Welcome to 2017, Arkansans and Arkansawyers. It’s time to think ahead toward the new year, to make plans and have hope for all the good things that may come our way. I’m already beginning to map out my year, and I figured y’all might be doing the same, so I’ve compiled a list of 12 things that absolutely have to go on your to do list in 2017. From exploring a swamp to eating the most delicious food in the Natural State, here are the plans you need to make each month this year.
1. In January, go to Louisiana Purchase State Park and then drive to the best barbecue restaurant anywhere.
If you don’t choose the proper month to visit this swampy park, the mosquitoes will likely carry you off to their leader. You can enjoy the gorgeous old swamp and the historic stone hiding in it by walking the hundreds of feet of boardwalk at Louisiana Purchase State Park on AR-362 in Holly Grove.
After all that swampy fun, you’ll want to drive the forty minutes on over to Marianna, where a James Beard award winning barbecue joint will serve you the best barbecue you’ve ever had. Jones Bar-B-Q diner is located at 219 West Louisiana Street in Marianna.
2. In February, spend some time in our capital city eating at Local Lime and exploring the River Market District.
You’ll definitely want to try the tacos at Local Lime. There just aren’t better tacos anywhere. Local Lime is located at 17809 Chenal Parkway F-105 in Little Rock.
After you eat (or before!), you have to go down to the River Market District and explore the beautifully developed shores of the Arkansas River in Little Rock.
3. March holds spring break, and spring break means you need to get away from it all in Eureka Springs or Hot Springs.
Eureka Springs offers a historic Victorian Village full of art, music, quirky shops, delicious restaurants, and comfy historic hotels.
Hot Springs offers the historic Bathhouse Row, 47 natural hot springs, great restaurants, a horse racing track, and comfy historic hotels.
I leave the choice to you, but I’d recommend splitting your spring break between these two spa cities.
4. Enjoy the mild April weather on top of the world at Mount Magazine, then drive to Arkansas wine country, tour the vineyards, and eat at Weinkeller Restaurant.
You simply have to visit Arkansas’s highest point at Mount Magazine State Park. There just isn’t anything like the overlooks there. The best starting point for this part of your adventure is the Lodge at Mount Magazine, located at 577 Lodge Drive in Paris.
After you’re done with those overlooks, drive on up to the town of Altus. The trip will take you about an hour, but it’s so worth it. You can tour the many vineyards there, and after you’ve worked up an appetite, stop in and order up some old world cuisine at Wiederkehr’s Weinkeller Restaurant. The good news is you won’t have to drive around town to find any of it. Altus is so small that when you get there, you can drive right to the wineries with the helpful signs on the roads.
5. Explore the May flowers at Garvan Woodland Gardens.
There are 210 acres of beautifully-maintained gardens there, and you’ll want to explore them all as Daffodil Hill and all those tulips come into bloom. Garvan Woodland Gardens is located at 550 Arkridge Road in Hot Springs.
6. Kick off your summer by spending a June weekend at one of central Arkansas’s five diamond lakes.
Arkansas’s five diamond lakes are renowned for their beauty and clear waters. They include: Lake Ouachita and Lake Hamilton at Hot Springs, Lake Catherine near Malvern, Lake Greeson between Glenwood and Murfreesboro, and DeGray Lake near Arkadelphia.
Of those lakes, Lake Ouachita is the clearest. It also has hundreds of islands you’ll love.
Lake Catherine is also perfectly lovely, and there is a gorgeous waterfall called Falls Creek Falls a short hike from the lake’s shores.
7. In July, spend some time hanging out in Mountain View.
In addition to being the home of the indoor (!!!) Ozark Folk Center State Park, Mountain View is also home to a ziplining adventure center called Loco Ropes, Mirror Lake on Blanchard Springs, and Blanchard Springs Caverns—which hovers around a cool 58 degrees year round.
8. August will be hot, so spend some time on Whitney Mountain and nearby Beaver Lake.
Whitney Mountain has a gorgeous lodge and is situated just above Beaver Lake, so you can enjoy the scenic vistas and then drive down to take a dip in Arkansas’s most popular lake. Whitney Mountain Lodge is located at 12483 Lodge Drive in Garfield.
9. In September you’ll want a break from all the hustle and bustle, so drive to Petit Jean for the scenic vistas and stunning waterfall.
Petit Jean Mountain has some breathtaking scenic overlooks. In addition to the views, Petit Jean also has 95-foot Cedar Falls, which is one of the most photographed waterfalls in the Natural State because of its accessibility and incredible beauty. You can see all that and more on the trails at Petit Jean State Park at 1285 Petit Jean Mountain Road in Morrilton.
10. In October the fall color will start to show itself, so you’ll want to explore Arkansas’s scenic byways.
You’ll definitely need to see Highway 23, because the Pig Trail is famous for its beauty.
11. The leaves will be gorgeous in November, too, so you should definitely visit Devil’s Den State Park.
Devil’s Den State Park is like experiencing a dream, and there is no month more dreamlike in Arkansas than November. You can hike the Yellow Rock Trail, see crevices and caves, and even catch a glimpse of waterfalls, all in a forest that looks like a painting. Devil’s Den State Park is located at 11333 AR-74 in West Fork.
12. In December you really have to see some lights, so go to White River Wonderland in Batesville.
December means winter wonderlands all across the state, and you’ve definitely got to see White River Wonderland in Batesville. In addition to thousands upon thousands of lights, you can also ice skate there!