12 Things To Do in Benton, Arkansas

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Benton is a quaint city located in Saline County, Arkansas along the Saline River. With a population of just over 30,000 people, Benton offers visitors a relaxed atmosphere and small town charm coupled with enough things to see and do to keep you entertained for a nice weekend escape or extended vacation.

Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the ample opportunities for fishing, boating, hiking and more along the Saline River and at local parks and recreation areas. Families can enjoy attractions like the Air Force Base, hands-on science center and year round football. Foodies will find delicious dining options showcasing fresh local ingredients and creative takes on Southern cuisine. And history buffs can immerse themselves in the rich heritage of the state at area museums and historic sites.

No matter your interests, read on for the top 12 things to see and experience during your time in Benton, Arkansas.

Explore Downtown Benton

Downtown Benton is the heart of the community, with historic buildings housing charming local businesses. Start your visit with a stop at the visitor center to grab a map and get oriented. From there, stroll along Market Street to browse the variety of antique stores, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and more that line the main drag.

Pop into Oakland & Franks for classic Southern fare in a retro-chic atmosphere or grab a scoop from Bryce’s Creamery, a local favorite ice cream shop dishing up homemade flavors. Don’t miss sights along the way like the 1927 Rialto Theater with its iconic neon marquis and the 1930s era Saline County Courthouse, two stunning examples of Art Deco design.

Tour Benton’s Murals

Over the past decade, Benton has been transformed into an open air art gallery thanks to the addition of numerous large scale murals celebrating local culture and history. There are currently 16 murals around downtown Benton, with self-guided tour maps available from the visitor center.

Stroll from mural to mural to take in colorful scenes depicting everything from wildlife and native plants to landmarks and notable residents. Some of the most popular works include a tribute to rock & roll singer Al Green at the corner of Main and Market Streets, an homage to the Gurdon Light ghost story on the side of the Masonic Lodge, and scenes of thoroughbred horses grazing in green pastures along a side street off Market.

See Exhibits at the Benton Event Center

The Benton Event Center brings major touring exhibits from across the country to this small Arkansas town. The ever-changing roster means there is always something new and exciting to experience during your visit.

Past exhibits have included renowned displays like Bodies Revealed showcasing real human bodies preserved through polymer technology, Vatican Splendors chronicling Vatican art and artifacts from Michelangelo and others, and National Geographic’s 50 Greatest Photographs exploring iconic images from the magazine’s archives. Stay tuned to the event calendar to see what will be featured during your trip to Benton.

Tour the Arkansas Air & Military Museum

Located adjacent to the Little Rock Air Force Base, this museum explores Arkansas’ contributions to U.S. military aviation. See planes and helicopters dating from World War I to modern day along with thousands of artifacts relating to aerial missions, officer training and more.

Interactive exhibits let you try out flight simulators, hear veterans share their stories and see rare items like pieces of the Enola Gay. Kids can dress up like a pilot or try their hand at making parachutes. Outside, aircraft are scattered around the grounds while walking paths wind through memorials and gardens. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday.

Hike at Lake Winona Park

Just a couple miles north of downtown Benton is the peaceful Lake Winona Park situated on the north shore of Lake Winona. Nature lovers flock here to walk the 2.3 miles of woodland hiking trails that wind through canopied forest and skirt along the water.

Springtime brings colorful wildflowers while songbirds, deer, squirrels and other wildlife are spotted year-round. There are also lakefront picnic spots, fishing areas, a playground and disc golf course. Rent a paddleboat or kayak and head out on the water for magnificent views back towards the park.

Explore the Museum of Automotive History

As the name implies, this museum located just south of Benton showcases a fascinating collection of antique cars, motorcycles trucks and more. Displays range from early pioneers in automotive manufacturing like a rare 1924 Rolls Royce to tricked out hot rods from the 1950s onward.

Other exhibits shine a spotlight on motorsports and auto technology advancements. Kids can get hands on in the transportation themed children’s area while auto enthusiasts will marvel at the perfectly restored beauties in the Hall of Fame gallery. The gift shop has unique automotive inspired gifts and memorabilia for sale as well.

Play a Round of Disc Golf

Saline County has not one but three excellent disc golf courses offering acres of wooded terrain over which to toss Frisbees at basket targets. Benton has an 18-hole course winding through Davis Park while Bryant boasts an 18-hole course at Bishop Park and 20-hole course at Mills Park.

The variety of holes – ranging from tight technical shots to long open drives – provide a fun challenge for beginners to advanced players. Local disc golfers also gather regularly for tournaments which are open to spectators as well. Bring your own discs or rent them on site. Just be sure to call ahead as the courses are unmonitored and sometimes close temporarily for events.

Attend the Old-Fashioned Day Festival

Each October, Historic Washington State Park located about 30 minutes from Benton transforms back to the pioneer days with hands on heritage activities during their popular Old-Fashioned Day Festival. Attendees can watch blacksmithing demos, join in quilting bees, try dip candle making, learn to churn butter and more.

There are also historical reenactments at the circa 1890s village, music and dancing, homemade food vendors using recipes from the era and much more family fun. The festival perfectly captures what life was like in late 19th century rural Arkansas.

Marvel at Diamonds State Park

Though not technically in Benton, Diamond State Park is located just across the border under 15 miles away making it an easy and worthwhile side trip. The park gets its name from the glittering quartz “diamonds” found in the gravel along the creek here.

Follow the short Diamond Mine Trail to try your luck sifting through the gravel for these prized stones locals call “Arkansas diamonds.” The park also has a pretty waterfall cascading over smooth stone outcroppings along the Little Missouri River. Up top, hiking trails traverse the forested ridgetop dotted with unique rock formations. Picnic tables down below encourage lingering to enjoy the peaceful nature scenes.

See an Exhibit at the Old State House Museum

History buffs will appreciate a stop at the Old State House Museum in downtown Little Rock, located just 45 minutes away. As the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River, this Greek Revival structure has borne witnessed to major events in Arkansas history.

Today it houses exhibits depicting Native American culture, early European exploration, civil war battles and more alongside historic artifacts. Visitors can tour the former House and Senate chambers, Governor’s Office, Supreme Court room and take in the expansive views from the State Capitol lawn outside.

Tailgate an Arkansas Razorbacks Football Game

Residents take their Arkansas Razorbacks college football seriously in this part of the country. So if you’re visiting Benton during football season, be sure to attend a home game just over an hour away in Fayetteville. Tickets can be hard to come by, so plan ahead to secure yours.

Otherwise, just join in one of the huge tailgating parties happening all around campus before kickoff. Fans set up grills, corn hole toss games, music and more to celebrate their team spirit hours before the game starts. Just look for the plumes of barbecue smoke rising into the sky over the stadium parking lots on game day weekends.

Shop the Benton Farmers Market

For the freshest local produce, baked goods, arts and crafts, head over to the Benton Farmers Market held Saturday mornings from April through October. Local growers bring just-picked fruits and veggies straight from their farms to vendors tables overflowing with everything from juicy peaches and vine ripened tomatoes to bushels of sweet corn and fragrant herbs.

Alongside the produce you’ll find stalls selling homemade jams, pickles and jarred salsa, freshly baked breads and pastries, locally raised meats and eggs, cut flowers and more. The lively event also features live music and activities making it a can’t-miss weekend highlight.

Conclusion


With its inviting small town pace coupled with abundant cultural attractions, outdoor recreation and dining variety, Benton truly does offer the best of all worlds for travelers. Use this list of top things to do as a starting point for planning your own adventures discovering the rich heritage, natural wonders and homegrown hospitality that makes this little Arkansas city shine.

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