The Natural State
Arkansas is called the “Natural State” for a good reason – it is filled with beautiful outdoor areas like the Ozarks and the Ouachita Mountains and Hot Springs National Park. Although Arkansas is best known for its great outdoors and rural atmosphere, there are many cultural learning opportunities throughout the state. Historical sites and attractions include the Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site, Civil War battle sites, the Southwest Trail and the Bill Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock. To find cultural learning activities in Arkansas, browse the Cultural Compass guide below or visit www.arkansas.com.
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Greyhound Bus Station in Blytheville, Arkansas. Photo by Nyttend.
Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.
Arkansas State University Museum focuses on the culture and heritage of Northeast Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta region. Exhibits and collections include information on the Arkansas frontier, life in Arkansas 10,000 years ago, and a Native American gallery.
The William J. Clinton Presidential Center & Park is home to the Clinton Library and Museum in President Bill Clinton’s former home of Little Rock. The museum contains many exhibits about the Clinton presidency and the center often hosts special events like free festivals, live concerts and free admission days.
Fort Smith National Historic Site was once home to two forts and was a site on the Trail of Tears in the 19th century. Visitors will find information on the fort’s military history, the westward expansion of the United States, the Trail of Tears and other important moments in Native American history in the area.
Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock features many exhibits, collections and events about Arkansas’ history and heritage. Exhibits feature frontier life, slavery, pre-Civil War Arkansas and living history characters that bring Arkansas culture to life. The museum also features art collections.
Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is an African American history museum in Little Rock. The museum looks at the history of Arkansas African American heritage from 1870 through today through exhibits, historic artifacts, photographs and special events.
Pea Ridge National Military Park is the most intact Civil War battlefield in the U.S. and the site of an important battle in the war. 26,000 soldiers fought at Pea Ridge in 1862, and today, visitors can learn about the battle at the visitor’s center and museum, take a guided or self-guided tour around the park and see 28 outdoor exhibits on the site of the battle.
- Buffalo Outdoor Center
- National Park Duck Tours
- Smackover Ghost Tours
- Wild Bill’s Outfitter
- Underground Eureka Springs
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to experience the U.S. and its culture.
Art and Cultural Museums
- Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock
- Arts Center for the Ozarks, Springdale
- ASU Museum, Jonesboro
- Baum Gallery at University of Central Arkansas, Conway
- Butler Center Galleries, Little Rock
- Center for Art and Education, Van Buren
- Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville
- Delta Cultural Center, Helena
- Fine Arts Center Gallery at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
- Fine Arts Center of Hot Springs, Hot Springs
- Fort Smith Regional Art Museum, Fort Smith
- Galleries at University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock
- Museum of Contemporary Art, Hot Springs
- Ozark Folk Center, Mountain View
- River Valley Arts Center, Russellville
- Arkansas Jazz Heritage Foundation, Little Rock
- Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Little Rock
- Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, Conway
- Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Little Rock
- Ballet Arkansas, Little Rock
- Opera in the Ozarks, Eureka Springs
- South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, El Dorado
- Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville
- The Weekend Theater, Little Rock
Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
College football is a popular sport in Arkansas, but each university also has many other sports teams competing at various levels of play.
- Arkansas Razorbacks, University of Arkansas
- Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys and Golden Suns, Arkansas Tech University
- A State Red Wolves, Arkansas State University
- Muleriders, Southern Arkansas University
- Henderson State Reddies, Henderson State University
Minor League Sports
Minor league sports are a fun and inexpensive way to watch favorite American sports without the high price tag of professional sports games.
White Rock Mountain, Franklin County, Arkansas. Photo by Marco Becerra.
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.
Hot Springs National Park has 8 historic bathhouses, 26 miles of trails, guided tours, picnic areas, camping and opportunities to enjoy the park’s hot springs. The park is located in the town of Hot Springs in central Arkansas, approximately 60 miles east of Little Rock.
Find a nature trail in Arkansas at one of the state’s parks. Visitors can search for a trail based on its difficulty, location or based on a particular activity, like hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, cross-country skiing or mountain biking.
Rowdy Adventures is an outdoor park with zip lines, canoeing and kayaking at Copperhead Creek Preserve and the Little Missouri River.
Water sports can be found in many locations in Arkansas, including tubing, jet skiing, canoeing, kayaking, white water rafting and swimming.
Consider traveling along one of Arkansas’ heritage trails. The trails include important historical sites related to topics like the Civil War, Native American history and westward expansion.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.
Arkansans love Southern cooking and the Southern hospitality that goes along with it. Many dishes feature local ingredients like catfish, chicken, trout, bass, crappie, okra, corn, rice and beans. Arkansas cuisine also varies by region, with some parts of the state favoring southern cuisine while other parts are more Midwestern.
Visit Arkansas Grown for a directory of farmers’ markets and local growers in Arkansas.
- Jumbo Gumbo Cook-off, Little Rock, April
- Hogskin Holidays Festival, Hampton, April
- Alma Spinach Festival, Alma, April
- Taste of the Valley, Russellville, April
- Dermott Crawfish Festival, Dermott, May
- Hope Watermelon Fest, Hope, August
Sonny Burgess playing at Riverfest in Little Rock, Arkansas. Photo by Colinedward828.
For a unique and local perspective on American cultural, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
Mardi Gras isn’t only celebrated in Louisiana—located just south of Arkansas—it’s also a popular festival in Arkansas, too. The festival celebrates the February Carnival season with parades, live music, elaborate costumes, food and dancing in locations like Eureka Springs, Little Rock and Fayetteville.
In April, the Arkansas Literary Festival in Little Rock features approximately 80 presenters at multiple locations in the city. Events include book signings, readings, workshops, performances and opportunities to meet the writers. Many events are free.
Helena Second Saturdays are a series of free cultural events in the Helena community that celebrate the Delta region of Arkansas. Live music, artists, local produce and goods, and local stores are shared with the community on the second Saturday of each month from April to September in Helena, Arkansas.
Arkansas Scottish Festival is a heritage festival at Lyon College in Batesville. Scottish events like music, highland sports, food, poetry and other activities are available each April to celebrate Scottish culture in the region.
Riverfest Arkansas is an arts and music festival held in Little Rock. Popular artists perform over three days in May and visitors can also enjoy attractions, food, arts, crafts, jewelry, and other vendors and fun events. Members of the community are also welcome to apply to perform at the event.
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.
It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.
General Housing Information
- Housing information for Work and Travel USA participants
- Housing information for Career Training USA interns and trainees
Arkansas Housing Resources
Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for Arkansas participants include:
- Craigslist - Arkansas
- American Homestay Agency
- Hostelling International
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options.
Public Transit Systems
Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CAT) provides bus service, express buses and streetcars in Little Rock and the surrounding area.
Fort Smith, the second largest city in Arkansas, operates five main bus routes within the city limits.
Visit the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in local Arkansas communities.
Bus companies operating in Arkansas and surrounding states include:
Participants in Arkansas can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
Emergency Management Agencies
- Arkansas Department of Emergency Management
- ADEM updates on Twitter @ar_emergencies
- Ready Arkansas
- Arkansas updates on Twitter @ArkansasCCP
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) www.fema.gov and www.ready.gov
- Arkansas FEMA updates on Twitter @femaregion6
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
Our House provides shelter and services to the homeless in the Little Rock area. Volunteers are needed to serve meals, tutor kids, babysit, work in the office or yard or help with other tasks.
Food banks in Arkansas frequently need volunteers to help prepare meals, sort through donations and help with other tasks at multiple locations throughout the state. Contact a local food bank or food pantry for one-time volunteering opportunities or on-going projects.
Heart of Arkansas United Way provides many volunteer resources for the Pulanski County area, including adult and youth volunteering opportunities. Browse their website for more information on helping out at a local organization in Arkansas.
Habitat for Humanity has many local affiliates in Arkansas in need of volunteers. No experience is required to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity at one of their house builds, in an office or at a ReStore shop.