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Highway 65 between Clinton and Omaha is one of the most traveled non-interstate roads in Arkansas. From central Arkansas to the Missouri border, countless Arkansans travel this road each year, often on a trip to Branson. Branson can be a lot of fun, but if you just hit the road and boogie on through, you are missing many great stops along the way.
There is never a bad time of the year to travel from Clinton to Omaha. But if you travel in the fall, you are guaranteed to have a ton of fun. Watch the wheels go round and round at the annual Chuck Wagon Races this Labor Day. Or see the balloons go up and down at the annual Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship in mid-September. Don’t miss any of the cool stops with this Ozark road trip guide.
Clinton, Arkansas is the western gateway to Greers Ferry Lake. It is known by many as the home of the National Championship Chuckwagon Races. And it’s a perfect place to begin your Ozark road trip. The city takes its name from Dewitt Clinton, who served as the governor of New York from 1817 to 1822 and again from 1825 to 1828.
The Pottery Shop – Clinton is known as the place where the Ozarks meet the south, so you won’t want to miss the cool photo op at The Pottery Shop. The giant “The Ozarks” letters are a Highway 65 icon, and you must get your picture made. This eclectic shop sells clothing, accessories, home decor and all kinds of pottery and metal yard decorations. You’re sure to leave with some cool treasure.
L’attitude Bistro – This fine-dining restaurant serves up some of your favorite traditional comfort foods along with some surprising and tasty specials. You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu, but I’m always a sucker for fried pickles, and theirs are great!
The Natural Bridge – Head down the hill to visit the Natural Bridge of Arkansas and view the sandstone formation used as a bridge during the Pioneer Days. This fall, you can see the beautiful color in the trees as the leaves change. But it’s also worth visiting in the spring when the dogwoods are in bloom.
Bluebird Ranch Winery – Stop by the ranch’s tasting room and sample a sip of one or two of their nine wines in both red and white varietals. They are kid-friendly and offer grape juice for anyone who prefers a non-alcoholic beverage. They are open from noon to six every day except Wednesday.
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
Chuckwagon Races – Beginning Aug. 28, 2021, with the main events occurring over Labor Day Weekend. The Chuck Wagon Races began as a backyard gathering of friends and has grown to an event that often attracts more than 30,000 people across the 10-day event. A single admission fee covers all events for the entire week. So, if you’re hankering to learn how to live like the cowpoke, all rodeos, clinics, and events are included in your admission.
Antiques Warehouse – This incredible shop contains one of the largest inventories of stained glass and impressive European antiques for your home. Even if you aren’t planning to decorate your home with 18th-century glass and furniture, it is worth a visit!
Sutterfield Stone – Perhaps not a place you would stop on a whim, but Sutterfield Stone is worth noting, especially if you have any landscaping projects in your future. Their impressive collection is perfect for large and small projects. You can arrange to pick up or have your stone delivered.
Serenity Farm Bread – This woodfired, brick oven bakery specializes in sourdough bread and pastries with an Old World Style. Grab a quick lunch or take a few loaves of bread home with you.
Historic Downtown Leslie – Downtown Leslie still maintains its 1920s charm. Stop by to visit one of the antique shops, art galleries, museums and eateries.
Rock N Java – High atop the mountain, Rock N Java is an espresso bar with an amazing view. Stop in to grab a bite to eat or a cup of joe. And don’t miss the sights of the South Mountain Scenic Overlook.
Ratchford Farms – Specializing in buffalo meat, Ratchford farms offers a wide range of meat products at stores across Arkansas. Stay in their cabin and tour the 500-acre buffalo farm for a unique getaway experience.
Daisy Queen – Since 1966, Daisy Queen has been serving families American-style burgers, fries and shakes. Dine in or grab something to go but whatever you do, be sure to try the cinnamon roll sundae! You will never be the same.
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
Kenda Drive-In – The Kenda opened in 1966 and has been going strong ever since. One of only three drive-in theatres in Arkansas, a trip here is sure to be a unique experience. Movies start at 8:15, and most weekends include a double feature for one low price.
St. Joe is the midpoint on your Ozark road trip. It’s the home of the Buffalo National River, great food, a beautiful cave and a dose of train history.
Buffalo National River – The Nation’s first national river is a sight to see any time of the year. Join a float trip at Buffalo River Outfitters or Silver Hill. Camp at Tyler Bend and learn about the history of the Buffalo River and get your National Parks Passport stamped at the Tyler Bend Visitor Center before you head out for a hike on one of the many trails.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Shalin.
Coursey’s Meats – This small smoked meat shop has been in business since 1945 and is known for its smoked bacon, ham and turkey. Stop in for a sandwich and to check out their meat and cheese selections. Coursey’s also ships meat directly to your door.
Ferguson’s – Stop in to Fergusons for a yummy breakfast and feast on one of their famous cinnamon rolls. Their gift shop includes all kinds of local products and souvenirs.
St. Joe Train Depot Museum – Railfans will enjoy the historic train depot and museum. The ground is always open, but the museum hours vary.
Hurricane River Caverns – This beautiful cave was discovered in 1820, and when it opened for tours in the 1930s, it quickly became one of the most beloved caves in America. The cave closed several years ago and underwent a full restoration. The owners cannot reopen due to health reasons and are actively seeking a buyer for the property. If you’ve ever wanted to open a cave, contact them via their webpage and schedule a showing as you pass through the area.
Gilbert General Store – Established in 1901, the historic building is home to Buffalo Camping and Canoeing. Step back in time as you enjoy the company of fellow river lovers. Take a float trip or rent a cabin and spend a relaxing weekend with one of the most beautiful rivers in the country.
Craw Billy’s – If you have a hankering for some Louisiana-style seafood or smoky BBQ, Craw Billy’s is where you need to head! Be prepared for a wait because this small operation is quite popular, but the food is worth your time.
North Arkansas Rusty Wheels Old Engine Club – Located just outside of Harrison, Rusty Wheels has an extensive collection of old engines, tractors, a steam locomotive, a sawmill, and other pieces of machinery. Stop by for a visit!
Junk-Shun Barn – If you are looking for a special treasure, stop by and check out the wall-to-wall antiques in the Junk-Shun Barn. With over 150 vendor spaces, there is something for everyone.
Rust, Dust & Wanderlust – This 23,000-foot antique and retail space is full of unique treasures. You never know what you’ll find in the 150+ vendor-stocked booths.
Photo courtesy of Neighbor’s Mill.
Neighbor’s Mill – This unique bakery and restaurant features healthy, fresh-made soups, sandwiches, bread and pastries. They source many ingredients locally and bake fresh daily.
Boone County Heritage Museum – This three-story museum includes everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the history of Boone County. They also have an incredible genealogy library to assist you as you research your family history.
Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship – This outdoor event began in 1995 and serves as the Arkansas State Championship for competitive hot air balloon pilots. Held annually at the Boone County Airport, the free event (only pay for parking) attracts spectators from around the region. Watch the balloon races and view the spectacular balloon glow each evening of the festival. Visitors can register for tethered balloon rides, helicopter rides. They can also visit craft vendors, enjoy food, beer and live music all weekend long. The 26th annual festival is Sept. 17-19, 2021.
Lillehobbs Mercantile – Just south of the Missouri border is Lillehobbs Mercantile, which draws attention and rave reviews for its handsome construction, beautiful location, creative bakery and café and assortment of American-made gifts. Located 9 miles north of Harrison, many people find it a convenient stop on their way to Branson. It’s also a great last stop on your Ozark road trip. Don’t miss the carrot cake!
The Ozark road trip from Clinton to Omaha is scenic and full of fun shops, great restaurants and fun activities. It would take several trips to do everything we’ve listed. So let us know which places you plan to visit first!
Cover photo courtesy of the Pottery Shop.
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