I’m a frugal person and I like free stuff. There. I said it. It feels good to get that out and in the open. As an Arkansas native and a lover of all things free, I’m always looking for free things to do in Central Arkansas.
Let’s face it, I have three kids and it’s not cheap for families to have fun “in the city.” That’s why I’m so glad that this wonderful state gives us options!
Whether you’re entertaining your kids or just having a fun day with adults, there is something in Central Arkansas for you that’s FREE!
Is anyone else doing the Happy Dance?
10 Free Things to Do in Central Arkansas
1. Burns Park
So, everything at Burns Park isn’t free but there are plenty of free options that will keep you busy for hours! Take a picnic lunch and enjoy the playgrounds, trails, and dog parks!
Personally, my kids love the Caboose!
There is also a beautiful covered bridge in the park that you won’t want to miss.
About Burns Park in North Little Rock
Burns Park is a 1,700-acre park in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The park features two golf courses, Funland Amusement Park, sports facilities and a camping area.source
17 Soccer Fields; Water Ski Lake; 3 – 1 acre off-leash dog parks; 22 Tennis Courts; 2 – 18 hole golf courses; 2 – 18 hole disc golf courses; numerous playgrounds, picnic areas, pavilions; 3 outdoor basketball courts; Softball complex (5 fields); Youth Baseball complex (7 fields); RV Camping (37 sites); Archery Range; Visitor Center; Amusement Park; 15 miles of natural surface multi-use trails; 6 miles of paved multi-use trails; Covered Bridge; Union Pacific Caboose; World War II Tank; Old Log Cabin; Boat launch to the Arkansas River
2. Old State House Museum
I have always loved a visit to the Old State House Museum. I’ve always been amazed that it’s free because it offers so much. The echoing sound of my shoes on the wood floors takes me back in time as I look at the exhibits.
It’s definitely something to behold. (The exhibits. Not my shoes.) I’m a mom of three young kids. I wear tennis shoes all the time. Which brings me back to my point of loving free stuff.
The Old State House Museum is the original state capitol of Arkansas. Since 1833, when construction began, the building and its grounds have witnessed many of the most important events in Arkansas history. The Old State House has hosted the admission of Arkansas to the Union, a fatal knife fight between two sitting legislators, the Arkansas vote to secede from the United States and join the Confederacy, pioneering medical research into hookworm and malaria, and two acceptance speeches by the president of the United States.Arkansas Heritage
3. Big Dam Bridge
You ain’t experienced Arkansas unless you can say you’ve been on a Big Dam Bridge. Yes, I’m an Arkansas Native. No, I don’t normally use the word “ain’t.” I just threw that in for effect. Who names a bridge “The Big Dam Bridge” other than Arkansans?!
The nickname was given by Pulaski County Judge F.G. “Buddy” Villines, who was concerned about the financing needed and was quoted to say, “We’re going to build that dam bridge.” (He insisted he was referring to its location on a dam,and was not using the mild expletive.)source
“Experience the longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge in North America, built specifically for that use. This impressive structure was named the Big Dam Bridge because of its massive 4,226-foot span built atop Murray Lock and Dam.
Elevated up to 90 feet above the Arkansas River, the Big Dam Bridge connects over 14 miles of scenic riverside trails in the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock, and assists in the connection of 70,000 acres of various city, county, state and federal park land.” –Littlerock.com
Photos and Google Maps here: Big Dam Bridge in Arkansas – The Longest Pedestrian Bridge In The World
Location: 7700 Rebsamen Park Road, Little Rock, AR, 72207
4. The Old Mill
Don your prairie dress and head on over to the Old Mill in North Little Rock. Let the wind sweep across your face as you stand in the window of the Mill and nearly faint because of the beautiful view below you.
Catch me, Rhett. Catch me!
Prairie dresses are not required but you won’t want to miss this! I have always loved The Old Mill. We like to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it there with our kids. It’s a beautiful place.
The Old Mill is famous for the opening scene in the movie, “Gone With The Wind”, made in 1939. (It is believed to be the only remaining structure from the film.) The mill, with a water wheel constructed of concrete but treated to look like wood, is surrounded by a road resembling an old wagon road and a rustic footbridge made of black locust tree limbs.source
The park is open to the public and a great setting for photographs or a picnic lunch. It is a very restful site with flowers blooming twelve months of the year. Sculptured concrete work known as faux bois, includes numerous bridges, benches, baskets, etc., sculpted to look like real wood.
5. Witt Stephens Junior Central Arkansas Nature Center
If you want a place that’s fun for kids and adults, this is it! And it’s free! Our kids love the Central Arkansas Nature Center, especially the aquariums.
The 16,232 square foot building on 3.4 acres in Little Rock, overlooks the Arkansas River and is within the Julius Breckling Riverfront Park.AGFC
Exhibits highlight the role of fish and wildlife management and many of the projects conducted throughout the history of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The location along the Arkansas River allows many watchable wildlife activities within an urban area. Basking water turtles, butterflies and migrating pelicans are common sights.
A portion of the Arkansas River Trail crosses the site, offering more options for exploration. The grounds of the center include beds of native plants found throughout the state, while the main building includes an exhibit hall, aquariums, gift shop, theater and special educational programs.
6. Arkansas State Capitol
There’s nothing like a tour of the Capitol to make you want to deliver an all-night speech like James Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
To schedule a guided tour of the Capitol, call the Visitor Services Specialist, at 501-682-5080. The free tours of the Capitol Building are offered weekdays from 9am-12pm and from 1pm-3pm. Walk-in visitors requesting personally guided tours will be scheduled on the next available guided tour.
The Arkansas State Capitol
500 Woodlane Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
7. Ouachita National Recreation Trail
Are you the adventurous, outdoorsy type? Do you like a good walk on a beautiful Arkansas trail? Are you cheap?
I thought so.
You’ll love the Ouachita National Recreation Trail because it’s beautiful, fun, and free. Keep in mind that you don’t have to start in Oklahoma! Just enjoy the portion in Central Arkansas.
This is the longest trail in the Ouachita National Forest spanning 192 miles across its entire length. In the west, the trail begins at Talimena State Park on Highway 271 near Talihina, Oklahoma. The eastern boundary is south of Perryville, Arkansas on Highway 9. An additional 32 miles of trail, located on private and other public lands, extends to Pinnacle Mountain State Park, 15 miles west of Little Rock, Arkansas.source
Elevations range from 600 to 2,600 feet as the trail passes through forested mountains, across sweeping valleys and near clear-running streams. Spur trails connect to various recreation areas and points of interest. Numerous road crossings and access points provide opportunities for point to point hikes of various distances.
Here you will find some of the BEST hiking trails in Arkansas!
8. Pinnacle Mountain State Park
Pinnacle Mountain State Park is one of those “don’t miss” places in Central Arkansas. It’s always been a favorite of ours. If you haven’t explored it yet, maybe today is your day! Make a sandwich and head out!
Just west of Arkansas’s capital city of Little Rock, Pinnacle Mountain stands as the centerpiece of this geographically diverse state park. This day-use park offers a variety of outdoor adventure on the Big and Little Maumelle Rivers, in the Arkansas Arboretum, and along over 15 miles of trails including 7 miles of challenging mountain bike trails. Hike to the top, explore the rivers, or take in one of the many interpretive programs offered by park staff. Visit the park visitor center, enjoy a picnic, or reserve a pavilion for a larger gathering.Arkansas State Parks
9. Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts
The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is a favorite of mine. I love looking at art and seeing people’s interpretation of the world!
The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (previously the Arkansas Arts Center) is home to a renowned collection of international art, exceptional performing arts experiences, and an innovative Art School.source
With more than 60 years of dedication to the visual and performing arts, AMFA inspires, enlightens, and builds community. Serving the state of Arkansas and beyond, AMFA is committed to providing enriching cultural experiences for all and we are proud to be a cultural destination for the region.
2510 Cantrell Road
Little Rock, AR 72202
10. Clinton Presidential Center on Free Day
This is probably the closest you’ll ever get to the Oval Office. The replica here is incredible!
Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, which provides year-round cultural and educational opportunities and is home to the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, one of the largest archival collections in American presidential history.source
- February 17, 2020 • Presidents’ Day
- August 17, 2019 • Celebrating President Clinton’s Birthday
- November 11, 2019 • Veterans Day (All active and retired military and their families are offered free admission in honor of their service.)