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The Best Places to Live in Arkansas

When people think of Arkansas, they might picture a bunch of backwoods hillbillies plunking banjos, riding in pickup trucks, and drinking moonshine. But the truth is, Arkansas is a modern and sophisticated state that’s fast becoming a center of culture and industry in the South. Add to that all the state’s natural beauty and it’s no wonder people are flocking to the Natural State in droves.

If you clicked this article, chances are you’re looking at Arkansas as a possible place to call home. And why wouldn’t you? There are lots of great cities that offer all the comforts of the modern world with miles and miles of beautiful green scenery.

So, let’s breathe in some of that fresh Ozark Mountain air and dive into our list of the best places to live in Arkansas.

Best Places to Live in Arkansas for Families
Best Places to Live in Arkansas for Young Adults
Best Places to Live in Arkansas for Retirees

The Nature of the Natural State

Arkansas has been called a hidden gem and one of America’s best-kept secrets. But Arkansas’ recent population growth is proof that people are starting to catch on (one region of the state is adding 36 people a day!).1 They’re ditching their preconceived notions of what they think life in Arkansas is like and embracing the Natural State’s growing job market and tight-knit communities.

Let’s talk about what makes Arkansas a great place to live, starting with the first rule of real estate: location, location, location. Arkansas has a great geographic position—centrally located in heart of the South. That means you’re never too far from points of interest in neighboring states. In other words, Arkansas was made for road trips (which is a big help since Arkansas doesn’t have any large international airports).

Then there’s all the natural beauty Arkansas has to offer. This state is a dream for the outdoorsy type—it’s covered in mountains, forests, caves, lakes and rivers. There are two national forests, one national park, and 52 state parks that offer plenty of fun outdoor activities for the whole family. There’s even a place called Crater of Diamonds State Park, where you can search for (you guessed it) real diamonds. Talk about hidden gems!

The climate in Arkansas is also pretty nice. Arkansans experience all four seasons with mild winters (compared to places further north) and hot, humid summers. But one of the few climate drawbacks is the tornadoes. Arkansas is part of Tornado Alley, and it sees an average of about 38 tornadoes every year.2 So just make sure you’re prepared and have a plan.

On a more positive note, tornadoes might end up being your only worry because Arkansas is among the states with the lowest cost of living. We’re talking low median home prices and rent, low gas prices and low taxes. Arkansas is also extremely business friendly—free from a lot of the red tape small business owners have to go through in order to set up shop in other places.

With all the green on the mountains and the extra green in your pocket, what’s not to love about Arkansas?

The Best Places to Live in Arkansas

Before we walk through our list of the best places to live in Arkansas, let’s get one thing straight: All “best places” lists are subjective, including this one. While we did use some data (population, home and rent prices, etc.), this is purely our opinion, and the best place for you will ultimately depend on your personal likes and dislikes. For example, some people love busy city life, while others prefer a more laid-back place in the suburbs or country.

See how much house you can afford with our free mortgage calculator!

But what’s great about Arkansas is that there are so many options to choose from. Rural, urban, suburban and everything in between—Arkansas has it all.

And to add a little more authenticity to our list, we consulted a few friendly former Arkansans who graciously gave us insight based on their own personal experiences.

All right—let’s get to it!

Batesville

Founded in 1821, Batesville is one of the oldest cities in Arkansas. It was once an important jumping-off point for settlers in the Ozark region as well as a shipping port along the White River to the south of the city. Though its frontier days are long over, the city celebrates its past with three historic districts. Batesville is now an economic hub for the north central part of the state, with booming industries like manufacturing, health care and food processing.3

Batesville holds lots of community events all year long. During the summer, Lyon College hosts the annual Arkansas Scottish Festival with highland games, food and tons of bagpipers. But wintertime brings the city’s most well-known event: White River Wonderland. Each year, the community comes together at Riverside Park, along the banks of the White River, to build a massive Christmas lights display that’s completely free to walk through. So it’s no wonder Batesville is known as the Christmas Capital of Arkansas.

Metro Area Population*

55,3324

Median Household Income

$52,3045

Median Home Price

$207,4506

Median Monthly Rent**

$8007

Average Annual Rainfall

47”8

Unemployment Rate***

3.6%9

*Metro area population numbers include the city together with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.
**Median monthly rent number is based on a total of all apartment types.
***Unemployment rate is for all of Independence County.

Fort Smith

“Where the New South meets the Old West” is the motto for Fort Smith—a city with a lot of important history within its borders. As the name suggests, Fort Smith was the site of a strategic military base, located on the Arkansas River with Oklahoma on the opposite shore. In the early 1800s, it was one of the first outposts of law and order in the wild west—catchin’ outlaws and makin’ peace with the local Native American tribes. The town was built around the fort and is now the third-largest city in the entire state!10 Today, Fort Smith’s main industries are manufacturing, food processing, health care and retail.11

The city has embraced its pioneer heritage, and many of Fort Smith’s annual events revolve around that history—from the Old Fort Days Rodeo to the Peacemaker Festival. Several museums are dedicated to the city’s law-and-order legacy, like the new United States Marshals Museum. The military still has a presence near Fort Smith but not in the fort itself (which is now a national historic site you can visit). The Arkansas Army National Guard operates the Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center, and the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 188th Wing is based near Fort Smith Regional Airport.

Metro Area Population*

$246,75112

Median Household Income

$50,79913

Median Home Price

$250,95014

Median Monthly Rent**

$95015

Average Annual Rainfall

50”16

Unemployment Rate***

4.1%17

*Metro area population numbers include the city together with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.
**Median monthly rent number is based on a total of all apartment types.
***Unemployment rate is for all of Sebastian County.

Hot Springs

Bathhouses, professional baseball and mob bosses (oh my!). They’re all part of the history of Hot Springs. This resort town’s main attraction is Hot Springs National Park, the oldest and one of the smallest national park in the U.S. People have been coming to relax and bathe in the healing waters of the area’s 47 thermal springs for over a century. Major League Baseball established the practice of spring training in Hot Springs, and gangsters like Al Capone used the area as a haven for bootlegging and illegal gambling.

The eight historic buildings of Bathhouse Row anchor a downtown area with lots of shops, public art and restaurants (and two of the buildings are still operating bathhouses!). And you can take and drink all the natural spring water you can possibly handle . . . for free!

In addition to tourism, Hot Springs’ top industries include health care, retail and government services.18 And besides the national park and the natural springs, there are lots of fun ways to relax in and around the city. Magic Springs Theme and Water Park offers both wet and dry thrills. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort is home to the biggest horse-racing series in the South (as well as legal gambling). And local festivals and events include the Running of the Tubs (an actual bathtub race) and the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Metro Area Population*

100,08919

Median Household Income

$46,53720

Median Home Price

$349,90021

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,59522

Average Annual Rainfall

51”23

Unemployment Rate

4.3%24

*Metro area population numbers include the city together with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.
**Median monthly rent number is based on a total of all apartment types.

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Jonesboro

Way up in the northeast corner of Arkansas is Jonesboro—the fifth-largest city in the state.25 Founded in 1859, this community has a long history with agriculture but has recently become a center for other industries like health care, banking and food processing. Big companies like Post, Unilever, Frito-Lay and Butterball all have facilities in Jonesboro.26

Jonesboro is also a college town—home to Arkansas State University. Students and residents love the ASU Red Wolves and turn out to see them play NCAA Sun Belt Conference football, baseball and basketball. But there’s more to Jonesboro than college sports. The city has a bustling downtown civic center called The Forum with restaurants and shops that are really popular with both longtime residents and college students. The Arkansas State University Museum and Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center highlight the area’s past and present. And outdoor spaces like Lake Frierson State Park help folks in the area connect with Arkansas’ natural wonders.

Metro Area Population*

135,51227

Median Household Income

$51,12428

Median Home Price

$232,81229

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,20030

Average Annual Rainfall

48”31

Unemployment Rate

3.4%32

*Metro area population numbers include the city together with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.
**Median monthly rent number is based on a total of all apartment types.

Little Rock

Founded over 200 years ago, the capital city of Little Rock was named for a rocky outcropping along the Arkansas River that people used as a landmark on their way to the nearby Ouachita Mountains. It was a central location to those early settlers, and it still is for Arkansans today—both literally and figuratively. Not only is it the capital (the home of state government), but it’s smack-dab in the middle of the state—making travel to any part of Arkansas relatively easy. Little Rock also has the largest population in Arkansas and prides itself on having all the amenities of a big city without the hefty price tag.

Little Rock is a hub for arts and culture in the state as well. The main gathering place is the River Market District—an old industrial park converted into a bunch of trendy shops, restaurants, craft beer pubs and museums. The Robinson Center is the place to see headline acts, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, touring Broadway shows and more. Both the Little Rock Zoo and the Clinton Presidential Center are big attractions too.

Metro Area Population*

757,94533

Median Household Income

$58,69734

Median Home Price

$299,45035

Median Monthly Rent**

$97736

Average Annual Rainfall

49”37

Unemployment Rate

3.6%38

*Metro area population numbers include the city together with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.
**Median monthly rent number is based on the cost of a two-bedroom apartment.

Texarkana

Talk about a place with a split personality! Or maybe it’s the best of both worlds? Regardless, Texarkana is a unique place. It’s actually two cities with the same name and with the border of Arkansas and Texas between them. The name itself is actually a combo of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana (even though that last one is about 30 minutes south of the city). Texarkana’s post office and federal courthouse (one building) is literally on the border and serves both cities! And here’s the coolest thing about Texarkana: If you’re a resident on the Arkansas side and work in Texarkana, you don’t pay Arkansas state income taxes!39 You can thank no-state-income-tax Texas for that. Yeehaw!

Texarkana was founded in 1873 when agriculture was its primary industry. Today, the biggest employer in the region is the Red River Army Depot on the Texas side.40 Other industries based there include manufacturing, health care and transportation logistics.41

Texarkana also has lots to offer during off-work hours. One of the newer stop downtown is the Rail Yard—a shopping and entertainment district with lots of fun flavors sure to satisfy anyone’s tastes (not to mention that folks can bring their alcoholic drinks with them when walking through the district). The Four States Auto Museum and the Holiday Springs Water Park are also big draws to the area.

Metro Area Population*

144,32242

Median Household Income

$45,23343

Median Home Price

$241,35044

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,15045

Average Annual Rainfall

50”46

Unemployment Rate

4.3%47

*Metro area population numbers include the city together with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.
**Median monthly rent number is based on a total of all apartment types.

Northwest Arkansas

One of the fastest-growing parts of Arkansas is actually not just one city but an entire region. Northwest Arkansas (NWA) is becoming a powerhouse in technology, culture, retail, creativity and more in the South. It’s anchored by four major cities: Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville.

Bentonville in particular is a big source of growth thanks to Walmart (whose Home Office is in Bentonville) and the family of its founder, Sam Walton. Walmart has poured millions into the local community and hundreds of their suppliers have moved operations to Bentonville. Other large companies in the region include Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt Transport.

The result of all this growth is a community of cities with a different vibe from the rest of the state (some even compare the area to trendy places like Austin, Texas). Each city contributes to that vibe in its own way. Besides Walmart, Bentonville has other attractions like the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (built by Sam Walton’s daughter, Alice). Fayetteville is a college town (home to the University of Arkansas) with nightlife centered on Dickson Street. Rogers has one foot in the past with a historic downtown full of quaint shops. And Springdale hosts the annual Rodeo of the Ozarks.

But all this growth and activity doesn’t mean that NWA doesn’t have its share of natural beauty. The Ozark Mountains surround the area and provide residents with lots of outdoor adventure—including 250 miles of the best mountain biking trails in the country. Hobbs State Park is the biggest park in Arkansas, offering hiking trails, camping, hunting and more. And the 40-mile Razorback Greenway provides a nature-filled walking and bike path that extends through all four big cities and beyond.

Other NWA area cities include:

Metro Area Population*

576,72448

Median Household Income

$73,36449

Median Home Price

$429,15050

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,03251

Average Annual Rainfall

45”52

Unemployment Rate

2.9%53

*Metro area population numbers include the city together with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.
**Median monthly rent number is based on the cost of a two-bedroom apartment.

Best Places to Live in Arkansas for Families

Small-town values, Southern hospitality and lots of parks and green spaces are just some of the reasons why Arkansas is a great state for families. Arkansas public schools have a farm-to-school program that highlights the state’s longtime connection to agriculture. Students not only learn about how farming works but are also served fresh farm products in the school cafeterias.54

Here are some great Arkansas cities that families have called home:

  • Bentonville
  • Cave Springs
  • Centerton
  • Fayetteville
  • Johnson
  • Jonesboro
  • Maumelle

Best Places to Live in Arkansas for Young Adults

Are you just starting out in your career and looking for a nice spot to land? Arkansas is the place to go. Many of the larger cities have thriving nightlives as well as arts and culture scenes. And as we said earlier, NWA is a booming part of the state with cutting-edge industries and outdoorsy culture that attract lots of young people. So here are some cool places to check out if you’re a young professional:

  • Bentonville
  • Cave Springs
  • Fayetteville
  • Little Rock
  • Rogers
  • Siloam Springs
  • Springdale

Best Places to Live in Arkansas for Retirees

With a low cost of living, low taxes and many active adult communities, Arkansas is a hotbed for retirees. And there are a lot of perks to retiring in the Natural State. The first $6,000 of an IRA distribution is exempt from income taxes for people 59 1/2 years and older.55 If you’re age 65 and up, you may be eligible for property tax relief in certain areas of the state.56 But access to medical care can be challenging depending on which region of the state you land in. These cities are definitely worth looking into if you’re reaching retirement age.

  • Bella Vista
  • Bentonville
  • Cabot
  • Hot Springs
  • Lowell
  • Maumelle
  • Texarkana

Ready to Move to Arkansas?

So, now that you’ve learned life in Arkansas isn’t all banjos and moonshine, are you thinking about getting in on all the natural beauty and growing indie culture? A real estate agent can make your transition a smooth one—guiding you through the process from start to finish. And not just any real estate agent. For a fast and easy way to find local Arkansas agents, look no further than our network of RamseyTrusted pros.

We only recommend agents who know the area and are completely dedicated to helping you find the perfect place, whether it’s in the woods or in the concrete jungle (wherever you want!). And we trust them to take care of you the Ramsey way—with honesty and integrity.

 

Next Steps

  • Decide where in Arkansas you’d like to move.
  • Take a short trip to the area you’re interested in to make sure it’s a good fit.
  • Interview at least three RamseyTrusted local agents from that area.
  • Choose one who’s right for you and start your moving journey!
See Arkansas Agents

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Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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