So you’ve been playing around with the idea of moving to Arkansas, but you’re just not totally sold yet? Well, you’ll be glad you’re here. We've done a ton of digging and put together this insider's guide to all things Arkansas. It’s got facts, numbers, trivia, pros/cons and even some weird stuff—all to help to you nail down your final decision.
No matter where you choose to move in Arkansas, make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy. So, let’s get to it.
Known officially as The Wonder State, and commonly as The Natural State, there is absolutely no shortage of wonder and natural beauty in Arkansas. The state’s crystal-clear streams, rivers and lakes are like something out of a dream’s dream. The Ozark Mountains also run right through Arkansas (Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas, too) and blanket the region with a big ol’ helping of Mama Nature’s rugged beauty.
Another popular nickname, The Land of Opportunity, came from a tourism slogan back in the early part of the 20th century, during the Great Depression, and was meant to attract growth and economic opportunities to the state. Looks like it worked.
The population of Arkansas is about 3,020,327, with about 16,048 moving here in 2017 alone. Arkansas ranks number 34 in the country in terms of population density.
Aside from the gorgeous vistas, The Natural State is known for other famous things, too, like celebs. 42nd POTUS Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou, Dick Van Dyke, Billy Bob Thornton and Johnny Cash were all born in Arkansas. The rock band Evanescence was also founded in Little Rock, the state's capital, in the mid-'90s. That’s quite a lineup, if you ask us. But whaddya say we move on and talk about the job market in Arkansas?
Unless you’re absolutely flush with cash, like Arkansas’ own Walton Family of Walmart fame, you’re going to need a job. Let's talk about what that looks like for you in Arkansas.
To start with, the state unemployment rate is 3.8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is a couple of hairs below the national average. Minimum wage currently sits at $8.50/hour, according to minimum-wage.org, which is only a slight bump above the federal minimum.
But you don’t want minimum wage, you want the hot jobs right now. Some of the fastest-growing professions here include: physical therapist, nurse practitioner, occupational therapist, phlebotomist, speech/language pathologist, machinist and EMT.
But if you’re more of a ‘go big or go home' kinda person, you’re looking for more. Zippia goes on to list the highest-paying jobs as: OB/GYN, dentist, pediatrician, podiatrist, surgeon, nurse anesthetist and psychiatrist. Looks like the medical field pretty much dominates the top-dollar opportunities for the state, for now.
To go along with that shiny new job of yours, you'll probably be looking to get a new place to live. So let’s see what the housing market looks like out in the Land of Opportunity.
If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll be pleased to know that the average home on the market in Arkansas is listed around $175,000, and selling for about $143,000. The current median home value for the state is $122,000, and values have risen 5.2% over the past year.
But if you’d just prefer to rent, the average monthly home rental is about $1,095/month. Heck, with home’s selling for as little as they are, we almost say just buy it and build up that equity. Your call, though, pal.
But what if you just want something small, and hate mowing the lawn? In the state's capital, Little Rock, you'll pay around $678/month for a one-bedroom apartment. That's already super-affordable, but there are some places in Arkansas that are cheaper still. We looked on bestplaces.net, and in Hot Springs, Fayetteville, Jonesboro and Bentonville, a one-bedroom is anywhere from $522/month to $545/month. Cha-Ching!
What about new construction, though? There's not too much of it going on across the state at the moment. However, there's a fair bit of development underway in the northwest corner, in/around Fayetteville. At the same time, the birthdate of much of Arkansas’ construction is in the 2000s, so even the older options aren’t even middle-aged yet.
Culture and Natives
If you want to make friends in Arkansas, start by making sure that you never pronounce the word as "Ar-Kansas." Believe us, your face’ll turn Razorback red with embarrassment.
And when it comes to that good ol’ "Southern hospitality," you’ll find it here. Manners are key 'round these parts. The vast majority of people around here are proper and polite, mind their P's and Q's, and throw “ma’ams” and “sirs” around like their next breath depended on it.
Arkansas is technically located in the Bible Belt of the country, so Christianity is a driving factor in a number of areas. However, locals assert that Arkansas is actually much more diverse many outsiders may expect, with many different backgrounds and cultures making up the state’s population. That goes for politics, too. Some areas tend to be more conservative, and some more liberal. In many of the larger cities with college campuses, you’ll find more of an eclectic group, as well as a liberal lean.
Residents on sites chimed in about their fellow Arkansans and the prejudice that other areas of the country may have about them. There tends to be a stereotypically "redneck" or "hillbilly" categorization of the state's population as a whole by those who have never visited. Many locals are very defensive about this, while others embrace it.
Hunting is a pretty big deal here and many residents even believe the first day of hunting season should be declared a state holiday. Whether or not it ever becomes one, many locals still take time off work to celebrate and get it started right. With so many wooded areas in the state, it's easy to understand why hunting has such a presence.
With more than 600,000 acres of lakes and 9,700 miles of rivers and streams in the state, Arkansans take full advantage of life on the water. The natural layout of their surroundings gives a feel "like the modern age never existed," according to one such local.
The Land of Opportunity has some of the highest-rated rivers for fishing in the country, including the Buffalo River and the Cache River. Of course, if fishing isn’t your thing, but water still is, you can get in on an Arkansas favorite pastime known as "floating." Just grab an inner tube, hop in and—you guessed it—float. Locals say it pairs perfectly with a beer in hand.
The Natural State Trivia
In 1906, the first US diamond rush began when two diamonds were found in Arkansas. The Crater of Diamonds State Park in Pike County is the only active diamond mine in America today. As for other firsts, the first ever Wal-Mart (later ‘Walmart’) store opened in the town of Rogers in 1962, and today the company’s headquarters is located in Bentonville, where thousands of residents work for the retail giant. Also, the first woman ever elected to the Senate, Hattie Ophelia Wyatt Caraway, was from Arkansas.
Expect to find that "Southern hospitality" vibe reflected in the food scene here, too. Locals love to chow down on BBQ, old-fashioned country cooking and deep-fried anything. Seriously, they love deep-fried catfish, deep-fried chicken or duck - and even deep-fried veggies. Giant pork tenderloins are another diet staple for Arkansawyers, as is chocolate gravy mixed with bacon bits—they pour it all over their morning biscuits.
You're likely to find grits served on the side, along with a tall glass of Southern charm sweet tea, which is basically a little bit of tea mixed with a lot of sugar—perfect on a hot Southern day. The food’s incredible, but all that deep-frying is probably where the phrase “eat your heart out” came from.
In Arkansas, you'll want to be ready for all the bad things good ol' Mother Nature has in her bag of tricks. This includes storms, tornadoes (be sure to steer clear of Tornado Alley), torrential downpours, flooding and more. But here, all that is really just free entertainment. Arkansawyers laugh in the face of storms and they'll watch it all pass by from their porch, beer in hand. If this sounds like your kind of tribe, head on over and bravely stormwatch with your new neighbors.
We've already covered a few of the famous people from the state, but Arkansas was also the birthplace/setting for a number of cinematic masterpieces, including: Sling Blade, True Grit, Mud, Devil's Kind and Thelma and Louise. Though Thelma and Louise wasn't actually filmed in The Natural State, the title characters live here—most likely in a suburb of Little Rock, according to the film's official script.
Can't-Miss Arkansas Fun + Activities
Whether you're looking to relax and float down one of Arkansas’ beautiful rivers or you're super-stoked to check out Walmart's HQ, there’s puh-lenty to do here.
Here just a few of the state's main attractions:
- Thorncrown Chapel: In Eureka Springs, you'll find a futuristic take on a natural-looking glass church that’s been called a "marvel of modern architecture." Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, this church looks like it was made by a highly skilled gang of elves from the future. It’s angular beams are a key feature, making it a popular choice for tons of weddings and other events. You’ve gotta see it.
- Rush Ghost Town: About 16 miles south of Yellville, you'll find the remnants of the zinc industry that once dominated the area. Sadly, in 1972, it was officially declared a ghost town, but the Buffalo National River Park has preserved remnants from what used to be one of the most prosperous cities in the state. Whether or not there are actual ghosts there, who’s to say?
- 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa: This establishment was opened in Eureka Springs as a luxury retreat, advertising the healing powers of the natural springs it was built upon. In 1937 it became a “hospital” run by a quack doctor, Norman Baker, who had no medical training whatsoever, yet somehow had the cure for cancer and other ailments. His "treatments" were downright inhumane, and he’d sneak his deceased patients' bodies out through a secret tunnel. Once word got out, Baker was arrested for fraud. All ticked off, the townsfolk stormed the “hospital,” destroyed its interior, and even tried to burn it down. But today, the building is open for lodging and tours, featuring 78 different rooms with alleged spirits haunting the halls.
- Boggy Creek Monster (Peavy's Monster Mart): In Fouke, along the Boggy Creek, there’s a local tale of a beast that looks an awful lot like Bigfoot. The folklore has inspired four films, beginning with 1973's The Legend of Boggy Creek, and sightings of the beast are still reported by locals to this day. To honor/profit off this beast of legend, Peaty’s Monster Mart offers trinkets, tchotchkes and kitsch for sale, and has a giant wooden statue for visitors to take their pictures with.
- Beatles Park: The town of Walnut Ridge had a rare chance to witness The Fab Four on their way to the airport in 1964 after hearing a leaked tip about their arrival. It was the only time The Beatles were ever in Arkansas, and locals will never forget it. They constructed Beatles Park to memorialize the moment and it features sculptures, cutouts, murals and memorabilia. Each year in September, locals gather for a festival that relives the town's most exciting memory and features The Liverpool Legends, a tribute band with a striking resemblance.
Pros and Cons of Living in The Land of Opportunity
Now we’ve been going on and on and on and on about Arkansas, but wouldn’t you rather hear about it straight from the horse’s mouth? So let’s hear what residents have to say about life in the The Natural State. But remember, these are their words, not ours—we just bring the scoop.
PROs (as voted on by Arkansawyers themselves):
- Among the most affordable states: Arkansas ranked #10 on the list of "The Top 10 Least Expensive States to Live in the US." Rankings were based on the cost of things like groceries, housing and utilities. All of Arkansas' graded areas ranked below 100 on the cost of living index - its average came to 92.5, overall. Transportation and healthcare were also pointed out as being cheaper than the national average here.
- Epic scenery: Arkansans can't get enough of the atmosphere and scenery in their home state, and we can't say we blame them one bit. Between the miles of lakes and rivers, the rolling hills, bluffs and waterfalls, it's no wonder locals love to spend much of their time outdoors.
- Southern hospitality: Expect to be greeted by citizens with excellent manners and a very welcoming attitude. In fact, they'll probably greet you with a sweet tea in hand. Arkansawyers love the country-style cooking that comes with their territory, as well as the feeling of connectedness that is typical of Southern hospitality.
- Small-town charm: Arkansans love the small-town charm they’re known for. Locals love walking down streets packed with mom-and-pop small businesses and cafes. Fans of supporting small businesses will fit right in perfectly.
Now for the begrudgingly resident-voted list of CONs:
- Mosquitoes: Locals joke that these buzzy little pests are such a problem that they should be renamed the official state bird. In 2018, the Arkansas Department of Health urged the public to "take precautions during tick and mosquito season" because they’re known to be packed with a number of illnesses. Blech.
- Lack of amenities: The flip side of having such epic scenery is a serious lack of amenities. Locals complain that there’s only one amusement park and one major shopping outlet. In fact, one Arkansawyer commented that the state was full of "not much other than scenery".
- Obesity: Sadly, with all of that Southern hospitality and country cooking comes a heavy health cost price tag. Arkansas was ranked the third most obese state in 2017 by stateofobesity.org; 35.7% of Arkansawyers were considered obese. But come on, chicken-fried anything is incredible.
- Snakes!: The Land of Opportunity is home to several breeds of venomous reptiles, including: copperheads, rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. Flooding often causes them to seek higher ground, which means locals will find them in their yards, boots and even in Walmart parking lots. We're not kidding, either. In 2017, dozens of snakes were found in the parking lot of a local Walmart. “Snakes…why’d it have to be snakes?”
Well, you’ve come this far. So to reward your effort and enthusiasm, we’ve got a little bit of goofiness to share with you. We’ve rustled up some of Arkansas’ strangest laws that are, somehow, still in existence.
Here are a just few:
- It's illegal to honk your horn at a sandwich shop after 9 pm. But at a burger joint, feel free.
- The Arkansas River isn't allowed to rise above the Main Street Bridge in Little Rock. What are you gonna do, sue Mother Nature? This one’s all on her.
- It's illegal to kill any living creature in Fayetteville. Even snakes…
- It's illegal to yell at your kids at a drive-in restaurant. You’ll just have to turn the car around.
Floating Down the River to Arkansas
Well, that’s what we have to say, folks. Hopefully you got a nice big helping of all the deep-fried facts, trivia and treats that Arkansas has to offer. And while we'd love to be able to tackle every single one of your questions and concerns, there's just not enough time for it. But we do hope to have set you on the right path.
Now it's all on you to decide if the state’s affordability, natural beauty and love for Walmart is right for you. Make sure you're protected with an affordable home insurance policy.
NOTE: if you decide Arkansas isn't right for you, we've got a whole series of these guides to help you find the perfect spot. Ever thought about Ohio?