El Dorado was one of just five towns across the country to receive a coveted Great American Main Street award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation this year, prompting us to stop by and see what the buzz is all about. What we found is that friendly people and a delightfully slow pace make this south-Arkansas gem ideal for a family weekend getaway, especially during the hectic holidays. Visit www.GoElDorado.com for more information about holiday celebrations, including Cookies with Santa and the Toys for Tots Bike Run, both on December 5.
Begin the weekend with a family dinner and movie date. The Laredo Grill (200 E. Main St., 870-875-1722) serves up Mexican food and hearty steaks in a relaxed atmosphere, a good primer for candy and popcorn at Stars Cinema (2620 W. Hillsboro St., 870-862-1919, www.starstheaters.com). Other more elegant dinner options are Fayray’s (110 E. Elm St., 870-863-4000), offering gourmet food and an impressive wine list, and Mel’s Seafood Restaurant (707 Timberlane Dr., 870-863-9950). Turn in at the Union Square Guest Quarters (234 E. Main St., 877-864-9701, www.usgq.net), where reservations include breakfast in a train car overlooking a courtyard and fountain.
Bundle up for a stroll on the square. First stop: Elm Street Bakery (116 E. Elm St., 870-881-8844), serving specialty coffees and teas, as well as pastries and fresh baked breads; the kids will love the marble soda fountain. House of Wylie (232 E. Main St., 870-862-6372) is another option for warming up with coffee.
Next, browse a large selection of adult and children’s books tended to by a knowledgeable, friendly staff at Jefferson Street Books (117 N. Jefferson Ave., 870-862-8123); indulge in shoe therapy at Shelly’s Shoes, Etc. (115 N. Jefferson Ave., 870-875-1233); and window shop at Murphy-Pitard Jewelers (201 N. Jefferson Ave., 870-863-8818, www.murphy-pitard.com). For a home-style lunch, we love the vegetable soup and cornbread at The Old Towne Store (113 N. Jefferson Ave., 870-862-1060, www.theoldetownestore.com), which has a bakery and deli, and sells wholesome foods and supplements. Or make the short trip to Morgan’s Florist (320 W. Thompson St., 870-862-8933, www.morganflorist.com), a must-visit destination offering a deli with famous chicken salad, as well as an eclectic mix of gifts that includes hand soaps, picture frames and gift baskets—you can even pre-order and customize your own holiday wreaths to bring home.
Spend the afternoon marking off your holiday shopping list. On the square, Backwood’s Art and Frame Gallery (209 E. Main St., Ste. A, 870-863-5254) specializes in regional art; Murphy Long Design (111 E. Main St., 870-863-6625, www.murphylongdesign.com) offers unique accessories, furnishings, china, linens and more; and Too Cute (103-D E. Main St., 870-862-7979) will keep the kids entertained with toys and accessories. Further afield, Sports Alley (107 E. Cedar St., 870-862-8151, www.thesportsalley.com) is the place to buy gifts for the sports fanatics in your life; Especially for You (522 W. 19th St., 870-863-9292) stocks jewelry, baby gifts, bags and more, all of which can be personalized with monograms; and Blewster’s Antiques (1603 W. Hillsboro St., 870-862-2903) is brimming with antiques, gifts and decorative accessories for the home. The Slaughter House of Gifts (1803 Sumac Dr., 870-863-4273) has a new location where you’re also sure to find a unique gift or two, whether it’s a kitchen gadget or tableware.
When it’s time for dinner, Bayou Bistro (2422 N. West Ave., 870-863-6700) serves up a menu full of Cajun-style spicy offerings. Or stay closer to the square for hot, cheesy pizza piled with your favorite toppings from Main Street Pizza (101 N. Jackson St., 870-863-0505). Satisfy your sweet tooth with a trip to local favorite La Bella Gourmet Gifts & Delicatessen (101 E. Main St., 870-862-4335), also a lovely place for lunch. Enjoy friendly service, browse a wide selection of international food items, and then order a hot drink and homemade fudge to enjoy during some late-night gazing at the holiday lights on the square.
Wake up with a brisk morning walk through the South Arkansas Arboretum (501 Timberlane Dr., 870-862-8131, Ext. 144), a 13-acre park featuring paved trails and indigenous Arkansas plants, before packing up and heading out of town. Because you took our advice and picked up some famous potato-flour donuts at The Spudnut Shop (810 W. Faulkner St., 870-863-9914) on Friday or Saturday, you can enjoy them in the car all the way home.
See you on the road!