Little Rock, Arkansas
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- The bronze front doors on the State Capitol, costing $10,000 at Tiffany’s a century ago, are worth $250,000.
- The city’s Big Dam Bridge is the world’s longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge built for that purpose (4,226 feet).
- Five-star Army General Douglas MacArthur was born in Little Rock (1880).
- Little Rock is named for a specific small rock that is at the center of La Petite Roche Plaza.
- North Little Rock’s Old Mill is believed to be the only surviving structure that appeared in “Gone With the Wind” (1939).
Of history and heifers
Little Rock made a splash of sorts in 1957 when the federal government sent troops to enforce a Supreme Court decision against segregation in public schools. Nine African-American teens integrated Central High. Today, visitors can tour the school (one of the country’s most beautiful), but by prearrangement because it is still in the education business.
Fast-forward to the 1990s and an Arkansas governor went to the White House, which brought more publicity of a happier sort. Then, the city in 2004 gained the Clinton Presidential Library. The library is part of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park, a striking modern complex in an expansive green space facing the Arkansas River. The center, while dedicated to Clinton’s achievements, also brings special events and educational programs to the city.
Little Rock has a number of other historical attractions including a cemetery of interest (Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery and Park), plus art galleries, museums, theater, festivals, green spaces and a diverse dining and nightclub scene.
Uniquely, the Arkansas capital is headquarters for a charity, Heifer International, which has also made itself a tourist attraction as a way to generate support for its fight against hunger and poverty.
Visitors to Little Rock will note that a great deal of the action is focused on the riverfront. The 11-block, 33-acre riverside Riverfront Park is a natural for outdoor diversions, which include a sculpture garden, free film showings and the annual Riverfest music festival, plus other musical activities. The park’s First Security Amphitheater is an outdoor concert venue. (One biggie, the city’s spring Wine and Food Festival, is elsewhere, at the Wildwood Park for the Arts.)
Riverfront Park also is home to a splash park, good for cooling off in summer, and a restored wetlands habitat.
The adjacent River Market District, called the city’s official entertainment district, is the place to start when exploring Little Rock’s nightspots. It’s also the busy site of restaurants, shops and a farmers market.
Little Rock is the only U.S. city with four pedestrian bridges crossing a navigable water. They add to the attraction of walking or biking near the Arkansas River.
Things to do for Venturers
- Visit Heifer Village and get serious about the issues Heifer International addresses — ending hunger and poverty and caring for the Earth.
- Cycle the 34-mile loop of the Arkansas River Trail, a route that takes you across four pedestrian and bicycle friendly bridges.
- Choose one of the hiking trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park that take you to the peak of the eponymous mountain, a bit more than 1,000 feet above sea level. The peak is about 30 minutes from downtown.
- Get married on the Big Dam Bridge.
- Compete in the early March Little Rock Marathon, credited with handing out the “world’s largest finisher’s medal,” or choose one of the shorter races. Or, women may also choose the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in October.
- When you are feeling a little peckish, check Facebook or Twitter to determine where the city’s food trucks are hanging out. They promise eclectic and tasty choices.
Things to do for Centrics
- Immerse yourself in presidential lore at the Clinton Presidential Library, which includes a replica of the Oval Office and interactive exhibits, including one that tells you what was happening in the White House and around the world on each day of the Clinton administration.
- At Central High School, see where history was made in 1957 when the federal government enforced desegregation of public schools. The visitor center is across the street. Make a reservation to tour Central High.
- Tour the Rock Town Distillery, an artisan craft distillery using local grains. It’s described as the state’s first and only legal distillery since Prohibition.
- Attend the International Greek Food Festival in mid-May. It is the largest ethnic festival in Arkansas.
- Or, if traveling a little earlier, participate in the Arkansas Literary Festival in April. Take a writing workshop if you have aspirations or even if you do not.
- Attend a production at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. Or, for variety, choose Murry’s Dinner Playhouse.
Things to do for Authentics
- Visit the Arkansas State Capitol, a building modeled on the Capitol in Washington, and the Old State House, one of the most beautiful antebellum structures in the South and now a museum, focusing on Arkansas history.
- While away an afternoon or evening, or both, in the River Market District where you’ll find a farmer’s market, brewpubs, crafts vendors and restaurants.
- Come to town for the Arkansas State Fair, held each October.
- Look for the 19th century Villa Marre Home in the historic Quapaw Quarter. It was used for exterior shots in the TV series “Designing Women” (1986-1993).
- Also, in North Little Rock, look for the Old Mill, famous for the opening scene in the movie, “Gone With the Wind” (1939).
- The Historic Arkansas Museum is built around a restored half block of the original Little Rock settlement. Wander through the houses, where you’ll find costumed interpreters, pioneer demonstrators and others to enrich the visit. Or, take a guided tour, available some days.
For more information, consult the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.littlerock.com