The Best Things to Do in Fort Smith, Arkansas
We warmly welcome you to Fort Smith, Arkansas “where the New South, meets the Old West.” You’re sure to find the history of Fort Smith charming and the contrast between the old and new perfectly balanced. Recently Downtown Fort Smith has been revamping many of its historical sites and sprucing up the buildings with colorful street art.
Citizens of Fort Smith embrace the history of their town and it will be easy to fall in love with as a visitor as well. These things to do in Fort Smith, AR plus places to visit, eat, and stay are perfect for your weekend trip to Fort Smith!
Where to Stay in Fort Smith, Arkansas
Home2Suites by Hilton Fort Smith
If you’re looking for a comfortable place to stay out of the Downtown Fort Smith area Home2Suites by Hilton should check everything on your list. One of the top-rated hotels in the area, Home2Suites is an extended-stay hotel that is the perfect location to be close to the airport as well as Interstate 540. Each spacious room feels more like an apartment and contains a kitchen, large bathroom, cozy bed, and living area.
Location: 7400 Phoenix Ave // MAP
Courtyard by Marriott Fort Smith Downtown
This spacious and relaxing Downtown Courtyard Marriott is centrally located to make all of your downtown Fort Smith experiences within minimal driving or walking distance. Across the parking lot from the convention center, it is only a block from Highway 64 and many of downtown’s amenities. A few of the painted murals downtown by artist Ana Maria are exclusive to patrons staying at the Courtyard, due to being displayed directly outside of select room windows.
Location: 900 Rogers Ave // MAP
Places to Eat in Fort Smith, Arkansas
Fort Smith Coffee Co
This locally and family-owned is a chic place to stop for coffee, tea, or a baked treat! Not a fan of coffee? Fear not! Fort Smith Coffee Co. also has a variety of local beers available on tap.
Location: 1101 Rogers Ave // MAP
Taliano’s Italian Restaurant
Before we ever visited the area, numerous Arkansans would tell us of a famous restaurant tucked away in a quiet corner of downtown Fort Smith. Taliano’s has been a staple in West Arkansas for over forty years.
In 1970, Tom Caldarera, Jr. and Jim Cadelli, childhood friends, decided to open Talianos to share their passion for authentic Italian food. Now, the family tradition continues on through Tom Caldarera, Jr. and his son Joe – and let us say, it’s a tradition that will immediately captivate you.
Talianos currently has two facilities, one being their main restaurant and Emmy’s German Restaurant located directly behind the main restaurant, where their Sunday brunch and other events take place.
When speaking with Joe Caldarera, he mentioned that prior to being a restaurant, The Knights of Columbus used the hall as an event venue. Ironically enough, Tom Caldarera, Jr. and his wife met at that very hall, prior to opening Talianos. Another added charm? The yellow house you’ll find next door to the main restaurant is where the family lived, and where Joe spent his childhood.
We had the pleasure of having Sunday Brunch at Talianos and were blown away by the vast selection of food and beverages available. Some of the highlights include bottomless mimosas, a create-your-own crepe station, freshly carved roast beef, mouth-watering fried chicken, and freshly made pastries.
In between the moments of bliss as we devoured our food, we took a moment to observe other patrons arriving at the hall. While the food is reason enough to visit, the moments we observed between Joe, his staff, and guests gave us a better insight into why this restaurant is held in such high regard. A place where the food is delicious and no one is a stranger, it’s easy to understand why Taliano’s is a favorite of both locals and visitors.
Location: 201 N 14th Street // MAP
Doe’s Eat Place
You’ll immediately fall in love with their drop rolls that taste like a fried doughnut, but Doe’s Eat Place is best known for its fresh-cut steaks, broiled & fried shrimp, and Delta hot tamales.
Location: 422 N 3rd St // MAP
The cooked-from-scratch menu, ample portions, and reasonable prices of traditional American foods at Calico County is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Plus, each guest gets a complimentary cinnamon roll for starters! Yes, that’s right… CINNAMON ROLLS.
Location: 2401 So. 56th Street // MAP
Things to Do in Fort Smith, Arkansas
Learn the Story Behind Miss Laura’s Social Club
In 1898, Miss Laura Ziegler went to a local bank and borrowed $3,000 to renovate the former Riverfront Inn, a commercial hotel that had opened in 1896. In 1903 she reopened as Miss Laura’s – an upscale bordello.
Then, in 1911, she sold Miss Laura’s to Bertha Gale Dean, an employee, for a whopping $48,000 (talk about a markup)! Bordellos were legal in Fort Smith until 1924 but Bertha did continue her business at Miss Laura’s for much longer than that – some even say until 1948!
Miss Laura’s was considered to be the “grandest bordello in The West” and the most upscale of all seven “row houses” in Fort Smith. It was also the first former bordello to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It now serves as a unique visitor center and offers daily tours. We won’t spoil the rest of the tour for you, you’ll have to go for yourself to hear the story behind this fascinating piece of history at one of the most interesting things to do in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Location: 2 North B Street // MAP
Explore Contemporary Street Art at The Unexpected Murals Project
Each year Fort Smith invites artists from around the world to contribute an urban contemporary art piece to the Downtown Fort Smith area known as The Unexpected Murals Project. So far they have added over 20 pieces of art, ranging from outdoor murals to indoor exhibits. Prepare to be blown away by the unique designs and thought-provoking statements in a city that was named as one of the Top 8 Surprising Cities for Street Art by AFAR.
Location: Click here for a map of the murals
Learn the History of the Fort Smith National Historic Site.
The Fort Smith National Historic Site has a lot of complex history to discover – most of it surrounding Judge Isaac Parker. Before he became a Judge, Isaac Parker was a lawyer in Missouri who enlisted and fought in the Civil War as a Union soldier working his way up to corporal. When the war ended, he moved back to Missouri to continue his legal and political career.
Some of the notable things Judge Parker did during his life were securing pensions for veterans in his district and sponsoring a bill to help allow women to hold public office. He also concentrated on policies for fair treatment of the tribes that resided within “Indian Territory” – his speeches in support of the Bureau of Indian Affairs even gained national attention.
Later on in his life, he moved to Fort Smith as a Judge. During the course of 21 years, Judge Parker sentenced 160 men and women who had been found guilty of murder or other serious crimes. Of this, 79 men were executed on the gallows. Today you can visit the courthouse and gallows at the Fort Smith National Historic Site and learn about the history of the infamous “Hanging Judge” at one of the most historic things to do in Fort Smith.
Location: 301 Parker Ave // MAP
Cost: $7/adult, FREE for under 16 years
Enjoy Cheap Thrills at The Park at West End
The Park at West End is a quaint downtown park that will allure you with a fantastic view from the antique Ferris Wheel that was from the 1935 World’s Fair in San Diego. It is powered by a steam engine that is over 100 years old! The park is also home to a vintage carousel that was hand-painted in Treviso, Italy that you can ride for $1 and an old rail car that has been converted into the “Nickle and Dime” Diner, and a double-decker street bus that serves concessions.
Location: Garrison & 2nd Street // MAP
Cost: Rides start at $1, park admission free
Experience the Local Tradition of the Fort Smith Little Theatre
Looking for something out of the ordinary to do in Fort Smith? Get tickets to The Fort Smith Little Theatre. Since 1947 The Fort Smith Little Theatre has offered different community theater performances year-round in a small intimate setting. Be entertained by a musical or theatrical performance like Sense & Sensibility, The Secret Garden, Making God Laugh, The Odd Couple, and much more!
Location: 401 North 6th // MAP
Learn About the Fort Smith Trolley Museum
In 1883 the Fort Smith Railway Company began operations with only three mule-drawn railcars. Ten years later the first electric streetcar was introduced changing transportation in Fort Smith forever!
The Fort Smith Trolley Museum is a streetcar and railroad museum dedicated to the preservation of electric streetcars, railcars, and buses. You can still take a ride on the trolley today and enjoy the company of the “Trolley Cats” that are sure to win your heart over.
Location: 100 South 4th Street // MAP
Discover the Man Behind the Fight Against Outlaws at the Clayton House
In William H. H. Clayton’s beautiful Victorian home, now turned law museum, you’ll learn the story of his efforts to bring solitude to Western Arkansas and rid the area of criminal outlaws as Judge Parker’s prosecuting attorney. First appointed by President Grant, he eventually served under seven U.S. Presidents and was regarded as “a man of great principle and judicial skill.”
Location: 514 North 6th Street // MAP
With the history, charm, friendly locals, and exquisite art your experience in Fort Smith is sure to be a memorable one! Which of these things to do in Fort Smith, Arkansas would make your list?
We want to thank the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau for inviting us as their guests. As always the thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.