Fort Smith, Arkansas, is the fourth largest city in Arkansas and a great destination for families. It’s full of fun things to do, including historic sites and museums. You can also enjoy the outdoors and have some family fun. And there’s something for everyone!
Perhaps you’re interested in history or just want to spend some time outside. Either way, Fort Smith has plenty of options for both.
Fort Smith National Cemetery was established in 1862 when the Civil War began, and it remains an active cemetery today. It contains graves from every war that America has fought since then—from World War II to Vietnam—along with those who served as soldiers but were not veterans themselves (such as members of military bands).
Another great spot for history buffs is Judge Parker’s Courtroom and Jail. This building was part of Fort Smith until it became the police station in 1910; it was then used as a courthouse from 1912 until 1976, when it was converted into a museum dedicated to local history with exhibits ranging from Native Americans through modern times.
Fort Smith National Cemetery
Fort Smith National Cemetery is a military cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The cemetery was established in 1864 and contains the remains of over 11,000 Union soldiers. It’s located at 2702 E. Cherokee Street, Fort Smith, AR 72901.
The Civil War forced many men to make hard decisions about their future and how they would continue to live their lives while fighting for what they believed was right. After the Civil War ended, these men were allowed to return home and resume their lives as farmers or businessmen while also serving their country by joining the army again during wartime when needed (they were given pensions).
Fort Smith National Cemetery is special because it houses many individuals who lost their lives during the war between 1861-1865 but did not have family members living nearby where they could be buried near them so instead, this cemetery was built here at Fort Smith, where people from all over southern states came after dying from battles such as Shiloh Tennessee; Corinth Mississippi; Vicksburg Mississippi; Chickamauga Georgia etcetera.
Judge Parker’s Courtroom and Jail
- Judge Isaac C. Parker, who was one of the most famous judges in American history and served as a U.S. Marshal from 1875 to 1879, built the courthouse in Fort Smith, where he presided over some 3,000 cases during his ten years on the bench (1875-1885).
- The courthouse and jail were completed in 1883 for $152,000. They are open to visitors today at 200 South Waldron Street in Fort Smith—a significant site for its historical architecture and place in American history.
Parker was a highly-publicized and controversial figure in his lifetime. He is remembered in Western novels and films as a “Hanging Judge,” but his real career and accomplishments at Fort Smith are far more fascinating and complicated. Judge Parker tried 13,490 cases during his 21 years on the bench. Of these, 344 were capital crimes. Of these 344 cases, 9,454 resulted in guilty pleas or convictions; 160 men were sentenced to death by hanging, and 79 were hanged.
Fort Smith Museum of History
The Fort Smith Museum of History is located on Garrison Avenue and is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with Sunday hours from 1 to 4 p.m. The museum offers a variety of exhibits, including antique jewelry, historical weapons, firearms, Native American artifacts, and clothing items that date back to the 1800s. Historical exhibits are presented in a variety of media. Some include an element of multi-sensory experience or immersion.
You can stop by to see the exhibits seven days a week from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. The museum is located next to the Fort Smith National Historic Site, which has hiking, fishing, and picnicking facilities. All programs are included with museum admission. Tours tickets are required.
The museum has two floors—the first floor displays local artifacts, including items from William Darby of Darby’s Rangers, a famous unit of soldiers in World War II. The second floor has many artifacts, from old movies to World War II and the Civil War to tools and various vignettes of life in the early 1900s.
Miss Laura’s Visitor Center
The Miss Laura’s Visitor Center is a popular restaurant in Fort Smith, Arkansas. It was originally established in the 1920s by Miss Laura Platt and has served chicken fried steak and fried chicken to locals and tourists alike ever since. The restaurant is located within the Fort Smith National Historic Site, so you can visit it while touring this historic area. One of the only former bordellos on the National Register of historic places in the US that have been fully restored to its original grandeur.
You will experience the vibe that made Miss Laura so popular during the late 1800s and early 1900s as you take a journey back in time. A historic town on the border of what was then Indian Territory, Fort Smith was a popular destination in the Old West. Prostitution was common in this town, which partly led to its reputation as an adult playground where saloons and brothels were always filled with whiskey-drinking patrons. In 1896, Laura Ziegler bought a building on First Street and renovated it into a brothel called Miss Laura’s. She opened for business in 1903 but only took 17 months to repay her loan from a local banker. Miss Laura’s became one of the most celebrated bordellos in the Southwest, and its women were considered to be among the healthiest and most sophisticated in Fort Smith.
Parks & Nature
Parks and nature are fun to do in Fort Smith, Arkansas. When you think of parks and nature, you probably picture birds chirping, trees swaying in the breeze, and babbling brooks. Parks and nature can include all of these things but also many more activities that everyone will enjoy!
One of our favorite things about parks is hiking. Hiking is a great way for families or friends to spend some time together exercising and staying healthy. You can choose from many different types of trails depending on how long or short you want your hike to be:
- Short hikes (less than 1 mile)
- Medium hikes (1-3 miles)
- Longer hikes (more than 3 miles)
Explore the 12.3-mile Big Branch Trail near Fort Smith, Arkansas. According to AllTrails, this trail is considered an easy route with an average completion time of 3 h 42 min. This trail is great for birding, fishing, and mountain biking, but be aware that you may not encounter many other people while exploring.
Creekmore Park is a 2-acre park located in downtown Fort Smith. The park is a great place to come and relax, with walking trails and picnic tables. There is also a playground for children and a pavilion where you can have your latest birthday party or wedding reception!
But Creekmore Park isn’t just fun for kids—it’s also fun for dogs! This part of the park has been set aside for people who would like to bring their pets along on their outings. The dog park has separate areas for small and large dogs, so everyone can exercise without having to worry about accidents (like those caused by squirrels).
The park provides tennis courts, a putt-putt course, a swimming pool, playgrounds, and walking trails. Pavilions and picnic sites are also available. In addition, a miniature train ride – the Creekmore Express – takes visitors around the park. Bathrooms are available for public use in many locations throughout the park.
Ben Geren Regional Park
Ben Geren Regional Park is a 1,500-acre park with picnic areas and various activities. There are hiking trails, playgrounds, a dog park, and a fishing lake for those who like to fish. If you’re hungry after your trip or just want something to snack on while you play, then check out the concession stand that sells food and drinks.
Ben Geren Park is a public park located in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The park offers a variety of recreational activities and facilities for the community, including baseball fields, basketball courts, an off-leash dog area, a disc golf course, and a picnic area.
Family Fun & Water Parks
The Splash Pad is located at Riverfront Park and is open from 10 AM to 6 PM. It’s a great place to cool off in the summertime, with water cannons, fountains, and more! The Splash Pad is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The Creekmore Pool is another popular spot for families. It’s less than two miles from downtown Fort Smith and has a shallow kiddie pool area and lap lanes for adults.
Parrot Island Water Park is a 73,000-square-foot family water park featuring the first wave pool in Arkansas. Parrot Island Water Park includes a large children’s activity pool and all the fun of one of America’s finest family water parks.
Riverfront Skate Park, Splash Pad, and Amphitheatre
The skate park, splash pad, and theater are located at Riverfront Park, which is downtown along the riverfront. The skate park has a variety of ramps and rails for skaters of all skill levels to enjoy. The splash pad is open during warm weather months and features a large spray fountain that kids love! Finally, the amphitheater hosts concerts, plays, and other events throughout the year.
At Harry E. Kelley Park, visitors can enjoy a picnic or relax on a bench in the shade of a large tree. There is an amphitheater, and bathrooms are located nearby.
We hope this list has given you some ideas to get out and explore Fort Smith, Arkansas. We love all these places and think the city offers a lot of great fun for the whole family!