Arkansas residents know that the state is one of the nation’s most beautiful destinations, welcoming visitors from across the globe. Arkansas Welcome Centers offer travelers a friendly entry to The Natural State, as well as a rest and information stop while on the road, officials say.


There are 14 Arkansas Welcome Centers across the state.


“We serve as the first impression to Arkansas for people that stop in,” said Kayla Hardage, Welcome Center Administrator for Arkansas Tourism.


A main role of the welcome centers is to serve as a convenient avenue for travelers to find information on the many attractions, restaurants and lodging options that make Arkansas an appealing destination for them to visit.


The state is famous for its cultural offerings as well as for its natural beauty and the year-round adventure opportunities that await at state parks, national parks and the many scenic trails, rivers, and lakes found across Arkansas.


Arkansas Welcome Centers are located at strategic points of entry on major highways and interstates coming into the state. Twelve of the 14 are a partnership between the Arkansas Department of Transportation and the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.


One center, Mammoth Spring, is a partnership with Arkansas State Parks. And one is housed in Little Rock and serves as the reception area for Arkansas Tourism and Arkansas State Parks. All are staffed by certified U.S. Travel Association travel counselors.


Welcome center staff share their expertise of Arkansas with about one million travelers annually. They are familiar with not only their region of the state but also with the entire state. Part of their training entails taking part in statewide study tours so that they get hands-on experience in the state. On these tours, staff embark on site visits to the many attractions, restaurants and lodging venues that make Arkansas special.


Each welcome center has exhibits spotlighting local history, free Westrock coffee and free WiFi. Travelers can also pick up free and helpful Arkansas travel magazines, guides, various brochures and highway maps.


According to Hardage, 11 welcome centers have recently been upgraded and the Bentonville Welcome Center is set for a new building upon the completion of Interstate 49 into Missouri.


Arkansas Welcome Centers are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week and are closed on major holidays. The Little Rock Welcome Center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and is closed on state holidays. For more information on welcome centers across the state, visit www.arkansas.com/arkansas-welcome-centers.


Arkansas Tourism, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, strives to expand the economic impact of travel and tourism in the state and enhance the quality of life for all Arkansans. The division manages 14 Arkansas Welcome Centers and employs more than 60 staff members across The Natural State. Details: www.arkansas.com.


— Zoie Clift writes for Arkansas Tourism.