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Few towns in Arkansas offer great options for visitors 12 months out of the year. Mena is one of those places. Even in the chill, you can take in all the thrills.
Arkansas will be a central location for the 2024 North American eclipse path of totality. With the most extended timeframe of totality in Sevier County, near Gillham, their northern neighbor at Queen Wilhelmena State Park in the Ouachita National Forest will host some of the best skies for viewing, especially in open sky spots of lakes and clearings.
We know that Mena, Arkansas, the gateway to the Ouachitas, is a busy and fun place throughout the year. The growing popularity of the Wolf Pen Gap corridor, the attention of the first brewery in a dry county, a historical railroad and train depot, a growing staycation destination, a national scenic byway and a year-round Arkansas State Park and a designated Main Street preservation community. It is truly a place to experience any time of the year, even in our first quarter’s grayest and icy skies.
Its central location in southwest Arkansas, central Arkansas, and the Western corridor of Arkansas makes it a great weekend getaway for couples girlfriends, a quick night out or a weekend day trip for families.
When my family lived in the southwest part of the state, Mena was a town we would visit multiple times throughout the year to watch the foliage and blooming flowers, ride a train and dodge black bears munching on roadside berries.
Mena was founded in 1896 and served as the mid-anchor of Arthur Stilwell’s Kansas City Southern Railroad. Arkansas.com calls it “a railroad town at the eastern foot of Arkansas’ second highest peak, Rich Mountain, and the eastern terminus of the Talimena National Scenic Byway.”
Early on, the town established itself as a tourist destination, claiming to be a spa city with economic interests in timber and natural resources. Over the years, Mena has been an education hub as the home to Commonwealth College in 1924 and later, a technical school opened in 1975. Over time, Rich Mountain Community College became a remote location of Henderson State University, and in 2017, it moved under the University of Arkansas umbrella, keeping the distinct Rich Mountain name.
While the 2017 movie American Made, starring Tom Cruise, depicts an intriguing portion of Mena’s history, multiple tornadoes over time have nearly destroyed the town, but the resilient community and their tenacity to be a destination for economic growth and tourism have rebuilt time and time again. History buffs, hikers, trail riders and artists find this buzzing community far from stale.
Photo used with permission from The Ouachitas.
Mena truly is a year-round destination. It’s a perfect Saturday drive when you have been homebound with school-aged children all week. It’s an easy spring break staycation destination. And it’s the kind of place where seniors, teenagers, couples, families and children can all find their thing!
Have you been? Tell us in the comments what you love to do near Mena, Arkansas.
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