Arkansas Readers' Choice Awards

Sneak a peek at this year's Readers' Choice favorites in Arkansas.
Farrah Austin

Like a prom queen about to be crowned, Arkansas is ready for the limelight. All grown-up and with attitude to match, this state knows how to celebrate itself. Judging by the results from the Southern Living Readers' Choice Awards, you know how to celebrate your state too.

Best-Ranked Regions
Lofty mountains and emerald swatches of unmarred land mark the Ozarks, one of my favorite regions. Mountain Home feels just like that--home, with its crystal waters in Norfork Lake and equestrian opportunities. I love it here anytime of year. Reader Donna Sutton prefers the Ozarks most when the air turns crisp and the landscape golden. "Fall is my favorite season. I love to hike the trails and listen to the quiet. Sometimes it's deafening. The breeze blows, and leaves swirl around me. It's just perfect."

Head farther south into Little Rock, where the River Market District holds a bounty of treasures--the Clinton Presidential Center, Nu Cuisine-Lounge, and AfrJaMex International gift shop are my favorite gems. A moving memorial to the Little Rock Nine proves how far this city has come.

Reader Frances Sego fancies the city most for its neighborhoods and aesthetic beauty. "The views of the Arkansas River are just awesome from any vantage point in town," she says. "We live in Fayetteville, so the drive into Little Rock is full of anticipation. Just thinking about it makes me want to get in the car and go."

Good Food and a Great Garden
Go to Hot Springs for McClard's Bar-B-Q to satisfy a pork craving--you'll need a bib when you eat. An older joint where you seat yourself, this restaurant welcomes everyone from hungry travel writers (me) to Presidents and 'cue connoisseurs such as Robert Cox from Little Rock. "Their sauce is amazing," he says. "I haven't had anything better anywhere."

Sheryl Boyd of Sherwood started her love affair with McClard's while attending college at Ouachita Baptist University. Consistency keeps her affections burning. "It's always the same," she says, "so you know what to expect. There's plenty of meat on the ribs, and their french fries are the best. They keep the skin on them."

A walk through Garvan Woodland Gardens lessens the guilt from McClard's hearty meal. The best garden in the state, Garvan sits along pretty Lake Hamilton not far from Hot Springs. Loveliness--230 acres of it--attracts visitors such as Liz Stathakis.

"We love the gardens so much my daughter had her wedding portraits taken here," says Liz. "And it's perfect anytime of year. There are tulips in spring, roses in summer, Japanese maples in autumn, and holiday lights in winter. This fabulous botanical garden is such a blessing. It's perfect for quiet solitude."

We think your responses are pretty perfect too. Thanks for all your votes. Do plan to enter again. Here's to 2008.