Jonesboro Arkansas – The Next Silicon Valley?

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Jonesboro Arkansas is probably not one of the first places you would consider visiting while exploring the United States especially given that it is hidden away in the north-east corner of one of the lesser known US states. However, since 2008 this small town of just over 67,000 has been my home, so I felt it was time to share with you a few reasons that may entice you to visit the region!

Location and History

Jonesboro Arkansas is not and probably never will be a tourist attraction for folks touring the States, but one thing that it does offer for visitors is a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and enough attractions to keep you occupied for a couple of days before you decide on your next move. For anyone within the mid-south or for folks that love a good old stereotypical US road trip, Jonesboro may well be a perfect spot to explore before heading on to other more populous cities such as Memphis or Little Rock.

Jonesboro Map

100 Mile Radius from Jonesboro, AR

Located about a hour north-west of Memphis across the Mississippi River, Jonesboro is not in the ideal location to travel to other spots though as you can see from the above map a 100 mile radius does put you within reach of Memphis and Little Rock.

Jonesboro can be proud to know that in 2011 according to Business Insider magazine it is one of the most lucrative areas for technology corporations:

Craighead County is atop a list of 20 “micropolitan” areas in the U.S. with potential to be the next Silicon Valley.

What does this mean? Well, given that this analysis was done based on broadband Internet access, access to a large workforce, vibrant local economy and a solid university/college presence it shows that Jonesboro clearly has the upper hand on all other up and coming “booming” towns/cities. This can only be beneficial to the region in general and will certainly attract key businesses in a myriad of sectors that will help take this town to the next level.

Ok, so there you have a little history about the location and potential future of Jonesboro but you are probably wondering what the key attractions are that will encourage you to explore this part of Arkansas! Hopefully after reading this post you will have at least a small inclination to check this out for yourselves!

5 Top Attractions

1. Craighead Forest Park

Craighead Forest Park Entrance

One of the best family attractions in Jonesboro is Craighead Forest Park which offers a beautiful lake and trails that wrap around the perimeter. It is a popular spot for fishing and there is even a disc golf course available that interwines the forest. It is a great spot for a picnic or if you are traveling around on a road trip there is a RV park available for overnight stays.

Craighead Forest Park Disc Golf

2. Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center

Another great option for those with a family or just anyone that wishes to get some exercise is to visit Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center. Within the internal confines complex is an exhibit center, observation tower, “Discovery Rooms” which are a great way for kids to learn about different wildlife species and of course full details on the unique topography and natural history of the surrounding delta region where the ridge lies.

Crowleys Ridge Nature Center

Outside is where you can really get adventurous and take advantage of the great trails that interconnect with Craighead Forest Park, so this is a great spot to spend the afternoon after lunch in the park!

3. Downtown Jonesboro

Jonesboro Downtown

I have always found that smaller towns in USA tend to have very unique downtown areas and Jonesboro is no different. With a variety of restaurants and cuisine types available, this is definitely a picturesque part of Jonesboro worth wandering up and down, taking in some of the more unique architectural designs inside the city limits.

Jonesboro War Memorial

4. Arkansas State University

At the heart of Jonesboro’s expanding economy is Arkansas State University which offers a variety of different options for visitors to the area. Experience the ASU Museum located inside the Dean B. Ellis Library or catch a football game at Centennial Bank Stadium to really become part of the Red Wolves atmosphere.

5. Turtle Creek Mall

After experiencing all of the adventure and history that Jonesboro has to offer, why not head over to Turtle Creek Mall for some retail therapy. Some of the nations leading brands are located in here including Target, Best Buy, Dillards and JC Penney’s. It’s in a great location along Red Wolf Boulevard and in close proximity to a variety of chain restaurants.

Local Restaurant Options

After a busy day exploring Jonesboro, you will probably be ready to sample some of Arkansas’ finest cuisine. Whether your taste is BBQ, Mexican or Italian, I can guarantee there is something just for you in Jonesboro that will fill your appetite. Here are a couple of my favorite options that I would recommend experiencing:

1. Kandela Mexican Grill

Kandela Mexican Grill

Undoubtedly my favorite restaurant in Jonesboro, Kandela Mexican Grill is a more ‘up-scale’ version of your stereotypical Americanized Mexican restaurant. The atmosphere and decor inside is great, the food is always freshly prepared and the service is one of the best I have experienced not only in Jonesboro but throughout my travels in USA!

I would recommend either the Yolandas or the Ranchero Mix as both are great options that will certainly leave you with a true experience of this restaurant.

2. Demo’s Barbeque and Smokehouse

Barbeque is obviously a major attraction in this part of the country and Demo’s Barbeque and Smokehouse offers some of the best around. I am not much of a ribs person but have heard that these are really good, but I can vouch for the pulled pork sandwich that is a great option if BBQ is your preference.

3. Slim Chickens

Slim Chickens Jonesboro

Although this isn’t a completely local option as there are several locations around Arkansas and Oklahoma, Slim Chickens is the best choice for grilled or fried chicken tenders. The Chick’s Plate, for just $6.99, comprises of three fresh tenders, fries, Texas Toast and a fountain drink! A great bargain that you won’t regret.

Slim Chickens Review

Summary

So there you have my very first post on Jonesboro, Arkansas. Prior to writing this I was a little reluctant to do so given that my general perspective on Jonesboro is negative, especially if you ask Heather who was born and raised here. But I am proud to call this home for now because this town has given me a lot of opportunities and really helped my life move in the right direction. From meeting Heather here to my great job at Arkansas State University, Jonesboro will always have a place in my heart even if we decide to move on in the next few years.

I would definitely encourage you to give towns like Jonesboro a chance before dismissing them as not worth exploring. Going back to the original question posed by Business Insider in 2011 about whether Jonesboro could potentially be the next Silicon Valley? I am not very optimistic that you will ever see the likes of Apple or Google setting up base here but in 20-25 years you never know where Jonesboro, Arkansas may be on the global map!

22 COMMENTS

  1. A comprehensive and well written guide Jonesboro seems really quaint and appears to have a lot more going on than your “little home town” back here in “Blighty”. and of course you have the advantage of beautiful weather!

  2. Interesting that what looks to be such a quiet and peaceful looking town should be a contender for the next Silicon Valley. I have never visited the smaller settlements in the US having only been to some of the big cities… looks like you might get a more typical idea of everyday life in America by visiting.

  3. I love that you included restaurants. I spend so much time looking for places to eat it drives me insane. Now I can happily visit the new silicon valley and eat! 😀

  4. I really enjoyed the post, Chris. As you may realise from some of the places I write about, I really like to explore places that have not been “done” to death and therefore I think that smaller towns like this often have their own set of charms and why shouldn’t they be on our radars as well. Well done, for a great informative post about a not so obvious destination.

  5. This just goes to prove that regardless of where you go there is always something interesting or some lovely countryside to enjoy! I like it that there is always something to see off the beaten track

  6. You’ve sold it really well! We would just love to come to America and have time to travel and find places like this which aren’t the most obvious to visit. One day…

    • We can find thousands and thousands of articles on NYC or Orlando but it’s these small towns that rarely get the media coverage that they deserve. Of course, you wouldn’t likely make a trip overseas just to see Jonesboro but I would certainly encourage someone passing through here en route somewhere else to at least spend a couple of hours and take advantage of the welcoming atmosphere (plus one or two of those great attractions/restaurants!)

  7. It’s always really nice to see where travelers live for most of the year, even if it isn’t an obvious place to visit! It looks like a really nice place to relax with a quaint downtown and some nice parks! I’d also really like to try that Mexican restaurant. Yum!

    • I thought it was about time to share with folks a little more about where we live even though we are avid travelers and honestly probably don’t spend as much time here as we could do! But it’s nice to share with others some reasons that may attract folks to visit here especially when passing through because I am a realist enough to know that you probably won’t make a special trip to just visit Jonesboro, AR 🙂 But then again, maybe some folks out there would just take the trip to sample Kandela or Slim Chickens!

    • I am sure you would enjoy your time here Mandie! Let us know if you head to this part of AR again and we would be happy to show you around the sights and let you sample some of the local cuisine options available.

  8. I spent a month in Memphis several years ago and wish I’d had more of an opportunity to explore places like Jonesboro. It looks like there’s quite a bit going on and that the town has a bright and exciting time ahead.

    Slim Chickens is new to me and I love the smaller chains with southern food. I really miss having good southern cooking, as part of my family hails from that part of the US. Whenever I find myself in Jonesboro, I’ll probably head to Demo’s first, though – nothing beats good BBQ!

    • We frequently take the drive to Memphis but know a bunch of people the other side of the Mississippi that have probably never visited Jonesboro. People in this part of the world really just keep themselves to themselves in their own little world, not that there is anything wrong with that but it’s tough as a traveler to understand this sort of philosophy.

      One thing about Jonesboro that I would miss if we move on is the variety of local dining options available! Kandela, Slims and Demo’s are all great options but there are many more to choose from should you venture to this part of AR.

  9. Nice to hear about your current home! Always a little hard to write about that because as a local you tend to think it’s not very exciting compared to other places out there. I have never been down to that area of the USA but maybe one day- Kandela Mexican grill sounds yummy!

    • Definitely agree with you Hannah that you frequently take your hometown for granted whenever you live there! Jonesboro really is in the part of USA that most folks rarely visit simply because there really isn’t much going on around here – hence the reason why the cost of living here is so low in comparison with other parts of the States!

      BTW, Kandela is awesome and I can’t reiterate enough that people who visit here have to try it out!

  10. Great post Chris, thanks for telling us about lesser known places in the US. And you are right, people traveling through (like, the general European) won’t even go here that happens with many places. I love the own we live in but since all people who come to The Netherlands only visit Amsterdam and the area around we will never really receive any international tourists here, other than the Germans. Which is fine really because it would be strange seeing busloads of people walking down my street 🙂

  11. Newest silicon valley? Are you looking for start-up money? 🙂

    You can’t go wrong with visiting just about any university town in the US –generally speaking they’re great communities, situated in ‘off-the-beaten-path’ settings, quite cosmopolitan and with no shortage of interesting things to do.

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