At just past the midway point of Arkansas summer, it’s hard to imagine that fall is sneaking up on us. Soon, the kids will head back to school, the Razorbacks will be on the field, and everyone will be talking about how cold it gets at night. Such is the nature of living in The Natural State.
For many, fall is the ultimate season of the year in Arkansas, a viewpoint that’s hard to argue. From intense fall foliage dabbling windy mountain roads to backyards warmed by fire pits under star-crusted evening skies, there’s nowhere in the country quite like this special slice of America. Fall is also a great time to get out and explore The Natural State, taking in community festivals and enjoying the hidden gems of the state’s back roads.
We’ve collected a few of these attractions for your consideration here – some may be brand new, some may be past experiences that warrant a revisit, and some are as close as your own backyard!
NATURAL STATE FINERY
Fall wouldn’t be fall without the breathtaking colors and on that measure, Arkansans are spoiled rotten. Starting in October, nearly everywhere you look in the state is ablaze with reds, oranges, and golds, providing a stunning backdrop for your autumn adventures.
According to Arkansas Tourism, fall foliage starts to appear in the state’s northern reaches by the second week of October and slowly spreads southward. The north peaks by mid to late October but traveling south you can enjoy Mother Nature’s show through November.
Our gentle fall climate also allows for outdoor enjoyment well past the date when northern states are shivering under ice and snow. So, whether you take a motorcycle ride through the Boston Mountains, tackle a mountain trail at Petit Jean or Mount Magazine state parks, or cycle through the rolling hills of central Arkansas, you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
Fall is the time for Oktoberfest and there’s plenty to choose from in Arkansas. Pack the lederhosen, brush up on your tuba and get ready to sample some of the best beer Arkansas brewers have to offer, accompanied by good food and great fellowship.
A sampling of these hearty celebrations can be found at:
- Fort Smith Oktoberfest (October 7-8)
- Little Rocktoberfest (September 23; littlerocktoberfest.com)
- Fairfield Bay Oktoberfest (October 7-8)
- Rogers Oktoberfest (October 13)
MUSIC AND CULTURE
If music, movies, and Arkansas culture are more your speed, you’re in luck. The cooler weather brings out some of the best arts and culture festivals of the year. Dance along to JazzFest in Hot Springs (September 2, hsjazzsociety.org), or the stirring bagpipes of ScotFest in Batesville (October 27 to 29, arscottishfest.com). Celebrate the Beatles @ The Ridge in Walnut Ridge (September 16, beatlesattheridge.com) and soak in some Delta blues at the legendary King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena (October 4 to 7, kingbiscuitfestival.com).
Love film? Don’t miss the acclaimed Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (October 6 to14, hotsprings.org). And for the foodie, check out the Arkansas Cornbread Festival in Little Rock (November 4, arkansascornbreadfestival.com), Downtown Fall Festival and Chili Cookoff in Russellville (October 28, mainstreetrussellville.com), and Bikes, Blues & BBQ in Fayetteville (September 20 to 23, bikesbluesandbbq.org). Or, take in one of the truly legendary events in Arkansas at the World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest & Wings Over the Prairie Festival in Stuttgart (November 24-25, stuttgartduckfest.com).
Finally, get a sample of all things Arkansas at the Arkansas State Fair. The nonstop entertainment – from corn dogs to show hogs – is slated for October 13 to 22 at the state fairgrounds in Little Rock (arkansasstatefair.com).
GO, TEAM, GO!
Fall is, as any right-thinking Arkansan knows, football season, full of Friday night lights and Saturday afternoon tailgating. Arkansas’s four Division I football programs will be suiting up to bring their fans loads to cheer about. The first home game for each team is as follows:
- Arkansas Razorbacks (September 2 in Little Rock and September 9 in Fayetteville)
- University of Central Arkansas (September 9)
- University of Arkansas Pine Bluff (September 16)
- Arkansas State University (September 9)
Arguably the most famous storied college football rivalry game in the state will resume hostilities in Texarkana between Division II generational foes Ouachita Baptist University (obu.edu) and Henderson State University (hsu.edu) in the Battle of the Ravine. The 2023 contest – the ninety-sixth in the series, slated for November 11 – traces its origins to 1885 and became an officially sanctioned game in 1907. The intensity of the ensuing rivalry was such that the contest was suspended from 1952 to 1962. Ouachita’s current six-game winning streak has tilted the overall record in the Tigers’ favor as it leads the Reddies 46-43-6.
Of course, if you just want to get away for a long weekend and do nothing at all, fall in Arkansas can accommodate that, too. Unique lodgings abound where you can do as much or as little as you like in blissful surroundings.
Check out Gaston’s White River Resort (gastons.com), located just a stone’s throw from Bull Shoals Lake on the White River. An award-winning restaurant, on-premises fly-fishing school and expert guides ensure your outing is successful. Speaking of flies, you can even fly yourself in, landing a few steps from the lodge’s front door on its own personal airstrip.
Or head north and relax in Eureka Springs (visiteurekasprings.com), one of the most eclectic spots in the state. Go all-out with a luxurious room at the historic Crescent Hotel (crescent-hotel.com); in fact, plan your trip around Halloween and treat yourself to a good scare with their famed ghost tours.
For something more modern, book a room in Bentonville’s stylish 21C (21cmuseumhotels.com) – one part hotel, one part art museum – then spend an afternoon in the stunning Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (crystalbridges.org) or tour The Walmart Museum (walmartmuseum.com) on the picturesque town square.
Head south to El Dorado (mainstreeteldorado.org) and stay in the Union Square Guest Quarters (usgq.net), a collection of 1920s and 1930s homes restored to their original grandeur. From there, visit the city’s thriving Main Street, the attractions throughout the Murphy Arts District (eldomad.com) or catch a concert or show, including the long-running MusicFest (musicfesteldorado.com), set for October 6 and 7.
Wherever your fall wanderings take you in Arkansas this year, you’re sure to find great food, fun attractions, and friendly folks. Just be sure to be back in Fort Smith in time for the city’s own Fall Festival (September 23) and the annual Fort Smith Marathon (September 24). Find more local events on our calendar here at DoSouthMagazine.com!