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July/August 2015 Issue

Arkansas lodge’s stunning renovation is fit for a queen

Queen Wilhelmina State Park in the mountains of western Arkansas is opening a new chapter in its long legacy of lodging with the unveiling of a major renovation this summer.

Closed for more than three years, the lodge was slated to re-open in late June after an $8 million expansion and renovation project. Nearly every inch of the property was remodeled, and about 10,000 more square feet were added to accommodate a new hearth room with a beautiful stone fireplace and two additional guest rooms, which increased the total to 40.

A lodge was first built at the site atop Rich Mountain, the second-tallest peak in Arkansas, in the late 1800s by a railroad with Dutch investors and named after Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. The “Castle in the Sky,” as it was known, was only open for about a decade, but a new lodge built by Arkansas State Parks took its place in the 1960s. After a fire destroyed the property in 1973, a replacement lodge opened in 1975.

The recent renovation has made the lodge more inviting and comfortable with state-of-the-art amenities. To celebrate the lodge’s spectacular panoramic views, the windows in the public rooms and guest rooms were enlarged.

The guest rooms also were expanded. Many of the rooms include large, walk-in showers, and several guest rooms now have gas fireplaces and spa tubs. Three guest rooms are barrier-free for visitors with disabilities.

When not enjoying the beauty of the lodge, visitors can appreciate the natural splendor of the mountain on four trails through the park that range from easy to strenuous. Upcoming events at the park include a butterfly count on July 11, a Hot Rod Run on Aug. 29–30, and the 46th annual Ham Fest for amateur radio enthusiasts on Sept. 11–12.

Queen Wilhelmina State Park is located at 3877 Highway 88 West, also known as the Talimena Scenic Drive, about 13 miles west of Mena.

For more details, call the lodge at (800) 264-2477 or click on


The updated lodge has large windows that offer stunning views and a new hearth room. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photos



Visitors can climb to new heights at the Audubon Zoo

A new outdoor attraction at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, La., allows visitors to channel their inner monkey and test their agility, balance, and strength.

Standing 44 feet high, Kamba Kourse is a four-story adventure ropes course featuring three levels with platform heights at 12 feet, 24 feet, and 36 feet. The course contains nearly three dozen elements, including zig-zag swinging beams, crisscross angled rope ladders, bridges with spaghetti hand lines, and cargo nets.

Participants can spend about half an hour navigating through the rope elements of the course at their own pace.

This kid-friendly attraction also offers a scaled-down version for children 2–7. The Sky Tykes course has nine elements that stand less than three feet from the ground, which allows for easy parent participation. Adults can walk alongside their child or step back and watch.

Admission to Kamba Kourse, located in the African Savanna, is $15, and the Sky Tykes child’s course is $8. The attraction is open during regular zoo hours.

Located at 6500 Magazine St., the zoo’s summer hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.–6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Regular admission is $18.95 for adults, $13.95 for children 2–12, and $14.95 for seniors.

Call (504) 861-2537 for details, or click on


The course has dozens of fun climbing challenges for all ages. Audubon Zoo photo



Spirits rise at Natchez Food and Wine Festival

Offering the region’s finest food, wine, and entertainment against the backdrop of some of the nation’s most stately historical National Landmarks, the Natchez Food and Wine Festival is one of the most-anticipated events in Mississippi.

The three-day event, held on July 24–26 this year, will bring together hundreds of foodies, internationally known chefs, and regional vendors for an unforgettable celebration. The largely ticketed event provides festival-goers with delicious experiences as chefs pair exquisite dishes with wines and craft beer.

The festival kicks off on Friday with the popular “Tastings Along the River” at the Natchez Convention Center featuring scores of specialty dishes. Then on Saturday, the Natchez Biscuit Cook Off at the Carriage House Restaurant gets underway and is one of the few events that does not require a ticket.

Other highlights include a progressive lunch spread over four of Natchez’s best restaurants; a wine and cheese event at Dunleith castle; an event that pairs burgers, beer, and bocce ball; a haute cuisine dinner at three Natchez mansions; and more. Acclaimed chef Robert St. John is emcee for the weekend.

For details or tickets, click on or call (601) 660-7300.



New Arkansas children’s museum will amaze visitors

The founders of a new children’s museum in Bentonville, Ark., wanted the name to reflect the engaging and imaginative experience they were designing, so they incorporated the most descriptive adjective they could find into the title: amazing.

After 10 years in the making, the Scott Family Amazeum will soon show off its fascinating facility that is filled with exhibits that bring art and science to life. Opening on July 15, the museum offers 50,000 square feet of space where everything is designed to be climbed on, interacted with, and touched.

Among the exhibits is Nature Valley Water Amazements, a fun-soaked exhibit featuring water wheels, sprinklers, dams, and pipes that help visitors learn about the nature of water. And the 3M Tinkering Hub is a creative workshop where visitors become inventors with hands-on construction.

There is also a climbable tree canopy, indoor caves, an art studio, and a role-playing grocery store. The learning extends outdoors to a park-like setting with interactive elements.

Located at 1009 Museum Way, the museum is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and Monday, and from 1–5 p.m. on Sunday; it is closed on Tuesday. During summer, the museum stays open until 7 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday. Contact the museum for admission rates.

Call (479) 696-9280 for details or visit


A rendering of the new museum. Amazeum photo


Mississippi opens the book on new literary festival

Bragging that it has produced more writers per capita than any other state in the nation, Mississippi has set aside a day this August to celebrate authors and the written word in the inaugural Mississippi Book Festival.

The birthplace of literary giants like Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner, as well as contemporary literary figures like John Grisham and Lewis Nordan, Mississippi is the logical setting for a festival celebrating the written word.

The Mississippi Book Festival will be held on Saturday, Aug. 22, at the State Capitol in Jackson. The festival is expected to attract thousands of book lovers of all ages, providing a great opportunity for writers and readers to interact through readings and presentations, panel discussions, and book signings. The day also will be filled with cooking demonstrations, live music, local food, children’s activities, and exhibiting vendors.

The festival, which runs from 10 a.m.–6 p.m., is free and open to the public and will also include venues around the metro area connected to the main festival location.

For a listing of authors and events, click on


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