If you wanted to know about all the fun things to do in Fort Smith, Arkansas, who would you ask? Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew a local there who could tell you about all the best things to do in Fort Smith that are actually fun?
You know, the stuff the locals like to do; not the “fake” things on a Google search.
I knew you were thinking that so I interviewed my friend Emily who is a Fort Smith local. She spilled the beans on everything about Fort Smith that we need to know (including where to buy the best beans in case you want to spill some yourself). 🙂
Fort Smith is the second-largest city in Arkansas and one of the two county seats of Sebastian County. Fort Smith was established as a western frontier military post in 1817, when it was also a center of fur trading. The city developed there. It became well known as a base for migrants’ settling of the “Wild West” and for its law enforcement heritage. Wikipedia
Fun Things to do in Fort Smith, Arkansas (that are actually fun)
If you are looking for the best restaurant in Fort Smith, the best kid-friendly activities in Fort Smith, the best place to get coffee, and about 20 other things…you’re in the right place!
Let’s get busy. There’s no time to waste!
1. Favorite thing to do in Fort Smith
We love meeting friends at local parks for some good outdoor time in the Natural State.
Pro tip: Fort Smith is also along the route of the most EPIC Yard Sale in Arkansas!
2. Best restaurant in Fort Smith
I could only pick one, I’d say R&R Curry! It’s a local Indian restaurant with amazing food.
For a date night, Stonehouse is hard to beat (gorgeous restored rock building, and some of the best food I’ve had). There are also several good hole-in-the-wall places that we frequent downtown, serving authentic Asian food, or Salvadorian “pupusas.”
R&R Curry: With all its exotic ingredients, and tongue-tingling flavors, Indian cuisine can be both exciting and intimidating. It’s such a unique world of taste. You combine all the techniques from other cuisines and add magical spices to get an amazing experience.R&R Curry
3. Best place to get coffee in Fort Smith
Fort Smith Coffee Company, hands down is the best place to get coffee! The atmosphere and coffee are both unbeatable.
“We roast all of our coffee on-site, employ skilled baristas and do pretty much everything from scratch – from our house made syrups, to our fresh assortment of pastries. We create space for connection, community and relationships to thrive. We believe a lot can happen over a good cup of coffee!” –Fort Smith Coffee Company
Don’t miss: [BEST] ATV Trails Near Fort Smith, Arkansas
4. Best kid-friendly activity in Fort Smith
If you want something free, but fabulous, definitely the Janet Huckabee Nature Center (hiking trails, fishing, canoeing, a nature-themed playground, archery, natural history displays and activities indoors, a beautiful deck with a great view, wildlife demonstrations, and honestly a great gift shop to boot).
Parrot Island (waterpark) is exciting for the kids in the summer months. Our kids also love Spartan Adventure Park for a special outing; it’s indoors for those rainy or extra cold days.
The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center is built on 170 acres of land that was part of Fort Chaffee. In addition to the spacious building surrounded by hickory and oak trees, the grounds are home to a series of trails and Wells Lake, a popular fishing destination.
Exhibits play a large part in the nature center. Visitors will discover representations of the Ouachita and Ozark mountains, a life-sized oak tree exhibit crawling with game and non-game animal displays and a 1,200-gallon aquarium with native Arkansas fish. –Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center
In our article about the BEST Things to do in and near Greenwood Arkansas, the Janet Huckabee Nature Center was also named!
Parrot Island Waterpark in Fort Smith, Arkansas features the areas only two lane FlowRider® and wave pool. Plus, you’ll love our four twisting and turning water slides, relaxing lazy river, activity pool and themed children’s aquatic play area. Our outdoor waterpark has over 400,000 gallons of aquatic fun and has a variety of amenities, including party pavilions, cabana rentals, food and beverage, Shopping at the Tiki Hut Gift Shop, complimentary deck and lounge chairs, complimentary inner tubes and expansive grass lawns for relaxing. –Parrot Island Waterpark
5. Most unique thing to see in Fort Smith
Fort Smith has dozens of impressive murals scattered throughout the downtown district, many of which have been painted by internationally-acclaimed artists, and are definitely worth seeing! Ft. Smith is also a historic “Wild West” town, so there are some great museums and historic sites to explore.
“The Unexpected is a downtown revitalization project created by 64.6 Downtown. The project began in 2015 and has transformed downtown Fort Smith into a world-class destination for urban and contemporary public art.
The project culminates in an annual, week-long festival that adds to the unexpected collection and offers augmented activities expanding on art, music, and thought to create an enhanced cultural experience in downtown Fort Smith.” The Unexpected – Urban Contemporary Art
6. Best hiking/walking trail
Fort Chaffee has some good nature trails, especially for bikes, to explore. The Janet Huckabee Nature Center has a good variety for families (both nature trails and paved/walking trails). We also love the walking trail downtown next to the river.
7. Best place to stay in Fort Smith
We’re biased here, because we own two AirBnBs in Ft. Smith – so we’d say The Anderson House and/or the The Anderson Carriage House! Both are historic homes. We’d also recommend Beland Manor for a true Bed & Breakfast.
You can find Emily’s beautiful AirBnBs here: The Anderson House & The Anderson Carriage House
8. Best museum in Fort Smith
Fort Smith just built a beautiful new Marshal’s Museum that’s worth checking out!
“Founded in 1817, Fort Smith is now celebrating its bicentennial milestone. With an exciting past, a vibrant present, and a strong future, Fort Smith provides the perfect setting for the U.S. Marshals Museum – and an entertaining travel destination for you and your family.
Fort Smith was home to the “Hell on the Border” jail and Judge Isaac Parker. Much of that rich tradition is preserved for your enjoyment amidst gourmet restaurants, cultural events and outdoor activities.” –United States Marshals Museum
9. Secret place that only the locals know about
It’s kinda silly, but there’s a fantastic produce store downtown- “Twin City Produce” – that sells bulk produce for really low prices, and they almost always have some great deal. The secret has gotten out over the years, and now it’s a local hot spot.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables at better than reasonable prices. Fresh Produce by the pound or by the case. Just down North 9th St from Garrison in downtown Fort Smith.Twin City Produce
10. Best place to see live theatre
The Fort Smith Little Theater downtown. Van Buren’s Opera House is also beautiful, and historic if you like old theaters.
“The Fort Smith Little Theatre is an all volunteer organization and has been since it was founded in 1947. All casts and crews are staffed through open public audition.
Volunteers are always welcome onstage, backstage and in administrative roles. From answering phones to painting sets, there’s a job for anyone interested in meeting new friends through community theatre.” –Fort Smith Little Theatre
11. Best farmers’ market in Fort Smith
The Farmer’s Market in downtown Fort Smith!
“Each market day is a festival of the senses thanks to more than 90 growers, artisans and other types of merchants that supply a bountiful cornucopia of fresh produce, flowers, homemade candies, baked goods, canned jams and preserves, high-quality woodturning pieces, gourmet coffees, organic eggs, grass-fed beef and SO MUCH MORE.
The Saturday market is also alive with street performers, local musicians, community organizations, tourists and locals alike. The Fort Smith Farmers’ Market on Garrison Avenue is open from 7 AM to Noon every Tuesday and Saturday from late spring throughout the fall season and on Saturdays from early winter through early spring.” –Fort Smith Farmer’s Market
12. Best flea market in Fort Smith
Belle Starr Antiques downtown is amazing, and so is its owner Beth – a total sweetheart with a passion for her business. Wasted is a fresh spin on a flea market, and I always find something I love when I go in there.
Belle Starr Antiques: What started as a crazy dream has served the Fort Smith antiquing community ever since. We have grown to our new location at 410 N B hosting over 9,000 square feet and ninety vendors for your pleasure. We are proud to sell the most unique and quality vintage inventory on their behalf seven days a week.Belle Starr Antiques
13. Best camping near Fort Smith
Springhill Park has a nice camping area near the river, or if you’re willing to travel, the Ouachitas & Mount Magazine aren’t far, and offer *beautiful* camping/hiking spots.
Springhill Park sits along John Paul Hammerschmidt Lake in the lush, rolling hills of Arkansas. Campers come here for boating, swimming, birding and relaxing. Springhill Park offers several spacious sites with electric hookups along with four large group picnic shelters. Additional amenities include showers, a dump station, playground and boat ramps.FortSmith.org
14. Best place to hunt near Fort Smith
Fort Chaffee is a great spot.
15. Popular festivals in Fort Smith
We’re known for the Steelhorse Rally, the Riverfront Blues Festival, and the Peacemaker Festival.
In Arkansas, we know how to put on a good festival. After you attend one, be sure to check it off your EPIC Arkansas Bucket List.
16. Favorite “Mom and Pop” place
Walrod’s Hardware Store. It’s a step back in time, in all the best ways.
After almost 32 years in business, we are still keeping our store in the old fashion style of hardware stores past. At Walrod’s, you can buy one bolt or nut, a half pound of nails, a short piece of chain or rope because we count, weigh or cut what you need. We have many “hard-to-find” items not available in the big box stores, and you will get quick and knowledgeable service not found elsewhere. If you haven’t been in to shop, you are missing a memorable experience.–source
17. “Arkansas Made” products that are crafted in Fort Smith
Fort Smith Coffee Co. roasts their beans in-house and they take their craft very seriously; there’s also the Ft. Smith Brewery, and BrickCity Emporium – full of artisan vendors.
Fort Smith Brewing Company: Fort Smith Brewery is a local brewery dedicated to bringing the community delicious and localized beverages.–source
18. Places to watch a live sports game in Fort Smith
Probably Bricktown Brewery – a cool old building, good family atmosphere, big TVs, and great food (classics with a twist).
Fun Things to do in Fort Smith, Arkansas
Now, it’s time to plan a trip and check out all the fun things to do in Fort Smith, Arkansas!
A special thanks to Emily for taking the time to share all of these wonderful things with us.