Is it the heat or the humidity? In Arkansas it is BOTH! Summer in Arkansas is hot, y’all. Occasionally the temperatures are pleasantly warm, but more often they are scorchingly hot…oh, and humid.
What is Summer in Arkansas Really Like?
Well, it’s hot.
If you aren’t from the south you might need me to start with an explanation of just how hot the summer weather in Arkansas (and the south in general) might be.
First of all, no matter what the calendar tells you, summer is the longest season in the state. It can begin as early as April and last into October. In the peak of summer from July through September the average highs are 93 degrees.
Don’t let the stated averages fool ya. Temperatures in Arkansas in the summer often exceed 100 degrees.
This is not a dry heat either, y’all.
Arkansas is in the top 15 of the most humid states in the US. The average humidity is over 70 percent and is typically much higher. Stepping outside in Arkansas in the summer the heat hits you like a hammer.
Although those of us who live here LOVE to complain about the heat – we actually really enjoy Arkansas in the summer and we think that you will too as long as you are prepared!
So how do locals overcome the heat? How do they spend a summer day in Arkansas?
Here are some ideas for the best things to do in Arkansas in the summer time.
Things to do in the Summer in Arkansas
As you might imagine Arkansans have developed their own ways of dealing with the summer temperatures. We are pretty much experts at finding cool ways to enjoy the summer.
And yes, some of our coping mechanisms involve staying inside a lot and going from air-conditioned space to air-conditioned space.
Hey! Don’t judge if you have never lived in the south.
However, if you want a little more adventure here are some of our favorite suggestions for fun things to do in Arkansas in the summer!
Visit a Beautiful Arkansas Lake
A visit to a lake is most locals top choice for a summertime activity in Arkansas. Arkansas has many gorgeous lakes several of which are rated among the cleanest in the country.
There really isn’t much better than being on the lake in the middle of a hot Arkansas summer day.
Here are just a few of our favorite lakes in the state!
- Lake Ouachita is the largest lake fully within the boundaries of the state and is where we go most often.
- Greers Ferry Lake near Heber Springs, Arkansas is also gorgeous and pristine.
- In the Ozark mountains you will find Bull Shoals Lake which is near the White River.
- Beaver Lake is near the storied town of Eureka Springs.
Many of these lakes have sandy beaches that can be used by the public, but if at all possible you really get out on a boat! Ski, tube, relax on a raft…there is really no better way to beat the summer heat in Arkansas.
Enjoy Cold Food: Like an Ice Cream or a Popsicle or a Pineapple Whip – Quickly, Before it Melts!
One of the best ways to spend an Arkansas summer day is to have a delicious, sweet, and icy treat. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Yarnell’s is old-fashioned ice-cream made right in Searcy, Arkansas. You can find it at almost any grocery store in the state. All the flavors are good, but I suggest that you try the butter pecan or the peanut butter tracks.
- Loblolly Creamery is a Little Rock favorite. It is SO good. This is small batch ice cream made with 15% butter fat with natural, organic, local ingredients. No preservatives or stabilizers…y’all this is ice cream made with love and you can taste it.
- Le Pops Gourmet Iced Lollies in Little Rock is a great place to stop when you are doing a little summer boutique shopping on Kavanaugh in the Heights neighborhood. They create gourmet and delicious popsicles including some non-dairy options!
- Arkansas Pineapple Whip is a seasonal food truck in Conway, Arkansas that serves a delicious pineapple concoction. Have you ever had a Dole Whip from Disney World? This is like that. Maybe even better. Icy, sweet, pineapple-y, so good.
Float an Arkansas River
One of the best things to do in Arkansas in the summer is to go on what the locals call a “float trip.” The state has some glorious rivers for floating.
Do be aware that not all rivers are accessible to float at all times. The waters can be too high or too low depending on the amount of rainfall that we have received so always check before you plan your float trip.
- The Buffalo River was the first river in the US to be designated a national river. The water is clear and beautiful with forests on one side and towering bluffs on the other. You will definitely want to call before you go as the Buffalo does tend to get low quickly during dry weather. Buffalo River Outfitters can give you all the information that you need.
- The Spring River is one of the best bets for floating year round. It is fed by Mammoth Springs which keeps this river nice and cold for a summer float with plenty of water year round. Do know that the river can get really busy with young partiers on the weekends. You can decide if that is your scene or not and plan accordingly. Spring River Camp and Canoe has canoe rentals and shuttles.
- Saline River: If you live in central Arkansas this is a quick and easy float that is good for the whole family. It runs right through the city of Benton and is a fun place for floating, swimming, and fishing. Saline River Canoe can tell you about river conditions. They offer a 4-mile float from Peeler Bend to Lyle Park.
- The Mulberry River is known for having the most beautiful blue green water. It is a free flowing stream without dams. It can usually be floated into June after which it sometimes becomes too low. Depending on the water levels this can definitely be a river for more experienced paddlers. You will want to talk to Turner Bend Outfitters to get more information about The Mulberry RIver.
Visit the Siloam Springs Kayak Park
I’m not including this with the “floats” above as the Siloam Springs Kayak Park is a bit different than the rivers listed above. A grant from the Walton Family was given to the City of Siloam Springs to create this kayak park on the Illinois River.
The flow of the river along Fisher Ford Road has actually been engineered to create a series of whitewater rapids and “standing waves” for kayakers.
It was completed in 2014 and has quickly become a hotspot for white water paddlers in the region. It is free to use the park. Do be aware that currently there are no commercial outfitters so you will have to bring your own kayak.
There are also no life guards. Life jackets, helmets, and close-toed shoes are highly recommended.
Other park amenities include a swimming area, climbing boulder, accessible walking trails, picnic tables, changing station, and two rain gardens.
Seek Lower Temperatures on Mount Magazine State Park
Mount Magazine State Park is the home of the highest point in Arkansas. It is a great place to spend hot day in Arkansas in the summer.
I’m not going to tell you that the mountain isn’t hot in the summer months, however, the temperatures do average about 10 degrees less than in the valley below. In fact, temperatures on the mountain have not reached 100 degrees since data has been collected there.
In addition to cooler temperatures you will find gorgeous views, hiking, rock climbing, hang-gliding, and mountain biking. There is also a lodge, cabins, and a restaurant on the mountain.
Relax with a craft beer
The craft beer scene has really boomed in Arkansas in recent years. There are craft and micro breweries popping up everywhere.
We have written an entire post about the brewpubs and breweries in Little Rock but you will find them all over the state especially in the northwest corner.
Many of these new breweries are winning national awards. I think it’s something about our excellent water in the state.
There’s not a much better way to spend time in Arkansas in the summer than relaxing with an icy cold beer on a hot day.
Take a Dip in an Arkansas Swimming Hole
Obviously swimming pools are excellent, but one of the best things to do in Arkansas in the summer is to visit a swimming hole.
A swimming hole is defined as a a place in a river, stream, creek, spring, or similar natural body of water, which is large enough and deep enough for a person to swim in.
We have plenty of swimming holes in Arkansas. Here are a few of our favorites:
(Please note that these are natural areas used both by people and wildlife. Remember to clean up your trash, don’t bring items that can be broken and leave glass behind, don’t build dams…basically just be respectful of both other people and nature.)
- Kings River Falls is not only a nice place to hike but a very popular place to swim. This out and back trail is about 1.2 miles round trip. There is a nice pool at the bottom of the falls that is perfect for a cooling swim.
- Falling Water Falls is a very popular spot with good reason. It has a beautiful waterfall and is located right by the road so you don’t even have to hike to get to it. It can get busy on the weekends in the summer.
- Long Pool Recreation Area lies along the beautiful Big Piney Creek which is a nationally designated Scenic and Recreational River. This is a beautiful spot with a large natural pool, high bluffs, and forests.
- There are several great places to take a summer time dip along the Buffalo River. The river near the Steel Creek Campground is one of our favorites! There is a spacious and nice gravel bar and a clear pool at the foot of a gorgeous bluff.
- There are a couple of fun swimming holes on the North Sylamore Creek in the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area. Check out both the upper and the lower pool on the creek!
Visit an Arkansas Cavern
The temperatures outside might be nearing 100 degrees but a cave is naturally climate controlled. Caves are always cool to visit in every sense of the word!
This makes a visit to a cavern one of the best things to do in Arkansas in the summer.
Here are some caverns that are open to the public in Arkansas. Do note that several of these close for the winter months. DO check for opening days and hours.
- Blanchard Spring Caverns: These are some of the finest caverns in the US.
- Bull Shoals Caverns in Bull Shoals, Arkansas
- Cosmic Caverns in Berryville, Arkansas
- Mystic Caverns near Harrison, Arkansas
- Onyx Cave near Eureka Springs, Arkansas
- Old Spanish Treasure Cave near Sulphur Springs, Arkansas
Wet Your Feet in Icy-Cold Collins Creek
Collins Creek is a great place to cool your feet on a hot day in Arkansas in the summer. This water in this creek comes from the bottom of Greers Ferry Lake. It is cold and clear, cascades beautifully down the mountain side in a wonderfully shaded area, and doesn’t dry up in the summer.
There is even a nearby playground for children.
This is one of our favorite short hikes.
Fish on the White River
The White RIver runs 720 miles through the gorgeous Ozark Mountains. Certain sections of the river are nationally renowned for trout fishing. We love the area near the Bull Shoals Dam.
The dam here releases water from the bottom of the Bull Shoals Lake into the river. The water is always cold and provides the perfect habitat for trout. Our favorite place to stay on the White River is Gaston’s Resort.
On this section of the river you can fish from the bank, fly fish from the shallows, take a boat out on the river to make your catch, or just sit at the waters edge and enjoy the cool breeze coming off of the water.
Spending the day on the White River is a perfect thing to do in Arkansas in the summer.
Cool off Inside a Museum
When it is just too hot to be outside try visiting one of the great Arkansas museums!
- Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is one of the premiere art museums in the US. It is even free to the public. It is located in Bentonville, Arkansas and has amazing art both inside and out.
- The Momentary in Bentonville will dazzle you with its visual, performing, and culinary contemporary art.
- Scott Family Amazeum is a great place to spend a day with children as they learn through fun. The Amazeum is in Bentonville.
- The Mid-American Science Museum in Hot Springs is a wonderful place to spend a hot summer day in Arkansas. It is spacious and perfect for the children and, of course, air-conditioned.
- The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock. Want to see a submarine on a river? Visit this maritime museum.
- Museum of Discovery in Little Rock. This children’s museum has something for everyone, from scientific wonders, to historical marvels your children (and you) will enjoy this museum.
Take in a Baseball Game
Summertime is practically synonymous with baseball. Arkansas does not have a major league team but they do have two minor league teams.
- You can watch the Arkansas Travelers play in North Little Rock at Dickey-Stephens Park.
- In Springdale you can see the Northwest Arkansas Naturals play at Arvest Ballpark.
Attend a Summer Food Festival
Although the summer festivals in Arkansas will be outside – you will have so much fun enjoying the summer delicacies from the state that you will forget all about the heat.
Here are some of our favorite summer food festivals in Arkansas.
- May: Annual Magnolia Blossom Festival and World Championship Steak Cook-off in Magnolia, Arkansas.
- June: 66th Annual Pink Tomato Festival in Bradley, Arkansas
- June: Purple Hull Pea Festival in Emerson, Arkansas
- July: Altus Grape Festival in Altus, Arkansas
- July: Cave City Watermelon Festival in Cave City, Arkansas
- July: Johnson County Peach Festival in Clarksville, Arkansas
- August: Tontitown Grape Festival in Tontitown, Arkansas
- August: Annual Hope Watermelon Festival in Hope, Arkansas
We hope that this list of great things to do in Arkansas in the summer helps you to cool off in the summer heat and to realize what a special place the state of Arkansas is during any season of the year.
A treehouse set amid lush green leaves might just be the perfect place to stay in summertime in Arkansas
If you plan to visit Arkansas in the fall here is a post about the best places to see fall color in the state.
Thanks for stopping by!