Mountain backroad in Arkansas© Dennis SaboMountain backroad in Arkansas
© Dennis Sabo
Until Bill Clinton came along, Arkansas was most closely associated in the popular imagination with Ozark mountain hillbillies. The state isn't ashamed, either of its presidential native son or of its Appalachian heritage.

In Mountain View, you can experience the old-time Appalachian way of life for yourself at the Ozark Folk Center State Park, the only park in America devoted to preserving Southern mountain folkways and music. This living museum showcases traditional pioneer skills, such as furniture making, quilting, blacksmithing, tintype photography, woodcarving and 15 other craft demonstrations.

As for Clinton, his two-and-one-half-storey, wood-frame boyhood home in the small town of Hope is now a museum, reconstructed as it was when he lived there. And the Clinton Presidential Center and Park opened with great fanfare in Little Rock in 2004. Highlights of any visit are the authentic replicas of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room, while Café 42, named because Clinton was the 42nd president, features recipes from the Clinton Center Cookbook.

Also in town is the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, where nine brave African-American students—the Little Rock Nine—were admitted in 1957 after the federal government sent troops to enforce desegregation. The museum itself is in a former gas station across the street.

Bath House, Hot Springs, Arkansas© Lori MartinBath House, Hot Springs, Arkansas
© Lori Martin
The state's other contribution to American life is Wal-Mart, founded in Bentonville, where the Wal-Mart Visitors Center shows you how the company grew from 25 employees to 1.3 million. If you want to become a tycoon yourself, you may want to check out Crater of Diamonds State Park, where you can ogle North America's largest diamond (at 40.23 carats, no less) and many of the other diamonds that have been found in near Murfreesboro. For a small fee, you can go digging, too, and keep what you find.

by Laura Byrne Paquet

Stock Photos from 123RF

Stock Photos from 123RF