If I’m being honest, I’m not feeling much like hiking in this ridiculous heat. When it feels like the sun hates us, I’d rather stay indoors with my sweet tea and books—OK—maybe with a coke and a good-old fashioned Netflix marathon. The good news for me and the rest of the heat-haters is that Arkansas is full of wonderful places to go that don’t require a lot of sweating, even in this ridiculous heat wave. I’ve compiled a list of fourteen places guaranteed to bring you summer fun without having you roasted in the process.
1. DeGray Lake Resort State Park (Bismarck)
Set in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, DeGray Lake is 13,800 acres just waiting to be explored. The state park set on its shores offers one of the best lodges in the state. At the full-service marina you can rent a boat, kayak, or paddleboat. This lake is an amazing adventure for the whole family.
2. Wild Wilderness Safari (Gentry)
The drive-thru part of this safari will make sure you have fun while staying cool in your car, no matter how hot it is outside. On your very own Arkansas safari, you’ll see a variety of wildlife from all over the world. There is also a walk through section, where you can visit the petting areas and make friends with calves, kangaroos, camels, and warthogs.
3. Cosmic Caverns (Berryville)
This cave was voted one of the top 10 show caves in America, and it’s fantastic. No need to worry about sweating too much either, as it stays a cool (but incredibly humid) 64 degrees year-round. This is kind of a waterfront situation too, as there are two lakes in the cave as well. No one has yet found the end to the lakes, so for now they’re considered bottomless.
4. Janet Huckabee Nature Center (Fort Smith)
If you want to learn all about the ecology of the river valley, you have to go to the Janet Huckabee Nature Center. It’s a gorgeous facility with an enormous fish tank full of species native to the area, a variety of reptiles and amphibians on display, as well as the pelts of many Arkansas mammals. Outdoors you’ll find a huge, fully stocked pond where you can reel in a whopper, and don’t worry if you’ve forgotten your tackle at home—you can rent some at the counter.
5. Arkansas Museum of Discovery (Little Rock)
The Arkansas Museum of Discovery is our state’s premiere science museum, and with more than 90 hands-on exhibits, it’s not surprising they claim that title. The geniuses over at MENSA named it the sixth best science museum in the nation, which proves that sometimes really smart people get it right.
6. Crystal Bridges (Bentonville)
Why not take in some art inside the world-class and most importantly, fully air-conditioned Crystal Bridges? This museum is unlike any in Arkansas, it’s free to visit, and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon without breaking a sweat.
7. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center (Little Rock)
This museum is devoted to preserving and interpreting the history of African Americans in the state—and this place is absolutely fascinating. In the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, you’ll find Arkansas’s own Maya Angelou as well as many other amazing homegrown Arkansans. History unfolds before your eyes at this fantastic museum.
8. Buffalo National River
Because of its well-preserved shoreline, its scenic beauty, and the variety of things you can do there, Buffalo National River is one of the most popular natural destinations in the Natural State. Spend some time on the Buffalo in a canoe, on the shore, or find an ankle-deep spot to stand and fish.
9. Altitude Trampoline Park (Little Rock)
Want to find a way to sweat indoors but you’re tired of going to the gym? No problem. Drive down to Little Rock and jump up a sweat while remaining air-conditioned. (I’ve got good news for all you intrepid Pokemon Go players: Altitude is a PokeStop, and they offer free jump times based on your trainer level.)
10. Crystal Falls (Hot Springs)
Crystal Falls is part of Arkansas theme park Magic Springs, and it’s the part where you don’t have to worry about standing in the sweltering heat or wearing a hat to keep the sun off your face. You’ll find a lazy river, several slides, and a wave pool to make sure your afternoon is full of watery fun.
11. Eleven Point River
The Eleven Point River is spring fed and low traffic. Of those two amazing traits, the best part is the spring fed part. It ensures that the water stays cool no matter how hot it gets outside.
12. Lake Hamilton (Hot Springs)
Lake Hamilton is the perfect resort lake. You’ll find all kinds of ways to enjoy the water there, and it’s so close to Hot Springs that you may even want to spend the cooler evening hours on the quest to see all 47 of Hot Springs’s hot springs.
13. Amazeum (Bentonville)
From a man-made indoor cave to a science lab set up for the day’s experiment, everything in the Amazeum in Bentonville is made to make you feel like a kid again. You won’t want to miss this collection of amazing exhibits (or the air-conditioning that makes sure you stay cool while you play).
14. Crenshaw Springs Water Park (White Hall)
Water parks are a convenient way to spend a whole day in the sun without having to mop sweat from your brow, and Crenshaw Springs is conveniently located in the lower delta region. Find fantastic slides there, and plenty of fun for the whole family.