Mastodon skull on display at the Museum of Native
American History in Bentonville, Arkansas.
ROCK, Ark. — Arkanas is a state that many people may not
give much thought about when planning their vacations.
Often considered a "flyover state," it has much
to offer a traveler in search of adventure, culture, or a
to 52 state parks and some of the most modern museums one
can want to explore, as well as hot springs and musical
centers, and well known as one of the major hotbeds of the
civil rights movement, Arkansas is both naturally
beautiful and contains some must-see, man-made marvels.
Here are four of them:
Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville celebrates
both art and nature a setting that explores the power of
art with the beauty of surrounding natural landscape.
museum, founded by Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart
founder Sam Walton, takes its name from nearby Crystal
Spring and the bridge construction incorporated in the
building design by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie.
Bridges, which opened in 2011, is home to a permanent
collection that features American masterworks dating from
Colonial to contemporary times. It specializes in art from
the region, but also displays national and international
exhibits, and is always on view to the public free of
charge (admission is sponsored by Wal-Mart for all but
occasional temporary exhibitions).
museum is both surrounded by and incorporated into 120
acres of forests and gardens, using them as part of the
museum itself, and as a place to explore outdoor art and
pieces. Six pedestrian trails wind through the campus,
connecting the museum to the neighborhood at large and
building a community space and encouraging connections to
the arts and nature. The building itself is a work of art,
and the educational programs offered by Crystal Bridges
make art available, relatable and tangible for patrons of
Old State House Museum is a great way for visitors to
experience Arkansas history. You can take a guided tour,
use a self-guided tour map or cell phone tour guide at
your own pace and choosing only what interests you, or
schedule a group tour. No reservations are needed for
self-guided tours or hourly guided tours (which are 50
minutes long). Reservations are needed for group tours of
10 or more.
Old State House in Little Rock is home to many permanent
exhibits that incorporate the history of the building, the
collections and significant areas of Arkansas history
(art, time periods, books, clothing, influential people,
and more). Some of these include "The Legacy of
Arkansas Women," Political History, First Families
and Governors of Arkansas, Period Rooms, Legislative
Chambers, and Dresses of the First Ladies.
Old State House Museum was given a fresh coat of paint
this year. This lovely building, once the home of politics
in the state until the roof caved in and it was moved just
down the street to a larger building (the roof has since
been replaced), will be a favorite stop on your tour of
Museum of Native American History in Bentonville is home
to many authentic Native American artifacts from a wide
array of locations and time periods (arranged in
chronological order). The large and diverse exhibits of
stone tools, arrowheads, headdresses, pottery and more
span not only the Arkansas area but the U.S. at large and
South America. While there, you can see such artifacts as
a Cheyenne scalp shirt, Blackfoot headdress and Lone Dog’s
winter count on a buffalo hide. Learn how early man hunted
with the Atlatl. See an amazing painting done by the
famous White Swan, relics from the Buffalo Bill show, and
a monstrous mastodon skull and tusks as you walk in. This
museum is truly impressive, not just in scope, but in
variety and quality. These artifacts have held up over
time, some as old as 14,000 years. Featuring free self
guided audio tours (with remotes that you can press the
number of the exhibit you are looking at for more
information) the museum is open every day except Sunday.
High School National Historic Site in Little Rock is still
a functioning high school. This school became famous (or
rather infamous) in 1957 when it was the focus of a hotbed
national debate over civil rights and integration in
public schools in the South.
Gov. Orval E. Faubus dissented with the U.S. Supreme Court’s
desegregation ruling when nine African-American high
school students attempted to exercise their legal right to
obtain an education from Central High, which was then an
all-white school. Named "America’s Most Beautiful
High School" the year it was built (1927), Central
High would be the location of ugly scenes and riots, and a
place the entire world watched as desegregation laws were
integration in Little Rock was a major test of the United
States’ will and ability to enforce the African-American
population’s rights against Southern mobs. When
President Dwight D. Eisenhower was forced to use federal
troops and local police to ensure the rights of these
African-American children to attend Central High, he
became the first president since the post-Civil War
Reconstruction period to do so. Eight of the nine students
made it through the first year at Central High, with one
being expelled. The only senior, Ernest Green, became as
the first African-American graduate of the school in 1958.
His ceremony was attended by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
just across an intersection from the school, the Central
High School National Historic Site Visitor Center contains
interactive audio and visual exhibits on the 1957
desegregation crisis at Central High. Hearing oral history
at the listening stations from the actual participants in
their own voices is amazing.
Little Rock 9 (as these brave students came to be known)
were national symbols of determination and equality,
bringing the nation further along on its path to equality,
as the school itself became a symbol of outdated laws and
the progress still needed to be made. Learn more about the
school, the times and the students who heralded in a new
era in the South and in the country. Challenge yourself on
your own knowledge of the Constitution and rights under
the law. Read the books written by the students who
experienced the integration.