Where to stop in Arkansas or Oklahoma in December
November 26, 2016 7:53 AM   Subscribe

I will be driving from Austin, Texas to Columbia, Missouri to visit family next month. My two children, 10 and 12, will be with me and I'd like to break up the 12-ish hour trip with an interesting stop along the way. What's good?

Our usual route (from years ago) was I-35 to US 69 in Dallas, then picking up I-44 in Oklahoma to get into Missouri. We've stopped overnight in eastern Oklahoma before - but Muskogee - meh.

I was considering going a more easterly route and maybe stopping in Hot Springs, AR (my kids are very into the idea of seeing a hot springs) but it looks like there's really no way to get to any springs besides spas or strange-sounding bathhouses that don't seem kid-friendly. Maybe there's a better place to stop?

posted by pantarei70 to Travel & Transportation around Arkansas (11 answers total)
Best answer: There are springs out in the open in the park that you can see and get water from. There is one bathhouse open for tours, and the Arlington hotel also has a bathhouse on-site for guests.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:07 AM on November 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Blue Whale of Catoosa is a good time, but it's a little off-route back toward Tulsa.

There's an old-school arcade in Springfield, MO.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 8:41 AM on November 26, 2016

Eureka Springs, AR, can be entertaining, but I think it'd add an hour or more to your trip. Fayetteville, AR, has the small but sweet Wilson Park Castle (which is actually fed by a spring, fwiw, but the spring part isn't that interesting). Fayetteville has some good food and a great, rambling used book store. If you're there after dark, but Lights of the Ozarks on the square is pretty. The Castle, bookstore, square, and lots of food are all in the same area of town.

But that stop would be after 8 hours or something of driving, so maybe it's too late.

There are some publicly viewable springs in Hot Springs, as Huffy Puffy says, but they were pretty disappointing to me as a kid. I think I was expecting something more dramatic. Depends on expectations, I think!
posted by wintersweet at 9:08 AM on November 26, 2016

Depending on the date a timing of your stop (and your budget), Garvan Gardens Is also in Hot Springs and is gorgeous! During Christmas time they have a holiday light display that the kids would like, but obviously your visit would have to be in the dark to get the full effect.

Fayetteville would also be a good stop, as mentioned above. Lots of charming shops and light displays and even walking around the U of A campus is cool.
posted by MultiFaceted at 12:08 PM on November 26, 2016

You could stop at the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial & Museum. Oklahoma City is just about halfway and the museum is open at least every afternoon. Perhaps a little depressing to some, but historical nonetheless.
posted by chaiwawa at 12:30 PM on November 26, 2016

The Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks (south Tulsa suburb) has a lot of interesting stuff. Admissions end at 5PM, and it closes at 6PM.
posted by Snerd at 1:31 PM on November 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The tall grass prairie preserve and neighboring Pawhuska are worth a visit. The buffalo herd in the prairie preserve is amazing, and you can often drive your car into the middle of it.
posted by u2604ab at 3:56 PM on November 26, 2016

Best answer: Fayetteville or Tulsa are your best bets. Both have lots of interesting stuff. If you go to Tulsa, be sure to hit Freddie's in Sapulpa for dinner, as long as you are a meat-eating family. Delicious ribeye steak along with Lebanese sides like tabouli and cabbage rolls make for quite a nice meal. The Woodie Guthrie Museum in downtown Tulsa is fun, or if you want something more typically kid friendly there's Andy B's, which is a bowling alley that also has an arcade and an indoor go kart track.

If you stop in Fayetteville, A Taste of Thai is literally the best Thai I've had anywhere. Freaking delicious. There is an arcade/go kart place called Lokomotion also. For more adult-type entertainment, you could go to the Crystal Bridges museum in Bentonville. There are a couple of Civil War battlefield park/museums in the vicinity also. Another plus for Fayetteville is the drive between Van Buren and Fayetteville. The scenery is fantastic on I-49, but old US71 is even better, although it takes a bit longer thanks to the very windy road. It used to be rather dangerous to go that way due to the heavy traffic, but with 49 open there is now hardly any traffic so it's a fairly relaxing drive so long as the weather is decent.

Hot Springs is nice enough, but is quite out of the way.
posted by wierdo at 8:12 PM on November 26, 2016

Best answer: Hot Springs is great, but that looks pretty hugely out of the way of your usual route. But if you're willing to take a different route (albeit one that adds a couple hours to your total trip time), you can go through Hot Springs, Little Rock, and Memphis. Hot Springs would be a quick stop unless you go to Garvan Gardens, too (and this outdoor hot water cascade and pool is the usual centerpiece of a visit). Little Rock has a wonderful downtown riverfront, with several old railroad bridges that have been converted to pedestrian-only paths. You can have a delicious meal in the South Main neighborhood, walk it off on the bridges, check out the restored pioneer homes in the Quapaw Quarter, and be on your way.

Otherwise, Fayetteville is fine but won't knock your socks off. Eureka Springs, which others have mentioned, isn't far from it and is very quaint and beautiful. Some of the very old hotels will let you walk through to check them out (and the views from them). And there's Thorncrown Chapel just down the road. Be mindful of the eather: small roads in the Ozarks can get a little dicey if it's icy or snowing.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:06 AM on November 28, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for all the good tips. Even thought Hot Springs is a ways out of our usual route - it might be worth a stop at the national park if the weather is decent, we're thinking. And I have a fourth grader = free admission!
Thanks again!
posted by pantarei70 at 5:48 AM on November 29, 2016

Just so you know, once you get to Hot Springs the national park is in the middle of town, so it's really convenient to visit. There are also other tourist things you can do right around there.

Or, if you're going that way anyway, you can just come visit Memphis instead.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:04 AM on November 29, 2016

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