A total solar eclipse is coming to North America! It arrives on April 8th, 2024, and it’s sure to be a spectacular experience. The line of totality moves across the United States from south-central Texas northeast to Maine! Almost all of Arkansas is included in the path. Arkansas is a great place to visit; there are cities across the state ready to welcome you! The cities of Clinton, Morrilton, and Russellville, Arkansas, are ready for your eclipse adventure! There is all sorts of family fun around Russellville, Arkansas, and it’s sure to be a great time. Executive Team Member Nichole Holze and her family traveled to the area and found all the details for how to have your best eclipse experience in Arkansas. This post is a paid partnership with Arkansas Tourism. 

Where are Russellville, Morrilton, and Clinton?

The cities of Russellville, Morrilton, and Clinton are located in Arkansas’s northwest and central areas. Russellville is the largest of the three cities. The entire area has an abundance of mountains and lakes nearby for outdoor recreation. Arkansas Tech University is also based in Russellville, so it has a fun “college town” vibe. Russellville and Morrilton are fairly close together, as is the city of Dardanelle. Clinton is farther northeast. 

Why explore the Russellville area?

There is so much for family fun around Russellville, Arkansas, including some of the best outdoor recreation in the state! This area has some of the most beautiful state parks, including the iconic Petit Jean State Park.

The Arkansas River flows through this area and fills up Lake Dardanelle for great fishing and birdwatching opportunities. Monument Trails and mountain biking trails in Arkansas State Parks are all around as well, plus many other trails and outdoor recreation opportunities. Local shops and restaurants are plentiful, and a thriving arts community exists. 

NASA in Russellville for the eclipse

Did you know that NASA will be doing part of its live broadcast of the solar eclipse from Russellville? It’s because it’s a premier destination to watch the eclipse this April. The estimated duration of totality for this area is 4 minutes and 11 seconds. There will also be scientific public outreach and presentations during the weeks leading up to the eclipse. You can learn more about the upcoming eclipse on Nasa’s website

Eclipse festivals and events

In the days leading up to the eclipse and the day of, there are family-friendly things to do around Russellville and the surrounding cities. The city of Russellville has festivities and activities going on all weekend, with live music, balloon rides, a barbecue festival, and more. There will even be a special elopement ceremony for couples hoping to seal the deal during the eclipse.

Also, nearby Morrilton will also have full days of events for the whole family the weekend before the eclipse and the day of. Food trucks will be around the city, games, live music, movie nights, and educational presentations.

Camp Mitchell on Petit Jean Mountain is offering its own festival and camping. The surrounding state parks will have events as well! Plus, there are all kinds of unique camping experiences and events happening around the area. 

Outdoor things to do in the area

The land in and around Russellville, Arkansas, is full of opportunities to play outdoors. The area has three state parks, a river visitor center, and a wide variety of hiking and biking trails. There are disc golf courses, geocaching, and plenty of outdoor sports courts for soccer, tennis, and basketball. Campgrounds can be found at the nearby state parks and Army Corps of Engineers sites. Plus, each city has wonderful parks, playgrounds, and public spaces. 

Lake Dardanelle State Park (and Trail of Tears)

When it comes to fishing, Lake Dardanelle cannot be beaten. In fact, the fishing is so good that the state park has a permanent weigh-in facility that was built just for tournaments. The park has ample spaces for picnicking and strolling along the lake shore, in addition to a swimming beach. For hiking, the Meadowlark Nature Trail is a great place for kids of all ages. It’s an easy 3⁄4 mile walk that shows you the flora, fauna, and history of the area.

Lake Dardanelle State Park is also a Trail of Tears National Historic Site. The park visitor’s center has lots of great information and hands-on learning opportunities. There is a beautiful room with a panoramic view of the lake, five aquariums, a turtle touch tank, a book nook under a tree, a gift shop, and more. Even if you’re passing through, the visitor’s center is a must-see! 

Arkansas River Visitor Center

Another great place for family fun around Russellville is the Arkansas River Visitor Center and Dam Site Recreation Area. The visitor center has wonderful displays that walk you through the river’s history, indigenous history, and the city’s growth. From the balcony of the visitor center, you can see out over the lock and dam on the river. There are also some wonderful displays of raptors and other birds you may see along the river.

The nearby Dam Site Recreation Area and Old Post campground have a great disc golf course, tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, baseball fields, pavilions, a playground, sand volleyball, and hiking trails. There is lots of wide open space here, and it is a great place to view the eclipse. 

Riverview Recreation Area

On the other side of the river is Riverview Recreation Area. There are 18 Class B camping spots, plus a few places to picnic. A tip: there is an adorable fairy house next to the campsite hosts at the spot closest to the dam. There are ample places to park and walk down to the river to explore. It’s a great place for birdwatching, playing along the sandy shoreline, and a great place to watch the eclipse.

Council Oaks Park is near this area on Dardanelle Road. The park is home to a White Oak Champion Tree and has more picnic tables. Dardanelle Rock Natural Area is one more neat spot to check out. There is a very steep half-mile hike to the top of the rock outcropping. It’s a popular spot for climbing and there are fixed places for climbers to put their ropes. 

Bona Dea Trails and Pine Knob Trails

Bona Dea trails are a must-see while you’re in Russellville. This beautiful sanctuary is just off Highway 7 and features more than 186 acres of protected wetlands and low-lying wooded areas. The park has six miles of trails. There is a fitness program, too, with 18 workout stations spread across the park. The easiest trail, Rabbit Run, is one mile, and the longest is the 3.5-mile Serendipity Trail. 

For the biking enthusiasts, don’t miss Pine Knob Trails. The entrance to the trail system is very close to Old Post Park. The park has something for every level of rider. There is a balance bike course, pump track, and trails rated from very easy to the black diamond trail named “JackaNOPE.” Please read the trail signage, respect park and trail rules, and wear helmets! The park is funded by the River Valley branch of the Ozark Off Road Cyclists

Mount Nebo State Park

One of the iconic Arkansas State Parks, Mount Nebo is one of the best things for family fun around Russellville. The adventure starts with the drive up this beautiful mountain. State Hwy. 155 (paved) zigzags up the mountain’s eastern side with a series of tight hairpin turns. The park recommends no trailers or RV’s over 24 ft. long attempt the climb.

The views at the top are worth the climb. Mt. Nebo has campgrounds, hiking, biking, and a wonderful visitors center. When you walk out the back of the visitor center, it looks like you’ll walk right off the mountain’s edge. It’s a great spot for photos.

The Rim Trail takes you around the top of the mountain, but be mindful of steep drop-offs! For an absolutely epic sunset experience, walk or drive down to Sunset Point on the western edge of the mountain. Get there about 30 to 45 minutes ahead of sunset to claim a spot on the mountainside. 

Mount Nebo Monument Trails

Another neat feature of Mount Nebo State Park is the Monument Trail system within the park. Monument Trails are world-class mountain biking trails that are carefully crafted by expert trail designers while maintaining the integrity and natural layout of the land. Many of the trails are shared use, but some are downhill only and some are uphill only. Be sure to get a trail map at the visitor center. There are trails for all skill sets, too! 

Petit Jean State Park

Petit Jean State Park is one of the most iconic state parks in the entire state and the very first Arkansas State Park.  It’s also a park with a fascinating history about how it got its name.  The mountain is very large, with many great places to view the eclipse. It’s the perfect place for family fun around Russellville. There is camping for all RV’s, tent camping, cabins, and a beautiful lodge. Stout’s Point is a wonderful overlook on the park’s east side. It has ruins of some of the original buildings on the mountain. The point is a great spot for photo ops and has many places to explore. Be mindful while climbing around the boulders, there are some steep drop offs! 

Hiking Petit Jean

There are some stunning hiking trails in Petit Jean State Park, along with many scenic overlooks and places for photos. The trail to the Cedar Falls overlook is an easy hike on a broad, ADA-accessible boardwalk.

The hike down to the falls is two miles round trip but rated strenuous for the steep ascent on the way out. Rock House Cave Trail is a must-see hike for families. It’s less than a mile but takes you through some incredible geology including the “turtle rocks,” aptly named because they look like turtle shells There are pictographs in the Rock House Cave as well. Seven Hollows trail is an incredible, longer hike that takes you through a canyon on a 4.5-mile loop. 

Museum of Automobiles

Check out the Museum of Automobiles on Petit Jean Mountain for some unexpected fun. The building itself is a unique site to see, but it’s also filled with a huge collection of antique and collector cars! The museum boasts a car that was once owned by Elvis Presley, a 1920’s open-sided school bus, and a fully restored 1913 Cretors Popcorn Wagon. A personal favorite, they also have a DeLorean.

Pro tip: be sure to check out the working player piano and slide a few quarters in to hear it play! 

Places to eat near Petit Jean

On the mountain, there are a few places to grab a snack or food. Mather Lodge at the state park has a restaurant that’s open daily. Petit Jean Coffeehouse is an adorable cafe in a charming white A-frame house.

Nearby in Morrilton, the award-winning Elia’s Mexican Grill is a must-stop and leave room for their famous chocolate nachos dessert. Downtown Morrilton also has some cute restaurants and another coffee shop called Big Cuppa

Places to play in Morrilton

Morrilton is a neat place to spend the day, and there are some fun things to do in the historic downtown. The Morrilton Train Depot is a restored 1915-era train station with a museum and many educational displays. There is a caboose that you can walk around and onto. It’s a great photo op!

Nearby, the Rialto Theater is home to the Community Arts Center, and there are theater performances, movies, and shows throughout the year. Morrilton City Park is a great place to get out and play, or the skate park and nature trail

Where to play in Russellville

There are many family-friendly things to do around Russellville and many great parks to explore. City Park is one of the largest, and it has tennis courts, basketball courts, a walking trail, and multiple playgrounds.

Crawford Park has a great playground with something for older kids, too, and lots of wide open space to run and a clear view of the sky for the total eclipse. Harmon Park has a skate park and it’s right next to a new food truck development called the Corner Food Truck Hub. Check out Strikers Bowling Alley, Russellville Skate Station, or the Hour Glass Escape Room for indoor fun

Family fun around downtown Russellville

There’s nothing better than a fun, historic downtown, and there is so much family fun around Russellville. One of our favorites is Retro Roasts and Dog Eared Books. This charming bookstore and coffee shop is a great place to relax for a little while. The children’s section is wonderful. The coffee shop has lots of room to sit down and there are board games to enjoy.

For a cute gift shop check out Garden Sassy. Jackalope Cycling is a full-service bike shop downtown. The Plant Parlor is a must-see for the plant lovers. The Campfire Butterfly is a beautiful mural by David Freeman located outside of First Security Bank. One more must-see: the incredible wooden owl sculpture in a pocket park behind the Nicholson building on North Commerce Avenue. 

Family-friendly restaurants in Russellville 

There are so many great restaurants in Russellville that have something for everyone! Here are a few of our favorites: 

Explore Clinton, Arkansas

Clinton, Arkansas, is about an hour’s drive northeast of Russellville. It’s home to the Natural Bridge of Arkansas, a unique natural rock formation that’s a fun stop. It has a little gift shop and museum, with an Ozark still! It’s open seasonally from mid-March to mid-November.

Clinton is also home to lots of great antique shops, like Once Upon a Time Antique Shop. Not too far from Clinton is the Antique Warehouse of Arkansas, a massive and must-see shop if you’re into antiques! It’s also a great place for photos and social media-worthy shots. 

 The Pottery Shop is a must-see while you’re there. It’s a charming gift shop with all kinds of yard art all over the outside. There are some fun photo ops outside the shop as well. Biggs Brews is a coffee truck that’s in the parking lot there. 

More things to see and do in Clinton

For breakfast, check out Joe N Hash Coffee Cafe. Nearby Archey Fork Park is a wonderful place to play, with a playground, ball fields, a volleyball court, walking trails, a fishing lake, and a creek. It’s the perfect place to watch the eclipse in Clinton, Arkansas. Across the highway is the Clinton Children’s Park and skate park. The park is connected via a walking trail to Archey Fork Park. Other places to eat include Crabby Jack’s Seafood and L’attiude Bistro.

Total solar eclipse in the Russellville area

The total solar eclipse of April 2024 will be an incredible thing to see! There are so many great places to view the eclipse around the Russellville area. While the state parks will always be our top recommendation for viewing, don’t forget about city parks and any place with a clear view of the sky.

There are festivals, concerts, and so many great events planned all over this part of the state, so be sure to check the websites and social media pages for each city in the Russellville area for updates.

Here are my top recommendations for viewing locations:

  • Around Russellville:
    • Old Post Park and the Arkansas River Visitors Center
    • Riverview Park and Dardanelle Rock Area
    • Lake Dardanelle State Park
    • Mount Nebo State Park – Sunset Point
    • Crawford Park
  • Around Morrilton:
    • Historic downtown 
    • Petit Jean State Park – Stout’s Point
    • Petit Jean Mountain – Public spaces with open parking lots
    • Petit Jean Mountain – Automobile Museum parking lot
  • Around Clinton:
    • Archey Fork Park
    • Clinton Children’s Park

Here are a few tips for viewing a solar eclipse

Viewing a total solar eclipse is an incredible experience, especially in Arkansas. There are so many ways to enjoy family fun around Russellville, Arkansas. Wherever you plan to watch the eclipse, be sure to plan ahead. If you’re traveling to your viewing spot on the day of the eclipse, be sure to arrive as early as possible. Be respectful of private property and parking guidelines. And most importantly, wear proper eclipse glasses. Regular sunglasses will not protect your eyes from the sun. Eclipse glasses are available at all of the state parks and many businesses in each town.

Here are more tips on how to have your best eclipse experience with your kids. 

Where will you be watching the solar eclipse?

About the author 

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. It’s all 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.