In the midst of the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain lies one of the most enchanting small towns in the southern US. The town of Wilson, Arkansas is beautiful, intriguing, and relaxing. In fact, you may find that your footsteps slow and your breaths deepen as you explore this unique place.
Wilson, Arkansas is a town that you must visit.
Where is Wilson, Arkansas?
The town of Wilson is located just near the Mississippi River.
It is about 45 minutes north of Memphis, Tennessee and a bit more than an hour south of the college town of Jonesboro, Arkansas.
The Mississippi Alluvial Plain?
To get to Wilson, Arkansas from any direction you will have to drive through the Mississippi Alluvial Plain more commonly known as the Mississippi Delta or just the Delta.
This is an area that borders on the otherworldly.
The flatness of the land is broken only by the rising of Crowley’s Ridge and the steep sided levees.
Cotton and other row crops stretch out as far as the eye can see. Green meets blue at a horizon that feels both near and far. Bright yellow Ag Cats float feet above the ground like some type of giant dragonfly before suddenly swooping up into a sun-drenched sky.
The air and the accents are thick and slow. This is a place that sounds like the blues and tastes like hot tamales and fried catfish.
There is something about this landscape that rests the soul while simultaneously firing the imagination. Perhaps it is no wonder so many famed writers hail from this region of the US.
What Makes Wilson, Arkansas So Special?
After a drive through miles of farmland, suddenly, there is Wilson, Arkansas.
A place that might have you saying, “Wait…where am I?”
What is it that makes Wilson so special?
The food, the shops, and the architecture are obvious…however I think that the heart of Wilson lies in things that are a little less tangible: history, heritage, and hope.
Wilson is part of the history of this region of our state, once a company town, now a destination. The visionaries for the future of Wilson plan to honor the heritage and culture of the people who call the Delta home all while bringing a fresh hope not only to the town but to this region of Arkansas.
Yes, it’s special.
A Brief History of Wilson and Its Architecture
You will immediately notice the Tudor-style architecture of the town. At certain angles you might imagine that you are in a small town in England.
So how did that come to be?
Wilson, Arkansas was originally owned by Lee Wilson who founded Lee Wilson and Company in 1885. This was a family owned business for the next 125 years.
It started as a sawmill. As the land was cleared farther and farther away from the mill, logging camps had to be established to house the workers. Several towns in the county, including Wilson, began as logging camps.
After the land was logged out Mr. Wilson decided to start farming. He also owned railroads, banks, general stores, and cotton gins.
But what about the Tudor style buildings?
The story is that Lee Wilson, Jr. and his new wife returned from their European honeymoon enthralled with the architecture that they had seen while there. It was decided that all new buildings in Wilson would be in the Tudor style and the existing buildings would be redecorated to match.
That is the tale of how a Tudor-style town square came to be in the heart of Arkansas Delta land!
Wilson, Arkansas Today
The Wilson family land holdings and commercial buildings, including most of the town of Wilson, were purchased by The Lawrence Group in 2010.
This group is completely dedicated to the revitalization of this small town.
The dream is for the Delta town of Wilson, Arkansas to become both a world class destination for visitors as well as an amazing place to live, to work, and to raise a family.
What’s Happening in Wilson, Arkansas?
Not only are there big dreams for the future of Wilson but there is plenty going on right now that you will want to see and experience for yourself. Perhaps you will even find yourself wishing to live there!
Here are some of the things you need to know about Wilson and the surrounding area.
Where to stay
The Louis Hotel
The Louis Hotel is one of the newest and most luxurious hotels in Arkansas.
I just stayed there and can highly recommend it. The attention to detail at this hotel is truly unparalleled.
You are asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding your preferences before you arrive. This means that your favorite beverages and snacks will be available, you will be greeted with a welcome drink, and even the temperature of the room when you walk in will be just the way you like it.
The Louis is situated right on the town square. The rooms are beautifully appointed and extremely quiet and comfortable. The bedding is so good that I immediately came home and ordered some of the Peacock Alley linens that are a staple of the hotel.
Y’all, they even have ceiling fans. This is a big deal to those of us (ahem, southerners) who spend most months of the year sleeping with a fan running.
We have written a review of The Louis Hotel that you might want to see.
On a previous visit to Wilson we stayed in a lovely renovated craftsman style cottage. It was spacious and extremely comfortable.
Guests staying in one of the homes that are part of Wilson’s Cottage Collection will receive the same lavish attention to detail as the guests of The Louis.
The cottages are perfect for families with young children or for larger groups traveling together.
Food and Wine in Wilson
Let’s talk about the food and drinks in Wilson!
I can say without a doubt that you are going to love the restaurants in Wilson and be very happy with the wine and drink selections.
The chefs in Wilson are nationally renowned. They have worked in some of the finest resorts and restaurants in the country and are dedicated to making Wilson a food lovers destination.
There is a great commitment to sourcing as much of the food locally as possible. Farm to table is not just a buzzword here. They mean it literally. There is a farm on the property which provides as much of the produce used in the restaurants as possible.
I promise you will be impressed!
The WILSON Cafe
This is not your average small town cafe.
The Wilson Cafe serves upscale southern American food that is stunning both in taste and appearance. Every selection was delicious and beautiful.
I don’t want try to tell you what to order as items might change depending on the season…however, if you like charcuterie…the charcuterie board is both an artistic masterpiece and a culinary delight. Give it a try!
The food is local as much as possible, there is a fully stocked bar, and an excellent wine list. Many of the wines even come from the owner’s personal vineyards!
The servers were pleasant, professional, and knowledgeable.
Every single aspect of The Wilson Cafe was just right, a perfect combination of small town friendliness and fancy resort deliciousness.
The Grange is an interesting building that is a combination of meeting area, restaurant, cookery school, coffee shop, art studio, and farmer’s market.
First of all it is a visually lovely space.
The entrance is surrounded by colorful flower gardens. The interior is bright and airy. It has metal walls and high ceilings with banks of windows across the top that allow light to stream in from above. The style was beautifully “warehouse rustic.”
The 15 acre orchard and vegetable garden which provides produce for the town’s restaurants is located behind The Grange.
The breakfast and lunch items that are served here are held to the same standard of excellence as the dishes at the cafe. Everything we had was delicious.
Lobby Lounge at the Louis
The lobby lounge at The Louis Hotel is serenely perfect. The lounge is open to the public as well as hotel guests.
As you step in you may feel as if you are walking into another time and place. The paneled walls and quiet atmosphere are perfect for a relaxing drink before or after dinner, or for cocktails and conversation with a friend.
More Things to do in Wilson, AR
I promise that it is enough to come to Wilson just to be pampered at The Louis and dine at the town’s restaurants.
However there are more things to do in Wilson than you might imagine!
Walk Around the town
It won’t take you long, but definitely amble around the square, observe the architecture, stroll across the manicured front lawn, pop into stores, and say hey to the people you pass.
You might even find yourself dreaming of how peaceful life could be in a small town!
The Hampson Archeological Museum State Park
The Hampson Archeological Museum State Park is a small state park is located across the square from the Wilson Cafe.
The town of Wilson partnered with the state of Arkansas to create this space to house the artifact collection of local amateur archeologist Dr. Hampson.
This building perfectly matches the Tudor style of the rest of the square, but inside it is modern and sparkling.
We really enjoyed this small but excellent museum. I tend to enjoy museums that are easy to navigate and very tightly focused. This one fits the bill.
You can read more about our visit to the Hampson Archeological Museum State Park here.
Attend an event
One of the things that the town is doing to re-create itself is hosting a variety of wonderful events.
You won’t believe it when you take a look at the Wilson events calendar. There are so many opportunities to enjoy good food and drinks and to socialize.
We attended a wonderful wine tasting a couple of years ago in the very pretty brick and glass back room of the cafe.
But there is so much more!
Be sure and check out the Wilson event calendar. There are mixology classes, concerts, festivals, and so much more.
shopping in Wilson
There are some wonderful little shops in Wilson. Be sure to pop in!
- You will definitely want to visit White’s Mercantile. It is just across the street from the main square in what appears to have once been a gas station. This store was founded by Holly Williams, country singer and daughter of Hank Williams Jr. in Nashville, Tennessee. This is a charming shop with a variety of items. You will find clothing and jewelry, books, gifts, artwork, and toys. You can tell that everything is thoughtfully curated and chosen with love.
- The Wilson Pharmacy on the town square is both a working pharmacy and small store. You can find everyday essentials as well as gifts and decorative items.
- Tom Beckbe has an outpost on the square in Wilson. This company crafts and carries high end hunting wear, hunting gear, and leather items.
- Gunn’s Supermarket is located just a few steps away from the main square. This is a great small town grocery store. If you are staying in one of the cottages and want to do your own cooking you will enjoy the selection here.
- In addition to being a restaurant the Grange also sells fresh produce, locally sourced food items, and cookbooks. You should definitely check it out!
Wilson Artist in Residence Program
Wilson collaborated with the renowned Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee to create an artist residency in their town.
Go upstairs at the Grange to see the work of some of these artists. In addition there are events throughout the year in which the artists will participate in discussions with guests as well as attend various events.
This is a great opportunity both for the artists and for visitors to Wilson!
Historic Wilson Theater
When you decide to visit Wilson you should definitely check out the offerings in the Historic Wilson Theater. There may be a concert or other event while you are in town!
Wilson will soon be home to an exclusive 6 hole golf course.
We took a tour of the course on our recent visit and it is both gorgeous and impressive. The course is especially interesting because it can be played in both directions.
I must admit that I am not a golfer but my husband is and he immediately fell in love with this unique golf course saying that the greens reminded him of the ones in Scotland.
Mighty Mississippi Guided Excursions
Coming in Summer of 2023 Wilson will begin offering guided excursions in the waters of the Delta and on the Mississippi River.
John Ruskey is the leader of and inspiration for these excursions. You have probably heard his name. Ruskey is a well known artist, musician, conservationist, and champion of the remaining Mississippi River wilderness.
His art work is also featured in the Grange.
Field Club Trap and Skeet Range
Coming summer of 2023. Watch for more details!
Visit the Boyhood Home of Johny Cash in Nearby Dyess
The boyhood home of Johnny Cash is in the nearby town of Dyess. This is about a 20 minute drive from Wilson through the gorgeous Delta farmland.
This is another town with an interesting history. Dyess was created during the depression as part of the WPA. The goal was to allow impoverished farmers a chance to own their land.
The Cash family was one of those who applied and were given a home and 40 acres to farm. Johnny Cash was raised here from the age of three until he graduated from high school.
I definitely recommend taking a tour of the home.
Drive the Great River Road
You will know you are on the Great River Road when you see the steamboat pilot wheel signs in green and white along with the road signs.
The Great River Road is a National Scenic Byway which follows the course of the Mississippi River as closely as possible for 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Great River Road just happens to pass right through WIlson, Arkansas.
If you are traveling the Great River Road National Scenic Byway then Wilson is definitely a place you should stop.
The Delta School
The Delta School was founded in 2014 by the Lawrence Group.
This is a unique private school that offers excellence in education through innovative hands-on learning opportunities. School was not in session during our visit but we did drive by the grounds and they are absolutely stunning.
Students come from all around the Delta and the school had its first graduating class in 2021.
The Future of Wilson, Arkansas
At Wilson they pride themselves on being a small town with a storied past and an exciting future.
Take a look at some of the plans:
- The Alluvium Golf and Country Club: This will be a neighborhood of luxury homes built around a golf course.
- The Wilson Motor Club: You can see the future home of the Wilson Motor Club on the town square. This is a vintage automobile collection which will be interactive.
- More options to be added to The Cottage Collection of places to stay.
- Spa and Wellness Center: I personally cannot wait for this one! A spa will be an excellent addition to the luxury of The Louis Hotel. The location is currently planned to be on the town square.
- Wilson Brew Works: A local brewery.
- and more…
As you can see there are big dreams for Wilson, Arkansas.
I don’t know exactly what the future of the town holds, but I do know that it is a town to visit now and to watch in the upcoming years.
Thanks for stopping by!