Fort Smith, AR
The first settlers arrived in Fort Smith, Arkansas, via the Arkansas River on Christmas Day, 1817. Originally built as a military hub, Fort Smith still holds a significant military presence at today’s Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center that spans 66,000 acres of Arkansas terrain. The base, just east of town, serves the national guard.
A host of historic Fort Smith attractions await visitors looking to step into the past. The visitors’ center exhibits at the Fort Smith National Historic Site recount nearly 80 years of military history, from 1817 to 1896, as an outpost in Indian territory. Read soldiers’ accounts of times in an era when lawmen and outlaws galloped across the prairie and the Trail of Tears stained American history. Observe the remnants of two frontier forts and a federal court where the “hanging judge,” Isaac C. Parker, presided for 21 years.
Expand your knowledge of the area’s native roots at the Cherokee Heritage Center, an attraction near Fort Smith in Talequah, Oklahoma. Here, authentic Cherokee culture and heritage are brought to life in the Ancient Village exhibit. Walk through the re-constructed Cherokee village, stationed on the grounds of the original Cherokee Female Seminary.
One of the best ways to see the community of Fort Smith is aboard an historic electric trolley. Pedestrians can also immerse themselves in local lore with a walk through the 22-block Belle Grove Historic District, among the glorious homes that span 130 years of the town’s past.
Among Fort Smith’s tourist attractions is classic Southern barbecue, and Neumeier’s Rib Room is ready to deliver when tourists need a break. Neumeier’s prides itself on slow-cooked perfection, serving signature plates of baby back ribs and the “big” half chicken. For fine dining à la surf and turf, hit The Ribeye Steak and Seafood House. Locally owned and operated, the dinner house offers frog legs to filet mignon, but the Fire Burger is in a class by itself.
With the crew all fueled up and ready to go, head to the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center. Both adults and children visiting Fort Smith can get back to nature at the Center with guided hikes, fishing, archery, animal feedings and even astronomical Star Parties available right on the shores of Wells Lake.
For more family fun, the Grand Slam Fun Center on the city’s south side has batting cages, go-karts and putt-putt golf, all in one site. Or, for those visiting Fort Smith in the summer months, beat the heat at Alma Aquatic Park. Ride the water slides, including two 30-footers, splash around in the swimming area, climb atop the fire truck play station, or try out the professional 18-basket flying disc course.
When it is time to chill out in Fort Smith, visit the MovieLounge. A gigantic screen stands tall over a performance stage, surrounded by dining tables. Enjoy specialty drinks and a variety of food options while watching live entertainment or double-feature film celebrations, such as “An Evening with Tim Burton” on Halloween night.