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Nichole Holze

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In the 1920s there was an oil boom in southern Arkansas. At the heart of that oil boom: El Dorado, Arkansas. The city was also prominent during World War II within the chemical industry. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the economic development of the city and it makes a wonderful day trip from the Texarkana area.

Most recently, the downtown area welcomed the Murphy Arts District, an entertainment and arts-focused district that welcomes performances of all types to El Dorado. They regularly host outdoor concerts in their amphitheater and have begun hosting events indoors again as well.  At the beginning of 2020, MAD partnered with Crystal Bridges to bring an immersive art exhibit to the south-central Arkansas area. The AstroZone exhibit was a futuristic, fully interactive exhibit by Claire Helen Ashley.

The downtown is also host to memorial parks, shopping, and plentiful dining options. There are also state parks and wilderness areas nearby.

Murphy Arts District

Our ideal day trip to El Dorado goes a little something like this.

Start the day at the Murphy Arts District “MAD” playscape! This free, epic playground covers two acres and has something for kids (and adults!) of all ages. My children love the huge climbing structures that offer a challenge even as they are growing older. Another highlight, the seasonal splash pad with a giant razorback hog slide. During the summer months, MAD hosts movie Mondays with a showing of a different family-friendly movie each Monday night at sundown. The movies are shown in the amphitheater outdoors. The soon-to-open Mule Kick Cafe (formerly the Griffin) will also offer food and beverages.

One thing we also love about MAD is that during the 2020 pandemic, they provided FREE virtual art lessons and storytime with a fantastic art teacher from the El Dorado area. My children so enjoyed tuning in each week for a delightful story and art lesson. Those virtual lessons are still available on the Murphy Arts District website and are a great tool for busting boredom.

Coffee Break

Once everyone is tired and hungry, walk over to PJ’s Coffee located downtown. Be sure to grab a photo at the London-style phone booth sitting outside that also doubles as a little free library! PJ’s offers a full menu of pastries, breakfast sandwiches, and lunch sandwiches. There’s also an ice cream store right next door for an extra sweet treat.

After lunch, be sure to take a walk to Oil Heritage Park to learn a little bit more about the history of the area. Be sure to also check out Jefferson Street Books and some of the other fun shopping available in downtown El Dorado.

Stroll Through Nature

For one last hurrah before you head out, be sure to drive over to the South Arkansas Arboretum for a little stroll through nature. The paths are paved and are full of interpretive signs to help educate about the different types of trees and flowers. For added fun, make it a little scavenger hunt for different types of leaves or flowers! The arboretum, operated by the State Parks of Arkansas, has something to see in every season of the year.

If you’re looking to extend your stay for an overnight or a weekend, be sure to check out the newly opened Haywood Hotel located downtown or the Union Square Guest Quarters.

Be sure to follow the Murphy Arts District on social media to know about all of their upcoming events!

“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”
– Richard Louv

Before having children, I read a book that changed my life and my perspectives on parenting, “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv. It’s a powerful book about the importance of nature in childhood. His follow-up book, “The Nature Principle”, addresses the same importance of nature for humans of every age.

Season After Season

When we first moved to the Texarkana area and my children were very little, we began exploring the newly completed trails system at Bringle Lake, starting small with a stroll from one “gnome home” to the next. We made it a part of our weekly rhythm, returning week after week, month after month, and season after season. We’ve seen our favorite climbing tree in every season, watched Pileated woodpeckers zoom from tree to tree,  I’ve been almost sideswiped by a Barred Owl while running, and we’ve had our share of wipeouts thanks to the roots on the trails by the lake. My daughter has a story she has woven over the last six years of hikes, telling me a bit more of the tale each time we hike under the adventure doorway. (You’ll know the tree when you see it).

Miles to Explore

Did you know that there are over ten miles (and growing) of single-track trails right in Texarkana? The wider Wilderness trail stretches almost seven miles, from Bringle Lake East, all the way around Bringle Lake and back out near the Texarkana Golf Ranch. You can take the sidewalk on University Avenue back to your starting point. The single-track trail system, built entirely by volunteers, has a color-coded trail rating for difficulty and there are over seven miles of trail, from the easy green trail, red intermediate, and the black advanced trail (which is under construction).  Or you can enjoy the mile and a half walk from the Bringle East parking lot back to the spillway which has been transformed into an art park over the last few years.

5 Things to do at Bringle Lake:

  • Try to find the Geocaches! There are at least two of them hidden around the lake. Check out the Geocaching app for iPhone and Android.
  • Check out the gnome homes along the Green trail (the single track trail, the entrance is behind the large map sign to the left of bathrooms). Sometimes there are surprises hidden behind those doors! Or, leave a painted rock behind the door as a surprise for the next family, or for the gnomes.
  • Go on a nature hike! Use the SEEK by iNaturalist app to identify the flora and fauna you spot along the trail.
  • Walk back to the Art Park at the spillway and go on a selfie safari with all of the fun public art.
  • Bike the single-track trail – be sure to follow the signs for which direction to go on the trails (foot traffic should be moving in the opposite direction of bike traffic). Or, see if you can make it all the way around the lake, either on foot or on your bike.

Be Respectful

If you head out to enjoy some nearby nature time, please be respectful of the hard work put in by city workers and volunteers to keep the park clean. Picnics are wonderful but do not litter and please clean up after yourselves. Parties are fun too, but confetti is terrible for the environment and can actually be lethal for birds and other animals as they mistake it for food. Remember, you are in nature and it’s home to all sorts of critters, big and small. Be aware of your surroundings and use caution when picking up sticks or moving logs. Please take only photos, and leave only footprints, so that we can all continue to enjoy this beautiful public park.

Recently, the volunteers who have worked so hard to build trails and bridges at Bringle were dealt a tough hand, when their tools and wood were stolen. Would you consider helping replenish their wood and replace some tools? There is a GoFundMe set up for the owner of Berridge Bikes, who is also the mastermind behind this great trail system.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful time exploring the Bringle Lake Trail System! The outdoors are for everyone and there are no ability requirements for heading outside to explore and have some fun. Happy exploring!

Click HERE for a trail map!

Water is one of the most powerful forces on earth. Over time, it erodes and creates some of the most spectacular sites. Like the Grand Canyon and Palo Duro Canyon. But did you also know that it’s created a “Little Grand Canyon” right here at home?

The Little Grand Canyon of Arkansas can be found just past the dam and spillway at lower White Oak Lake, in southwest Arkansas. It’s just off of Highway 24, down the end of Ouachita Road 332. Park at the end of the road, but please be mindful and park on a hard surface only. Keep walking a bit down the path and keep looking out to your left. Eventually, the view will stop you in your tracks and quite possibly take your breath away. The erosion of the dirt and soil has created the most magnificent hidden canyon! It’s one of our favorite places to stop for photos and for a picnic. There is plenty to explore around the Little Grand Canyon of Arkansas, both at the canyon overlook, down in the canyon, and in the hills surrounding the area. You can take a little hike to follow the creek, or spend a little time working on some agility while jumping around the mogul hills that are to the right of the road on your way to the overlook.

Keep in mind that this is not an official part of the state park, so please be mindful of Leave No Trace principles, and carry out what you carry in. Please do not litter.

It’s also not a bad spot to toss in a line and try to catch some fish. We always bring along our pocket fisherman, just in case there’s a chance to go fishing.

Five tips for your best day ever at the Little Grand Canyon of Arkansas:

  1. Dress accordingly. In the summer months, it will be VERY hot, muggy, and well, buggy. Dress in layers and remember sun protection and bug protection. Also, remember to do a tick check anytime you’re leaving the wilderness before you get into your vehicle to leave. When adventuring with children, it’s always advisable to bring a change of clothes for the way home.
  2. Pack a picnic lunch and plenty of water to get the full adventure experience. Remember to bring a blanket or easily packable chair or two.
  3. Wear OLD shoes or hiking shoes with good traction. It can be quite muddy and at times slippery if you’re exploring down in the canyon. Remember, the canyon walls are made of dirt and earth, not rock or stone. If it’s rained recently, it’ll be muddy, soft, and slippery.
  4. Be mindful of wildlife and look before you step. You’re entering their territory, so please be respectful of their homes. Yes, there may be snakes, but they won’t bother you if you do not bother them.
  5. Please practice Leave No Trace principles while exploring and pack out all of your trash.

For a 15-second snippet of one of our favorite picnic spots at the Little Grand Canyon of Arkansas, check out this Instagram Reels Video HERE.

Happy adventuring! If you head out on an adventure to the Little Grand Canyon of Arkansas, let me know! I’d love to hear about your adventure. You can find me on Instagram at @coleyraeh or on my website at www.luckeywanderers.com

Tucked away down a country road in New Boston, TX is a hidden gem. It’s a greenhouse and garden center, but it’s also much more than that. Little Country Greenhouse, owned by Bruce (the self-proclaimed “bloomin’ idiot”) and Patricia Pardue, is a family-friendly gardening destination. They have multiple greenhouses filled nearly year-round with beautiful plants for your home or garden.

It’s been a tradition of ours to visit the greenhouse almost once per week, year-round, for the last few years. We’ve grown to love this place. So much so that we had our daughter’s birthday party there, a fairy garden celebration. Our favorite greenhouse is the one that houses a beautiful koi pond, the parakeets, and some beautiful staghorn ferns that are thirty years old! My children love watching the parakeets and checking on the koi, while I browse their excellent selection of house plants.

Butterfly Cottage

During the warmer months (summer into early fall) the garden center also hosts a butterfly house! This tour is free, just be sure to call ahead to reserve a slot. It’s enchanting to walk slowly through the enclosure, noting the caterpillars munching away, the chrysalis’ near the sidewalls,  as the fully mature butterflies float all around you. Please do not touch the butterflies, chrysalis, or caterpillars. There is a place for donations at the end of the tour and I’d encourage you to add a small donation to keep this beautiful gift to the community going.

New this year, they have added a country store with a wide variety of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, a hydroponic growing system, and some Brahma chickens! The rooster for the Brahma, once fully mature (which takes up to two years) will be nearly 36 inches tall! You can walk around the chicken and rooster enclosures, and be sure to say hello to Big Man.

Inside the Shop

Our favorite way to cap off our visit is to head inside the shop, which is also home to their old-fashioned candy shop and ice cream store! They also have coffee, which I grab in the cooler months to enjoy while walking around.

Little Country Greenhouse is a wonderful, family-friendly, destination year-round. I’ve even heard that Bruce has a special connection to Santa Claus and he sets up a workshop right on site! All of the employees are very helpful and Bruce and Patricia are always happy to help answer any plant and gardening questions. Be sure to follow them on Facebook HERE to catch some of their weekly videos, which will be sure to put a smile on your face.

Five things to see at Little Country Greenhouse:

  1. Big Man the rooster.
  2. The Butterfly Cottage in the summer.
  3. The parakeets.
  4. The Koi fish and pond.
  5. The (seasonal) selection of carnivorous plants.

Wildflowers have always been a favorite of mine, and now they’re also a favorite of my children’s. Each year I try to plant just a few more in our backyard garden. Arkansas is also home to some pretty incredible wildflowers! Did you know that located forty-five minutes northeast of Texarkana, is one of the largest contiguous tracts of Blackland prairie?! Rick Evans Grandview Prairie and Conservation Area is managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and it’s a wonderful resource!

Every Spring and early Summer, the nearly 5,000 acres come alive with native wildflowers and blooms of all kinds. The “peak” wildflower bloom occurs near Memorial Day and is spectacular from mid-May to early June. Be on the lookout for swallowtail and monarch butterflies, along with all kinds of dragonflies plus migrating and native birds! The conservation area ranges from prairie to woodlands, to wetlands and even has two lakes that you can fish! There are also interpretive signs placed throughout the scenic drive so you can pull over and learn more about what you are observing.

If you’re looking for a field trip or an educational experience, there is a wide range of programs available for all ages. There is also an archery range and shotgun range (equipped for trap, skeet, and sporting clays). An educational building and two lodges are also available for reservation.

You can find more information about the area, including a hiking map HERE.

There is also a driving/audio tour available HERE.

Here are five tips to make the most of your day:

  1. Pack a picnic lunch and snacks to spend your whole day soaking in the beautiful nature scenes.
  2. Bring a fishing pole or two to throw some lines in and see what you can catch!
  3. Be sure to stop at the ranger station to check-in and pick up a few maps and helpful tips for how to enjoy the conservation area (be sure to ask for some kids’ activity books or coloring books!)
  4. Take along a journal and some colored pencils or crayons so you can nature journal, or sketch and label some of your favorite flowers.
  5. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and pants for exploring on the trails, and be sure to bring sun protection!

Please also remember to practice Leave No Trace principles as you explore, leaving only footprints and taking only photos. The flowers are stunningly beautiful, but please do not collect them.

A fun tip: Let your children take photos of their favorite flowers to research later! Or, try downloading the Seek app by iNaturalist to identify what you find along the way!

The Rick Evans Grandview Praire Conservation Education Center is offering free programs for third graders and up during the summer months! Kids can earn AGFC Patches, hands-on learning, crafts, games, and more. You can register your child by calling 870-983-2790.

Have you ever heard of a pump track? Did you know that there is one close to home in Paris, Texas? A pump track is a paved track with a series of banked turns and rolling hills, designed so that riders generate momentum through body movements (aka, pumping) rather than pedaling. But, besides the semantics, it’s a lot of fun! Cruising around the pump track is an adventure for all ages, just be sure to wear your helmet!

If you’re ready to take on the bumps and turns, take a few laps on the pump track, located in the park near the Eiffel Tower of Texas. Or, if you’d like to watch your children try it for a while, sit back and relax on the nearby shaded picnic benches. There is a great view of the entire track from any place along the top of the hill surrounding the riding area. The new pump track has attracted the attention of Red Bull and coming up at the end of May, it will be the site of a qualifying tournament for the Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championships!

Trail de Paris

Maybe you want something a little more mellow? Check out the Trail de Paris paved bike trail directly next to the pump track. The Trail de Paris runs from 4th St. SW to the Eastern city limits where it connects to the Reno Rail Trail. It features an outdoor yoga park, a butterfly garden, multiple kiosk locations, and art along the trail. It’s also a great route for younger children, those just learning to ride, or for scooters, rollerblades, or roller skates. To plan your route, you can find maps and mileage online HERE.

As the summer heat begins to ramp up, I’d recommend taking a break in the heat of the day to rest and refuel at the Paris Bakery or at the Paris Coffee Shop.

Here are five tips to make the most of your day:

  1. Bring plenty of water! Carry water bottles or water bladder/hydration packs for each person. I’d also recommend leaving a jug of water in the car to refill water bottles after the adventure.
  2. Don’t forget the snacks! A personal favorite – frozen grapes tucked away in a Stasher (re-useable) bag. They make a cool and refreshing snack when the temperatures ramp up!
  3. Helmets, elbow pads, and knee pads! And maybe bring along a first aid kit just in case of bumps and scrapes. My personal favorite is the ultra-light first aid kits from Adventure Medical Kits.
  4. A backpack to carry your important and valuable items with you, plus all the water, snacks, and first aid kit.
  5. Sunscreen or sun protection. While there is a bit of shade provided around the track, the pump track itself is not shaded and made of black asphalt. Sunglasses and sunscreen are important!

Biking is such a wonderful family activity and Paris, Texas has a little something for everyone! One more tip, if you’re ready for some mountain biking and trail riding, be sure to check out the Barber Hills trails at Pat Mayse Lake.


Farmers Bank & Trust is a proud T-Shirt sponsor for the 2021 Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championships!