Northeast Arkansas will be in the direct line of totality for the April 2024 eclipse! It’s a wonderful corner of the state with so many fun things to do in Batesville and Jonesboro. There’s nothing quite like experiencing the darkness of a total eclipse, and our Executive Team Member Nichole Holze knows firsthand how momentous it can be. She had the opportunity to travel to the northeast part of the state to discover all there is to do, and she is excited to share it all with you.

*This post is part of a series of sponsored posts by Arkansas Tourism about the total eclipse of April 2024. The views and opinions expressed are the author’s own. 

Why northeast Arkansas? 

There are so many great things to do in Batesville and Jonesboro, Arkansas. Part of what makes these areas so unique is where they are located. Batesville is in the Ozark region, and Jonesboro is within the Crowley’s Ridge part of Arkansas. Crowley’s Ridge is a unique geological formation believed to have been created by water, ice, and wind action over a 50-million-year period. The ridge is actually an island formed by ancient paths of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Batesville is unique in that it is the oldest city in Arkansas. Jonesboro is home to Arkansas State University. The whole area is great to explore with kids and is an excellent destination to enjoy the eclipse. 

Things to do in Batesville and Jonesboro, Arkansas

Both cities have a wide range of activities for families and people of all ages. There are incredible outdoor recreation opportunities in the Ozark Mountains around Batesville, along with small-town vibes and a charming, historic downtown. Jonesboro is one of the larger cities in northeast Arkansas and also has a thriving downtown. Arkansas State University has a wonderful museum and brings lots of great culture to the area as well.

One more reason to visit…during the eclipse in April 2024, both cities will see just over four minutes of totality! 

Places to play in Batesville, Arkansas

Batesville, Arkansas, is a small town that is northeast of Little Rock and along the White River. The historic downtown is currently being revitalized and one of the first places that was updated was a new park. Maxfield Park is an adorable, multilevel park that was built using repurposed and recycled materials. It is a whimsical place to play with a slide, climbing structures, a small stage, and lots of fun art to look at. The park has signage that shares its history and rebuilding process.

Riverside Park is along the north side of the White River and is the largest park. It has two playgrounds and pavilions available to rent. The park boasts a state champion, Chinkapin Oak Tree. Riverside is the perfect place for bird watching, and bald eagles are often spotted swooping along the river banks! 

Batesville must-see spots

A unique thing about downtown Batesville is the Melba Theater. This historic, one-screen theater shows movies throughout the year and also hosts special events and concerts. It’s worth stopping by just to see the iconic sign outside the theater.

Across the street from the theater is Paper Chase Bookstore, a new and used bookstore with something for everyone. The building it sits in is on the National Register of Historic Places. Another unique place to see is the Batesville Area Arts Council, which has an art gallery and often hosts special events.

Batesville even has its own community theater. The city manages the community center, which has a huge waterpark and gymnasium, and it’s $5 per person for a drop-in rate. For antique shopping, check out the 22,000 square foot Olde Town Mall

More things to do in Batesville, Arkansas

Did you know that Batesville is where NASCAR legend Mark Martin is from? There is a museum with some of his history and memorabilia in Batesville. For some history and educational experiences, go visit the Old Independence Regional Museum. The museum shares the history of Independence County and there’s also an educational garden as well.

Outdoor adventure enthusiasts, specifically rock climbers, will love to visit Jamestown Crag. It’s one of the best climbing destinations in the state. There are multiple climbing routes, mountain biking, hiking trails, and primitive camping. The area is on private land and managed by a non-profit. To visit, you must fill out this form to get entry information. 

Dining options in Batesville, Arkansas

A must-see coffee shop in Batesville is Morningside Coffee, located in an old house not too far from downtown. They have a drive-through and a wonderful front porch where you can enjoy a cup of coffee. There is also a Busy Bean Coffee drive-through and a Scooter’s Coffee. Don’t forget to try local chain Nova Joes.

Looking for a super fun pizza place? Check out Stella’s Brick Oven Pizza in historic downtown Batesville. Another option is U.S. Pizza Company, which also has an arcade. Real Goods Market and Eatery is a natural and organic food store with a cafe, along with grab-and-go options.

A unique dining experience awaits you at The River and Sandbar, where you can dine and look over the White River. For a fun dessert option, check out Sweet Tooth Frozen Delights

Exploring Jonesboro, Arkansas

There are a huge number of fun things to do in Jonesboro, and downtown Jonesboro has one of the coolest! Huntington Square in downtown Jonesboro is home to a food truck court, event space, and public gathering area. There is also a pickleball court with incredible murals around it. On one end of the square is a wonderful coffee shop that also features deliciously fresh smoothie bowls and cafe items. I recommend getting the acai smoothie bowl from Urban Organics.

A boutique hotel on the square, Intersect311, also has one, two, and three-bedroom condos for short-term rentals. The hotel is close enough to walk downtown to explore. 

Outdoor adventure near Jonesboro, Arkansas

Jonesboro, Arkansas, has plenty of outdoor places to play, and many of them are an ideal place to watch the April 2024 total solar eclipse. Craighead Forest Park is a massive city park on the south side of town. There are three iconic playgrounds. Rotary Park playground is designed like a westward expansion-style fort.

Nearby, the Rotary Centennial playground is an ADA-accessible playground that also has a splash pad and a unique basketball area. The third playground is on the north side of the lake and features a playground designed to look like a castle. Pets are welcome at this park and there’s also a dog park with a dog jumping pier where dogs can swim! Craighead Forest Park has multiple walking paths, hiking and biking trails, disc golf and great fishing. 

State parks near Jonesboro, Arkansas

The state parks of Arkansas have two locations near Jonesboro. Crowley’s Ridge State Park has a stocked fishing pond and a separate swimming area with a slide. There are several hiking trails and one, Dancing Rabbit, features a swinging bridge! Something unique about the park is all of the beautiful stone structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Nearby Walcott Lake, the hiking trail goes around the lake on the levee, and it’s a great place to fish but also has wide open views of the sky. Lake Frierson State Park is just 10 miles from Jonesboro and has a large lake that’s stocked for fishing. 

Jonesboro nature centers

Nature centers are some of our favorite places to visit. In Arkansas, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has some of the most incredible, free nature centers. The Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center is a must-see in Jonesboro. Outside the nature center are acres of prairie and woodlands, along with a pond.

The Habitats Trail is ADA accessible and takes you through parts of the surrounding forest. Inside, the three-story interpretive exhibit is a must-see, and it’s fun to look at it from every floor. The nature center features a theater and many displays about the flora and fauna you’ll see on Crowley’s Ridge. There’s also great information about how the ridge was formed. The basement of the nature center has a great classroom with wildlife you can view along with opportunities to color or craft. 

 Arkansas National History Museum

Some of the things to do in Batesville and Jonesboro include visiting museums. Jonesboro is home to an incredible natural history museum at Arkansas State University. It’s the largest museum in northeast Arkansas. A great thing about this museum is that admission is free! One of the exhibits features a replica of a Mastodon skeleton and it’s incredible. Another fun exhibit shows the history of the “rockabilly” generation in the 1950s.

For some role-play learning, kids can explore the Arkansas Frontier exhibit. The “Walk Through Time” exhibit allows you to step through more than 600 million years of history. It’s open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Be sure to check the school calendar for any closures. Thank you to Lindsey from All About Arkansas for the photo of the museum Mastadon. Follow her on Facebook for even more fun things to do in Arkanasas!

Indoor fun in Jonesboro, Arkansas

This area has so many great options for families, and there are a lot of indoor things to do in Batesville and Jonesboro. A great store to check out is Gearhead Outfitters, both the downtown and larger Highland Drive locations. The store has tons of great outdoor gear, clothing, gadgets, and more.

Hijinks Family Fun Center is the destination for indoor entertainment. It has bowling, a huge arcade, a restaurant, a soft play area for children under 12, a ropes course, a climbing wall, and even a pool table. We appreciated that the more scary arcade games were in a corner and not out in the middle. JT’s Grill has lots of food options, but I recommend the Stacey fries for a great gluten-free snack. Hijinks is also adding go-karts and mini golf soon. 

The Social is a great spot for families with older kids. It’s a restaurant that has a great menu of food and drinks, with a full-service bar and lounge. There are two indoor shuffleboards and some other games as well. But, the coolest attraction is the hyper bowling! This new twist on bowling has LED lights in the bumpers and you can play many ways. Some of the challenges involve you intentionally striking the bumpers for bonus points. It’s a great way to level the playing field and leads to many laughs. 

The coffee scene

There is no shortage of great coffee shops in Jonesboro. Four Kings Coffee is one of my favorites, and quite possibly my favorite, of all the coffee shops I’ve been to. They have an incredible menu of great seasonal drinks and the coffee is top-notch. Be sure to also check out Story Coffee House, where they have great coffee and gluten-free food options. Story Coffee House shares a building with an adorable bookstore and gift shop called Verb. Two more coffee shops are Shadrach’s Coffee and Coffee Gallery

Family-friendly restaurants in Jonesboro, Arkansas

There are a lot of great places to eat in Jonesboro, with a range of restaurants to suit every craving. Here are a few favorites:

Eclipse festival in Dyess, Arkansas

Just less than an hour from Jonesboro is the boyhood home of Johnny Cash in Dyess, Arkansas. It’s a historic site that offers tours of the home and the history of the area and is one more unique thing to do in Batesville and Jonesboro. They’re also hosting a whole festival for the eclipse! There are events the weekend before and the day of the eclipse, including a music festival. A lunch and learn is scheduled for April 7 at noon and it will be hosted by a NASA scientist!

Get your tickets for these events early, and book campsites here

Solar eclipse weekend itineraries

Here are itinerary ideas for how to enjoy two different days around Jonesboro: 

  • An indoor day:
    • Breakfast at Story Coffee House and Verb Bookstore
    • Spend the morning at the Arkansas State Natural History Museum if it’s a weekday
    • If it’s a weekend, spend the morning exploring downtown Jonesboro
    • Grab lunch at HiJinks and play the rest of the day
  • An outdoor day:
    • Pack a picnic lunch
    • Get coffee and breakfast at IV Kings Coffee
    • Go play at Craighead Forest Park. Enjoy the playgrounds, some hiking, some biking and maybe some fishing
    • Drive over to Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center and explore the grounds and nature center
    • Head back to town and enjoy dinner and bowling at The Social

Best places to watch the eclipse in Batesville and Jonesboro

There will be many places to enjoy watching the eclipse in Batesville and Jonesboro. Any place with public parking and a clear view of the sky will be perfect.

The City Park or anywhere along the River Park area will be perfect in Batesville.

For observing the eclipse in Jonesboro, you can’t go wrong with planning to be at Craighead Forest Park. There is lots of parking, and plenty of clear sky views around the lake.

For more updates on events and places to view the eclipse, be sure to follow the social media pages and websites for the cities of Batesville and Jonesboro

Northeast Arkansas is great for families

Northeast Arkansas is a great place to visit with families. There are so many fun and unique things to do in Batesville and Jonesboro; you’re sure to have a great time. Both cities are in the line of totality for the total eclipse in April 2024, and they’re sure to be a popular destination to view it.

This area has a rich and diverse environment with the Ozark Mountains and Crowley’s Ridge formation. Our family had a wonderful time exploring all that these cities had to offer, and I can’t wait to share my home state of Arkansas with you. If you’d like to read more about how to have the best eclipse experience with your kids, check out my post with everything you need to know about planning and preparing.

Additional resources

For more information about where to go for the upcoming eclipse and other fun things to do in Arkansas, check out the following posts:

About Nichole

Nichole is a writer, content creator, and family travel and adventure influencer residing in southwest Arkansas. Though she and her husband (Ryan) are originally from the Midwest, they’ve lived in Arkansas for 10 years now and are thrilled to call it home. They have homeschooled their children from the beginning of their educational journey. They have a now 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, along with a one-year  Direwolf Dog puppy named Levi. Nichole is an avid outdoor adventurer and road tripper and has been taking her kids on adventures by herself since they were infants, as part of what she calls being responsibly brave. She is also on the Executive Team for Run Wild My Child and has contributed to Wild and Free. Be sure to follow her on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date with all of their shenanigans.