HELENA RIVER PARK AND FARMERS MARKET
Drive downtown to the Helena River Park for stunning views of the Mississippi River and egrets if you’re lucky. During the Civil War, the Gunboat Tyler was stationed here on the bank of the Mississippi.
If it’s a Saturday, head to the corner of Walnut and Rightor Streets to check out the Helena Farmers Market (June-September). Chat with local vendors and patrons, while snacking on a fresh peach or a homemade biscuit.
DOWNTOWN CHERRY ST.
If the weather is nice, park on one end of the street for a relaxed stroll through the historic downtown. Be sure to stop and shop at the many downtown boutiques including: Handworks, Gracious Living, Gist Music, Cotton & Kudzu, and Delta Gypsy. Many of the shops carry items unique to Helena and the Delta area.
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.
DELTA CULTURAL CENTER
The Delta Cultural Center, a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, 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.
LUNCH AT GRANNY DEE’S
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 he or she is stuffed!
NEW FORT CURTIS AND MOORE-HORNOR HOME
New Fort Curtis is a ¾ replica of the original Union Fort Curtis. This earthwork fort allows visitors to explore a Civil War fort firsthand, including the huge 24-pounder guns. Exhibits explain the fort’s various components as well as its history. 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).
FREEDOM PARK AND ESTEVAN HALL
Once the location of a Contraband camp, Freedom 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 from Freedom Park, Estevan Hall is possibly the longest standing structure in Philips County. Estevan served as a hospital during the Civil 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).
The Confederate Cemetery is located at the top of a hill within Maple Hill Cemetery. An exhibit near the Confederate Cemetery discusses the seven Confederate generals 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 sun hanging low over the Mississippi River.
ST. FRANCIS NATIONAL FOREST – LOW ROAD
Just down the road from the Confederate Cemetery on Holly St (which turns into Phillips 239), St. Francis National Forest is one of the smallest and most diverse national forests in the country. It features a variety of the finest bottomland hardwoods in the country and is an ideal habitat for a large variety of wildlife. Take a scenic drive on the “low road” and enjoy the beauty of the forest – an unusual asset for a Delta town.
DINNER AT BISTRO BAR & GRILL
The Bistro Bar & Grill’s sports bar atmosphere makes it a fun spot for drinks and a casual meal. Want to order like a local? Get a burger; it’s arguably the best in town.