While states with exotic beaches and flashy casinos may attract top billing on travel websites, Arkansas has a host of hidden gems that can provide everything from family fun to a romantic getaway for two. Why buy jewelry in Vegas or the Caribbean? Take your next vacation in Arkansas, and you might even find some gems of your own right on the ground. If a glittering bottle of ruby-red wine is more your pace, you’ll find wineries, scenery, and much more in “The Natural State.”
Diamonds are Everybody’s Best Friend
Murfreesboro, Arkansas is home to Crater of Diamonds State Park, one of the only diamond mines in the world open to the public on a pay-to-prospect basis. Diamonds were originally discovered in 1906 by the farmer who owned the land, but since the area was not productive enough to support the operation of a full-time diamond mine, it eventually became a State Park. The area sits atop a one-of-a-kind volcanic pipe that continually cycles lamproite, a kind of volcanic rock that sometimes contains gems, up to the surface.
Arkansas is also widely-known for high quality and quantity of quartz, and there are several mines where you can dig for quartz and other gemstones as well. From surface mines to sluicing opportunities, there are several mines throughout the state where you can pay an entry fee and then keep whatever stones you discover. There are also several gem and novelty shops full of local finds that make unique gifts for that hard-to-shop-for person in your life!
The same geologic features that grace Arkansas with gemstones and rich mineral resources also provide visitors with a wealth of beautiful caves and hot springs to explore. If you prefer spelunking on a well-lit path, there are six popular caves to visit throughout the state.
If treasure-hunting with a metal detector is more your style, Arkansas is also rich with legends of loot and buried treasure throughout the state, from antebellum hoarders to bank robbers and prohibition moonshiners. Bring up the topic with locals around a campfire, and you’re sure to hear a few stories and rumors that will make you want to grab a shovel and start digging for lost gold.
One of the most famous treasures in Arkansas starts out underground then bubbles up to the surface in ways that have been delighting locals and travelers alike since the early 1800s, ever since a small town named Hot Springs became known as “America’s Spa”. Hot Springs National Park contains a preserved historic bath house as well as modern ones that still serve visitors to a relaxing warm soak. If you drop your phone in the water while trying to take a slick selfie, don’t worry: there are plenty of AT&T stores in Arkansas! This, fortunately, includes Hot Springs!
Diamonds and Rubies…In a Bottle
Think you have to travel to California or France to find an award-winning winery? Think again! Wineries like the Wiederkehr Wine Cellars keep alive Swiss family traditions, and not only is their original wine cellar on the National Register of Historic Places, but their wines win both national and international acclaim. Plan a wine country tour to experience some of the finest wine, food, and accommodations the state has to offer, along with lovely mountain scenery and historic architecture.
No matter what makes you feel like royalty, you can find it here, often while surrounded by carefully preserved history spanning almost a thousand years. Rich with history, natural beauty, parks, and wilderness, there is a hidden gem in every corner of the State, and sometimes, hidden gems are even lying right on the ground in plain sight.