Stay A While

Experience Helena, Arkansas like a local.

Rich in history and landscape, Helena is the perfect place for your next getaway. We recommend that you time your visit with one of our festivals, big or small, for a one of kind weekend. Our weekend and multi-day itineraries give visitors to our town additional time to truly experience Helena and Phillips County like a local.

Helena and Beyond

Overview:
For a longer stay in our beautiful city, consider the below weekend itinerary. From waking to a true Southern sunrise to exploring a Civil War fort, visitors to our city will come to truly understand why our citizens call Helena home, and why those who pass through our city make plans to return.

Friday

Arrive and check-in at your hotel of choice. For a cozy bed and breakfast experience, we recommended the Edwardian Inn. For those who prefer a traditional hotel experience, we recommend the Best Western Hotel.

Head downtown for dinner at El Rio Lindo for margaritas and Mexican food. Afterwards take a stroll up to the Levee Walk to see the moon rise over the Mississippi.

Saturday

After breakfast use your GPS (or old school map) to drive to Old Town Lake, a beautiful oxbow lake located in Lake View right off Highway 44. A boardwalk extends right into the middle of the lake and is the perfect spot for a morning spent fishing or simply enjoying the beauty of the Cypress trees that rise from the water. On your way you'll drive through the soy, rice and corn fields that define the Delta region.

As you head back into town, stop at Ray's Dairy Maid for lunch. Featured on the Food Network for their pecan coconut pie, Ray's serves up American classics at their best.

Drive towards the downtown on Highway 49 Bypass until you reach the recently dedicated Freedom Park. Once the location of a Contraband camp, this park is dedicated to interpreting the African American experience during the war. The five exhibits feature life-sized figures and sculptures, and structures representing a plantation house and a refugee dwelling. Freedom Park is the first location in Arkansas designated as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site.

Almost directly across the street stands Estevan Hall, possibly the longest standing structure in Philips County. Estevan served as a hospital during the war and is currently being renovated to serve as a welcome center for the city. An outdoor exhibit explains the history of the property and the family that lived in it for 170 years. (Due to renovation, Estevan Hall is currently closed to the public).

Continue towards on Biscoe/Columbia Street to New Fort Curtis, a ¾ replica of the original Union Fort Curtis. This earth works fort allows visitors to explore a Civil War fort firsthand, including the huge 24-pounder guns. Just behind the fort stands the Moore-Hornor Home, a house that predates the Civil War. The house served as a hospital following the battle, and features bullet holes in its parlor doors. (The Moore-Hornor Home is open by appointment only).

From here, head to Cherry St, to the Delta Cultural Center, a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. The center has two main properties to visit downtown, the Depot and the Visitors Center. The Depot houses exhibits on the Civil War and the Mississippi River. The Visitors Center features the broadcast facilities for King Biscuit Time, the longest running blues radio show in the nation, and is a great place to pick up souvenirs.

While downtown, stroll north on Cherry Street to check out the downtown boutiques. Antiques hound? Don't miss Gracious Living, a veritable treasure trove of collectables. Looking for a unique gift to take home? We recommend stopping by Handworks, Cotton & Kudzu and Delta Gypsy.

On your walk, make sure to wander through the two downtown parks, Thad Kelly Courtyard and Court Square Park. Thad Kelly is a charming pocket park created in the footprint of a fallen building. Panels in the park examine recruiting in Helena, the formation of the 54th and 57th United States Colored Infantry regiments and why Freedmen chose to serve in the Union army. Court Square Park features a reproduction cannon with an exhibit interpreting Phillips County's Confederate soldiers and a bronze statue representing a student at Southland College, a Quaker school opened to educate African-American children orphaned by the war.

For dinner, we suggest either Kelly's or T-Mac's. Kelly's is a local and much beloved diner. We suggest ordering the fried fish platter, the large order is enough to feed a small army. T-Mac's is known for their BBQ, which features their homemade sauce. Locals love the BBQ nachos.

Sunday

After breakfast, head downtown to Helena River Park for stunning views of the Mississippi River and egrets if you're lucky. A number of regiments, including the 9th Minnesota, camped here on the bank of the Mississippi. The park was also the site of the Gunboat Tyler.

If you attend church, we encourage you to join a service at one of our historic churches. Of particular note are St. Mary's Catholic Church and St. John's Episcopal Church. St. Mary's was designed by Charles Eames in1935; Eames is a well-known American designer famous for the "Eames chair". St. John's Church was originally founded in Helena in 1861, however the current structure was built in 1914 and is an example of the Old English style of architecture. The narthex features beautiful glass windows, one of which, a Tiffany window, was salvaged from a church fire in 1914.

If you'd prefer to spend your last hours exploring, drive to the Confederate Cemetery located at the top of a hill within Maple Hill Cemetery. An exhibit near the Confederate Cemetery discusses the seven high-ranking Confederate officers from the Helena area, three of whom are buried here including General Patrick Cleburne. If you're lucky, as you drive down the hill towards to the exit you'll catch a glance of the Mississippi River.

On your way out of town, look for signs of the construction of additional Civil War Helena sites along Biscoe. 2014 promises to bring new attractions sure to tempt visitors to plan a return trip.

Details:

Edwardian Inn
317 Biscoe St.
Helena, AR 72342
870-338-9155

Best Western
1053 W Highway 49
Helena, AR 72390
870-572-2592

El Rio Lindo
101 Missouri St.
Helena, AR 72342
870-753-9466

Levee Walk
Above Cherry St. on the levee
Helena, AR 72342

Old Town Lake
Directly off of Hwy 44
Lakeview, AR 74642

Ray's Dairy Maid
5322 Hwy 49
Barton, AR 72312
870-572-3060

New Fort Curtis and Moore-Hornor Home
350 Columbia
Helena, AR 72342
870-338-4350

Freedom Park and Estevan Hall
700 South Biscoe
Helena, AR 72342
870-338-4350

Delta Cultural Center
141 Cherry St.
Helena, AR 72342
870-338-4350

Thad Kelly Courtyard
415 Cherry St.
Helena, AR 72342

Court Square Park
622 Cherry St.
Helena, AR 72342

Kelly's
297 Richmond Hill
Helena, AR 72390
870-572-5500

T-Mac's
3136 Hwy 49
Helena, AR 72390
870-572-0125

Helena River Park
Follow Perry St. east, onto the levee
Helena, AR 72342

Confederate Cemetery
Entrance on North Holly St.
Helena, AR 72342

Civil War Helena

Overview:
See the Civil War like you’ve never seen it before while enjoying a multi-day stay in historic Helena, Arkansas. Walk the ramparts of a replica Civil War fort. See the Mississippi River once patrolled by Union gunboats from high atop an artillery battery. Explore the origins of freedom in Arkansas at Freedom Park, the first location in Arkansas designated as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site.

Friday

Arrive and check-in at your hotel of choice. For a cozy bed and breakfast experience, we recommended the Edwardian Inn. For those who prefer a traditional hotel experience, we recommend the Best Western Hotel.

Head downtown for dinner at El Rio Lindo for margaritas and Mexican food. Afterwards take a stroll up to the Levee Walk to see the moon rise over the Mississippi. Interpretive panels along the Walk discuss the Yazoo Pass Expedition and changes Union occupation brought to Helena.

Saturday

If you want to forgo your hotel breakfast, head to Kelly's for a sausage and biscuit sandwich. They make their biscuits homemade every morning, so they'll be hot and fresh.

Head to Cherry Street in downtown Helena to the Delta Cultural Center, a state museum, which features two locations with exhibits on the Civil War, the Mississippi River and the Delta Blues. The Center's gift shop is a great place to pick up souvenirs.

While downtown, stroll north on Cherry Street to check out the downtown boutiques and stop by Thad Kelly Courtyard, a charming pocket park created in the footprint of a fallen building. Panels in the park examine recruiting in Helena, the formation of the 54th and 57th United States Colored Infantry regiments and why Freedmen chose to serve in the Union army. Continue walking north and you'll reach Court Square Park, which features a reproduction cannon with an exhibit interpreting Phillips County's Confederate soldiers and a bronze statue representing a student at Southland College, a Quaker school opened to educate African-American children orphaned by the war.

All that walking is bound to make you hungry. Stop at Granny Dee's for friendly service and soul food recipes that have been passed down for generations. The buffet has a series of rotating offerings including greens, fried chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, and peach cobbler. Be careful – almost everyone who goes ends up eating until they're stuffed!

Once you recover, check out New Fort Curtis, a ¾ replica of the original Union Fort Curtis. This earth works fort allows visitors to explore a Civil War fort firsthand, including the huge 24-pounder guns. Just behind the fort stands the Moore-Hornor Home, a house that predates the Civil War. The house served as a hospital following the battle, and features bullet holes in its parlor doors. (The Moore-Hornor Home is open by appointment only).

Drive down Columbia/Biscoe Street to the recently dedicated Freedom Park. Once the location of a Contraband camp, this park is dedicated to interpreting the African American experience during the war. The five exhibits feature life-sized figures and sculptures, and structures representing a plantation house and a refugee dwelling. Freedom Park is the first location in Arkansas designated as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site.

Almost directly across the street stands Estevan Hall, possibly the longest standing structure in Philips County. Estevan served as a hospital during the war and is currently being renovated to serve as a welcome center for the city. An outdoor exhibit explains the history of the property and the family that lived in it for 170 years. (Due to renovation, Estevan Hall is currently closed to the public).

A few blocks back towards town, a beautiful exhibit interprets the history of St. Catherine Convent and Academy, the sisters of which cared for the wounded following the Battle of Helena.

For dinner, we suggest either the Bistro Bar & Grill or T-Mac's. The Bistro's sports bar atmosphere makes it a fun spot for drinks and a casual meal – we recommend the burger. T-Mac's is known for their BBQ, which features their homemade sauce. Locals love the BBQ nachos.

Sunday

After breakfast, head downtown to Helena River Park for stunning views of the Mississippi River and egrets if you're lucky. A number of regiments, including the 9th Minnesota, camped here on the bank of the Mississippi.

Then drive to Magnolia Cemetery. The city's African American cemetery is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. It features headstones of Civil War veterans, well-known philanthropist Eliza Miller and William Grey, one of the first black legislators in Arkansas.

Right on the other side of the hill is the Confederate Cemetery, located at the top of Maple Hill Cemetery. The location of the two cemeteries side by side is an incredibly unusual occurrence in the South. An exhibit near the Confederate Cemetery discusses the seven high-ranking Confederate officers from the Helena area, three of whom are buried here including General Patrick Cleburne.

For more on General Cleburne, a much beloved Civil War figure, stop by the outdoor exhibit and life-sized bronze statue at the Helena Museum.

On your way out of town, look for signs of the construction of additional Civil War Helena sites along Biscoe. 2014 promises to bring new attractions sure to tempt visitors to plan a return trip.

Details:

Edwardian Inn
317 Biscoe St.
Helena, AR 72342
870-338-9155

Best Western
1053 W Highway 49
Helena, AR 72390
870-572-2592

El Rio Lindo
101 Missouri St.
Helena, AR 72342
870-753-9466

Levee Walk
Above Cherry St. on the levee
Helena, AR 72342

Kelly's
297 Richmond Hill
Helena, AR 72390
870-572-5500

Delta Cultural Center
141 Cherry St.
Helena, AR 72342
870-338-4350

Thad Kelly Courtyard
415 Cherry St.
Helena, AR 72342

Court Square Park
622 Cherry St.
Helena, AR 72342

Granny Dee's
426 Cherry St.
Helena, AR 72342
870-817-0200

New Fort Curtis and Moore-Hornor Home
350 Columbia
Helena, AR 72342
870-338-4350

Freedom Park and Estevan Hall
700 South Biscoe
Helena, AR 72342
870-338-4350

Bistro Bar & Grill
213 Plaza
Helena, AR 72342
870-572-9707

T-Mac's
3136 Hwy 49
West Helena, AR 72390
870-572-0125

Helena River Park
Follow Perry St. east, onto the levee
Helena, AR 72342

Magnolia Cemetery
Entrance on Wire Road
Helena, AR 72342

Confederate Cemetery
Entrance on North Holly St.
Helena, AR 72342

Helena Museum and General Cleburne bronze
623 Pecan
Helena, AR 72342
870-338-7790

The Great Outdoors

Overview:
Check back soon for an upcoming itinerary!

Coming soon!

Three Day Delta Getaway

Overview:
Our three day Delta getaway allows our guests an opportunity to take in an extended view of Helena and the surrounding locale. Attractions like Johnny Cash's boyhood home, a tour of historic homes and churches, the Helena Museum and a jaunt across the Mississippi river make this getaway an engaging, memorable experience.

Day One

Leave Memphis after breakfast. 

Head up I-55N to Dyess, AR. Tour the newly restored Johnny Cash Boyhood Home located in the Dyess Colony. The Dyess Colony was a federal agricultural resettlement community created in 1934 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. It provided a fresh start for nearly 500 impoverished Arkansas farm families, including the family of music legend Johnny Cash. The Cash home is one of the few houses remaining and is in the process of being restored. Johnny Cash lived in Dyess until he graduated from high school in 1950. His music was greatly influenced by his experiences in Dyess, including such songs as “Pickin’ Time” and “Five Feet High and Rising.”

Drive east on Highway 14 to Wilson, AR to visit Hampson Archeological Museum State Park which houses an outstanding collection of artifacts from the Nodena Native Americans, which were in the area from 1400 to 1650 A.D. 

Enjoy dinner at Wilson Café, which features updated twists on Southern classics and often live entertainment. 

Spend the night in Osecola, AR.  

 

Day Two

Leave Osecola after breakfast. 

Drive south to Marianna, AR for an early lunch at Jones Bar-B-Q, a James Beard award winning restaurant. Some incarnation of Jones Bar-B-Q Diner has been open since at least the 1910s. Today Jones Bar-B-Q is owned by James and Betty Jones and is one of the oldest African-American owned restaurants in America.  

Head South on Highway 1 to Helena, AR. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the area’s rich history. We suggest starting at Helena River Park, where a boardwalk overlooks the Mississippi River, which has been an integral part of Helena’s history since its founding. 

Next visit a few of Helena’s key Civil War sites including Freedom Park (the first site in Arkansas to be designated as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site), New Fort Curtis (3/4 scale replica Union earth works fort complete with two 24pounder guns ), and Battery C (one of four batteries erected by the Union army to defend the city from Confederate attack).

Stop at the Pillow-Thompson House for a tour one of the finest examples of Queen Anne architecture in the South. The home’s second floor has the family’s heirloom furniture and hat collection on display. 

End the day’s tour at the Helena Museum. One of the oldest museums in Arkansas, their collection includes one of the largest displays of Edison artifacts and the bullet that killed General Thomas Hindman.

For dinner we suggest the Bistro Bar and Grill or El Rio Lindo. Both offer a laidback atmosphere where visitors can grab a beer or margarita and relax. The Bistro’s burger is arguably the best in town and El Rio Lindo boasts fresh homemade salsa.  

Spend the night at one of Helena’s hotels or Bed & Breakfasts. 

 

Day Three 

For breakfast either enjoy your hotel’s complimentary spread, or grab breakfast at Kelly’s, we recommend anything that comes with their homemade biscuits. 

Head to Cherry Street to fit in some shopping at the gift shops located in the most intact historic downtown in Arkansas. Handworks, Cotton & Kudzu, and Delta Gypsy carry a wide variety of locally and regionally sourced gifts. If you’re lucky Gist Music will be open, the music store where Levon Helm got his first guitar. For souvenirs, make sure to stop by the King Biscuit Blues Festival office, for a year around taste of festival fun.

Head to the Delta Cultural Center at 11:30pm to view their latest exhibit: Songs from the Field. At 12:15pm head across the museum to the King Biscuit Time radio booth, where “Sunshine” Sonny Payne broadcasts the show live every weekday. King Biscuit Time is the longest running blues radio show in the county. If you’re lucky, Sonny will have you on the show as his guest. 

Eat lunch at Granny Dee’s, for food that will really stir your soul. The menu rotates daily with highlights including fried chicken, turnip greens, sweet potatoes, peach cobbler and fried liver for the adventurous.  

After lunch, drive across the Mississippi River Bridge to Clarksdale, MS. Visit the Delta Blues Museum and see The Crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil.

Drive back to Memphis. 

Upcoming Events

Apr 8th

Cherry Street Fair

Don't miss this amazing FREE community event which is held the Second... more»

Apr 9th

Steamboat Sunday-The American Queen Visits Helena

Come to historic downtown Helena on Steamboat Sundays and enjoy special... more»

Apr 21st to Apr 22nd

Southbound Arts & Music Festival

SOUTHBOUND ARTS & MUSIC FESTIVAL

April 21... more»

Apr 23rd

Steamboat Sunday-The American Queen Visits Helena

Come to historic downtown Helena on Steamboat Sundays and enjoy special... more»

May 7th

Steamboat Sunday-The American Queen Visits Helena

Come to historic downtown Helena on Steamboat Sundays and enjoy special... more»

Where to Stay

From historic inns to traditional overnight accommodations, you will always have a good night's sleep in Helena. View Lodging Guide

Where to Shop

Helena is home to a wide variety of locally owned boutiques, ranging from gift shops to antique and thrift stores. View Shopping Guide

Where to Eat

BBQ, burgers and soul food are American culinary staples and Helena has them in abundance. View Dining Guide