Just 30 minutes up the road from the Arkansas capital, Conway is a vibrant community and the seventh-largest city in the state. With three colleges in town, it has the nickname “City of Colleges.”
There’s always an athletic or performing arts event happening on one of those campuses. And you know that the city has to have some great restaurants to feed all those college students.
But beyond a college town, Conway is a family town with many unique public parks and outdoor adventure areas to take advantage of the warm Arkansas weather. If you have kids of a certain age, you’ll likely spend a weekend in Conway at a baseball, softball, or soccer tournament hosted at one of the multiple sports complexes around the city. Did we mention roundabouts? Lots of roundabouts.
14. City Parks
We would classify Conway’s parks into two main groups. The first is your typical laid-back city park. These include open fields for throwing a ball or running around, and there are typically various types of playground equipment. One unique Conway twist is that Laurel Park and Fifth Avenue Park have seasonal splash pads where children can run through water features and sprinklers!
The second type is large sports complexes. It’s not unusual for Conway locals to see large groups of kids decked out in the same uniforms on the weekend. The city is a regular choice for state and regional sports tournaments. Conway offers multiple top-notch venues. The Centennial Soccer Complex has ten full-size fields and two more youth-sized soccer fields. The Don Owen Sports Center has indoor (basketball, volleyball, & walking track) and outdoor offerings (softball and t-ball). There’s also the City of Colleges and Conway Station Parks. These softball and baseball fields are award-winning and home to college, high school, and younger teams.
13. Day Trip to Petit Jean State Park
(image via Arkansas State Parks)
Petit Jean State Park is only a 45-minute drive from downtown Conway. That makes it the perfect day trip for a free weekend on your calendar. The main draws here are the hiking trails and expansive views over the Arkansas River. The most notable hiking trail is Ceder Falls Trail which winds its way to the picturesque Cedar Falls waterfall. At 95 feet tall, it’s one of the tallest in the state. During spring and summer, many hikers don bathing suits and stand underneath the falls to cool down from the 1-mile hike.
Petit Jean is also a popular camping area with accommodations ranging from yurts to cabins to lodges. There are also places to pitch a tent, if you want to go old school, or to park an RV, if glamping is more your style. The Mather Lodge Restaurant also serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and features a large, eclectic menu.
(image via Toad Suck Daze Festival)
There are numerous food festivals and parades centered around the downtown Conway area throughout the year. The largest draw, however, is Toad Suck Daze, held the first weekend in May. This community festival features carnival rides, food options, arts & crafts, and the world-famous toad races!
Covering eight city blocks, Toad Suck Daze is the largest free, family-friendly event in the state. Beyond just providing weekend fun, the festival also raises funding for educational initiatives in the Faulkner County area, such as scholarships and pre-K opportunities.
11. Lake Conway and/or Beaverfork Lake
For visitors who enjoy low-key water recreation, Conway has two great options. Lake Conway, just south of the city proper, is the largest Arkansas Game & Fish Commission lake. This isn’t a water ski-friendly lake, but you can take your boat out cruising the 6,700 acres. Lake Conway is a popular fishing spot. The Game and Fish Commission keeps it full of bass, crappie, bream, and catfish.
Beaverfork Lake is smaller at 960 acres. But unlike Lake Conway, Beaverfork Lake has a swim beach. While also a popular fishing location, you are more likely to see families and groups utilizing the playground, sand volleyball court, disc golf course, or picnic pavilions around this scenic location.
10. Tucker Creek Walking Trail
The official name may be Kinley Trail at Tucker Creek (after the mayor who made it happen), but locals know it as Tucker Creek Walking & Bike Trail. The 3.1-mile paved and lighted pathway stretches from Gatlin Park on Tyler Street to the Walmart Supercenter on Dave Ward. It’s the perfect place to let out some energy or to take a relaxing evening stroll.
9. Cadron Settlement Park
Cadron Settlement Park is located directly west of Conway along the Arkansas River. Historically, it was an important port along the river, though it is no longer used as such. Today, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places thanks largely to the reconstructed architecturally significant blockhouse on the grounds. Its unique second story is larger and overhangs the first.
The park features boat ramps to the river, picnic areas & pavilions, and numerous hiking trails. A biking trail winds its way through the hilly bluffs. It features tight turns as well as great views of the Arkansas River. There are also historical markers denoting the memorable role the area played along the Trial of Tears.
8. Hendrix & the Hendrix Village
(image via Hendrix College)
Hendrix College is just one of the three tertiary institutions in Conway (hence the city’s nickname). This small (1,300 students), highly-ranked liberal arts college has a big impact on the city. The campus’s new Windgate Museum of Art hosts traveling and student exhibitions in a beautiful state-of-the-art building. Theatrical performances are also held inside Cabe Theatre.
Across Harkrider Street from the main campus, the Hendrix Village is a residential and entertainment hub featuring some of the city’s best shopping and eating. The Purple Cow is a retro soda fountain/diner. ZAZA: Conway is beloved for its pizzas, salads, and gelato. Finally, Agape Asian Noodles has pan-Asian fare from sushi to pho.
7. Flashback Pinball Arcade
(image via Flashback Pinball Arcade)
Are you a fan of retro games? Flashback Pinball Arcade has Arkansas’s largest single collection of arcade games, including over 50 vintage pinball games. A $10 entrance fee gets you access to all your favorite themed pinball games, like Star Trek, Space Invaders, Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man, and more. Most games only cost one or two quarters to play.
Once a month, Flashback Pinball Arcade also hosts International Flipper Pinball Association tournaments. Whether you’re a kid or an adult trying to recapture the 80s arcades of your youth, everyone is sure to have a blast.
6. Urban Air Adventure Park
(image via Urban Air Adventure Park (Conway))
Urban Air Adventure Park is a mini theme park in a compact setting. This kids paradise has everything under one roof. Climbing walls, ropes courses, trampolines & related games, VR games, bumper cars, and a kid-friendly Ninja Warrior course.
All of these activities obviously make Urban Air the perfect birthday party setting. Parents will like it because it’s guaranteed to tire your little ones out. Day passes range from $15 to $31 depending on how many activities your kids want to do. Parent passes are 50% off. Monthly membership passes are also available.
5. The Village at Pickles Gap
(image via Pickles Gap Village)
The Village @ Pickles Gap (formerly “Pickles Gap Village” for decades) is just northeast of Conway proper alongside Highway 65. For years, it’s been the place to stop for some tasty fudge when traveling to and from Central Arkansas. Today, it’s undergone a bit of a renaissance.
New updates have brought Doc’s Coffee & Creamery and in the spring months, a plant nursery has all your horticultural needs. Additionally, an arts & crafts market will have numerous goods from local vendors. And don’t worry. The fudge hasn’t gone anywhere.
4. Go Antique Shopping
(image via Jenifer's Antiques)
Do you love snagging a good deal on a vintage item? Then Conway is exactly the right place for you to go antique shopping. According to our very unscientific count, it has more antique shops per capita than any other place in Arkansas. For those sticking around downtown, Jenifer’s Antiques is right on Oak Street. If you’re browsing around lunchtime, stop in at Cross Creek Sandwich Shop for a bite to eat.
The Painted Goat Flea Market and Painted Pug Flea Market are also in the immediate downtown area. North of downtown on Harkrider Street is Blue Ribbon Antiques. For those venturing further out, head east on Highway 64. There you’ll find Small Town Shoppes Flea Market and Urban Renewal. Or you could plan your visit around one of the markets that Bella Rustina puts on two to three times a year.
3. Jack’s Ultra Sports
(image via Jacks Ultra Sports)
This indoor entertainment venue has a fun activity for any member of the family. Jack’s Ultra Sports has everything from low- to high-activity levels. The least involved is a traditional arcade. Play games, win tickets, and turn them in for prizes. Up the ante by racing the clock to get out of an escape room.
Those who want higher stakes can try their hand at the ultimate laser tag course or the low-impact paintball. This is the only indoor paintball field of its kind in the state. This version uses a smaller paintball so there is less sting. Additionally, stain-free paint is used so you don’t ruin your clothes. Laser tag and escape rooms start at $12, while paintball starts at $25. However, you can buy passes that mix-and-match activities for cheaper than buying them à la carte.
2. University of Central Arkansas
(image via University of Central Arkansas)
The University of Central Arkansas is the big dog in town—big bear, more accurately. With an enrollment of around 10,000, students make up a large percentage of the city when school is in session. To keep all those students entertained, there’s always something going on around campus. And the larger public is also usually invited!
No matter what time of year, the UCA Bears will have some sporting action. Football and tailgating occur in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball & softball in the spring. UCA even has a beach volleyball team. The Reynolds Performance Hall on campus hosts numerous events throughout the year. Touring Broadway productions visit, as do famous musicians and other cultural figures for performances and lectures. At the least, a walk around the campus fountains or the Jewel Moore Nature Reserve is a pretty way to spend some time.
1. Downtown Conway
(image via Downtown Conway)
Downtown Conway is the place to be. Oak Street is the main drag, lined with quirky shops and local restaurants. E. Leigh’s is a contemporary boutique with cute women’s wear and accessories. Rock City Outfitters has more relaxed clothing options for both men and women. You’ll find shirts, hats, and more with locally-relevant screenprints and sayings. Buff City Soaps has everything you could need for your face, body, bath, and shower.
Restaurants range from fine dining establishments to lunch sandwich shops. Mike’s Place has been a local institution for years. It’s the perfect place for a date night or anniversary. Pasta Grill is also a nice choice whose name describes the menu. JJ’s Grill and Brick & Forge Taproom focus more on bar and pub food. If it’s morning and you’re hankering for breakfast, Bob’s Grill has been a city morning spot since the 1980s. For something a little different, try Streetside Creperie.
As you can see, Conway has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from Conway.
These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.