By Rebecca VanGinkel
This past summer, my husband, my son, and I got a chance to visit Mena, Arkansas. When we found out that we would be traveling to Mena for my husbands’ job, we looked it up on the internet, but didn’t find anything very interesting. We were going to be arriving in the beginning of June, so we knew that we had a lot of warm weather to look forward too, but maybe not much else. When we did arrive, we were surprised to find it a very nice town with lots of friendly people and a few fun things to do.
When we arrived, we checked into the Harvey House Inn, located on Highway Seventy-one North. The Harvey House Inn is owned by a family who lives around the area of Mena, and is run by the owners’ family. They offer regular hotel rooms, or efficiency apartments, which we decided to stay in. Not only were they very reasonably priced, they also offered a weekly and monthly rate, which is a better deal if you’re staying for more than four days at a time, or more than a few weeks at a time. The rooms were very clean, and came furnished with a large bed, a love seat, a recliner chair, stove, refrigerator, coffee maker, and microwave. They also came fully stocked with all dishes and utensils. Each apartment also had a small grill outside, which anyone was allowed to use.
Besides being clean and well furnished, there was a large field behind our apartment where our son could run around and play. The owner of the hotel also allowed pets in the rooms, which many hotels do not do. Also, there was a small creek in front of the apartments, covered by a small bridge, where my son loved to play on hot days. Within walking distance from the hotel were Wal-Mart, a mini mall, the Laundromat, a gas station, and a couple of great restaurants.
We found many things to do for fun in Mena also. They have a great little movie theater, a bowling alley, and lots of lakes where you can fish and swim. Once, we were fishing at a local lake, my husband and I seen an alligator swimming in a small pond right off the lake! We told a woman who lived around the lake, so she called the local game and fish conservation, and they came and set a live trap for him. They said alligators are not supposed to be that far north, and could hurt children who swim in the lake. When they caught him, they brought him to a new home further south.
We also visited Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Mena. We had a great time there and actually visited twice. While driving up to the park our second time, we saw a small black bear run across the road right in front of us! It was very exciting. The road going up the mountain is very twisty and windy. The park is located right at the very top. They have many different things to do at the park, like hiking, camping, and dining. They have a great restaurant, with a beautiful view. They also have a small pizza and snack shop in the gift shop. Inside the gift shop, they have brochures explaining what there is to do inside the park, and they have lots of trinkets and knick knacks to take home as great gifts.
Right in front of the gift shop is a small train which you can ride around the park. You ride around the outskirts of the park, and get to see the hiking trails, the big train caboose they have sitting in the front lawn, the camping area, part of the zoo, and lots of beautiful scenery. In the camping area, they have hook ups for electricity, which is a great amenity. There are spots to park campers, or you can pitch a tent. There is also a small putt-putt golf course located near the gift shop. While we were hiking along one of the trails, we saw a rabbit and a snake. The trails range from easy hiking to hard hiking. All of the trails are wooded, and you get to see a lot of plants and trees that are native to that part of Arkansas.
The large train caboose they have on the front lawn is open to the public. You can climb up inside the driver area, and take pictures, or you can sit on the outside to take pictures. There is also a small zoo located on top of the mountain. All of the animals in the zoo have been hurt and are rehabilitating. They are also all native to Arkansas. While we were there, we got to pet a baby fox, and a baby raccoon. We got to see a lot of deer, bear, snakes, owls, and lots of other animals.
When you are leaving Queen Wilhelmina State Park, and driving down the mountain, you can drive up to an old fire tower. In front of the old tower, there is a plaque telling you what it was used for. A family lived inside the tower, and there job was to watch for fires, as far as they could see. If they spotted one, they had to relay the message to fire fighters below the mountain. Their job kept lots of people alive, and saved the forest below more than once.
Our trip to Mena, Arkansas and Queen Wilhelmina State Park was very fun and exciting. If you ever get a chance to visit, take it. You will learn a lot about Arkansas, and all that is native to it. The people are very friendly and welcoming. You will thoroughly enjoy yourself!