Budget Summer Vacation from Little Rock, Arkansas: Conway, hometown of American Idol Kris Allen

When David Cook won American Idol last year, I was curious about what there was to do in his hometown, Blue Springs Missouri. David Archuleta’s hometown, Murray City, Utah also caught my interest. Both hometowns looked not much more than shopping malls and high school football fields when shown on TV. Kris Allen’s hometown, Conway, Arkansas, however, seems to be a perfect budget travel vacation destination–really. How could it not be? It’s in the foothills of the Ozarks.

A quick drive, just 32 miles from Little Rock, Conway holds its own as a worthy budget travel destination with plenty to see and do. Besides boasting two colleges and a university, the small city is in close proximity to many of Arkansa’s state parks and historic landmarks. At the edge of the city are several lakes fit for boating, fishing and swimming. The one in the photo is Beaver Lake. That’s just the beginning of Conway’s pleasures.

Woolly Hollow, the closest state park is 18 miles from Conway in the Ozark foothills, and boasts Lake Bennet a sizable body of water that offers fishing, boating, and swimming. There are also hiking trails and camp sites.

For those interested in history, check out Woolly Cabin where the first settlers who came here lived. On various weekends there are special events and programs. One to keep in mind is the Annual Fun Day on June 19. The price is yummy. It’s free.

For one museum with one of the cheapest admission prices I’ve ever seen, also not far from Conway, head to the Plantation Agriculture Museum. The whole family can get in for $10. Adult tickets are only $3 and kids are $2. Under 6 is free. The museum highlights the agricultural history of cotton in Arkansas through World War II.

In Conway itself:

  1. Although rides on the Toad Suck Towboat aren’t possible, one of these boats that once crossed people from one side of the Arkansas River to the other is on display at the ranger’s office at the Toad Suck Ferry Lock and Dam in Toad Suck Park. The park is now touted as a great place for a picnic and watching boats go by. Besides, what a name!
  2. Another place that looks intriguing is Finton Sculpture Garden and Studio. I’m fond of outdoor sculptures that have a creative edge. Arkansas native, Finton Shaw’s assembled outdoor sculptures that fit my criteria of art I like to see. Some pieces have themes borrowed from other cultures. There is one titled “Girl from Madagascar” and another titled ” Shiva,” for example.
  3. Pickles Gap Village, also a Conway establishment is exactly right for kids and people who like to shop. It’s not a village where people live, but a collection of quaint stores and Kiddie Land that has rides and farm animals. The name comes from when a German immigrant overturned his wagon load of pickles when he was making his way across the creek. That’s the legend.
  4. For more area history, head to the Faulker County Historical Society Museum. The museum is housed in the original county jail.
  5. For entertainment, check out the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre. Throughout June, the festival has Taming of the Shrew, MacBeth, The Producers and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on the menu.

Where to eat: Try Gina’s Jewel Restaurant for homemade country style food. It’s been given high praises. The Chamber of Commerce says for every type of food you like, you’ll find it in Conway. Here’s a link to a dining guide with 137 entries.

Where to stay: There are plenty of slumber options ranging from Super 8 on the budget end to the Hampton Inn which isn’t that expensive either, includes a hot breakfast and within walking distance to the city’s center. For a one-of-a-kind option, check out The Ward Mansion Bed and Breakfast. This historic home turned tourist spot is steeped in elegance.

The attractions I’ve mentioned here are only part of what there is to do in Conway. Here’s a link to more links. When it comes to hometowns, Kris Allen’s wins the award as a unique getaway.

I wonder if someone will think to put his face in a corn maze, though? David Archuletta had that honor.

For map of Arkansas to see where Conway is located and what is nearby, click here.