“Arkansas? Why would you want to go there?" I can’t tell you how many times I've heard that! But after a week here, most children do not want to leave. They discover something few major theme parks have to offer.
You have worked hard to take a vacation, and there are many considerations. For parents, I am sure your most important question is “what will the kids be able to do?” I have answered this question thousands of times.
My husband and I moved here many years ago from a large city. We are raising 6 children ages 18 to 5 at the resort. Our children have made many friends over the years, and it all began with not the latest and greatest gizmo’s, but just pure old fashioned fun.
A little later I will mention designated activities available in our area, but first I would like to share with you why we hardly have to take our kids anywhere for entertainment.
My number one advice is “go back to the basics”!
You would be amazed at how many children have never heard of the age old “side walk” games we were all born and raised on. You do not have to be an athlete to know how to play Spud, Dodge Ball, Ghost & the Grave Yard, Jump the Creek. These are just a few games that instantly bring kids together.
Do a little homework before you come. What did you do to have fun when you we‘re a child? Amazingly, it has never changed! Do you remember Mother May I? How about Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light?
As soon as you arrive, look around your resort. You will see many children similar in age to your own. Get to know their name, introduce them to your child, have them share a toy together. The rest will be history. In most cases, you won't even have to go through the effort. Kids attract kids! I've watched it so many times over the years.
Kids are especially drawn to our unusual colored bugs, beetles, lizards, rocks, and turtles!! (don’t worry these critters are perfectly harmless!). You would be amazed at how useful a magnifying glass and butterfly net could be for a child taking a walk around a resort in Arkansas. An ordinary stick becomes a great marshmallow holder or a walking stick.
A rock can look like a fish! (Or maybe even a diamond!) Remember children are in a new world here. Their imaginations are amazed over the littlest things. They are introduced to things they have never seen.
Now your thinking that might be fun for the younger ones but what about my teen? My source for this is my 16 and 18 year old sosn who have been living on a resort all of their life. Each week they await eagerly for kids of their own age to arrive. Mine are very shy natured. I know it’s not easy to get “teens” to have a good time.
What surprises me is how teens attract teens. They have easy conversations and interest because they are all from different places. Most teens that are shy will find friends easily here because there is no peer pressure. They are all on vacation in a strange place, but they all somehow share some common interest from music or sports. Each one has something “special” about them because their lives are so different.
Every teen likes to cliff jump. I even felt the urge to do this after giving birth to my 5th child at the time. I couldn’t remember the last time I did something so reckless!! It felt good. Needless to say… once was enough! You will find plenty of that on Lake Norfork. Follow the boats; there are cliffs for beginners and experts!
When it’s time to have a road trip, most of our attractions are less than 30 minutes away. We enjoy taking our kids to the Norfork National Fish Hatchery located at the base of Norfork Dam. Here, children of all ages enjoy seeing trout growing from eggs all the way up to 13-inch fish. One tank holds several very large trout where they can easily be seen.
Right across the street from the Hatchery is Quarry Park which is a perfect place for a picnic and a good chance at catching trout just below the dam. What a site to see!. As you enter Quarry Park, head towards the boat launch for fishing and a picnic, make note of the playground on your right for a quick stop on the way back.
As you exit Quarry Park, turn right and take a moment to see the breath taking view of the Norfork Dam. (good spot for a family photo!) Stop at the Marina and feed the carp!
Kids love the beach. There are many State Parks located a few miles from any resort . Each one has a beach and a playground. They also have marked hiking trails (this is a good time to bring that magnifying glass and plastic cups). Our beaches are loaded with shells and intriguing rocks.
If you are traveling by boat, we have Sand Island located by Jordan Marina down near the dam. It is one of our favorite places to beach the boat, go for a swim, and build a sand castle.
Horseback riding is available locally from a couple of different providers, and they are very accommodating for kids of all ages. Not only do your children get to ride a horse, but they get to see a wide variety of Ozark countryside in the process.
My finial suggestion is by far not the least. It will take you an hour to get to, but the trip is well worth it - Blanchard Springs Caverns. You will never see a natural cave like this one anywhere. It is huge. At the end of this is a waterfall (another great place to picnic).
Just up the road a few more miles is the village of Mountain View. This town has a wonderful collection of fine crafts and art shops. It is also the center for Ozark Folk music. Just outside of Mountain View is the Ozark Folk Center, which is world famous for all things historial Ozark.
Here’s a few more suggestions based on experience. When traveling to lakes with young children who have not been in the water recently, talk with your pediatrician about preventing ear infections. Knowing prevention and having the necessary medicines handy can save you a trip to our emergency room.
If you have a neighbor or family member (without their parents) on vacation with you, you must have a medical emergency note from that parent if the child is under the age of 18. We once had a 17 year old who could not be seen for an ear infection because they did not have written parental permission. Please use plenty of sunscreen your first few days. We all know why.
The most important thing you can remember about vacationing in Arkansas is that it’s OK to RELAX! There are no schedules to meet here, take a good look at the stars, open up a good book and for a change...DO NOTHING!
Jane and Bob Domagalski own Rocking Chair Resort, which they have operated since 1990. They have 6 children ages 5 to 18 who help run the resort.