Excursion: Top 10 Delta Destinations
The Arkansas Delta is teeming with history, culture and entertainment. There is much to see and do in this unique area along the Mississippi River. Here is a list of 10 road trip-worthy spots.
Low’s Bridal and Formal
photography by Ashlee Nobel
Low’s Bridal and Formal
127 West Cedar St.; (870) 734-3244; lowsbridal.com
This bridal shop is every bride-to-be’s dream, with 25,000 square feet of display space and filled with the work of more than 60 of the nation’s leading gown designers. Find styles from A-line to princess gown in price points from $200 to $7,000. Low’s has been serving brides across the south for 29 years in its convenient, two-story location between Little Rock and Memphis. They have 22 dressing rooms and a café in the lobby. It is a one-stop-shop as you will also find a variety of lovely bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, accessories and more. Call for an appointment.
Hwy 65 South; Brookhaven Shopping Center; (870) 382-5277; millersmudmill.com
Gale Miller’s shop is located on Highway 65 in an unassuming strip mall. However, there is nothing ordinary about what’s inside the pottery boutique — it is filled with her beautiful, hand-made, wheel-turned pottery. Miller, the daughter of a bricklayer, stumbled upon her talent 34 years ago and has enjoyed great success. Vendors across the state carry her pottery, which includes bowls, plates, decorative platters, vases and more. While all pieces can serve as art to be hung or displayed in the home, each piece serves a functional purpose as well. Miller is most noted for her Thankful Bowls, which have a thumb handle and are imprinted with a cross to “remind us to count our blessings.”
Delta Cultural Center
141 Cherry St.; (800) 358-0972; deltaculturalcenter.com
The Delta Cultural Center (DCC) is an eclectic, two-museum facility in historic downtown Helena that interprets the life and history of the Delta through exhibits highlighting art, music and history as well as programming and annual events. The DCC — a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage — began its mission in 1990, and hosts Helena radio station KFFA’s “King Biscuit Time,” a half-hour broadcast with the legendary Sonny “Sunshine” Payne that first aired in 1941. The permanent “Delta Sounds” exhibit is a major draw at the Visitors Center on Cherry Street; it highlights many influential Delta musicians. The Depot — located one block south of the Visitors Center — features the exhibit “A Heritage of Determination,” which details the history of the Delta from its earliest inhabitants through great Mississippi River floods, and “Civil War in the Delta,” which gives visitors insight into Union occupation and the Battle of Helena.
Helena Civil War
502 Cherry St.; civilwarhelena.com/history
During the Civil War, Helena was a major port city that became an occupied Confederate stronghold as well as a refuge for freedom seekers. On July 12, 1862, Union General Samuel Curtis and his Army took the city with little opposition. Homes were seized and turned to hospitals, depots and headquarters. The troops took farms, livestock and more. The residents of Helena then lived under martial law and were not allowed to leave or enter the city without permission. Today, Civil War history is a huge tourism draw for the city. Take a half-day, full-day or two-day tour to experience all this historically-rich city has to offer. Log onto civilwarhelena.com to choose an exciting and educational tour.
Arkansas State University (ASU) Red Wolves Game
(888) ASU-FANS; astate.edu
After winning the Sun Belt Conference and garnering record-breaking attendance under Coach Hugh Freeze in 2011, ASU is gearing up for even bigger things under new coach Gus Malzahn. As former offensive coordinator for the National Champion Auburn Tigers (2010), Malzahn brings what is arguably the country’s most exciting offense to Jonesboro. Get your season tickets now, as the season kickoff is swiftly approaching. The Red Wolves play their first home game Sept. 8 against Memphis.
Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center
600 E. Lawson Road; (870) 933-6787; crowleysridge.org
This well-appointed nature center in Jonesboro offers visitors the ability to discover and experience many aspects of the nature of North America. Meander through the self-guided exhibits and trails to learn about the unique topography, history and wildlife of Crowley’s Ridge and the Delta. The main complex features: an exhibit area; observation tower; meeting rooms; a Discovery room; auditorium; gift shop; and offices. Several hands-on exhibits as well as a 16-minute film with animation make this nature center a hit with the kids.
3696 Highway 65; (870) 265-3872; blog.paulmichaelhome.com
If you travel to Lake Village, pack lightly. You will need plenty of space for all the excellent home interior décor items you will find at the famous Paul Michael Company. This 30,000 square-foot decorator’s haven is known throughout the region as the place to go for original, ornamental items and furnishings. The store carries lines from many major manufacturers and dedicates itself to finding unique and unusual items. Find furniture, throw pillows, candles, pottery, rugs, art and more. Don’t forget to check out the large discounts in the back of the boutique.
(870) 265-6031; lakeport.astate.edu
For a dose of Delta history in a picturesque setting, visit Lakeport Plantation, operated by ASU. It is the last remaining antebellum plantation home facing the Mississippi River in the state — floods have destroyed most. In 1831, the Johnson family developed the plantation, which was built from the resources of the area’s swamps and forests by the family’s 23 slaves and worked as a cotton plant until the Civil War.
In many ways, the home remains untouched with original finishes of rosewood and oak grain, as well as much of the original décor. This Greek Revival structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974; gifted to ASU by the Sam Epstein Angel family in 2001; and after five years of restoration work was opened to the public.
Jones Bar-B-Q Diner
219 W. Louisiana St.
This year a comfy, two-table barbecue restaurant in the small Delta town of Marianna received some major recognition. James Jones, owner of Jones Bar-B-Q Diner was honored in the “American Classics” category in the highly-coveted James Beard Awards. The restaurant dates back to 1910 and has been passed down through the Jones family. Pork is the only thing on the menu — you can order by the pound or by the sandwich. The smoked meat comes drenched in a vinegary sauce and topped with homemade cole slaw served on white bread. Sandwiches are $3 apiece. Get there early; the restaurant opens at 7 a.m. and closes when Jones runs out.
Southland Racing and Gaming
1550 N. Ingram Blvd.; (800) 467-6182; southlandgreyhound.com
Southland Park is well known for live racing — with one of the largest kennels in the United States, it’s the only racetrack with nine-dog racing. Visitors enjoy 6,000 races annually and simulcast wagering daily. Gaming is also a huge draw — play the floor of more than 1,000 gaming machines, table games and poker. Live entertainment is also popular at The Juke Joint. Three notable dining options are available to patrons including: the Bourbon Street Steakhouse Grill, the World Market Buffet and Quinn & Ella’s Café.
King Biscuit Blues Festival; Oct. 4 through 6, Helena. Thousands will flock to downtown Helena for the King Biscuit Blues Festival, a three-day celebration of the blues right in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, where it was born. The festival is named after the King Biscuit Time radio show, the longest-running radio show; it’s still on the air, recorded live in the Delta Cultural Center. This year, the festival features headliners Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal and Bobby Rush. An excellent lineup of blues, rock and gospel acts will play on six stages located throughout Helena’s historic downtown. (870) 572-5223 or kingbiscuitfestival.com.
World's Championship Duck Calling Contest & Wings Over the Prairie Festival; Nov. 17 through 24, Stuttgart. Join in the fun as visitors flock from across the globe for the World's Championship Duck Calling Contest as well as commercial exhibits; arts and crafts fair; off-road vehicles and boats; carnival and midway; Great 10K Duck Race; Queen Mallard Pageant; and the World Championship Duck Gumbo Cook-off. Admission to most events is free. (870) 673-1602 or stuttgartarkansas.org.