Travel Arkansas: New Year’s Eve, Your Way


No matter where you live in Arkansas, you won’t have to travel far to find a fun, unique way to celebrate.

Above photo of 1886 Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs is  courtesy of Chip Ford


Maybe the crystal ball drop in New York City’s Times Square is a little out of your reach this New Year’s Eve, but that’s no reason to ring in 2016 on your couch.

Who needs a crystal ball when you’ve got a fiberglass hog? The New Year’s Eve hog drop in Fayetteville has drawn national attention in recent years, and for good reason. This distinctively Arkansas twist on the traditional ball drop features a winged hog with an 8 ½-foot wingspan created by local sculptor Mike Davis. Its 100-foot descent from a firetruck ladder is the focal event of Last Night Fayetteville, a community celebration of the performing arts held on the Fayetteville Square.

This is the fifth year of Last Night Fayetteville, a production of the Northwest Arkansas Creative Arts Network, and it’s on track to be the biggest one yet, said Lauren Embree, the group’s executive director. There will be 11 stages featuring all kinds of performers — musicians, theatrical troupes, dancers, jugglers, an illusionist, comedians and even burlesque performers. “Tales from the South,” the locally produced storytelling show that airs on the state’s NPR affiliates, will record an episode at the festival as well.

About that hog … each year festival organizers do something different with him, and this year the plans are to cover him in thousands of LED lights that will turn him into a video screen of sorts.

Unlike its predecessor First Night Fayetteville, billed as a family-friendly, non-alcoholic celebration, libations will be available at Last Night Fayetteville, Embree said. The goal is to appeal to kids and adults alike. “We’ve geared the entertainment to adults, but it’s ‘everyone-friendly,’” she said.

You can attend the hog drop and fireworks without a ticket, but there is an admissions charge for all of the festival’s other entertainment. For more information, log on to

If you’re in the Fort Smith area, stop by the Fort Smith Convention Center where you’ll enjoy, starting at 8 p.m. New Year’s Eve, the annual Mayor’s Countdown. It’s a non-alcoholic, family-friendly, carnival-style celebration with a variety of entertainment, from performing artists to games. Tickets or wristbands are required to participate in some of the fun. For more information, log on to

Over in northeast Arkansas, the Jonesboro Foundation of Arts will host a New Year’s Eve gala at the Cooper Alumni Center, complete with dinner and drinks, a show, dancing and a midnight toast. Log on to for more information.

If suave and sophisticated is more your style for New Year’s Eve, several hotels around the state are hosting events that promise to be memorable.

At the Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa in Hot Springs, the special New Year’s Eve package includes a five-course dinner and dancing to the music of the Stardust Big Band in the Crystal Ballroom. Or choose the Festival Party to dance the night away to contemporary music. After the clock strikes midnight, the Black-eyed Pea Reception will provide partygoers with a traditional taste of edible good luck before they head off to sleep. For more information, click on the “specials” tab on the hotel’s website at

If you’ve never been to Branson’s Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa and Convention Center, prepare to be impressed by its size alone. It overlooks Table Rock Lake and is comfortably away from the traffic of Branson’s main drag but close enough to do a little last-minute shopping on New Year’s Eve. Chateau on the Lake’s New Year’s Eve package includes a one-night stay, an opening reception and a three-course dinner, music and dancing, a champagne toast and a balloon drop, and fireworks at midnight. There’s a spa on-site as well, so you can treat yourself to a pre-party massage or facial, too. You’ll find detailed information at

The famously haunted 1886 Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs is offering two options for its New Year’s Eve celebration in the Crystal Ballroom. You can come earlier in the evening for a multicourse dinner only or come later for dinner, live music, party favors, and dancing into the wee hours of 2016. To make reservations or for more information, log on to

Though New Year’s Eve is technically about welcoming the future at The Empress of Little Rock bed-and-breakfast inn, it’s about turning back the clock. The Empress, located in the historic Hornibrook House at 2120 S. Louisiana St., hosts a limited-seating, black-tie wine dinner and dance that evokes the Hornibrook family’s first New Year’s Eve in their new home in 1889. This year’s event has a “Downton Abbey” theme — the olden days of Downton, that is, when the Dowager Countess wasn’t quite so dour. Find out more about this time-honoring celebration at

For many of us, New Year’s Eve isn’t just about celebrating — it’s about making resolutions to live more healthfully. Arkansas’ state parks help you get a jumpstart on that process with First Day Hikes.

Most parks are hosting events on New Year’s Day, but at Cossatot River State Park, you can enjoy the late-night sounds and scenery with a guided, six-mile hike New Year’s Eve on the River Corridor Trail.

At DeGray Lake Resort State Park, you can ring out the old with a fancy dinner, party on New Year’s Eve, sleep over and ring in 2016 with an eagle boat tour and a First Day Hike before heading home on New Year’s Day. For detailed information about the parks’ events, log on to

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