24 hours in Mountain View 

The folk music capital of the world.

click to enlarge FOLK CENTER SHOWS: Shows daily.
  • FOLK CENTER SHOWS: Shows daily.

Mountain View, the seat of Stone County, is a small Ozark town — population 2,876 — that holds some of the biggest folk music events in the state and the country. Each year, in April, it hosts the Arkansas Folk Festival, which is attended by tens of thousands, according to estimates. In November, the Bluegrass Festival stretches over a weekend and brings in the crowds. All year long, the Ozark Folk Center hosts musical performances throughout the day; there's more music on the town square at night. Around any corner you might catch someone fiddling. They might be playing "Tennessee Stud" or "The Battle of New Orleans," two of the 6,000-plus folk songs written by Mountain View native Jimmy Driftwood. After becoming famous, Driftwood continued to reside, in part, in Mountain View and advocate for it. His love for folk music helped put Mountain View on the map — surprising residents by securing $2.1 million from Congress to established the Folk Center. But if you're not in the mood for Ozark Mountain music, stay for the mountains and the rivers that run through them. Driftwood wouldn't mind: He became an environmental activist later in life, helping secure national designations to protect the Buffalo River and Blanchard Springs Caverns.

Grab some breakfast in town (likely right beside your bed)

In a town like Mountain View, built to accommodate tourists, lodging is available near the center of town. Wildflower Bed and Breakfast, at 100 W. Washington St., and The Inn at Mountain View, 307 W. Washington St., offer great spots for those looking for a bed and breakfast. (Country Oaks Bed and Breakfast is farther out of town at 17221 State Highway 9, but if you're yearning for a B&B it fits the bill.) For people who want to be as close to the action as possible, there are the Ozark Folk Center State Park Cabins. If you decide you want to eat out, PJ's Rainbow Cafe on the square is a classic dinner spot that will acclimate you to the cozy feel of Mountain View. Either way: Don't rush! You should relax, walk around the square, drink some coffee and enjoy the day.

Music time

All right, you've spent more than 15 minutes in Mountain View without any music (unless you're playing folk classics out of your iPhone speaker for all to hear). We should probably remedy that! Head over to the Ozark Folk Center for a show. Each day the center hosts music at 10:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 1:45 p.m., 2:45 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Can't find a time (somehow) in that a schedule? There are evening concerts, too, at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Daytime performances are in the Outdoor Music Pavilion or White Oak Theater and evening shows are in the Large Auditorium on Thursdays through Saturdays. Afterward, right down the hill, you can drive over to the Dulcimer Shoppe. If you're desperate to buy top quality dulcimers, this is the spot. But, if you're just someone interested by the whole thing, they'll be making the instruments and let you watch. The Mountain View Music shop is another local spot where you can buy an instrument, but you also might be inclined to just wander as a neophyte; often they have people playing on the porch.

Wandering the square

If you've seen the show and then been to the music shops, you might still have a little bit before lunch, so do some antiquing. The town square is small but somehow has about four antique/resale shops. There is Rainbow Antique Mall, which is a large and sprawling home to many random items (all cheap and interesting, from odd lamps to weird bobbleheads). Beside that is For Mother Earth, home to a great section of used books and tons of tie-dye shirts. There's also Nancy's Antiques & Gifts and J & J Antique Stuff and Sanders Town Square Antiques, all around that area. For some reason, Mountain View has a good amount of old stuff worth selling.

click to enlarge THE SOUND OF MOUNTAIN VIEW: Includes the old-time strains of the autoharp, fiddle and dulcimer.
  • THE SOUND OF MOUNTAIN VIEW: Includes the old-time strains of the autoharp, fiddle and dulcimer.

Lunch on the river

Get in the car and head a bit out of town for Anglers White River Resort, which is along the White River. It will be hard to miss it: Anglers is not only a restaurant but also an RV Park, a gas station, and an outdoor store; signs litter the highway as you approach. The best part about the restaurant is that you can sit outside and look at the river as you eat. If you're here, nothing to order but catfish.

Blanchard Springs Caverns

Since you're a bit out of town now, steer over another 10 minutes farther into the woods to the Blanchard Springs Caverns. It's a beautiful (and the only nationally protected) cave system, home to glistening rock formations. Do not worry: There are some intense versions of cave exploring offered, but if you're more squeamish there is also a calm half-mile or so hike that is guided. On the half-mile hike it is hard to feel claustraphobic: The caverns are huge. The more ambitious explorers have to call ahead to book a trip on the Wild Cave Tour of undeveloped parts of the caverns (go to recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777).

click to enlarge SPELUNK: Both the easy and harder trails at Blanchard Caverns are spectacular.
  • SPELUNK: Both the easy and harder trails at Blanchard Caverns are spectacular.

Dinner and dessert

Unless the woods were so enticing you decided to stay and become a hunter-gatherer, you'll be hungry for someone else's cooking again. So head back to town to Kin Folks BBQ. It's got cheap and great eats. When you bite in, though, don't explain your love with any cursing: multiple printed out signs say that no profanity is allowed. (Also, to be frank, there are some signs about being against political correctness that are not the best. Maybe order to go and eat outside? The porch is nice.) The BBQ plate is simple, with pork and two sides for around $7. The ribs are a bit more expensive, in the $12 to $15 range, but worth it. Either way: Save room! It's got delicious ice cream — you can even get it on the top of a slice of pie or in a milkshake. The experience will leave you full, very full.

Another show?

Yes! You need more music. Perhaps you're going to head back to the Ozark Folk Center for one of the evening performances, but there are others options, too. Check out a great website, mountain-view-music-scene.com, for local options. There is the Gospel Opry, 208 School Ave., which has shows every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Old School Gym. Usually audience participation is encouraged, so get ready to belt those old gospel tunes you remember from childhood. Then there is Jimmy Driftwood Barn at 19775 state Highway 5 N, which has shows many evenings. (You might be wondering why, if Driftwood created the Folk Center, there is another music venue. In the mid-'70s there was a rift and Driftwood was kicked out of his own creation. So, he and some friends set up a shack to play music. Viola: Jimmy Driftwood Barn.) When the weather's good, you'll find folks jamming on the courthouse square.

Tired of music? Let's do a movie

The Stone Drive-In Theater plays movies when it gets dark. I mean this literally: Its Facebook page tells customers, "Movie starts at dark!" You pull in and pay, tune your radio to the correct frequency and enjoy the classic drive-in experience. $5 will get anyone in over the age of 12 and $2 for kids age 6 to 11. If it's raining? The movie still plays. So, drive on over.

Spend the night or drive home

Either grab some shut-eye in the B&B or book it back to Little Rock, talking all the way about what a joy Mountain View was.


Back to the woods

It was wonderful, deep down in those caverns. It made you long for peace and quiet and a Twitter-less world. Go deeper into the Ozark National Forest!

Head over to Mill Creek, sprung from the springs within Blanchard Springs Caverns, and spend some time at the lake it creates, Mirror Lake, and the manmade Mirror Waterfall. You know what? You're still too close to other people (there are usually some folks hanging around). Maybe head to the Gunner Pool Recreation Area — a solid camping spot where you can stay for only $7 or so. You can go swimming here or just sit around and read a book. Why ever go back? We could live here and make it, couldn't we? We could really survive out in these woods and we'd be happy? Why not? Let's do it!


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