Batesville, Arkansas’ oldest existing city, offers visitors a rich variety of places to go and things to do. The annual Ozark Foothills FilmFest, held for five days in late March or early April, has been praised as “the best small town film festival in America.” It has also been honored for the past three years as one of the Top 20 Tourism Events by the Southeast Tourism Society. The festival features independent feature films, documentaries, animation, restored classics, foreign language films, and short films by emerging filmmakers. It takes place at a number of venues around town, including Lyon College, the University of Arkansas Community College, the historic Landers Theater building, and Old Independence Regional Museum. Several social gatherings are scheduled where attendees can meet and talk with visiting filmmakers. Admission prices are extremely low ($5 for individual screenings) and discount “Red Eye” festival passes are available. Visit www.ozarkfoothillsfilmfest.org for schedules and more information.
Old Independence Regional Museum, located at Ninth and Vine streets, preserves the history of the original 1820 Independence County, which included all or part of what are now Baxter, Cleburne, Fulton, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Marion, Poinsett, Sharp, Stone, White, and Woodruff counties. The museum hosts a wide variety of programs, exhibits, and educational events, as well as maintaining a wealth of historic research and genealogical materials available for public use. A number of semi-permanent exhibits chronicle how our region has evolved. Batesville is also home to the Mark Martin Museum, a “must see” for racing fans with dozens of trophies, scores of photos, comprehensive exhibits of Martin’s racing suits and helmets. But the museum’s six central exhibits, each built around and featuring a car that played a role on Martin’s career, steal the show. The museum, located inside the driver’s Ford dealership, hosts Fan Appreciation Day, with Martin and other well-known drivers, at least once a year. Admission is free. Downtown Main Street is home to a variety of businesses, including Thompson’s Jewelry, Old World Lanterns by Benoit, Simply Southern Music Hall, Paper Chase Book Store, the Batesville Area Arts Council Gallery, Elizabeth’s Restaurant, Randy’s Music, and several outstanding antique shops. The arts council gallery showcases work by local and regional artists, as well as hosting touring programs such as the Arkansas Arts Council’s Small Works on Paper exhibit and White River Juried Arts Exhibition, created by the Batesville Area Arts Council and featuring work by artists from eight states. While you are shopping be sure to check out the Pocket Park, an outdoor concert venue and good place to rest; the historic court houses mural; and the restored Landers Movie Theater Building. The Landers has been painstakingly restored and repurposed by the Fellowship Bible Church; it also hosts community events throughout the year. Main Street hosts the annual Arts, Crafts, and Antique Festival, held in late October.
The Main Street Batesville organization also produces a number of colorful and enjoyable family events annually. Thanks to Main Street Batesville, new street furniture, including benches and trash receptacles, has been added to downtown for the convenience of visitors. Downtown parking is always free. Visitors have four quality hotels to choose from: Comfort Suites, Ramada Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Super 8, grouped together at the north end of town. Comfort Suites features an indoor swimming pool, exercise room, and hot tub, as well as an awesome breakfast. Comfort Suites is a recent recipient of the Choice Hotels Platinum Award that recognizes the top 3% of hotels within each Choice brand. The Ramada is home to the Duck Blind (a private club—memberships available at the door) and The Daily Bread restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Esta’s White River Retreat is the ultimate “Get Away” destination, perfect for family reunions, wedding, and corporate events. The expansive and meticulously-maintained compound, located on the banks of the beautiful White River, includes two lodges and a honeymoon cabin, an in-ground pool, basketball court, pavilion, and boat ramp. Esta’s provides incredible privacy and extraordinary natural beauty less than 15 miles from Batesville.
Batesville is the cultural, medical, educational, financial, and market center of the region. It is also a friendly, forward-looking community that is continuing to develop an impressive line-up of compelling, entertaining, and popular events for visitors of every persuasion. Need a break from your daily routine? Tired of the “same old same old.” Follow your call and visit Batesville. You are always welcome. Ozark Gateway tourist guides and other useful publications, brochures, and maps are available at Daylight Donuts, open Monday through Friday until 11 am and Saturday until noon. Daylight is located at 280 St. Louis Street.