The Natural State bucket list

Let’s have some fun heading into an early spring weekend.

On the previous post, I listed a few things that every true Arkansan should do at least once — things such as digging for diamonds at Murfreesboro, eating a hubcap cheeseburger at the original Cotham’s in Scott, floating the Buffalo River, watching the sun rise from a duck blind on the Grand Prairie.

Now, it’s your turn.

In the comments section of the blog, please list several items that should be on what we’ll call the Natural State bucket list.

They can be festivals you must attend, restaurants in which you must eat, activities in which you must engage, tourist attractions you must see, etc.

I included searching for the Gurdon Light late at night and fishing for trout early in the morning on the White River.

You get the idea. Once the list is complete, I’ll publish parts of it in my Arkansas Democrat-Gazette column.

Let’s hear from you. What things must you do at least once in life to earn your Arkansas bona fides?

46 Responses to “The Natural State bucket list”

  1. Sarah S. says:

    Tailgate and attend an Arkansas Razorback football game, eat at craigs bbq and the pie shop, go to the Hope Watermelon festival, hike at petit jean, tour the clinton library.

  2. Tyler H. says:

    Listen to live bluegrass & folk music on the court square in Mountain View; attend the Arkansas Derby in Hot Springs; see Blanchard Springs Caverns; eat a Hope AND Cave City watermelon (and a Bradley County pink tomato); hike to the summit of Mt. Magazine; visit the state’s 3 most iconic buildings: the Capitol, Central H.S. & Old Main in Fayetteville; go to a Traveler’s baseball game & an ASO performance; watch the toad races at Toad Suck Daze in Conway; visit a cotton field in bloom; and drive from Helena to Fayetteville to really get a feel for the place.

  3. Keith M. says:

    While in Helena catch Sunshine Sonny Payne and King Biscuit Time while you still can. Hang around long enough and you can catch an elder statesman of the blues turn the dump over at the newly re-re-named King Biscuit Blues Festival.

    On the way back up 49 stop and see the Louisiana Purchase monument. It’s out of the way and the boardwalk can be brutally buggy in summer but that piece of stone in the middle of the bayou is a very important piece of history.

    -listen to Louis Jordan in Brinkley and Johnny Cash in Dyess and/or Kingsland
    -drink some Mountain Valley water at HQ in Hot Springs
    -have a steak in the back room at Doe’s in Little Rock
    -eat catfish at Dondie’s in Des Arc
    -climb Pinnacle Mountain
    -drive the length of Highway 7
    -drive 71 from Alma to Fayetteville instead of the freeway
    -drive the Pig Trail too
    -catch the Cate Bros. at George’s on Dickson St.

  4. Arkie says:

    Visit Oaklawn and Southland in the same weekend (it’s possible) and cash at least one ticket at both locations.

    Dig for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park.

    Tour Arkansas Post, first capital of the Arkansas Territory.

  5. Bill Sutley says:

    Bradley Co. Pink Tomato Festival …

  6. Brink Lee says:

    I’ve never done it myself, but I’ve been told that Highway 9 in the northern part of the state is one of the premier motorcycling routes, because of the natural beauty of the area and the winding path of the road.

  7. Libby Lloyd says:

    Visit Ernest Hemingway’s Piggott home, and see where he wrote A Farewell to Arms.

    Tour Lakeport Plantation in southeast Arkansas, the only Arkansas antebellum plantation left along the Mississippi River.

    Shop Eureka Springs for a totally unique experience.

    Visit our state parks. Mount Magazine is breath taking, as is Petit Jean. So many great ones to choose from.

    Eating anywhere LOCALLY owned. No other way to experience Arkansas. Two of my favorites are Kelley’s Drugstore and Big Poppa’s in McGehee.

  8. scott tatman says:

    How ’bout going back , say 30 or 35 years and put yourself on the front row at the Swinging Door on Dickson St. grooving to Zorro and the Blue Footballs…..I can hear Windy Austin now belting out “Everyone eats when they come to my House” or “Caledonia”. You can’t really put it on your bucket list , since there is no longer Zorro or The Swinging Door. I can still dream it….

  9. RWF says:

    Float the Buffalo, Oaklawn, Southland, deer & duck hunt, Duck gumbo cook-off in Stuttgart, Razorback game, McClard’s BBQ.

  10. AllenK says:

    You people are coming up with most of my ideas!

    Drive across the Lake Degray dike @ sunset
    Ice cream from Dunlap’s in Kirby
    Drive across the state on US 67,70,or 64 instead of the interstates for Route 66 type trip. Substitute Hwy 5,161,and 367 instead of the I-30/67 freeway for a real old school vibe.
    I agree wholeheartedly on Petit Jean especially the overlook! Pinnacle is wonderful as well!
    Old Washington
    Have your picture taken in Arkansas and Texas @ the courthouse in Texarkana
    Go see the Gurdon Light!

  11. Rocky says:

    Don’t even know if they still have it but if they do Oktoberfest is a must at least one time

  12. Steve Arrison says:

    1. Watch a game at Ray Winder Field (sorry too late!)
    2. Have a drink and people watch in the Capitol Hotel Bar.
    3. Attend the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hot Springs.
    4. Float down the Caddo River with your favorite friends (and beverage).
    5. Go to any State Park and reflect on the beauty of our wonderful state.
    6. Two words – McClard’s Bar-B-Que
    7. Float around in Skinny Dip Cove on Lake Hamilton on any summer day with new and old friends from throughout the South.
    8. Watch the horses work out first thing in the morning from the parking lot at Oaklawn with a warm beverage and a fresh donut.
    9. Enjoy the view from a houseboat on Lake Ouachita.

  13. Karen S. says:

    Visit the Scottish Festival at Lyon College in Batesville! Come on up to Batesville on April 8th and 9th and experience bagpipes in the mountains. Admission is FREE this year!

  14. jlh says:

    1.After you don’t find a diamond, drive on up to Hot Springs and dig crystals (or be in Mt Ida for the Quartz & Quiltz in Oct)
    2. War Eagle craft fair (spring and fall if possible)
    3. Pinnacle Mtn Roundezvous (oct)
    4. Garvan Gardens in the Spring
    5. Mammoth Spring at some point in the hot summer
    6. State Horse show over Labor day weekend
    7. attend at least one livestock fair from the inside out – if you can’t do the state, try one of the county fairs, like White County

  15. WJC2001 says:

    OBU vs. HSU “battle of the ravine”

    Blytheville Demolition Derby

  16. Rick Fahr says:

    Ride on a combine in a rice field outside Weiner on the first cool, humidity-free, sun-so-bright-it-hurts day of October.

  17. bkn says:

    Small-town high school football games on fall Friday nights and baseball games on spring afternoons.

    Paying respects at the many historic cemeteries around the state, most notably at Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock, where you will recognize names from your Arkansas history books along virtually every lane. Tales of the Crypt, held the second Tuesday night of October each year, is a good introduction to Mount Holly for those who have never been there.

  18. Be in the infield at Oaklawn on Derby Day.

    View the sunset over Lake Hamilton, from a party barge.

    Sit on the levee and listen to the blues in October in Helena.

    Eat a cheeseburger at the “Hiwasse Hilton” in Hiwasse (between Centerton and Gravette on Highway 72).

    Stop at Feltner’s Whataburger in Russellville on your way to a Razorback football game in Fayetteville. (Oh, those vanilla milkshakes!)

    Stroll through Old Washington State Park, and have lunch at the Tavern there.

    Watch the Memphis fireworks on the Sunday before Memorial Day from the sandbar across the river below the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge, while listening to the Sunset Symphony on the radio.

    Spend a long weekend in deer camp, preferably down around Hampton.

  19. 1. Listening to 70,000 of the most passionate football fans in America call the Hogs at a home game

    2. Sitting on the east side of Mount Nebo and watching the sun rise over the Arkansas River Valley

    3. Coming back and watching the sun set from the west side of Mount Nebo

    4. Driving from Russellville to Harrison the weekend after the leaves change.

    5. Crossing Lake Norfork in the middle of the summer and seeing some of the bluest water in the state

    6. Taking a carriage ride around the Fayetteville Square when the Christmas lights are on…

    7. Stopping in Russellville and eating at Whatta-Burger

    8. Going to a high school football game in any small town and feeling the passion of a hometown surrounding their team. (Then listening to Grant and Rex on the radio on your way home!!)

    9. Watching Ouachita and Henderson play in the Battle of the Ravine

    10. Watching the “Sandy Beach Cardboard Boat Races” on the Fourth of July in Heber Springs, then sticking around for the fireworks show that night.

  20. Arky Bubba says:

    >> Sunrise over a flooded field with the wisper of wings above

    >> Hear the owls hoot while straining to hear the first flydown gobble from a big old tom.

    >> Too late, but a b-b-que sandwhich at Shaddens near Marvell or the old Shack in LR

    >> a tug on the 10′ pole by a one pound crappie

    Perhaps you should start a list of too late cause they kicked the bucket list?

  21. Randal Neal says:

    1. The battle of the ravine- HSU vs. OBU, forget the iron bowl this is a rivalry
    2. Eat a Big B the Pig Pit in Arkaldelphia
    3. Rent a cabin at Lake Ouchita
    4. Stay the the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs and eat at Angels Italian Restaurant on Central Avenue
    5. Float the Spring River
    6. Fish and camp at Lake Chicot
    7 Camp at Devils Den

  22. Ron Kemp says:

    1. Standing in wonder in the Boxley Valley and easily imagining what life was like many years ago in the Ozarks.

    2. Hiking the many great trails at Arkansas’ greatest state park, Petit Jean.

    3. Marveling at the brilliant blue water while crossing the bridge at Lake Norfork while remembering the earlier days of riding the ferry at sunrise on the way to a Razorback football game at Fayetteville.

    4. Speaking of the Razorbacks, sitting “right on top of the action” at War Memorial Stadium.

    5. Enjoying White River country, especially where it joins the Buffalo at Buffalo City.

    6. Appreciating East Arkansas, a part of the state with many challenges, but an area with marvelous culture and history and some of the most diverse and productive farmland in the world. And thanks, Rex, for your many great articles on the people and places of the Delta region.

  23. Donna Hutchinson says:

    Rex: Concerning your NATURAL STATE BUCKET LIST– You have described a state wide political campaign! Those wonderful activities are exactly what a candidate and his family or supporters do while running for office across the state. I have engaged in almost all those events but not the Slovak Oyster Supper and the Coon Supper (one I wasn’t allowed and the other–I couldn’t imagine me eating that for any extra votes). This is a wonderful state and even if a candidate doesn’t get the most votes–he is never a loser because he has discovered how terrific Arkansas really is. I would have added Turkey Drop to the list. Thanks for a walk down Memory Lane. State Representative Donna Hutchinson

  24. Dorine Deacon says:

    Visit Jonesboro: The campus at Arkansas State University. Attractions there: 1-Fowler Center for concerts (best acoustics in state), Bradbury Art Gallery, and plays. 2-Museum with Indian artifacts and wonderful traveling exhibits. 3- Events in the Convocation Center.

    If you ever wondered how Crowley Ridge was formed the Nature Center in the Jonesboro area has a virtual action theater presentation that recreates the earthquake that caused the upheaval of the Ridge. There are many fun things to experience at the Nature Center

    Downtown Jonesboro is having a revival with many interesting restaurants and art gallerys.

    There is a new Turtlecreek Mall with several new restaurants and hotels close by.

    Don’t overlook Jonesboro in NorthEAST Arkansas.

  25. If I were a writer, I would try to model myself as the “Arkansas Lewis Grizzard” – all things Southern and Arkansaw-ish. Your bucket list is a perfect example of the things of which I would like to write. In thinking of additions to the bucket list, my mind kept wandering into the past……:
    ~grabbing a burger at the downtown Minute Man restaurant
    ~Shakey’s pizza in NLR
    ~a summer trip to Dogpatch with a stop at Booger Holler on Hwy. 7
    ~riding the car ferry across the Arkansas River on the way to Dumas.
    ~getting to go on the Bozo show at the Channel 7 studios in downtown Little Rock.
    ~watching turkeys being dropped out of an airplane at the Yellville Turkey Trot festival!

    But enough reminiscing. A few other thoughts that popped into my head:

    ~Going to the farmer’s market at the Fayetteville square on a beautiful spring northwest Arkansas Saturday morning.
    ~BBQ. I really just have to shake my head at all the posts about McClards. Really? Try Craig’s in DeValls Bluff or better yet Nick’s in Carlisle or Allen’s in Arkadelphia and you’ll never want to go back to McClards. There. I said it.
    ~Visit the train museum in Pine Bluff.
    ~Go eat pancakes for breakfast at Gaston’s White River resort and watch the fog lift off the white river.
    ~Camp below the dam at Greer’s Ferry at the JFK park.
    ~Attend the Christmas Frolic at the Territorial Restoration (sorry…just can’t break old habits).
    ~Spend the weekend in Eureka Springs and go to the Passion Play. Dine at Gaskin’s Cabin while you’re there.
    ~Spend a beautiful fall day driving a grain cart around in a rice field on the Grand Prairie.
    ~Know where your kinfolks are buried and make a trip to the cemetery on decoration day. Carry some flowers and clean up a little bit around the tombstones.

  26. Little Rocker says:

    Going a little white trash…

    Go to Riverfest, get really sunburned and a little drunk.

    Go to I-30 Speedway on Saturday night, but not without earplugs.

    Attend the Tales of the Crypt show at the Mount Holly Cemetery, cheer for the Confederate generals.

  27. Well, you’ve touch on a good one here. I worked for the Arkansas State Park system for years and suspect I’ve driven a half million miles in the natural state………and, I can think of only a handful of streams I’ve not floated. Naturally, several streams were mentioned as “must floats”. Frankly I can think of at least 50 that are better then any of those listed……Explore enough to find one of them. If you’ve not driven Talimena Scenic Drive and stopped along the way at Queen Wilhelmina. You’ve missed a good one. If you really want to take an Ozark drive take highway 16 from Fayetteville to Batesville. You’ll get all you want! Any idea how many civil war battles were in Arkansas? Ever dug in the Loess soil of Crowley’s Ridge for “potatos”? Ever Pondered about the New Madrid earthquake in NE Arkansas while standing on a sand-blow? Have you contemplated justice at the hands of the hanging judge of Fort Smith? Ever tried to find Oil Trough, Arkansas, or Hog Eye, or for that matter, Hog Jaw? Want to take a wilderness drive that will confuse your GPS? Spend a day driving the USFS roads between highway 71 and the Oklahoma state line. Did you know that the 10 fish crappie tournament winners on Lake Millwood normally average over 25 lbs? Ever seen a “virgin”pine forest in south Arkansas? What in the world does “Logoly” State park stand for?

  28. Brian says:

    Derby Day.
    Jump off Hwy 7 south bridge into Lake Hamilton.
    Skinny Dip in a hidden cold water spring in forest.
    McClard’s Rib & Fry w/ slaw.
    Razorback football game.
    Mt Magazine hike.
    Pig Trail in a convertible.

  29. MIKE & HARRIET JONES says:


  30. Barbara says:

    Rex, you did a fine job with your list, but let me add just a few things that I have thought of:

    * Watch tomatoes sell at the market, either in Hermitage or Warren

    * Pick fresh peaches right off the tree at either Suzanne’s Fruit Farm in
    Timsman, or The Cadron Orchard in Guy.

    * Visit The Old State House. When you go upstairs to the Senate Floor (or House floor???) take a look and listen to the story the duel between State Representatives Joseph Anthony and John Wilson, in which Anthony was knifed to death by the latter. See if you can detect any hauntings either there in the House Chamber, or on the stairs leading up to it.

    * Go to a sale barn, any sale barn, on the given time. The one going into Conway says, “Sale Every Tuesday.” Nice smells, I’m sure.

  31. Katherine says:

    Eat at Ashley’s even if you must forgo vacation.

  32. Scott Thone says:

    You need to participate in a toad race at Toad Suck Daze. This year would be a great year to that with it being the 30th Anniversary.

  33. Jeff Houser says:

    Have a cheeseburger at the Buffalo Grill, an Arkansas institution.

    Attend the Polish Karnawal in Marche.

    Drive the Pig Trail at least once.

    Just a few for thought!

  34. Nick Eubanks says:

    1. Eat catfish at The Whippet in Prattsville.
    2. Sit at the Yellowjacket Drive In in Sheridan the Friday before modern gun deer season opens and count all the trucks pulling campers and 4 wheelers.
    3. Duck hunt Bayou Meto. Duck hunt any of our great wildlife management areas.
    4. Crappie fish in the White River Refuge.

  35. Jeff says:

    1. Breakfast at the Pancake Shop in Hot Springs.
    2. Natural State Golf Trail.
    3. Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources in Smackover.
    4. Christmas lights at DeGray State Park.

  36. jerry smith says:

    Watching the sun rise during Easter sunrise services from the view at Petit Jean’s grave on Petit Jean Mountain.

  37. Erik says:

    You need to go watch The Passion Play in Eureka Springs; experience the Holy Land Tour; & visit the beautiful architecture of Thorncrown Chapel. There’s nothing better than watching The Greatest Story Ever Told in the breathtaking setting of the Ozark Mountains.

  38. Cheryl Williams says:

    Visit Thorncrown Chapel
    Tour the old State House in Little Rock

  39. Ronny Bruton says:

    No Bucket List of a kid from south Ark. is complete without !. Feeling the rush as a covey of quail explodes under your feet. 2. Catch all the schooling bass you can stand with your Dad or Son or Grandson from (Millwood, White Oak, or Degray). 3. Chasing greased pigs at the rodeo. (Clyde took one home). 4. Play in multiple Battles of the Ravine….watch some more….talk about old times of Battling for the Arkadelphia bragging rights. 5 Float the Caddo in an inner tube. 5. Pick strawberries near Clinton. 6. Throw rocks into the Ouachita river……for hours…..6. Climb sugarloaf mountain

  40. Jim Brewer says:

    Lake Leatherwood (a hidden gem) and Eureka Springs in October, crappie fishing at Paradise Lake (the west side is in Mississippi, the east in Arkansas . . . really!), any day at War Eagle Mill (except during the fair), bass fishing at Lake Monticello, tailgating around Weevil Pond at UAM.

  41. Norman Watson says:

    Eat BBQ at Rivertown BBQ in Ozark, Fat Daddy’s BBQ in Russellville and last but not least McClard’s BBQ in Hot Springs! You haven’t eaten BBQ until you’ve tried these three.

  42. Gary Underwood says:

    For my favorite Arkansas foods:

    Burger and fries at TLC for lunch and Blackened Ribeye at Park Place for dinner in Texarkana

    Burger at Patrick’s in Springdale and family-style fried chicken dinner at Monte Ne Inn.

    Lunch anywhere, anytime with Rex Nelson – that is like dinner and a show.

  43. Stephanie Mason says:

    The Ozark Folk Center State Park is fun and educational. I have been taking my daughter and now my grandsons there since the 1970’s. We love the hands-on pioneer activities, the music, the swimming pool at the lodge, even the food. It is located near my other favorite places in Arkansas-the Buffalo River(I already have my camp site reserved at Buffalo Point), and Blanchard Springs -including the cave and the swimming hole on Sylamore Creek. What fun!

  44. William Teale says:

    I’m a Army Recruiter working out of North Little Rock I have been there here for three years working in the area from Maumelle to Brinkley here are some of my favorite places.

    Advada’s Dinner in Carlisle off HWY 70

    Hurley House Cafe, Hazen off HWY 70

    Bobby’s Cafe in North Little Rock off MacArthur Road

  45. Dornie says:

    Great comments so far!

    Haven’t yet seen….

    Eat at CJs Burger Boy in Russellville on the way to a Hogs Game

    Fish Greers Ferry when the Hybrid/White Bass are schooling like crazy

  46. laura says:

    Hello everyone!
    We are from Tennessee and just bought our first hot dog cart!
    We are looking for places to bring and sell the best All Beef Hot Dogs!
    along with cajun boiled peanuts/ chips/ drinks/ and all other goodies!
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    p.s. if there are any events to help any causes we will donate a portion of our profits, of course hopefully we will also make money!
    Hey you All, have a great weekend!!!

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