Date: May 3, 2021 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Molly Anne Sandefur |
Head to South Arkansas for live music, outdoor festivals, and family fun | A Special At Home in Arkansas Promotion
There’s always something happening in El Dorado. That was true a century ago, when the town’s first oil well caused a boom in the economy and population, and it’s true now, as the South Arkansas city continues to draw interest and visitors from all over the state and beyond. For example, when Murphy Arts District (eldomad.com) opened three and a half years ago, 21,000 people descended on the city for four days of music and entertainment; that’s not bad for a city of approximately 18,000. The arts district has been go-go-go ever since, pausing in-person events during the pandemic while pivoting to provide audiences with live-streamed concerts, children’s programs, and other online entertainment. This spring, the organization has started welcoming guests back to First Financial Music Hall for in-person concerts, including the Allman Betts Band on May 1 and Trey Johnson on May 8.
On the first weekend of May, visitors to El Dorado can also enjoy the annual Mayhaw Festival (mayhawfestival.com) held on the grounds of the Newton House Museum. Put on by the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society, this Saturday festival is free and open to the public and, among other events, includes tours of the museum, a historic plantation home built in 1849.
New this year is yet another downtown El Dorado fest, May on Main (mainstreeteldorado.org). This event, also on May 1, features a chili cook-off, Baggo tournament, and live music, all within proximity of the square and in the name of celebrating the people and places that make this South Arkansas town so special.
Thirty-five miles to the west, the 32nd annual Magnolia Blossom Festival (blossomfestival.org) is happening May 14-15 in its namesake town. Here, you’re invited to join the World Championship Steak Cook-off, Tom Dehoney Memorial Big Bass Tournament, or Blossom Festival Craft Show, where more than 100 makers will be selling their wares. Whether you’re local to South Arkansas or looking for a weekend getaway, there’s plenty to explore in El Dorado and Magnolia. Read on for more of our favorite places to shop, dine, visit, and stay.
No trip to El Dorado is complete without a shopping trip around the historic town square. Be sure to check out Martha’s on the Square (marthasonthesquare.com) for boutique womenswear and accessories as well as Jefferson Street Books (facebook.com/jeffersonstreetbooks) to find your next favorite read. In Magnolia, MOD Maverick Studio (modmaverickstudio.com) is well-loved for its eclectic mix of gifts and home goods, including repurposed furniture and décor.
Current visual arts exhibits at the South Arkansas Arts Center (saac-arts.org) in El Dorado include “Arkansas Women to Watch: Paper Routes” and “Small Works on Paper,” both on view through May 26. Looking to get in a few holes of golf while in town? Mystic Creek Golf Club (golfmysticcreek.com), a semi-private club opened in 2013, has tee times available to the public.
Founded in Little Rock in 1948, the El Dorado location of Minute Man (minutemanburgers.com) is the only original Minute Man still in operation; stop by for a charbroiled hamburger to understand why it’s a South Arkansas mainstay. Mule Kick (mulekickmag.com) in Magnolia should be your go-to for pizza and wings, and for a sweet treat, don’t miss Magnolia Bake Shop (facebook.com/magnoliaarkansasbakery) on the nearby square.
Whether you’re traveling in from out of town or looking for a South Arkansas staycation, you’ll want to check out The Haywood (facebook.com/TheHaywoodElDorado), a boutique brand that’s part of Hilton’s Tapestry Collection and just steps from Murphy Arts District in El Dorado. In Magnolia, book a stay at The Loft on the Square (theloftsq.com) for comfortable accommodations in the old Columbia County Bank downtown.