Known primarily by its nickname as the “Natural State”, Arkansas is tucked away in the middle of the US between the areas known as the Midwest and the Deep South. The Ozark and Ouachita Mountains—more rolling hills than anything as grand as the Rockies or Appalachians—wind their way through the countryside, creating hidden valleys and lakes that are surrounded by dense forests and wide-open fields in equal measure. The natural beauty of the state is as rich as its history, and visitors will be hard-pressed to explore and experience all that Arkansas has to offer in just one trip.
Home to the headquarters of global superstore giant Wal-Mart, as well as the former US President Bill Clinton, the state has a reputation for being one of the “backwards” states, full of nothing but inbred hillbillies and redneck country boys. And while it’s true that they do exist, the stereotype isn’t really fair, because the state has a lot more to offer. True, the state is fairly conservative socially, and gay and lesbian travelers might face unwanted attention while traveling, but issues are rarely more than overt stares and otherwise if you happen to be a foreigner or someone new.
Timing is of the essence when visiting Arkansas, as it is one of the states which get hit by tornadoes fairly regularly every year. Severe thunderstorms can be a hazard, but for the most part as long as you pay attention to the storm seasons you can experience Arkansas in relative safety. There are several national parks, such as the Hot Springs National Park, and towns like El Dorado and Fort Smith can offer a unique entry point into the vast landscape of forests and local history, while Eureka Springs is more of a tourist attraction town, with a distinctly European look and feel, and Victorian architecture and layout. All in all, Arkansas is a unique experience that has to be seen up close to truly be understood.