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Searcy is the home to Harding University, First Security Bank, Unity Health and Yarnell’s Ice Cream. It’s the commercial center of White County, drawing people from small surrounding communities to eat, shop and play. It’s known for the White County Fair, Holiday of Lights and Chocolate Gravy Cookoff, Get Down Downtown and various Beats & Eats events held throughout the year. The downtown area is growing and becoming a place where people gather to visit and catch up with friends. This welcoming community is the perfect place to spend a weekend.
Searcy began as a small resort community known as White Sulphur Springs, drawing people to the area to partake of the natural white sulphur, alum and chalybeate springs that were said to have healing and therapeutic properties. Although the industry never thrived, remnants of the springs remain in Spring Park today. The city became the county seat in 1837 and was renamed Searcy in 1838.
Steamboat traffic along the Little Red River brought people and industry to the area, and Searcy saw a boon through the 1850s and 60s. Along with the boon, the first brick structures were built downtown, including the former bank building, which is now home to Quattlebaum Music. Additional construction began on the courthouse and the Methodist church, and several schools were established.
During the Civil War, growth slowed but picked up again in the late 1860s. Spring park was updated, and people became interested in the natural springs once again. Galloway College was founded where Harding University now stands. Historic buildings such as the Yarnell House, the Black House and the Rialto Theater were constructed and remain landmark city icons.
The city has gone to great lengths to revitalize the downtown area and make Searcy a beautiful destination for residents and visitors. There is so much to do and see.
Searcy has a variety of nationally recognized hotels in addition to the Heritage Inn located on campus at Harding University. If you really want to get a feel for Searcy, I highly suggest looking into one of the many beautiful Airbnb and VRBO properties. Here are a few good options worth exploring:
Photo courtesy of Kevin Shalin
Wild Sweet William’s Bakery – Wild Sweet William’s is settling into its new location on Main Street quite well. To ensure you get your favorites, you can place your order online, and it will be ready for pick up the following day. Come on in and select from baked goods like scones, kolaches, muffins and cookies. Crab a cup of coffee and pull up a seat inside or on their outdoor patio.
Chit Chat Chew Cafe – Searcy’s best breakfast and lunch is served at the Chit Chat Chew Cafe. From fluffy pancakes to incredible smash burgers and daily specials that will have you drooling, C4s food quality is equally matched by the friendliness and service of their staff. Everything is cooked to order, so be prepared to wait during busy times. It will be worth the wait, I promise.
Burrito Day – Searcy is known for its abundance of Mexican and TexMex offerings, but Burrito Day certainly stands out above the crowd. Made-to-order burritos, bowls and tacos are filled with housemade ingredients. Don’t forget to grab a side of their tasty cheese dip and a glass of their house-made Mango Fruit Tea. (Hint: Mix the tea with sprite for a delicious, bubbly treat!)
Photo courtesy of Knightfire BBQ
Knightfire BBQ – Considered by Kevin Shalin to be one of the top BBQ joints in the state, one visit will have you hooked. Matthew Knight prides himself on housemade, high-quality products. There is no bad offering on his menu, but I highly suggest the Godfather, a smoked burger topped with tender sliced brisket, pimento cheese and pickled onions.
Heritage Buffet – I may be letting the cat out of the bag, but the Heritage Buffet is an absolute must if you find yourself in town on a Sunday afternoon. The buffet resides on the second floor of Harding University’s cafeteria. It includes omelet and waffle stations, breakfast options, hot lunch offerings, carved meat like prime rib or ham and a full selection of desserts. The food is delicious, and the price can’t be beaten! There isn’t a sign, and you have to enter through the back door. If you can locate the cafeteria, just follow the crowd dressed in their Sunday best!
Photo courtesy of Mr. Postman Expresso.
Other great local food or coffee options:
Savory Mobile Cafe
Slader’s Alaskan Dumpling Co.
Whilma’s Filipino Restaurant
Mr. Postman Expresso
Imago Dei: Coffee, Juice & Food
The Soda Jerk
Need a few more ideas? Join Kevin Shalin as he goes Food Day Tripping in Searcy.
Smyrna Church – This historic Methodist church was built in 1856 and refurbished in recent years. It is believed to be the oldest church in the state and is a popular wedding location and regularly documented by photographers. The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
The Black House – This historic Victorian-style home, built in 1874, houses the Searcy Art Gallery. Stop by to view the current exhibit and the home’s exquisite architecture.
Downtown Searcy – Home of the historic White County Courthouse and the Rialto Theater, downtown Searcy is a beautiful place for an afternoon stroll. Dotted with various shops and restaurants, the courthouse square is also home to the Searcy Farmers Market. It looks incredible when decked out in all its holiday glory during the Searcy Holiday of Lights celebration each winter.
Pioneer Village – The White County Historical Society maintains a collection of historic buildings, including a log cabin, schoolhouse train station and more. The village is open to the public for self-guided tours each day and hosts living history special events several times throughout the year.
Hourglass Escape Room – Gather your family or a group of friends and check out one of the escape rooms at Hourglass. Work together to collect clues, solve puzzles and ultimately solve the mystery before time runs out. Rooms regularly rotate, so there is always something fresh and new.
Natural State Throwers – For those ages eight and up, an hour or two spent axe throwing is a lot of fun. Natural State Throwers has patent-pending anti-bounce borders and easy stick surfaces to make your experience fun and safe. They have axe-perts on hand to help you out if you are new to the sport.
Rialto Theater – Built in the 1920s, watching a movie in this historic theater is like stepping back in time. The recently restored facade is worth seeing, especially at night when the neon lights are illuminated.
The Artistry – This unique collaborative shopping location is one of Searcy’s hidden treasures. Explore the art and craft of dozens of local artists and take home something beautiful. The Artistry also offers a variety of classes focused on different art media.
Photo courtesy of Make.Do.
Make.Do – Have you wanted to learn to quilt? Do you love to paint? Whatever artistic endeavor you’d love to explore, there’s a pretty good chance that the ladies at Make.Do can assist you. The studio offers a variety of organized classes and regular open studio times. They operate on a pay what you can philosophy because they believe that art is for everyone.
Downtown Murals – Located just off the courthouse square, Art Alley is a unique community collaboration to bring a variety of outdoor art to the city. Additionally, the downtown area is home to several murals painted by Arkansas muralist Jason White, and it’s a great place to check out the local art scene.
Main Street Searcy Farmer’s Market – Open Saturday mornings and located on the White County Courthouse Square, the Farmers’ Market sells local veggies/fruits, USDA certified meat, baked goods, eggs, honey, sheep milk cheese, plants, herbs, flowers, handcrafted items and more.
Searcy Bike Trail – For nearly 12 miles, the paved Searcy Bike Trail winds from song alongside Gin Creek
Disc Golf – Disc golf is popular across the state, and the courses in Searcy are popular amongst families and college students. One course meanders through the campus of Harding University, and the other is located in the city’s industrial park/sports complex. Players must provide their own discs.
Searcy Parks – Searcy has several parks throughout the city that make it easy to enjoy a little time outside. With walking paths, playgrounds, hiking trails and fishing piers, there is something for everyone.
Harding University – Harding University’s front lawn is one of the most beautiful places inside city limits. The manicured grounds are blooming with flowers in spring and summer, and the Christmas light display is worth the drive during the Holidays. While on campus, check out theater performances, football or basketball games, concerts, guest speakers and visit one of the campus’s several museums.
Photo courtesy of The Boutique.
Searcy has many locally-owned shops where you can find gifts, clothes, furniture and much more.
Searcy is a small town with a big heart. It’s growing and welcoming and totally worth exploring. Do you have a favorite spot in Searcy that I missed? Leave us a comment so we too can explore something new.
Photos courtesy of Al Fowler unless otherwise indicated.
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