An Epic Spring Break on US Highway 71: Day 3
This week, thousands of Arkansas students and their families will be spending time away from school as our schools let out for a well-deserved break. But what can you do with that sort of time?
Last year, my daughter Hunter and I set out along Scenic Arkansas Highway 7 and explored it from one end to the other to bring you all sorts of ideas on activities you can undertake with your family. This year we’re at it again, and we’re exploring US Highway 71, which runs from the Louisiana border to the Missouri State Line.
Each day this week, we’ll share an itinerary for adventure. You are welcome to follow along! And to share your experiences along the highway, please feel free to tag us with #SpringBreakOn71.
Despite the hailstorm that awoke us early the next morning, Hunter and I got a decent night’s sleep at the Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge. The next morning, we rose and went to breakfast at the Queen’s Restaurant, where we were once again not at all disappointed in the offerings. While there was a buffet available, Hunter was very particular about what she wanted—oatmeal, sausages and fresh fruit. I had a delightful veggie omelet.
What we thought was fog hung heavily outside the windows. Turns out, we were really just in the clouds. Queen Wilhelmina State Park is located at the top of Rich Mountain, at more than 2600 feet in elevation.
I was awakened at 2 a.m. by small hail blowing in sideways. This morning, Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge is in the clouds. #queenwilhelmina #queenwilhelminastatepark #arstateparks #arkansasstateparks #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
As we ate, the clouds lifted and revealed a gorgeous day.
Our breakfast in the clouds meant no stop at the Skyline Café in Mena, one of our favorites (you can read about it here). But we thoroughly enjoyed our drive through the Ouachita Mountains up to Waldron. We had an appointment to make.
We met Mandy Day at the Scott Theater. This movie house, opened in 1930, is believed to be the oldest such movie house in Arkansas (there are older theaters, but most specialize in live shows or concerts). Read about the Scott Theater here.
The concession area has been moved and expanded at the Scott Theater for more space, and additional bathrooms that are ADA compliant have also been added. The concession prices are quite reasonable. #scotttheater #waldronarkansas #letsgotothemovies #oldtheater #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
After our tour, we stopped in a block away at The Rock Café. This old diner has been around since 1936 and is the single mainstay restaurant for the old timers in town who want to gather for coffee and breakfast. Not being all that hungry thanks to the big breakfast at the Queen’s Restaurant, we went for fried pies… that were so good, we had to have some more.
They were so good, we shared a third fried pie, this time peach. The fried pies at The Rock Cafe are extraordinary - and yes, we just ate pie for lunch! #friedpies #arkansaspie #arkansasfood #therockcafe #waldronarkansas #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
Our next stop was at Chaffee Crossing, the new development in Fort Smith. The swing-over took us a bit out of the way but was well worth it. Our first stop was the Chaffee Barbershop Museum, where we learned all about Fort Chaffee and the day The King got his coiffure clipped when he went into the Army.
We dropped in today at the old Fort Chaffee and the Barbershop Museum. This facility was opened in 2004 and commemorates the day in 1957 when Elvis Presley entered the Army and received his famous haircut. #haircut #elvis #barbershopmuseum #fortchaffee #chaffeecrossing #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
We also met an appointment with Mary Merechka, who gave us a personal tour of the Enchanted Doll Museum. If you have a little girl (or grown woman, or boy, or anyone for that matter) who has ever loved dolls, you have to make an appointment and visit. Mary started with 5,000 dolls when she opened this museum at Chaffee Crossing in 2008, and she may have twice as many today. Check out our experience here.
Enchanted Doll Museum owner Mary Merechka has been collecting dolls since she was a child. Thousands of dolls, from Madame Alexander to Kewpie to Barbie, line the shelves throughout the museum. #enchanteddollmuseum #barbie #chaffeecrossing #fortchaffee #fortsmith #dolls #toys #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
From there, we took a well deserved break at the Hampton Inn Fort Smith. Dinnertime was spent at Lin’s Chinese Garden, which for some reason I have never visited before. I was amused by the Po fortune cookies.
It’s important to remember, while this trip was quite educational, you have to have downtime for your kids. Which is why we spent the evening enjoying the indoor pool at the Hampton Inn. Hunter is such a waterbug.
Wednesday’s itinerary includes Fort Smith, Van Buren and Lake Fort Smith State Park. Stay tuned for more itineraries as we share our fun throughout the week.
Kat Robinson is a food and travel writer based in Little Rock. She travels Arkansas and the South searching for good stories, tall tales and the next great little restaurant. Read about more of her adventures at TieDyeTravels.com.