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Amusing Fun at The Natural State: 10 Exciting Yet Cheap Things to Do in Arkansas

Looking for cheap things to do in Arkansas? You’re in luck, as Arkansas is a lovely yet affordable tourist destination! The Natural State offers several activities that won’t bust your budget. Wildlife adventures, history trips, art showcases, and amusement parks – you’ll surely get a thrilling, memorable, and budget-friendly vacation here!

If you like to take a road trip, you can check our comprehensive guide to Arkansas road trip attractions.

South Arkansas Arboretum

Location: El Dorado

If you want a quick and easy slice of nature in Arkansas, look no further than the South Arkansas Arboretum! This lovely 13-acre site consists of wooded paved walking trails, several plant species, a gazebo, a pavilion, and a butterfly garden.

South Arkansas Arboretum is home to indigenous plants that are natives of the West Gulf Coastal region. You’ll also find lovely exotic flowers such as camellias and azaleas. Shady woods and plants line the two-mile paved trail. The surroundings get more natural as you delve deeper into the trail.

This lovely place is ideal for walking, jogging, biking, and bird-watching. People seeking solitude from the busy city life also come to the arboretum for that much-needed silent time.

Visit South Arkansas Arboretum for a relaxing nature trip! It truly is among the cheap things to do in Arkansas – admission is free for all ages! The natural sanctuary is open Mondays to Saturdays from 8 am to 5 pm (8 am to 7 pm daylight savings time), and on Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm (9 am to 7 pm daylight savings time).

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Location: Bentonville

Here’s another budget-friendly place to visit in Arkansas – the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art! It’s the perfect marriage of contemporary architecture and interesting American art collections in a natural forested setting.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was founded in 2011 by Alice Walton, the only daughter of Walmart’s founder Sam Walton. She established the museum in her hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas.

The lovely museum is housed inside 120 acres of natural forested property. The museum’s architecture itself is stunningly modern, set in a backdrop of tall trees and lush sceneries. Step inside the museum and you’ll find a large selection of superb American artworks in the different galleries. There are also equally-impressive gems of artworks from lesser-known but talented artists.

Permanent and temporary exhibitions are regularly refreshed to offer visitors something new to the eye at each visit. Sculptures welcome you as you enter the museum.

Speaking of outdoors, Crystal Bridges also maintains more than three miles of outdoor nature trails within the museum grounds. The Art Trail connects to the Crystal Bridges Trail via the museum’s south lobby. Enjoy views of sculpture, amphitheaters, floral blooms, and lush greens on your stroll!

The museum’s permanent gallery and outdoor trails are free for all to enter – admission fees are sponsored by Walmart. Temporary and special exhibits may require different admission rates, though. The museum opens at 10 am and closes at sunset on different hours each day. Crystal Bridges Museum and the Trails and Grounds are open year-round except during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Garvan Woodland Gardens

Location: Hot Springs

Next on our list of the top cheap things to do in Arkansas is a visit to the Garvan Woodland Gardens. This is the University of Arkansas’ botanical garden which was established in 1956 by Verna Cook Garvan. She donated the land to the University of Arkansas Department of Landscape Architecture at the time of her passing in 1993.

Garvan Woodland Gardens consist of numerous scenic spots featuring Southwest Arkansas’ unique flora and fauna. These spots are scattered within the 210-acre forested property.

Some of the gardens you can visit inside include the Garvan Pavilion, Perry Wildflower Overlook, Evans Children’s Adventure Garden, Anthony Chapel Complex, and lots more.

Walk through bridges and lakes, enjoy the tall trees and lovely blooms, go bird-watching, and admire the endless natural sceneries. You and your family will surely have something to enjoy with the garden’s plethora of scenic spots, bridges, and outlooks to discover!

Recharge yourself at the popular Chipmunk Cafe inside Garvan Woodlands. Order yummy sandwiches, snacks, salads, and desserts and pair them up with fresh beverages. Outdoor seating is provided so you can continue savoring the natural wonders of the gardens!

Admission rates are cheap and are well worth it! Adults pay $15, kids 4-12 years old are charged $5, and well-behaved dogs on short leashes are allowed for $5 each. Kids 0-3 years old can enter free of charge.

Magic Springs Theme and Water Park

Location: Hot Springs

Looking for an affordable amusement park in Arkansas? Try out Arkansas’ Magic Springs Theme and Water Park! This park offers lots of thrilling rides and water activities your entire family will surely enjoy!

The Thrill Rides are perfect for adventure-seekers not afraid of trying out extreme amusement park adventures! Flip-flop through the air, go on backward loops, and experience mind-blowing bends at rides such as Arkansas Twister, The Gauntlet, and X-Coaster.

For more subtle family fun, head over to the Family Rides! These are attractions where kids and adults can both ride along. Put The Diamond Mine Coaster, Rum Runner Pirate Ship, Razorback Roundup Bumper Cars, and Ozark Mountain Taxi Company on your list of must-rides.

Your little ones certainly won’t be left out at Magic Springs! There are tons of kid-friendly rides such as Carousel, Looney Ballooney, Bugga Booga Wheel, Kit ‘n Kaboodle Express, and more.

The Water Park is a great place to cool down during summer. Feast on plenty of water attractions such as Boogie Blast, Bubble-Up Pool, and Grizzly Creek Family Splash Zone!

Tickets to the Magic Springs Theme and Water Park start at $25 plus tax. Season passes are also available starting $69.99, giving you access to free summer concerts and special events. Consider a season pass if you’ve tried out the amusement park and would frequently be coming back!

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

Location: Eureka Springs

Next on our fun but cheap things to do in Arkansas is a visit to the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge!

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is among the biggest non-profit exotic cat sanctuaries in the United States. It’s among the top 10 attractions in Arkansas and is the most popular destination for visitors going to Eureka Springs.

The animal sanctuary’s mission is to give a haven of refuge abused, neglected, or abandoned exotic cats such as lions, tigers, cougars, and leopards. They’re cared for in a natural habitat inside the sanctuary. Apart from exotic cats, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge also shelters bobcats, ligers, bears, servals, a macaw, a monkey, and a coatimundi.

Visitors can go on a self-guided Discovery Tour starting at a designated area inside the refuge center. You can view each animal in their respective habitats and read their story printed on a plaque in front of each animal’s shelter.

Guided Habitat Tours and Trolley Tours (in the summer) are also available. Guided Habitat Tours are staffed by the refuge center’s zoologist or biologist interns and take you through the areas where the large exotic cats are located. Summer Trolley Tours charge an extra $5 per person. The fee is waived for people with mobility issues.

You and your little ones may also participate in Kids Camps and special events such as Cats in the Castle and Kite Fest! Check their website’s calendar page to learn about the events happening soon in Turpentine Creek.

You’ll surely have a fun time with the wild cats at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge! Admission rate for youth aged 13-19 is $20. Adults 20 years old and up are charged $25. Seniors, veterans, and kids 3-12 years old are admitted for $15. Free admission for kids 3 years old below.

Buffalo National River Park

Location: Harriet

The Buffalo National River Park is home to America’s first national river. Buffalo National River is a majestic sight to behold – a lovely free-flowing river surrounded by limestone bluffs, waterfalls, and lush forests. The waters start at Arkansas’ Boston Mountains and flow freely north-east to the Ozark Mountains. The entire river runs at 135 miles.

Going to the Buffalo National River Park is certainly a must for visitors seeking a lovely natural adventure in Arkansas! Float the river in a rented canoe, kayak, or raft and soak in the lovely natural rock formations and lush greens along the way.

Hiking trails also abound in the Buffalo National River Park. Choose from Upper District hiking trails, Tyler Bend at the Lower District, or the Buffalo Point Area trails at the Lower District.

It’s free to enter and explore Buffalo National River Park! Small charges may be applied inside depending on campground sites and river floating gear rentals.

Intrigue Theater

Location: Eureka Springs

Tucked inside Eureka Springs is a one-of-a-kind theater show featuring a talented duo of an illusionist and a ghost talker. Intrigue Theater is a place where magic and mystery abound, a must-see for visitors looking for a unique way to spend their days at Arkansas!

Sean-Paul and Juliana Fay are the top performers in this magical theater. They give out excellent shows with Sean-Paul taking care of the entertaining illusions and Juliana Fay doing some psychics and mind-reading among the audiences. The duo performs various astounding acts for each show, so every performance is truly unique!

Intrigue Theater is set in a former church with a Victorian style. That contributes to the overall atmosphere of mystery inside the theater! Audiences are truly spellbound, perplexed, and happily entertained before and after the shows!

Tickets to the show start at $25.95 for general seating. If you’re visiting as a family, consider taking the Family Pass – it’s a good deal at $99.95 good for two adults and three kids aged 12 years old below.


Location: Fayetteville

Want more theater visits? Head over to Fayetteville and experience the amazing shows put out by TheatreSquared!

TheatreSquared is Northwest Arkansas’ premier professional theater, producing around 220 shows annually. The theatre creates amazing productions of original and world-class plays such as Matilda: The Musical and William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Talented casts and crew bring these fantastic stories to life at the theater.

The facility complex consists of two intimate theaters, offices, artist housing areas, production workshops, a bar/cafe that’s open all day, and a three-level outdoor space.

Regular side tickets cost $31 while Prime tickets are $44 each. You can book advanced tickets through their site. Browse through the calendar to find your preferred show, schedule, and seat arrangements.

Due to the current pandemic situation, some TheatreSquared productions are available as hybrids – live performances that can also be live-streamed at home via Zoom.

Crater of Diamonds State Park

Location: Murfreesboro

Among the best outdoor cheap things to do in Arkansas is a visit to the Crater of Diamonds State Park! It’s unique in that you get to keep everything you mine in this natural diamond wonderland!

Crater of Diamonds State Park is a diamond-bearing eroded volcanic crater where people can search for diamonds and keep whatever they find. Rocks, minerals, and gemstones abound in the 37 acres of plowed areas. You can bring your own hand-operated mining tools to search the grounds for hidden gems! Visitors may also opt to rent tools inside the park (temporarily suspended due to the pandemic situation).

The park also offers walking trails, campsites, tent sites, and a gift shop. Seasonal amenities include the Diamond Springs Water Park and the Kimberlite Cafe.

The Diamond Search Field requires entry tickets. Adults (13 years old up) are charged $10 plus a $1.50 fee. Kids 6-12 years old are charged $6 plus a $1.30 fee.

Thorncrown Chapel

Location: Eureka Springs

A visit to the Thorncrown Chapel rounds up our list of the 10 best cheap things to do in Arkansas! This is a majestic structure constructed out of organic materials, wood, and glass. It was built in 1980 by the popular architect E. Fay Jones.

Thorncrown Chapel is a prime destination for weddings in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. But you can definitely come and admire the beautiful architecture and the lovely woodland surroundings that the chapel is built in. It truly is an amazing wooden structure that’s strikingly simple yet elegant, perfectly complementing the Ozark woodlands where it is nestled.

Visit the chapel from April to November from 9 am to 5 pm, and during March and December from 11 am to 4 pm. Thorncrown Chapel is closed during January and February. Call ahead to make sure that there are no weddings and special events before your visit.

The chapel administration doesn’t charge entrance fees. There’s a donation box where you can drop any amount you can.

Rental Properties for your Cheap Things to do in Arkansas

A trip to Arkansas won’t be comfy and complete without renting out a nice vacation home near your planned activities! You can use Rental Trader to find the ideal vacation property near Arkansas. Our platform allows you to search for rental homes, talk to property owners, and book vacation properties in a few clicks.

Rental Trader also offers free listings for vacation property owners. If you happen to have a rental property near Arkansas’ finest attractions, you can list them for free at Rental Trader after completing sign in process.

Learn more about Rental Trader by filling up our web form, calling us, or emailing us!

Now, that wraps up our interesting list of 10 fun cheap things to do in Arkansas. Enjoy The Natural State in a variety of ways – you’ll surely be coming back for more adventures!

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