12 Things To Do With Family In Fort Smith, Arkansas

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Fort Smith is a city located on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border, along the banks of the Arkansas River. It has a rich history as an old frontier town, but has transformed into a vibrant modern small city with lots to see and do. Fort Smith offers many family-friendly attractions, both outdoor adventures as well as indoor museums and activities.

The city is very affordable for family travel, with most attractions being free or low cost. From riding bikes along the extensive riverfront trail system to exploring a military museum to catching a baseball game, Fort Smith truly has something fun for visitors of all ages.

Explore the Fort Smith National Historic Site

The Fort Smith National Historic Site allows you to immerse yourself into 1800s frontier life. This historical park spreads across 16 acres, centered around the remnants of the original 1817 military fort along the Arkansas River. Here you’ll find fascinating exhibits detailing the struggles of early settlers and soldiers. Kids can attend Musket Demonstrations to see reenactments of firing historically accurate guns and cannons.

Plus you can take self-guided audio walking tours with stories detailing frontier hardships and military history. And it’s free! The historic courthouse is particularly interesting due to its notorious history as the “Hanging Court” under Judge Isaac Parker’s watch during the late 1800s. More than 70 outlaws met their fate on the gallows during that wild west era. Today, the site provides a glimpse into what life was like on the lawless frontier.

Hike or Bike Along the Riverfront

Fort Smith boasts an extensive, beautiful trail system winding nearly 10 miles along the edge of the Arkansas River. The Riverfront Trail loops on both sides of the river, with pedestrian bridges connecting both sides. Families can enjoy easy hiking or biking past river views, wetland areas, playgrounds and picnic spots.

Kids will love spotting turtles, ducks, blue heron and other wildlife native to the Arkansas waterways. Parts of the trails are paved or wood-planked, while other natural surface single-track trails twist through the trees. With many access points and trailheads, you can make this outdoor adventure as short or long as you like. Pack a lunch and make a day of exploring the riverfront parks and trails as a family.

Tour the U.S. Marshals Museum

Fort Smith takes pride in its wild-west history tied to the brave U.S. Marshals who helped tame the lawless frontier. The brand new U.S. Marshals Museum showcases legendary stories and artifacts honoring America’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. State-of-the-art exhibits over 30,000 square feet tell tales spanning over 200 years.

From notorious gunslingers to historically significant manhunts to pioneering Marshals, these interactive displays bring history to life. Families can digitally “deputize” their kids and recreate wild-westwanted posters. The Tommy Gun Experience even lets your kids pretend to be U.S. Marshals in a vintage car “chasing” virtual outlaws. With free admission for kids under 14, this museum makes learning about frontier justice exciting for young visitors.

See Dinosaur Statues at the Fort Smith Museum of History

Fort Smith’s history museum brings local lore to life with fascinating and unique exhibits. Spread over 52,000 square feet, artifacts and educational displays reveal over 200 years of regional history. Exhibits range from Native American settlements to the Civil War legacy to the famous Fort Smith federal trials. One favorite attraction is the Jurassic Ark Exhibit, with giant animatronic dinosaurs towering overhead.

Kids go crazy over the moving and roaring velociraptor, triceratops and T-Rex replicas modeled from actual fossils. The museum complex also includes historic buildings open for tours, like the 1838 Borland House and the 1887 Miss Laura’s Social Club. For a true taste of Fort Smith’s past, a visit to this history museum makes a fun and affordable family activity.

Watch a Baseball Game at Arvest Ballpark

For a relaxing evening under the lights, take the family to watch the Fort Smith Twisters play ball at Arvest Ballpark. This stadium serves as home field for the town’s collegiate summer league team. Arvest Ballpark provides an intimate setting with a capacity under 5,000 seats. In addition to the baseball action, kids will love the “Kids Zone” along the first base side featuring bounce houses and speed pitch competitions.

Families can bring food into the picnic area along the third base line or enjoy classic ballgame snacks from concession stands like hamburgers, hotdogs, popcorn and ice cream. Nightly promotions add to the excitement with events like post-game fireworks on weekends and Thirsty Thursdays. Catching a Twisters game makes for an affordable night out the whole family can enjoy together.

Discover Hands-On Exhibits at the Fort Smith Children’s Science Center

For indoor family fun with an educational twist, check out exhibits at the Fort Smith Children’s Science Center. This non-profit museum focuses on sparking kids’ natural curiosity through hands-on displays centering around science, math and art concepts. Kids can race boats down winding water channels in Hydrostation, move gear-based marble runs in Gearity, or load shipping containers in Physics of Shipping.

Budding engineers will love the Gearology Lab full of pulleys, levers, and wheels to assemble real working mechanisms. Exhibits on optics, gravity, energy, health, music and more ensure every child finds something of interest. Parents will love that kids are learning while having fun at this uniquely engaging museum.

Tour a Historic Mansion at Clayton House

Step back into Victorian times with a tour of the restored Clayton House museum, built in 1882. This historic brick home allows visitors to envision life over 140 years ago for one of Fort Smith’s prominent families. Costumed tour guides describe intricate details and interesting stories while kids explore room by room. Hands must remain behind backs to avoid temptation of touching the antique furnishings!

Kids can play old-fashioned games like checkers, dominos and wooden puzzles in the nursery room. Around Christmas, Clayton House decks out in period-appropriate decorations transforming into a festive wonderland. Both the house interiors and relaxing gardens exude quaint southern charm. Touring this well-preserved home makes history come alive before your eyes.

See Military Displays at Fort Smith Air Museum

Aviation buffs young and old will find much to marvel over at the Fort Smith Air Museum. Extensive galleries house vintage aircraft, engines, uniforms, models and artifacts spanning 100 years of American military flight history. Kids love climbing inside the gigantic Boeing C-97 cargo plane or investigating the detailed cutaway model showing inner aircraft mechanics.

Authentic pilots uniforms, flight gear and equipment used through various wars tell stories of military sacrifice and bravery. Make sure to view the Cleaning Beam, an enormous wooden structure used decades ago for aircraft restoration. Given Fort Smith’s rich aviation history as a pilot training center, families gain memorable insights and appreciation at this free admission museum.

Enjoy Arkansas River Cruises on the Baldknobbers Jamboree Showboat

For entertainment the whole family will enjoy, take a 2-hour cruise on the Baldknobbers Jamboree Showboat. This paddlewheel boat glides along the Arkansas River while passengers are dazzled by a live music and comedy production. The show features talented musicians playing everything from bluegrass to gospel tunes to rock-n-roll hits. Silly skits and corny jokes keep audiences laughing as scenic river views slide by.

Hungry kids can order cheeseburgers, nachos or chicken strips from the onboard grill. Upbeat variety shows every Saturday night ensure visitors of all ages have a boot-stomping good time on this Fort Smith tradition for over 50 years. Floating down the river with homegrown music and comedy makes for a uniquely Arkansas-style family night out.

See Exotic Animals at the Fort Smith Zoo

Fort Smith’s intimate zoo gives kids opportunity to safely view exotic creatures up close. This compact but well-designed zoo prides itself on special behind-the-scenes animal encounters. Friendly zookeepers provide educational commentary while allowing visitors to touch and feed select animals. Kids may hand grapes to Ringo the goat or feel the fluffy feathers of chickens and guinea fowl in the petting barn.

Braver children can hold gentle snakes and lizards or pet a bearded dragon’s spiny frills. Well-cared for residents like monkeys, tropical birds, a tiger and farm animals delight young visitors. With free admission and special feeding programs, the Fort Smith Zoo offers affordable family fun interacting with amazing creatures.

Try Axe Throwing at Blade Sports Arkansas

For offbeat excitement that tweens, teens and parents will all embrace, spend an evening throwing axes at Blade Sports Arkansas. Their indoor axe throwing range provides a safe environment for learning this fast-growing sport with experienced coaches. Before stepping up to the wooden targets, family groups receive detailed instruction on proper throwing stance, grip and release.

Then everyone takes turns heaving sharp axes end over end until they stick with a satisfying thwack. Kids as young as six can participate with club axes sized for smaller hands. Private bays allow for friendly competition to see whose aim improves most. Expect lots of cheers and high-fives as axes find their mark. Unleashing axes makes for unforgettable amusement the whole crew can partake in.

Explore a Working Farm at Logan County Farmers Market

Farm fresh delights tempt all who visit the Logan County Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Beyond the tasty fruits, veggies, baked goods and crafts, families can observe a real working farm caring for livestock and producing goods sold in the market. Wander through the red chicken coop to see plump hens laying fresh eggs while cow, goats, pigs, ducks, rabbits and turkeys mingle in neighboring pens.

Shackleford High School students gain first-hand experience in agriculture education by helping care for the crops and animals. Kids enjoy feeding vegetable scraps to the grateful livestock and gathering freshly laid eggs to take home. Buying directly from regional farmers and artisans makes for a fun family field trip while supporting the local community.

Conclusion

The frontier town spirit continues today, as Fort Smith, Arkansas rolls out western hospitality for visitors of all ages. Families traveling to this unexpectedly dynamic small city will find no shortage of affordable activities and attractions to fill their itinerary. From world-class museums to outdoor adventures along the riverfront trails to hands-on children’s activities, parents can keep the kids actively engaged from morning to night.

Whether riding a showboat down the Arkansas River or cheering at an intense axe-throwing competition, Fort Smith serves up entertainment unexpected in a typical midwest town. With intriguing history, natural beauty and modern amenities all readily at hand, Fort Smith remains a gateway to adventure on the wild frontier.

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