12 Things to Do with Family in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Fayetteville is a lively college town in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. Known for being home to the University of Arkansas, it’s got a young vibe and a thriving arts and music scene.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking there isn’t plenty for families to do. Fayetteville may be a college town but it’s also full of fun things the whole family will enjoy. In fact, there are plenty of attractions and activities that will appeal to all ages and interests.

For stunning nature, head to the many miles of mountain biking and hiking trails. Get up close to butterflies at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. Catch a show at the historic Walton Arts Center. Check out the airplanes and space equipment at the Arkansas Air & Military Museum.

Or let the kids go wild at the impressive Children’s Museum and Discovery Place playground. And we haven’t even talked about the farmer’s market and seasonal festivals!

From outdoor adventures to cultural attractions and entertainment, Fayetteville has a wide variety of things for families with kids of all ages to experience together. Here are 12 of the best ways to spend quality family time in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Check out the Trails and Parks


Fayetteville has an excellent trail system and outdoor spaces where families can hike, bike, or run to their hearts content. For all-level mountain biking there’s Kessler Mountain Regional Park’s sought after mountain bike trails. For hikers, the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks and Lake Fayetteville have miles of scenic trails with places to stop along the way.

And you don’t have to venture out into the wilderness to enjoy the outdoors in Fayetteville. The Creative Kids Playground, Walker Stonehouse Memorial Playground, and Gulley Park all have sprawling playground equipment and play spaces perfect for younger kids. Pauline Whitaker Animal Haven has a petting zoo and some short walking paths. So whether you opt for adventuring through the woods or staying local in a park, there are lots of ways to soak up the fresh air and natural scenery.

Marvel at the Exhibits Inside Crystal Bridges Museum


This world-class and kid-friendly museum houses an impressive collection of American art spanning five centuries in a striking contemporary building with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the woods. Permanent exhibits feature iconic works by legends like Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, and Georgia O’Keeffe. The temporary exhibits bring modern artists and creative themes. And it’s all 100% free for kids 18 and under.

After viewing the renowned works inside, be sure to explore the surrounding 120 acre grounds which include walking trails nestled in the forest, a natural spring, and charming Frank Lloyd Wright home. There are guided activities for kids like scavenger hunts as well as art-making spaces to spark inspiration. When it’s time for a break, the on-site restaurant The Hive uses locally-sourced ingredients and even has healthy kid meal options.

Let Kids be Astronauts and Pilots for a Day


Aspiring young astronauts and pilots will go over the moon when you take them to the Arkansas Air & Military Museum. As soon as you arrive you’ll see fighter jets, rescue helicopters, and even a B-52 bomber outside on display. Inside kids can climb into the cockpit of private planes and combat aircraft.

Interactive exhibits let kids try aviation stimulator games, work remote controlled robots, and control model boats in a virtual harbor. You’ll see artifacts from the Korean and Vietnam wars plus extensive collections of photographs, uniforms, instruments and weapons. Make a day of it by grabbing sandwiches from the on-site Father Flynn’s Deli to eat outside under the wings of a historic plane.

Catch an Imaginative Show at The Walton Arts Center

As one of the top ranked performing arts centers in the country, the Walton Arts Center brings in major Broadway shows, concerts, speakers, and family performances. Kids will be dazzled by productions from Theaterworks like Peppa Pig Live! or Disney Junior Live. With colorful sets, catchy songs, and characters they already love, it makes it easy for them to engage. Or opt for imaginative tales brought to life through puppetry like How I Became a Pirate based on the popular book series.

If you can’t make it for a show, you can still admire Chihuly’s colorful glass sculptures in the lobby. Sign them up for summer theater camps to spark their inner performer. And check the schedule for free movie nights where you can catch animated flicks on the lawn. No matter what you see or do there, it’s sure to spark creativity and wonder.

Butterfly Watch at The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks


At this gorgeous garden certified by the American Butterfly Association, kids can gaze at butterflies from all over the world in the indoor conservatory and outdoor garden habitats. When spotted, staff members teach kids cool facts about each vibrant species. Outside trails have markers pointing out native plants that attract butterflies which families can observe flying freely in their natural setting.

Every season here brings new butterflies to spot so you’ll want to visit year-round! In spring migrating monarchs arrive while summer features swallowtails and red admirals. Keep an eye out in late summer for endangered Ozark big ears. And don’t miss monthly member mornings with early admission when the butterflies are most active. It’s not everyday you can see exotic butterflies from Asia, Africa, and South America all in the northwest Arkansas forests!

Let Kids Run Wild At Discovery Place and The Creative Kids Playground


At Discovery Place playground kids have nonstop fun with unique structure that include abstract animal sculptures, musical instruments, dinosaurs you can climb inside, tunnels and slides of all shapes and sizes scattered about. Nestled into Wilson Park this innovative play space has lots of sensory experiences to spark young imaginations. The colorful structures are artworks all on their own with nods to local culture like the Razorback pigs.

Nearby playground Creative Kids has a similar emphasis on art, music, science, and nature but with a more traditional play equipment. Giant dinosaurs welcome families as kids race across suspension bridges, swing from a DNA climber, and roam through a kid-sized Ozarks forest. When they’re all tuckered out, chill at the picnic pavilion overlooking the creative space. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the indoor Discovery Center is right across the street!

Shop Local at Downtown Square Farmers’ Market


Held four days a week spring through fall, the lively downtown farmers’ market brings the best of northwest Arkansas’ small farms together like one giant harvest celebration perfect for families. Stroll through checking out ripe fruits and local honey. Grab a treat from regional bakeries and confectioners like Bloom Cookies or Snapp’s hand pies.

Sit for fresh-squeezed juice, crepes, and coffee. Listen to local musicians perform as you picnic with prepared food from market vendors. Kids can expend extra energy in the playground next to Owl Creek school and check out the chickens residents keep onsite. And don’t forget to visit the plant, flower, and garden booths to pick up something special for your porch garden or windowsill at home. Rain or shine, the downtown market makes a cheery morning outing.

Learn through Interactive Play at Amazeum


Voted #1 children’s museum in America, the Scott Family Amazeum offers 100,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits where kids can learn about science, art, health, culture and the environment through creative play. Kids can make stop motion films, record music in a sound studio, plant seeds in a streetscape garden, and even shop in kid-sized stores. Exhibits rotate to keep it exciting when families visit time after time.

Don’t miss the impressive water table where kids can construct dams, redirect pipes, and control water flow. Outside kids can harvest ingredients from the garden then create themed culinary creations. Or try their skills walking a tightrope, climbing a rock wall, and navigating other challenging feats. From infants to tweens, the interactive nature of this massive museum has something age-appropriate and engaging for every family member.

Attend a Seasonal Festival


Fayetteville is chock full of cool cultural events, fairs, and festivals which act like living celebrations of all that makes this community so cool. Depending on the season you visit here, your family can experience anything from arts/crafts markets to food truck rodeos to parades and races featuring local sports mascots.

The city’s signature event Lights of the Ozarks stretches all season with holiday lights, pop up shops, and festivities to ring in winter. As soon as Spring hits enjoy the creative energy of Bikes, Blues, & BBQ festival with its parade, races, concerts, and competitions. While summer brings a series of neighborhood block parties every week like Party on the Avenue with live music and local food vendors lining the streets. And don’t miss the Fayetteville Roots Festival in August which features performances from music legends in iconic venues around town and Arkansas.

Browse Fun Finds on Block Ave


Catering to university students, Block Avenue is a pedestrian friendly stretch of indie boutiques, fun gifts stores, and casual eateries. Families can browse colorful apparel and trendy accessories at Orange Barrel, Bruno’s Boots and Blue Moon. Then pop into War Eagle Gallery featuring the hand crafted wares and folk art of local mountain artisans.

Top by Maxines has an impressive calendar of author book signings and storytimes kids will enjoy. Then cool off with gelato from Gelato Dolce Vita or sweet treats from Bark Avenue Bakery which also sells homemade dog biscuits! Catch a vintage matinee at the 112 year old Dickson Theater and finish up filling baskets of nostalgic candy from Darlene’s Rock Shop. Leave room for lunch at hip Hugos creperie, too!

Picnic in Nature at Kessler Mountain


Stretching 1,000 acres with over 30 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking, Kessler Mountain Regional Park has terrain options suitable for all adventure seekers. Beginners can tackle the 1 mile Cedar Ridge Trail which gradually ascends to panoramic views from the Ozark Plateau. Families with junior explorers can do a 2 mile loop partially paved for strollers if needed.

And serious cyclists in your crew can venture out on the 20+ mile Back 40 Trail with optional skills features along the way. No matter what path you choose, the lush forests and peaceful creek beds will refresh your whole crew. Pack a lunch to enjoy at one of the many picnic areas after working up an appetite!

Paddle and Play at Lake Fayetteville


This manmade reservoir is picturesque with its tree lined banks surrounded by wooded hills and crossed by walking bridges. Rent canoes, kayaks or stand up paddleboards to explore the lake or try your luck fishing for catfish from a rental boat. Walk along the paved trail to spot birds in the wetland ecosystem, turtles sunbathing on logs, or busy beavers making their home along the lakeside.

There’s a great playground if you need to burn off excess energy mid-loop. And keep your eyes peeled crossing the marsh boardwalk because local boathouse staff often report spotting deer grazing along the water’s edge! It’s the perfect place for a family friendly paddle adventure close to town.

Conclusion

Fayetteville has so much to offer visiting families seeking memorable adventures together. From world class museums and riveting performances to outdoor pursuits surrounded by nature to hands-on museums that inspire through play – there are engaging activities here to appeal to all interests and ages. Unique local finds, seasonal celebrations of Ozark culture, and an overall vibrant spirit rounds out this quintessential college town’s welcoming vibe for families.

So come for the mountain biking and hiking trails, imaginative kid’s museums, or to marvel at masterpieces inside Crystal Bridges Museum’s architectural wonder in the woods. But stay because Fayetteville’s friendly community and Ozark charm cast a magical spell perfect for family vacations, weekend getaways, or simply sunny days spent making memories together that will last a lifetime.

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