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Arkansas has a diverse history preserved in museums in every corner of the state. The information available is fascinating and vast. Whether you’re interested in old cars, the railroad, Native Americans, race cars, shipwrecks or anything in between, a museum is likely dedicated to the topic. Best of all, many, like these 15 Free Museums in Arkansas, don’t charge a dime!
There was a time when we would get in our cars and just drive. We drove until we found something interesting to do, stopped to check it out and then drove some more. When we got tired, we’d turn around and head back home. We explored trails, stores, shops and restaurants around the state and discovered many gems along the way. With the cost of food and gas continuing to rise, my family loves to offset the cost of these trips by finding a few FREE activities along the way.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, these museums are completely free, family-friendly and a whole lot of fun.
Race fans will love this glimpse into the career of racing great and Hall of Fame inductee Mark Martin. The collection included memorabilia, cars, racing suits, awards and more. You can tour the whole museum in about an hour, but it’s a must-see for fast car fans.
The world-class Crystal Bridges museum holds a collection of American art and exhibits, plus over a hundred acres of forest and 5 miles of wooded trails to bike and hike.
Step into the past when you visit the historic Fordyce Bathhouse. Operated by the National Parks Service, the bathhouse serves as the visitor center to Hot Springs National Park. The museum showcases the thermal waters, which put Hot Springs on the map.
Authors Note: The Fordyce Bathhouse exhibits will be closed through February 2023 while new displays are installed. The visitor center will remain open.
This historic site pays tribute to the Little Rock Nine, who, in 1957, became the first African American students to enter Little Rock Central High School. The whole world watched as the school became an icon for change and the beginning of the end of segregation following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling several years prior. The visitor’s center is open Tuesday through Saturday and does not include access inside Little Rock Central High School.
The 1833 Old State House served as the first capitol building for the state of Arkansas and was where Arkansas joined the Union and then later seceded to join the Confederacy. The new capitol was constructed in 1836 following Arkansas’s statehood and, in 1947, became a museum highlighting the history of government in Arkansas.
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Parks and Tourism.
Opened in 1999, the Wings of Honor museum pays tribute to the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School, the Marine Corps Air Facility at Walnut Ridge, the War Assets Administration’s Warbird Storage, Sales, and Scrapping Facility, and the USAF 725th Radar Squadron. The various displays and memorabilia highlight the impact of both civilian and military personnel who have given so much to maintain the freedoms of all Americans.
This pre-Civil War plantation was built by slaves in the early 1800s. The cotton plantation and museum exhibits focus on the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods of plantation life along the Mississippi River. The home was built in 1859 and is considered a gem of the Delta. Self-guided and guided tours of the house are available.
From natural history to military history to farming and homesteading in Arkansas, the ASU Museum houses various incredible exhibits that are interesting to all ages. One of the most exciting exhibits is the full-scale replica of an Arkansas Mastodon. In addition to the museum, children will enjoy the TinkerLab, where they can let their imaginations run wild and use various materials to build an invention or creation.
Coal mining was the industry that established Paris in the early 1900s. The exhibit includes a miner’s family cabin, a blacksmith, a locomotive and a small museum that lists the names of every miner who worked in Logan County.
Located on the former site of the Midland Valley Railroad yard, the Fort Smith Trolley Museum features various rail memorabilia and railcars, including the Frisco 4003 Steam Locomotive. Most notably, the museum has a working 1926 electric Birney Streetcar that takes visitors on a short ride through town. The museum is free, but there is a fee to ride the trolley. Learn more about Trolleys in Arkansas.
Photo courtesy of Al Fowler
Searcy’s Pioneer Village offers a unique look into life in the 1800s and features a home, jail, schoolhouse, train depot and more salvaged from around Arkansas. The grounds are open daily for self-guided tours. Several times a year, the White County Historical Society hosts living history events, and visitors can tour the buildings and view live demonstrations related to early life in Arkansas.
The Museum of Native American History strives to educate future generations about the life and history of the first Americans and be a voice for their legacy. The museum’s collection includes over 10000 artifacts spanning five time periods and over 24000 years of history.
The modern car is something we all take for granted, and the Four States Auto Museum hopes to document America’s rich automotive history through a collection of antique cars and automotive memorabilia. The museum also hosts several classic car shows and events throughout the year.
Located inside the Fairfield Bay retirement community on Greers Ferry Lake, the Log Cabin Museum is dedicated to preserving information and artifacts related to the history of Fairfield Bay’s residents. The exhibits include Indian artifacts, clothing, jewelry, other treasures from early Arkansas settlers, and a wild animal exhibit. Visitors can also visit Hobart Hooten’s log cabin or walk the short trail to Indian Cave, a bluff shelter dwelling that served as a meeting place for Quapaw, Osage, Cherokee, Shawnee and Delaware nations. The museum is also part of the Arkansas Quilt Trail.
The treasury of trains inside the Arkansas Railroad Museum walls is simply breathtaking. Rows and rows of railcars are open for exploring and imagining life on the rails. Additionally, the museum showcases a vast collection of train and rail parts, decor, model trains and toys.
If you love free activities, check out these 20 Absolutely Free Arkansas Attractions. Did we overlook a free museum in your area of the state? Drop us a comment so we can add it to our next list.
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