolutely stunning, offering a breathtaking overlook of the entire state of Arkansas. It was a reminder of just how beautiful our world can be.

So, if you’re looking for a hike that will test your endurance but reward you with unforgettable views, Pinnacle Mountain is the perfect choice. Just be prepared for a challenging climb, and remember to take it slow and steady. Trust me, the view from the top is worth every bit of effort.

Check here for directions.

“Food Glorious food”

Smallcakes: Maumelle

Get your sweet tooth ready because we’re starting right at Sugar Blvd!

The sweetest little bakery tucked away in Arkansas. As soon as I stepped inside, I was hit with the most heavenly smell of freshly baked cupcakes. It was like walking into a dessert dreamland!

Now, picture this: a wide variety of ice cream flavors right next to rows of cupcakes in every flavor imaginable. From classic chocolate to exotic coconut, there’s something to satisfy every craving. After much deliberation (and lots of taste testing), I finally settled on a decadent red velvet cupcake topped with fluffy cream cheese frosting – and oh my goodness, it was like a party in my mouth!

Oh, the best part? You don’t have to get just cupcakes or ice cream. They are famous for their smash cakes. First, you pick your ice cream flavor, then you pick your cupcake flavor. They cut the cupcake in half and put the bottom at the bottom of a jar. Next, they add two scoops of your chosen ice cream and then top it with the top half of your cupcake. Yeah… heaven.

Okay so I might have a problem lol. Anyways, you have to try it!

Fat Bottom Girls Cupcakes: Hot Springs

Yeah, I wasn’t kidding about starting right off with sugar😂. I definitely stumbled upon this place by accident, but was pleasantly surprised when I stepped inside, and saw rows of beautiful cupcakes.

What’s different about this place is that they have lots of different flavors and not just your typical flavors either. To name a few:

  • Brown sugar pineapple
  • Blueberry ooey gooey
  • Banana churro
  • Peanut butter and banana
  • Chocolate raspberry
  • Chocolate covered strawberry
  • Orange Creamsicle
  • Pineapple and caramel pecan

And yes, they taste exactly like they sound. I tend to overdo it when I go to bakeries, I buy way more than I need for two people. So yes, of course I got a dozen cupcakes and no, I did not end up eating them all. But I did try them all!

Okay so I recommended my top two desserts. Now I guess we’ll talk about “healthy“ food. Although, this next place is definitely not the healthiest…

Whole Hog & Mean Pig BBQ

Now say it with a southern accent and it sounds like Ho hog. That’s all I could hear for months before I finally figured out it was whole hog lol.

These two restaurants are the most popular barbecue in Arkansas. You’ll find these two joints are more commonly known, but don’t let that steer you from the hole in the wall places that we all know are the best.

In my opinion, the biggest difference between whole hog and mean pig are the barbecue sauces themselves. The actual sandwiches and sides were very similar, but they each have their own flavor of sauce, obviously. Either way, both delish & both are military owned!

Scott Station: Scott

Speaking of hole in the wall places, I was out, driving home and passed by this place called scott station. I was intrigued because I saw a farmers market sign, so we went back to check it out. Come to find out, the building to the right has some of the best barbecue I think I’ve had in the state. Everything on that plate was made from scratch from old family recipes, and it was just as delicious as it looks.

The service was nothing short of amazing and all the people were so friendly and genuine. If I ever went back to Arkansas for one restaurant, it would be this one. Also, be sure to check out the farmers market right next door, they have everything you would need and more (rhyme intended).

Wood Grill Buffet: Benton

Okay, don’t judge a restaurant by its name. I know you’re probably thinking “she’s really recommending a buffet?“ Yes. Yes I am.

When I first walked into this restaurant, I was expecting exactly what you were thinking: mediocre food at room temperature. Man was I wrong.

You are treated exactly as if you were at a normal sit-down restaurant, and this one was cleaner than some chains I’ve been in.

And the food *chefs kiss*

Have you ever had fresh prime rib carved for you at a buffet? I have. And it was mouthwatering. Not only prime rib, but a whole slew of different meats. Then there was a huge salad bar, dessert bar, vegetarian only bar, and countless sides. Oh, and don’t forget the ice cream bar for sweet tooth’s and kiddos.

There were employees constantly rotating around checking the food, making sure it was a good temperature and fresh. If it looked to have been sitting for too long, it would get replaced. And yes, the salad bar: fresh fruits and vegetables. Typically eggs at a buffet salad bar would turn me off instantly, but everything was so freshly kept you almost couldn’t resist it.

All I’m saying is this: don’t knock it till you try it. If you’re in the area definitely head that way, I promise you won’t regret it.

Taqueria Amigos: Jacksonville

Okay this is definitely going to be controversial for those of you familiar with the area, as it might seem skeptical to get a recommendation in Jacksonville. It’s not the most touristy of places. However, if you want to satisfy your taco craving this is the place to go. At least it’s mine, and it is amazing.

Definitely one of those hole-in-the-wall places that is easily missed if you’re not looking for it, but one of my friends and my go-to’s. All of the food we have ordered has been amazing. The restaurant itself is full of color and culture, and the staff are very attentive. Plus, they are big supporters of the military, so of course we support them too 😊.

Address: 96 Municipal Dr, Jacksonville, AR 72076

Panther & Titan Nutrition: Cabot & Jacksonville

I was going to write about them here, but it’s not something I can simply sum up into a few words.

So, if you are considering go to or traveling around Arkansas, you HAVE to stop at either Panther or Titan.

Check this blog out about why I love it so much.

So long, farewell

Well, my fellow travelers, we’ve reached the end of our journey through Arkansas, but the memories we’ve made along the way will last a lifetime. From the exhilarating hikes to breathtaking waterfalls, we’ve experienced the natural beauty that this state has to offer in all its glory.

But let’s not forget about the food – oh, the food! From indulging in sweet treats at local bakeries to savoring mouthwatering BBQ, we’ve delighted our taste buds with the flavors of Arkansas.

And of course, there were endless activities to keep us entertained – whether it was exploring historic landmarks, discovering hidden gems, or simply taking in the sights and sounds of this vibrant state.

So, as we bid farewell to Arkansas, let’s remember the laughter, the adventure, and the joy of exploring new places together. And who knows? Maybe our paths will cross again in this wonderful state, where every corner holds a new adventure waiting to be discovered. Until next time, happy travels!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lao Tzu

xoxo, abby

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