You can’t do any better than free as far as entertainment goes, and many of the places on the list below are totally free. Even the ones that aren’t free require very little money. You can drive to any one of these dozen places and explore to your heart’s content—and your bank account won’t suffer for your travels.
1. The River Market District in Little Rock
From wandering around a sprawling park to visiting a glorious nature center, there are several things that can be done on the Arkansas River at Little Rock that won’t cost you a single dime. Whether you walk the Big Dam Bridge or explore the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden, you’ll find the district full of wonders that are free to explore.
2. Crystal Bridges
Thanks to the Waltons, one of the premier galleries of American art is totally free to visit. The trails are extensive and full of surprises, they have frequent activities that are fun for the entire family, and Crystal Bridges never fails to bring incredible collections to their galleries.
Crystal Bridges is located at 600 Museum Way in Bentonville.
3. Peppersauce Ghost Town in Calico Rock
The Peppersauce Ghost Town, sometimes known as East Calico Rock, is a ghost town like no other. In fact, you can find a ghost town located entirely within the city limits of another town anywhere in the whole of the United States. The ghost town is full of history, and there’s nothing like exploring those abandoned streets.
4. Fort Smith
Fort Smith’s downtown is experiencing a wonderful resurgence. You can visit the National Historic Site, walk the trails, and see the unique makeover the district is getting due to Fort Smith’s Unexpected, a festival of murals. None of that is going to cost you a penny, but even if you decide to check out the restaurants or have a cup of coffee or tea in the shops downtown, you aren’t exactly going to spend a fortune.
5. Queen Wilhelmina State Park
Queen Wilhelmina State Park doesn’t get quite the attention of some of the mountainous state parks in Arkansas, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the loveliest state parks around. The mountaintop views are exquisite, and there are plenty of trails to keep you busy. You can get the royal treatment at Queen Wilhelmina, without spending a fortune.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park is located at 3877 AR-88 near Mena.
6. Eureka Springs
It isn’t an exaggeration to say there’s a lot of stuff to do in Eureka Springs. The little Victorian village is totally surrounded by attractions like Thorncrown Chapel. Even the exotic animal rescue, Turpentine Creek, isn’t too expensive to visit. From enjoying the historic buildings to enjoying the natural beauty surrounding the town, you’re not likely to run out of free things to do in Eureka Springs.
7. Terra Studios
Terra Studios has been a haven for artists for decades, and that has resulted in an awful lot of art. What you’ll pay to explore the sculpture gardens and the extensive gift shop is a suggested donation, which can be as much as you want. There’s an awful lot of whimsy and wonder at Terra Studios, and you can take it all in for very little money.
Terra Studios is located at 12103 Hazel Valley Road near Fayetteville. (It’s really closer to Elkins, but you have to plug the Fayetteville address into your GPS.)
8. Lake Norfork
As far as Natural State lakes go, Lake Norfork is a bit of an underrated treasure. The lake has 550 miles of pristine shoreline and is surrounded by nineteen parks where you can relax. There’s also a wonderful fish hatchery there where you can learn about conservation.
You can find the Lake Norfork Fish Hatchery at 1414 State Hwy 177 near Mountain Home.
9. Lake Chicot
The largest oxbow lake in North America has many appealing qualities outside of its sheer size. The fishing on Lake Chicot is unrivalled, and the state park there is exceptional as well. From boating to swimming to exploring, you can’t do better than this enormous lake.
Lake Chicot State Park is located at 2542 State Highway 257 near Lake Village.
10. Mountain View
The Ozark Folk Center State Park is free to visit, and it’s free to check out the square of the Folk Music Capital of the World, too. The state park and city square are not the only things you can find to explore on the cheap in or near Mountain View. Loco Ropes is an adventure park that won’t break the bank and the nearby community of Fifty-Six has Blanchard Springs Recreation Area and Mirror Lake, two of the most scenic natural spots around.
11. The Delta Cultural Center
In downtown Helena, you can find a museum dedicated to preserving the history of the Arkansas Delta’s cultural heritage. With interactive exhibits and history you might not have heard, this museum is hidden gem of the Natural State, and you don’t have to pay to explore it.
The Delta Cultural Center is located at 141 Cherry Street in Helena.
12. Mount Magazine
You don’t have to pay for the view from the highest point in Arkansas. You can drive up to any overlook you want for free. You can also see the gorgeous lodge set there and enjoy the many trails around it. After you’re done you can grab a quick lunch in the lodge, and you’re not going to pay an arm and a leg for that part, either.
Mount Magazine State Park is located at 577 Lodge Drive near Paris.