Fort Smith

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Fort Smith is located in northwest Arkansas and borders Oklahoma. It is the county seat of Sebastian County. The city has a population of 80,286 which makes it the second largest city in Arkansas behind Little Rock. It is located in the River Valley of Arkansas between the Ouachita mountains in the south and the Boston and Ozark mountains of the north and a gateway city to the Ozarks.

Garrison Avenue - Fort Smith, AR

Understand[edit]

In 1817 Fort Smith was established as a military fort next to Indian territory in Oklahoma to keep the peace between the native Osage tribes and the recently relocated Cherokee groups. It is located at the junction of the Arkansas river and the Poteau river at a place that early French explorers called Belle Point. The military fort was named after General Thomas A. Smith, the military's district commander. The military later relocated to nearby Fort Chaffee but the civilian settlers remained keeping the name of the fort and establishing a western frontier town that was often the last genteel layover for people from all walks of life before excursions into Indian Oklahoma including soldiers en route to the Mexican War in the Southwest.

Later Fort Smith became a popular stop for westward expansionists, gold rush diggers, and those seeking better opportunities due to the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 20th century. Today as the second largest city in the state, the municipality and surrounding area is a major economic hub for the state of Arkansas with many major corporations with roots in the city still in operation and employing thousands. The downtown area and commercial zones are usually busy with voluminous traffic most days but beyond that one will find quiet residential zones and woods. Recently due to economic trends in the U.S. economy, some major factories and plants have closed and/or moved resulting in a swelling of the unemployed population and an uptick in local taxes.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

  • Fort Smith Regional Airport (IATA: FSM) has service by American Eagle from Dallas/Fort Worth, and Delta Connection from Atlanta.
  • Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (IATA: XNA) [1] located near Bentonville, is about an hour and a half from Fort Smith.
  • Tulsa International Airport (IATA: TUL) [2] (in Oklahoma) and Little Rock International Airport (IATA: LIT) [3] are both about a two-hour drive away.

By train[edit]

Fort Smith itself does not have passenger rail service. The nearest cities with Amtrak stations are Oklahoma City, which is the northern terminus of the Heartland Flyer [4] to Fort Worth; and Little Rock, which is served by the Texas Eagle [5] San Antonio - Chicago route.

Courthouse at Fort Smith National Historic Site

By car[edit]

Fort Smith is located at the intersection of Interstate 40, Interstate 540, and US Route 71. Approximate driving times are: 2 hours and 30 minutes west of Little Rock, 1 hour south of Fayetteville, and 3 hours east of Oklahoma City.

By bus[edit]

The Jefferson Lines services the city with bus service to the east, west and north.

Get around[edit]

The best way to get around and see Fort Smith is by car. Also, public transport is provided by Fort Smith Transit. Although Fort Smith is Arkansas' second largest city, it is relatively compact and getting around shouldn't be much of a problem.

See[edit]

The Hanging Judge

The Fort Smith National Historic Site contains the former courthouse of Issac Parker (1838-1896), who became known as "The Hanging Judge". Parker served 21 years on the bench, during which he sentenced 160 criminals to death by hanging, of which 79 were actually hanged. Today, the phrase hanging judge has entered American law jargon as a term for a judge who frequently implements the death penalty or seeks swift and firm justice.

Miss Laura's house of ill-repute and Visitor Center
  • Miss Laura's Social Club and Visitor Center, 2 N "B" St., +1 479 783-8888, A house of ill-repute from Fort Smith's past, now a visitor center. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is a good starting point for any visit to Fort Smith.
  • Fort Smith National Historic Site, South of Garrison Ave., near the Arkansas river. Parking and Park entrance near 3rd St. and Garland Ave. [6] This site includes both the original Fort sites and the reconstructed gallows of Hanging Judge Issac Parker.
  • Trolley Museum +1 479 783-0205. 100 S. 4th, Take a ride on the trolley past the Judge Parker court and the National Historic Site.
  • Belle Grove Historic District, 22 square block area north of downtown, On the National Register of Historic Places and has 25 restored historical homes.
  • Fort Chaffee and Chaffee Crossing, Hwy 22 (east of Fort Smith) Former military fort with a rich history. Was built in 1941 and includes 22,000 acres. Elvis Presley was inducted into the military and started basic training there. The movies "Biloxi Blues," and "A Soldier's Story" were filmed there.

Do[edit]

  • Jack's Skateland1413 Phoenix Avenue +1 479 646-2538. An ordinary roller skating rink, but with a unique distinction: it has the only artistic roller skating club in Arkansas.

Festivals[edit]

Learn[edit]

  • University of Arkansas—Fort Smith, 5210 Grand Ave., +1 479 788-7000 [7] Fort Smith's local university branch.

Work[edit]

Judge Parker Gallows, "The Hanging Judge"

There are several major employers in Fort Smith, including Baldor Electric, Whirlpool Corporation, Rheem, Golden Ventures and Arkansas Best Corporation (ABF).

Buy[edit]

  • Central Mall5111 Rogers Ave. (Exit 8, I-540) This mall is the primary shopping mall in Fort Smith with shops, restaurants and movies.
  • Solemates On The Avenue505 Garrison Ave +1 479 782-2313fax: +1 479 782-2313. Womens clothing.
  • T's Boutique507 N. Greenwood Ave +1 479 484-5608. Ladies Boutique.
  • Stringtown Yarn & Fiber11 North 3rd Street +1 479 434-2617. Supplies for knitting, crochet, and handspinning.

Eat[edit]

You will find the standard chain restaurants spread out for 2 miles on Rogers Ave. to the east of Interstate 540. They include Friday's, Applebees, Chili's, Outback Steak House, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Arby's, Chick-fil-A, KFC, Wendy's, Schlotzsky's Deli, IHOP and Village Inn.

  • Bella Italia Restaurant, 407. N. 8th St., +1 479 785-1550
  • Calico Country +1 479 452-3299. 2401 South 56th, Family style restaurant with great cinnamon rolls.
  • Catfish Cove Restaurant1615 S. Phoenix Av +1 479 646-8835. Catfish, Seafood and frog legs on a all you can buffet.
  • Doe's Steak House422 N. 3rd Street +1 479 784-9111. Great steaks and tamales.
  • Diamond Head Restaurant4600 Towson Ave +1 479 646-2762. Suite 59., A Great Chinese Dine in Restaurant.
  • Hamburger Barn317 Garrison Av +1 479 782-0233. Design your own hamburger.
  • Jerry Neel's BBQ1823 S Phoenix Av +1 479 646-8085. Very good BBQ.
  • Art's BBQ, +1 479 452-2502, Even better BBQ.
  • Leoncia's1000 Garrison Ave (Downtown),  +1 479 783-6500. 11AM-8PM M-Sa. New Orleans sandwiches.
  • Lin's Garden Chinese Restaurant7308 Rogers Ave +1 479 484-5090. Good Chinese buffet.
  • Ole Feed House3801 Planters Rd +1 479 649-9525. Seafood and BBQ Buffet, don't miss out on the homemade cinnamon rolls.
  • Rolando's Restaurante223 Garrison Avenue +1 479 573-0404. Nuevo Latino food in a Southern hospitality setting.
  • Taliano's201 North 14th Street +1 479 785-2292. Very good Italian food.
  • Varsity Sports Grill318 Garrison Ave +1 479 494-7173. TV's with all the games, pool and great homemade potato chips.

Drink[edit]

  • Kinkead's1004 1/2 Garrison Ave. (In downtown next to the main post office.),  +1 479 494-7477. Tuesday-Sunday 7PM to 2AM. Fort Smith's only gay bar. Good renovations but the uninitiated may be surprised at its scant floor space, especially on a busy weekend. Smoking allowed. Drag shows on Friday and Saturday. "Cougar Cabaret" drag show (no songs performed after the year 1989) once a month.
  • Rooster's Blues Bar801 Garrison Ave +1 479 783-2625.
  • Sweet Bay Coffee Co.3400 Rogers Ave +1 479 452-6050fax: +1 479 424-1711.
  • Tassanee's Thai Cuisine1611 Dodson Avenue +1 479 7852-7750. 11.00-9.00. Good thai food.

Sleep[edit]

Respect[edit]

  • Being so close to a number of military installations and bases the area boasts a large number of military families.
  • The city is in a very GOP concentrated district as opposed to the rest of the state, though changing political trends for both parties have caught up to the area recently.
  • Church attendance is very high and religious expression often encouraged but residents are often respectful of one politely declines their invitations to services. There are also small nonreligious secular social groups nearby, notably in Fayetteville, if that's one's preference.
  • Being near many rural communities and woodlands one may come across, though rare, wildlife especially the nearer one is on the outskirts of the city. It is best advised to leave the wildlife be.
  • Local county liquor laws prohibit the sale of alcohol on Sundays.
  • Due to nation-wide economic changes several large scale employers have had to close or move. These events have hit the local residents very hard and as a result several have had to swallow their pride and accept public assistance.

Connect[edit]

The area code for Fort Smith is 479.

  • Panera Bread, 2917 S 74th St. Free Internet.
  • Creative Kitchen, 3111 Old Greenwood Rd, [8] Free Internet.
  • Fort Smith Library, [9] The Main Library at 3201 Rogers Avenue and three branches have computer terminals with internet access; free Wi-Fi is also available at all library locations.
  • University of Arkansas—Fort Smith, 5402 Kinkead Ave. Free WiFi available for guests and students on campus.

Stay safe[edit]

Check the Tornado safety page if you are visiting Fort Smith. A tornado ripped through downtown Fort Smith on April 21, 1996 killing two people.

Fort Smith is the 6th most hit city by tornados in the US

Go next[edit]

Talimena Drive in the fall
  • Talimena Drive from Talihina, Oklahoma to Mena, Arkansas 54 Mile scenic drive in Oklahoma and Arkansas along the ridge of the Ouachita Mountains and the Ouachita National Forest. The drive has frequent turnouts so you can enjoy the scenery.
  • Hot Springs Visit the national park and Oaklawn Park horse racing. Enjoy a thermal bath in the bath house of your choice.
  • Eureka Springs only 2-1/2 hours of Ozarks driving from Fort Smith. Take the guided tram tour of the historic area. Visit Christ of the Ozarks monument and Passion Play grounds. Enjoy the Little Switzerland of the Ozarks.
  • Branson is just a 3 hour drive and in the heart of the Ozarks. Visit some of the craft shops, see a show, shop the outlet malls and take a ride on the Branson Scenic Railway. Be sure and visit the Veteran Memorial Museum.
  • Altus, a wine-producing town, is a short drive east from Fort Smith on Interstate 40 or US Route 64. It is known best as the setting of The Simple Life. Don't forget to visit the wineries, though, and while you're at it, wine tasting is also a great idea. While in Altus, it worth stopping to see the interior of St. Mary's Catholic Church. The Church is decorated with elaborate frescos that were painted by a German artist who was stranded in the United States following the outbreak of World War I.
  • Buffalo National River, about three hours from Fort Smith, is a popular place for boating and fishing.
Routes through Fort Smith
NormanPocola ← becomes Oklahoma State Highway 9.svg  W I-540.svg N  Van BurenFayetteville via I-49.svg
FayettevilleVan Buren  N US 71.svg S  GreenwoodTexarkana
HugoPocola  S US 271.svg N  END


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