Arkansas is a prime destination for heritage tourism, which The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.”
Arkansas has many such attractions that incorporate cultural, historic and natural resources, officials say.
“We have the sort of experiences and places the heritage tourist is looking for,” said Stacy Hurst, state historic preservation officer and director at the Department of Arkansas Heritage.
“We have immense natural beauty that has been protected. We have a burgeoning arts scene. We have small-town historic districts that tell stories of prosperity and survival. We have places and documents that illustrate a rugged frontier. We have the blues in the Delta and a state full of rich food traditions. And I could go on and on,” she said.
She gave examples of tourist attractions around the state.
“The amazing Crystal Bridges Museum is a huge draw for the heritage tourist,” Hurst said. “Hot Springs, with its beautiful Bathhouse Row and historic downtown, is very popular. The iconic Old State House in downtown Little Rock is a breathtakingly beautiful structure with a rich history. The El Dorado Murphy Arts District is a great example of utilizing historic and cultural assets to draw tourists successfully. Central High School is, of course, a must-see. Our gorgeous Petit Jean State Park is not just robust with natural beauty, but full of historic architecture.”
One under-the-radar site includes the Jacob Wolf House on Highway 5 north of Mountain View, which is noted for being the last remaining two-story dogtrot public structure in the United States.
“It’s a well-preserved, two-story dogtrot log cabin with a compelling story of the Arkansas frontier,” Hurst said.
Several Main Street communities in Arkansas, such as Batesville, Siloam Springs, Paragould, are also making use of historic and cultural resources to create an attractive ambience that is a draw to both residents and visitors. Genealogists seeking information about their family connection to the state can visit the Arkansas State Archives, one of the oldest agencies of state government.
Hurst said the department also has a new app for the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame that can direct visitors to Hall of Fame restaurants throughout the state.
For details on planning a heritage tourism venture in Arkansas, visit arkansasheritage.com.
— Zoie Clift is a travel writer for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.