Things to Do in Blytheville

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Hampson Archeological Museum State Park

The newly expanded Hampson Archeological Museum State Park tells the story of a historical 15-acre village on the Mississippi River through artifacts and exhibits. The farming-based civilization thrived from about A.D. 1400 to 1650 on what is known as the Nodena site. People grew crops and hunted native game while also creating art and building a political structure and a trading network. The state park museum – which recently expanded to 8,500 square feet, about five times the space of its original location – is on the town square of Wilson, on the corner of US Hwy. 61 and Park Avenue. The staff provides group and private tours. Visitors can also enjoy a nearby picnic area in the state park. The late Dr. James K. Hampson and his family made possible the preservation of the nationally renowned collection of artifacts, which include pottery and tools.

Delta Gateway Museum

The Delta Gateway Museum, which is in the middle of the Blytheville Commercial Historic District, focuses on the heritage of the area, ranging from ancient artifacts to more recent cultural objects. The museum’s first permanent exhibit is about the people who were the original occupants of the Delta during what’s known as the late Mississipean Period and were discovered by Hernando de Soto in 1541. The museum also has put together temporary exhibits on rural life, Eaker Air Force Base, the Arkansas frontier and downtown Blytheville. The museum’s aim is to create future exhibits about the development of agriculture in the area, local industries and transportation. The museum opened in 2011 and is ran by the Delta Gateway Museum Commission. The museum is open 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free.

Greyhound Bus Station

One of the most eye-catching sites in Blytheville is the historic Greyhound Bus Station, which was built in 1937 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The terminal at 109 Fifth St. is considered one of the best examples of the Art Moderne style in Arkansas, based on the style and materials used in the construction of the station. The station is virtually unaltered from its original construction, especially the exterior. Inside the building, there are interesting exhibits about the building’s history and information about tourism sites in the area. The Blytheville Main Street organization also is based in the building, and many city events – such as the weekly Farmers Market – take place nearby throughout the year.

West Main Street Residential Historic District

A seven-block stretch of homes on West Main Street is a delightful mix of architectural styles – including Tudor, American Foursquare, Gothic Revival and Classical Revival – from the first six decades of the 20th Century. The homes are from a major time of growth for Blytheville and earned inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. The district stretches from North Sixth Street to Division Street and includes about 50 buildings. Most of the buildings are residential, two-story, wood-frame structures.

Mississippi County Historical Society Museum

A well-preserved dry goods store that operated for much of the 20th Century in downtown Osceola is the site of the Mississippi County Historical Society Museum. The buildings, built in 1902 and 1904, became a museum in 1993 and include many furnishings from the store. There are also many items displayed that were donated by longtime area residents, including art, documents, furniture and historic memorabilia that help show what it was like to live in the area many decades ago. The museum includes a research center, gift shop and coffee shop. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Ritz Civic Center

On the site of a legendary vaudeville theater from the early 1900s, the Ritz Civic Center currently plays host to a variety of live musical and theater performances and movies. The Arts Council of Mississippi County is also located in the building, and art displays are featured in the Gallery area in the lobby of the theater. Artist receptions are often held at the beginning of a new exhibit. Live performances include national touring musical acts and regional and local theater groups. Classic movies are frequently shown in the theater, which is often featured on national lists of historic and restored
theaters.

The Great River Road National Scenic Byway

The Blytheville area is along one of the most storied stretches of road in America – the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. Following the Mississippi River for about 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the route goes through ten states and features a variety of attractions in counties and communities along the way. In Arkansas, the area along the Mississippi is known as the Arkansas Delta Byways region and features events and key spots along the route.

Eaker Air Force Base

Activity is ramping up at the former Eaker Air Force Base, which was in operation from 1942 until its closing in 1992. The 3,771-acre base property, which is about 3 miles from Blytheville, includes many businesses in the Arkansas Aeroplex area as well as the Arkansas International Airport, which has one of the longest runways in the state. Other features include Lights of the Delta, considered the largest holiday lighting display in the Mid-South, which contains 6 million lights on a 1.5-mile trail on the property; and in 2018, the East Coast Timing Association held the Arkansas 1-Mile Challenge on the property, which featured racers in sports cars and motorcycles from across the country. Also of note: 247-acres that include the former Strategic Air Command Alert and Weapons Storage Areas were listed in 2018 on the National Register of Historic Places.

Johnny Cash Boyhood Home

The boyhood home of the legendary musical performer, which was added in 2018 to the National Register of Historic Places, was recently restored to reflect the look and feel of when Cash grew up in it. Ray Cash and his family came to the five-room Dyess home in the mid-1930s after they received 20 acres of land through a government program. The home, which is owned by Arkansas State University, includes exhibits about the Dyess colony, lifestyles of area residents and how the area had an effect on Johnny Cash and his musical career. Tours of the home begin at the Dyess Colony Visitors Center, 110 Center Dr., at 9 a.m. with the last tours of the day at 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Admission is charged, at various rates.

Wilson (town)

The Wilson area was once considered one of the world’s largest company towns, covering 57,000 acres and including more than 11,000 employees of the Lee Wilson Company, which boasted the “world’s largest cotton plantation.” The town incorporated in 1950 and cotton-focused parts of this legacy remain, such as a historic cotton gin and continued cotton production. In recent years, the Lawrence Group, which bought the holdings of the Wilson Company in 2010, has made many noticeable changes. Wilson is now known for its renovated Town Square Tudor buildings, including the historic Wilson Cafe; advances in education such as the Delta School, an innovative, independent K-12 institution; the Grange, a community gathering spot and learning location and shopping, including the first location of White’s Mercantile – owned by singer-songwriter Holly Williams – located outside of greater Nashville.

Dyess (town)

The town of Dyess was created in 1934 as a colony through a government program that aimed to provide tenant farmers with their own land. Named after a local cotton planter and politician William Reynolds Dyess and part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the colony included about 500 five-room farmhouses for poor Arkansas families, including the parents of music legend Johnny Cash. The project was formally ended in 1951, but the colony has been preserved through restoring several historic buildings that are now open to visitors. The Dyess Colony Visitors Center includes a gift shop and exhibits while the Dyess County Administration Building offers additional exhibits about the colony’s beginnings and the effect that the area had on Johnny Cash. The Cash family home is part of the area tour.