While headed out west for some warmer weather, I spotted the town of Fort Smith, Arkansas along my route. I decided to brave the chilly winter temperatures and spent a day exploring the area. There are lots of things to do in Fort Smith and to be honest, some of the local attractions exceeded my expectations.
The public artwork was really impressive and the town is super walkable and easy to get around. (Once you figure out all of the ridiculous one way streets. Yikes!) If you’ve ever wondered, is Fort Smith worth visiting – here’s what I learned during my day exploring the town.
What Is There To See in Fort Smith?
Fort Smith is loaded with old west charm and its historic downtown offers visitors a variety of things to see and enjoy. From museums to quirky hang out spots and everything in-between, Fort Smith has a fair share of interesting locations attractions that make it worth a visit.
1. Check Out The Beautiful Fort Smith Murals
What impressed me most about downtown are the murals that pop up everywhere you look. Many of them are absolutely incredible. If you’re looking for things to do in Fort Smith, you should definitely consider doing a mural tour. (Most of them are within easy walking distance of each other.) It was about 15 degrees the morning I set out to photograph as many murals as I could. They were all worth layering up and braving the cold to take pictures!
If you’re craving even more art, the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum offers free admission Tuesday-Saturday from 11-5, and Sunday from 1-5.
2. Fort Smith Is Home To The U.S. Marshals Museum
Recently opened in 2023, the U.S. Marshals Museum is one of the top things to do in Fort Smith. Until my visit, I had no idea what the U.S. Marshals really did and learned that the organization actually pre-dates the U.S. Secret Service!
Inside the museum you’ll find a wide range of interactive exhibits and galleries. You could easily spend a couple of hours going through all of the hands-on experiences and soaking in the history. My favorite display featured a fake invitation sent out to criminals offering free football tickets. The Marshals created a fake company, fake event, and fake promotion to attract wanted criminals. As expected, they showed up in droves and were all arrested.
3. Fort Smith Historic Site
As you might imagine, there really is a “Fort Smith” here and it’s still largely in tact. It’s free to walk around the grounds but a small admission fee is charged to enter the building and view the museum exhibits. You’ll start at the Visitors Center where you can grab a map and have your questions answered by one of the Park Rangers.
On the site you’ll see the gallows (a reproduction) where executions took place from 1873-1896. 86 men were hanged during that time frame. You’ll have the chance to view the Judge Parker’s Courtroom; the jail; and the Commissary Building. The building was once the Federal Courthouse for the Western District of Arkansas.
4. Spend Some Free Time In The Bakery District
I sort of found this place by accident while I was driving around town. The Bakery District houses a variety of local businesses like Fort Smith Coffee Company as well as some fun food trucks. Even on a blistery day, there were people playing games in the pavilion and grabbing a bite to eat.
Inside the coffee shop, there were swinging chairs and cozy spaces to relax and enjoy a drink. The Bakery District also hosts events and live music. It’s a really fun space and one of several that make Fort Smith worth visiting.
5. Other Things To Do In Fort Smith
Downtown you’ll find some nice restaurants and places to hang out. There are antique shops; a cigar lounge; breweries; and even a cool store old-time candy and fresh made fudge!
The Park At West End is an eclectic outdoor space with a small ferris wheel and other amusing decor. Inside the old railcar you’ll find a place called Wild Waffles. It was too chilly during my winter visit, but I imagine this is a fun spot to gather.
Fort Smith has its own symphony, history museum, and a plethora of historic homes to view. I’d definitely suggest driving through some of the neighborhoods near downtown, some of which still have cobblestone roads. Some homes, like The Clayton House are open for tours. Most are private residences.
6. Don’t Miss The Planters Peanut Man!
It’s about 15 minutes outside of downtown Fort Smith but roadside attraction lovers won’t want to miss Mr. Peanut! Mr. Peanut is the iconic mascot for Planters Peanuts and an historic, 30 foot high sign stands outside of the employee parking lot.
You can also find some cute mini versions of Mr. Peanut at the corner where you turn into the facility. (They’re on top of the fence posts.) There’s another Mr. Peanut statue near the security entrance in front of the actual building. Just remember it’s an a private business, so be respectful when stopping by.
Conclusion: Is Fort Smith Worth Visiting?
Yes! Fort Smith is a really lovely small town with so much to enjoy for a weekend road trip or stop for a day while traveling through the region. The local tourism office has other great ideas for dining, lodging, and events happening in town!