1. Murals on Main in Pine Bluff
They call Pine Bluff the City of Murals with good reason. As you’re passing through the city, be sure to check out the 11 works of public art on the city’s Main Street, that illustrate the history of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County. The Murals on Main project, which started in 1992, has been the focus of an ongoing restoration effort since 2013, with two murals—one honoring the creation of Arkansas’ state flag, and the other depicting of the city’s Main Street as it appeared in 1888—receiving makeovers thus far. (explorepinebluff.com/see-and-do)
2. Masonic Temple in Pine Bluff
When Pine Bluff’s Masonic Temple was completed in 1904, it became the city’s tallest building at a modest four stories. Financed by African American Masons throughout Arkansas and built under the leadership of Moses A. Clark, an ex-slave who went on to become a prominent lawyer and one of the most successful black Arkansans of his time, the red-brick building has long been a monument to black history in The Natural State. Once praised by Booker T. Washington as a visible symbol of African American enterprise, the temple has been home to several businesses, including Arkansas’ first African-American-owned bank, the Unity Bank and Trust Company. Sadly, the historic building has been on Preserve Arkansas’s Most Endangered Places list since 2015.
3. Allen House in Monticello
If you like your history with a little legend and a dash of the unexplained, you’ll want to swing by the Allen House. Built in 1906, the stately mansion was designed with a bold mix of architectural styles including Neoclassical, Gothic and Queen Anne. But the home’s beauty is equally matched by tragedy: On Christmas Day 1949, Ladell Allen Bonner committed suicide in the Allen House’s master suite, and the room was sealed off for almost 40 years after her death. For most of that time, the Allen House was used as a rental property divided into apartments, with many tenants reporting paranormal experiences such as furniture moving inexplicably and shadowy figures appearing in photographs. Now under the ownership of author Mark Spencer and his wife, Rebecca, tours of the Allen House are available by appointment year-round, but you’ll want to bring friends to meet the tour minimum of six guests. (allenhousemonticello.com)
Do This: June 22: Pizza and the Paranormal dinner and tour event at the Allen House. (Ghost hunting equipment provided!)
4. World War II Japanese American Internment Museum in McGehee
In one of the darker moments in Arkansas’—and our nation’s—history, Japanese Americans in the United States were rounded up, relocated and imprisoned in 10 barbed-wire-fenced camps across the West and South, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Two such camps were located in Arkansas: Rohwer and Jerome. Six years ago last month, the World War II Japanese American Internment Museum opened in McGehee, about 13 miles south of where the Rohwer camp once stood, to provide a glimpse into what these citizens went through. There isn’t much that remains of the actual Rohwer camp, but the site is worth visiting as well to see the memorial cemetery where many Japanese Americans interned at the camp were laid to rest. (rohwer.astate.edu)
Do This: Watch a speech from Star Trek’s George Takei, who was interned at Rohwer as a child, at the museum’s fifth-anniversary celebration last year (rohwer.astate.edu/george-takeis-speech). And see a recreation of The Rohwer Outpost newspaper in The Fine Print on page 76.
5. Taylor’s Steakhouse in Dumas
We can’t say this enough: This is the best steak you will ever have in Arkansas (and maybe even the world). Owner and chef Chuck Taylor dry-ages his beef for up to 80 days (with some special cuts aged for even longer), producing a piece of unfathomably juicy meat that cuts like butter and tastes just as decadent. Just go. You can thank us later. (Search for “Taylor’s Steakhouse” on Facebook)
Do This: Reserve a 120-day-aged bone-in ribeye from Taylor’s. The steaks will be available starting June 20, with a second batch available on July 11.
6. Arkansas Post National Memorial
When it was established in 1686, the Arkansas Post—best known as the first semi-permanent French settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley—ignited a long struggle between France, England and Spain for control of the area. In 1786, it was the site of the only Revolutionary War battle to take place in Arkansas, and in 1863 Union troops destroyed Fort Hindman, a Confederate fort that had been erected on the site. Today, you can visit the Post’s museum to learn about the area’s 300-year history and even visit a historic town site via the grounds’ walking trails. (nps.gov/arpo)
SOUVENIRS: A selfie with your favorite Pine Bluff mural. Charitable spirit after making a donation to Preserve Arkansas to
save historic buildings like the Pine Bluff’s Masonic Temple. A steak bone from Taylor’s (for the dog, or yourself, to gnaw on later).
A copy of Mark Spencer’s book about the Allen House property, A Haunted Love Story.