Arkansas is a Southern state that’s both unique and familiar. It boasts mountains, lakes, rivers and forests. This makes it a paradise for hunters, hikers, anglers, bikers and anyone else who loves the outdoors. With an abundance of parks and festivals, it’s a great place for families and friends.
It also has something that no other state has: naturally occurring diamonds. How’s that for unique?
Arkansas has symphonies, ballet, theater and world-class museums like Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
If you love barbeque and good old Southern cooking, you will definitely want to bring your appetite.
Due to its beautiful scenery and a moderate climate, Arkansas has become a destination for young and old. Its bustling cities and easygoing small towns will make you want to stay for more than a weekend. And with international companies headquartered here, like Walmart and Tyson, there are many career opportunities.
One of the most attractive aspects of living in Arkansas is the affordability. The cost of living in Arkansas is among the lowest in the United States. When you consider the cost of housing, healthcare and food, you will see that the question isn’t “Why live in Arkansas?” — it’s “What have I been waiting for?”
We have created a list of 10 wonderful, affordable places to live in Arkansas. The challenge is choosing which one is right for you.
Table of Contents:
- The 10 Best & Cheapest Places to Live in Arkansas
- Important Things to Consider About Living in Arkansas
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) When Living in Arkansas
- A. Do people in Arkansas wear shoes?
- B. Where is Arkansas?
- C. What’s the weather like in Arkansas?
- D. Can you really find diamonds in Arkansas?
- E. Is Arkansas really the duck hunting capital of the world?
- F. Was there really a resort in Arkansas where Al Capone liked to visit and relax?
- G. Is America’s most haunted hotel really located in Arkansas?
The 10 Best & Cheapest Places to Live in Arkansas
1. Fort Smith
Fort Smith is Arkansas’s third-largest city, with a population of 89,142. It is the largest city in western Arkansas. Fort Smith is part of Sebastian County and sits on the border between Arkansas and Oklahoma.
There are 316 acres of public park space within the 68 square miles of the city limits. Just over the river into Oklahoma, you have access to 24-hour fun and excitement at the Choctaw and Cherokee casinos.
The median home price in Fort Smith is $110,000, while the median rental cost for an apartment is $595 a month — both well below the national median (as of May 2022).
Fort Smith has a median income of $36,777. The unemployment rate of 3.0% is below the national average of 3.6% (as of May 2022).
There are many job opportunities available in Fort Smith. As it is a regional manufacturing center, there are many large companies located here, such as Trane, Rheem, Georgia-Pacific, Gerber and KraftHeinz, to name a few.
Fort Smith is a safe city with a crime rate that is average compared to national statistics. The downtown areas have the most instances of crime, while upscale neighborhoods such as Windy Acres and Mountain Valley Estates have lower crime rates.
There are several hospitals that offer excellent care, the largest being Baptist Health.
The schools in Fort Smith are quite good, and there are over 14,000 public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade. There are also several private schools.
The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith is part of the University of Arkansas system and offers 2- or 4-year degrees. Additionally, there is the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, which is a nonprofit institution where graduates can receive a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree.
Fort Smith is a great place to raise a family. With a low cost of living and reasonable home prices, it is worth checking out. The mild winters and much longer warm season allow for lots of sunny days to get out and enjoy the parks and festivals throughout the year.
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In the northeast corner of Arkansas is Jonesboro, which is located in Craighead county. With a population of 80,586, it’s the fifth largest city in the state. Jonesboro is located in a region known as Crowley’s Ridge, which is a rolling plain that runs along the Mississippi River.
Craighead Forest, a city-owned park, offers fishing, hiking and camping at the edge of town. It’s a wonderful getaway for a few hours or even a few days.
Homes are very reasonable in this suburban Southern town. The median home value is $177,678, and you get a lot of home for the money. Nicer homes in the southeastern part of the city can go for as high as $500,000. In contrast, the median rent in Jonesboro is only $786 per month, which is considerably less than the national average.
Unemployment in Jonesboro is 2.5%, well below the national average of 3.6%. St. Bernards Hospital and Arkansas State University are the largest employers in the area.
Crime is highest in the center part of the city and lowest in the outer areas. Overall, the crime rate is average.
St. Bernards Hospital is one of the main medical centers in Jonesboro, along with NEA Baptist Health System. These facilities serve not only Jonesboro but also the small towns in the region.
The schools in Jonesboro, especially the high schools, are very good, according to U.S. News and World Report. That includes not only public schools but also private and charter schools. Arkansas State University brings in students from all over the country and the world.
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Rogers, located in Benton County, is part of the northwestern Arkansas region that includes Fayetteville, Bentonville and Springdale. The population of Rogers is 71,771, and, like the rest of the region, it has been growing steadily. The median home price in Rogers is $153,900, and the median cost to rent runs $821 a month.
With lots of parks and spacious suburban lots, the neighborhoods in Rogers are considered some of the most desirable in Arkansas.
The Rogers area has an impressive 2.2% unemployment rate, and the median household income is $53,638. In most of the city and the outlying areas, crime is low.
The higher instances of crime tend to occur in the middle of the city, but the suburban areas are quite peaceful. Rogers has plenty of highly rated hospitals and medical facilities nearby, which makes it a good place to live for staying healthy.
The schools in Rogers, from elementary through high school, are considered by several sources to be highly rated. Students from the two high schools have received millions of dollars in scholarships. Being very near the University of Arkansas is a bonus.
Rogers is a great town with a lot going for it. It’s also exciting because of all the new growth, which includes many shops, restaurants and businesses. You can’t go wrong moving to Rogers.
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4. Bella Vista
Bella Vista is a northeast Arkansas town in Benton County that began as a summer resort town. It has since transformed into a retirement community. Because of that, it has many wonderful attributes, such as parks, boat docks, five 18-hole golf courses and two 9-hole golf courses. It also has hiking and biking trails that are reserved for property owners and their guests.
The population of Bella Vista is 29,475. The median home value is $168,000, with the median rent coming in at $942 a month.
Bella Vista has an unemployment rate of 3.3% and an average income of $41,991.
The healthcare in Bella Vista is rated as very good. There are many healthcare options available in and around the town that offer whatever services are needed. Bella Vista also has a very low crime rate.
Most students here attend school in nearby Bentonville, which has some of the best schools in the state.
Overall, Bella Vista is a beautiful town with friendly people in a safe environment. It sits in one of the fastest-growing parts of the state, and there are new restaurants and businesses opening all the time. If you want a small-town feel with lots to do, this is the place for you.
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Lowell is a small bedroom community with Springdale to the south and Rogers to the north. With a population of 9,433, it’s a nice size for a family to feel comfortable. Being close to all the activities of northeast Arkansas makes this a great place to live.
Median home prices are very reasonable, especially for this part of Arkansas, with a median of $184,100. Median rent sits at $879.
Because of its location, Lowell is close to everything while still being a peaceful place to come back to.
Unemployment is low at 0.7%, and the median income is $78,359. This can make for a comfortable living.
The crime rate in Lowell is 25% below the national average, which makes it a safe place to live.
Healthcare is above average here. The Mercy Clinic family medicine facility in Lowell can handle all the typical doctor visits, and with a close proximity to the larger medical facilities of Rogers and Bentonville, you are in good hands here.
For education, there are three elementary schools and one middle school in Lowell, which are quite good. High school students go to the nearby Rogers high schools, which are highly rated, as are most of the schools in this part of the state.
Lowell offers the best of a small town with the convenience and opportunities of living in a larger city.
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Centerton is a small town located in Benton county, just west of Bentonville. It is a bedroom community that is part of the Northwest Arkansas region. The population of Centerton is 15,345.
The median home price is $195,600, and the median rent is $1,117 a month. There is a lot of new construction, and there are many lots for sale as well. You can spread out and relax in this rural setting that is minutes from everything you need.
The unemployment rate in Centerton is just 1.7%, and the median income is $85,531. This makes it a very appealing place to live. The crime rate in Centerton is less than 50% of the national average, which means it’s a safe place to live and work.
As in the other cities and towns in the Northwest Arkansas region, healthcare is very good in Centerton, with numerous options for doctors and medical facilities.
Centerton has an elementary school, but after that students attend Bentonville’s middle and high schools. These schools are rated by many sources as the best in the state. Just like all the schools in this area, they have the benefit of being near the University of Arkansas.
Centerton is a great place to live while being near anything you could want to see or do in this ever-growing part of Arkansas.
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Bryant is in Saline County, which is in the central part of the state. In fact, Bryant sits at the geographic center of the state. It’s a suburb of the capital city, Little Rock. With a population of 22,138, it’s a small town but with all the benefits of a much larger one.
With many newer homes and a median home value of $188,140, Bryant is an affordable town to purchase a home in. Median rent costs are $782.
Bryant has its own small-town feel with spacious suburban homes. Even though it is quite close to Little Rock, pretty much everything you need is located in town, including many nice restaurants and shops.
The average income for residents in Bryant is $44,810, but for residents with degrees it’s $51,054. Unemployment in Bryant is 2.6%, which is better than the national average of 3.6% (as of May 2022).
Bryant is one of the safest towns on the list. It has a low crime rate overall, with only a small section of town that has an “average” crime rate. This makes it a great place to live and raise a family.
When it comes to healthcare, Bryant benefits from being only 20 miles from Little Rock. There are healthcare facilities in Bryant, but the state-of-the-art facilities in Little Rock are right down the road, which may give peace of mind to those considering a move here.
The average score for Bryant schools is an A, so students living here can get an excellent education. They also have the benefit of being able to attend any of the private schools in Little Rock, which are also highly rated.
Bryant is a wonderful small town that feels safe and comfortable. Everything you need is close by, including the luxury of larger-city amenities.
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8. Little Rock
The capital city of Arkansas is Little Rock. It is the largest city, with a population of 196,796, and is located in Pulaski County, which is in the central part of the state.
The city has a thriving culture, with plenty of things to do and experience. Little Rock sits on the banks of the Arkansas River, which is an important part of both its commerce and its lifestyle.
Little Rock offers a great value compared to other cities of similar size. The median price for a home is $227,392, which is well below the national average of $376,616. Median rent in Little Rock is $853.
Downtown Little Rock has some wonderful and grand older homes that have been restored and cared for. Other areas — like Chenal, which is in the western part of the city — are newer and have lots of upscale homes. There are plenty of great places to eat and drink, from chains to local favorites. Chenal also has great shopping, from the Apple store to popular women’s clothing store Anthropologie, located in the Promenade at Chenal.
While the unemployment rate is 6.1%, the average annual salary is $48,450. Fortunately, with a lower cost of living, that average salary can go a long way.
The crime rate in Little Rock is high in certain areas. The downtown area and the eastern parts of the city have a higher rate, although not as high as comparable cities in the U.S. The more suburban areas have lower crime rates and a much more relaxed atmosphere.
There are quite a few very good hospitals in Little Rock, several of which are nationally recognized for their services.
Many of the schools in Little Rock are exceptional, including the famous Little Rock Central High School. There are also numerous high-quality private schools.
Little Rock has lots to offer, with a lively downtown area that includes great restaurants and bars as well as the Little Rock Amphitheater, which sits on the banks of the Arkansas River. President Clinton’s Presidential Library is located here, along with a wonderful zoo, museums and parks for the whole family. There’s a lot to do in this capital city no matter your age or interests.
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Fayetteville is the second-largest city in Arkansas with a population of 90,515. Fayetteville is the largest city in the Northwest Arkansas metropolitan area, which also includes Bentonville, Springdale and Rogers. The metro area has a combined population of 546,725.
Fayetteville is also home to the University of Arkansas, the state’s flagship university. The U of A is a highly regarded university with a reputation for sports — especially football, basketball, baseball and track, in which they have won numerous NCAA championships.
The median home in Fayetteville is $332,500, while the median rent runs $704 a month. There are nice older homes in the center part of the city near Wilson Park, but be prepared if you live there, because football is king. On Saturdays when the U of A Razorbacks play, traffic can be a nightmare. The city fills up with fans, especially downtown on Dickson Street.
Dickson Street is the “main drag” going into the university area. It has plenty of great bars that do a lively business from dusk till dawn. This part of town is very walkable and bike- friendly.
There are also more typical suburban areas on the outskirts of town, with a mix of newer homes and apartment buildings.
Fayetteville has an unemployment rate of 4.7% and an average salary of $50,470. The cost of living is low as well, which is why Fayetteville has frequently been named as one of the top ten places to live.
The crime rate in Fayetteville is slightly higher than the national average, with most of the crime occurring around the center part of the city. The suburban areas that surround the city on all sides have very low crime rates.
Healthcare in the area is very good, with a number of hospitals not only in Fayetteville but also in the surrounding areas.
The public schools in Fayetteville are some of the best in the state. In fact, Fayetteville High School has more Advanced Placement scholars than any school in Arkansas.
Being the home to the University of Arkansas is a boon for the city, not only because of the world-class athletic facilities, but because of the Sam Walton Business school. The leaders of tomorrow who graduate from the school won’t have to look far for jobs, since 300 of the 500 top Forbes companies are located nearby.
Fayetteville offers not only lots of opportunities but also a lifestyle that is exciting and progressive. Fayetteville is a funky college town that is full of artists. It is a town that feels both old and new at the same time, both exciting and chill. There is plenty to love about Fayetteville.
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Bentonville is the 10th-largest city in Arkansas and is the county seat of Benton County. The population of Bentonville is now 66, 327. The population continues to grow, and this is one of the fastest-growing regions in America. The median home value here is $364,463 and the median rent is $1,300 a month. The median income is $84,340, which goes farther given the low cost of living.
The city has two historic districts to live in. There is also a large number of newer, upscale homes in Bentonville. Since Walmart’s top executives are required to live here, you can understand why there are some very nice suburban living spaces. The downtown area is quaint, with lots of places to eat, drink and shop.
The crime rate in Bentonville is below the national average. The highest percentage of crime occurs in the downtown area, and the rate gets very low as you move away into the suburbs.
The health systems here are very good, with lots of doctors and healthcare facilities nearby.
The schools in Bentonville are some of the best in the country. In fact, various sources have rated two of Bentonville’s high schools as the best in the state. The high schools here have a graduation rate of 94%, and their students score above the national average on the ACTs. Many of the facilities are new and equipped with the latest technology to get students ready for the future.
The presence of the national headquarters of Walmart in Bentonville has created a vibrant town with continued growth. Many publications have listed Bentonville as one of the best places to live in America. There are lots of outdoor activities, and it is a top-rated biking city. It’s exciting and improving every day and well worth looking into for your next home.
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Important Things to Consider About Living in Arkansas
A. What is the climate like in Arkansas?
Arkansas is a warm Southern state with pretty high humidity. The months of July and August can see temperatures in the 90s with high humidity, which can take some getting used to. The upside is that it stays pretty warm until late October and starts getting warm again by March.
The winter months are not typically very cold. The coldest months are usually January and February, and even then, it doesn’t get below freezing for any extended period of time. Snowfall is always on the low side, so winters here are generally mild.
There is not a great difference between the north and south parts of the state weather-wise, although the towns in the mountains in the north do have slightly colder temperatures than the south, and a little less humidity.
B. What sort of job opportunities are there in Arkansas?
Arkansas is home to several large corporations. The headquarters of Walmart, JB Hunt and Tyson foods are all in Arkansas. Agriculture is also a major industry in the state.
Overall, Arkansas has a lower unemployment rate than many parts of the country, which makes finding a job an easier task. The pay varies, as you would imagine, with the types of jobs. There are many low-wage jobs but also many higher-level jobs that pay very well.
C. How expensive is childcare?
The rates for childcare, like most expenses in Arkansas, are relatively low. In fact, childcare in Arkansas is among the least expensive in the nation. If you don’t have a high-paying job, though, it can still take a big bite out of your monthly budget.
D. What is education like in Arkansas?
The education in Arkansas is very dependent on where you live. In the better cities and towns, the education is very good. In other areas — often less affluent areas and small towns — the education may be somewhat limited. Make sure you do your research before moving to a new place.
In addition to elementary school and secondary education, there are several very good colleges and universities in Arkansas. They are also much more affordable than those in other parts of the country, which makes them a great option for many students.
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E. Other factors to consider
- Arkansas has one of the lowest cost-of-living rates in the U.S. You can make your money go a long way here. The costs of food, fuel, healthcare and utilities make this a great choice when settling down.
- Housing costs in Arkansas are much lower than in most of the country. You can get a lot more home for your money here. That’s not to say there aren’t expensive homes, but even those will be a lot more house for the money than you could get elsewhere.
- Arkansas is known as the Natural State for good reason. There are plenty of rivers and lakes for recreation, as well as the beautiful Ozark mountains to the north. The state has an abundance of state and national parks that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer vacation. With the variety of choices available, you can enjoy the outdoors year-round.
- With a population of a little over 3 million people, there is plenty of room to spread out. Of course, the cities are more densely populated, but they lack some of the challenges that much larger cities face. Rarely do you have hour-long commutes, even if you live outside of a city. Most places you can live in Arkansas will give you the space to relax and regroup at the end of the day.
- The political climate in Arkansas is in flux. In recent years, this once strongly Democratic state has shifted to a much more Republican one. The larger cities tend to lean more toward liberal ideals, with the smaller, more rural areas leaning conservative. These shifts seem to vary more with the candidates than with the parties. That being said, most people are very warm and welcoming regardless of your political affiliation.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) When Living in Arkansas
A. Do people in Arkansas wear shoes?
Even though this is an old stereotype, it is something that is frequently asked. The obvious answer is . . . yes. Arkansans are not the hillbillies that have been portrayed in comics and old movies. They are farmers, physicians, teachers, truck drivers, country folks and city slickers. They are just like people in every other part of the country, but maybe with a little bit of an accent.
B. Where is Arkansas?
Arkansas is in the south-central part of the country. Its southern border connects with Texas to the west and Louisiana to the east. The western part of Arkansas connects to Oklahoma. Missouri is its northern neighbor. The northeast corner is shared with Tennessee, while most of the eastern border is with Mississippi.
C. What’s the weather like in Arkansas?
The winters are pretty mild, with small amounts of snow on average. The summers are hot and humid, but most of the year is very comfortable. There are occasionally tornadoes, especially in the spring and fall. You have to be very aware of those, because they happen quickly and can be very deadly.
D. Can you really find diamonds in Arkansas?
Yes! Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, is one of the only places in the world where you can find diamonds. You pay a small fee and can search the 37-acre field. Any diamonds and gems you find are yours.
There have been over 33,000 diamonds found since 1972. Some of the most famous diamonds include the 40.23-carat Uncle Sam diamond, the largest diamond ever unearthed in the U.S.; the 16.37-carat Amarillo Starlight; and the 15.33-carat Star of Arkansas. It’s a unique experience that you can’t get anywhere else.
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E. Is Arkansas really the duck hunting capital of the world?
Yes, it is. During the early weeks of duck hunting season, there are as many as 2,000 hunters a day. Then the numbers go down to about 350 per day. Hunters from all over the world come to experience the crown jewel of duck hunting in Stuttgart, Arkansas, which is about 45 minutes southeast of Little Rock.
F. Was there really a resort in Arkansas where Al Capone liked to visit and relax?
Hot Springs National Park is in central Arkansas and has been a vacation destination for many years. People come to enjoy the hot springs and the supposedly healing waters. During the 1920s, when prohibition was in full swing, Hot Springs became a destination for gangsters and movie stars alike. There was gambling and illegal alcohol along with the soothing waters of the bath houses that were created to heal the body and the soul.
Al Capone did actually stay there numerous times. It allowed him to relax far from the violence and scrutiny of the police in Chicago. It was said that he just acted like any other tourist and never caused any problems while he was there. You can visit the Gangster Museum to get more information when you visit.
G. Is America’s most haunted hotel really located in Arkansas?
The Crescent Hotel in historic Eureka Springs is said to be haunted. The entire town of Eureka Springs is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The city has streets that wind up and down the mountainous terrain, lined with homes and cottages built in the Victorian style.
In this setting, at the top of a hill, sits the Crescent Hotel. Built in 1886 and also on the National Register of Historic Places, it brings in visitors from all over the world to experience the hauntings and take ghost tours.
The hotel has been featured on numerous television shows, such as Ghost Hunters, Paranormal Witness and Ghost Adventures. Eureka Springs is a unique little town and the Crescent Hotel is a beautiful hotel that brings in thrill seekers — as well as wedding parties who enjoy the gorgeous surroundings.
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Arkansas is a wonderful Southern state with laid-back people and a simple charm. The beauty of the state makes it appealing to many people, especially those who enjoy outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, hiking and biking.
The larger cities have all the excitement and opportunities you would expect, and the smaller towns are peaceful and welcoming. There is a lot of great food in Arkansas, like home grown catfish and good old Southern barbeque. There is so much to see and do in Arkansas, you won’t be disappointed.
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