Little Rock, the capital and the largest city in Arkansas, has plenty of big time – and affordable – family fun. There is a scenic river trail for bikers and hikers, the Clinton Presidential Center and a burgeoning global dining scene.
1. History Lesson
Historic Curran Hall, the city’s visitor information center, is one of only a handful of antebellum homes remaining in Little Rock. Tour the building and gardens and pick up info on other Little Rock sights.
2. Check out the view
The Big Dam Bridge is the world’s longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge built and designed specifically for that purpose. Located over Murray Lock and Dam, The Pulaski County Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge has a 14-foot wide deck that extends 3,463 feet across the Arkansas River. The $12.5 million bridge ties together 15 miles of scenic river trails in Little Rock and North Little Rock and 7,000 acres of park land. You don’t have to be a seasoned athlete to enjoy the gorgeous views that can be found along every step of the bridge. From a walking platform at 90 feet above the navigation channel, catch an invigorating sunrise or sunset over the Arkansas River.
3. See Civil Rights History Up Close and Personal
Visit the circa 1927 Gothic-style Central High School which received international attention during the Civil Rights Movement and the museum in the restored service station across the street. There, you can tour the interactive exhibit “All the World is Watching Us” which tells the story of the nine black students who made civil rights history when they entered Central High in September 1957.
4. Enjoy the Art of it All
The Arkansas Arts Center in MacArthur Park near the River Market District has a world-renowned art collection, with special traveling exhibitions coming through as well. The Children’s Theatre includes special ‘pay what you can’ performances.
5. Catch a Ride
Or at least admire a bevy of dream machines. From April through October, every third Thursday of the month from 6 to 9pm, more than 100 vintage, classic, and exotic cars, trucks and motorcycles gather under the River Market Pavilions in the River Market District for the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau’s family friendly “Cruisin’ in the Rock.”
6. Enter a War Zone
The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, MacArthur Park, highlights the state’s military heritage from Territorial days to the present. The Tower Building of the old U.S. Arsenal where it resides has a rich history, too. It was completed in 1841 and was the birthplace of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1880.
7. Capitalize on Your Visit
No trip to Little Rock is complete without a stop at the State Capitol. Designed in the Neoclassical style, construction began in 1899 and was completed in 1915. Modeled after the nation’s Capitol, the building features Arkansas granite and six bronze doors and three chandeliers crafted by Tiffany’s of New York. Free audio tours available. Call weekdays to schedule free, guided tours.
8. See Bill Clinton’s Running Shoes and Saxophone
Serving as the state’s first capitol from 1836 until 1911 when the current capitol was completed, the newly renovated Old State House, is the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River, and today houses a museum of Arkansas history. Bill Clinton announced his campaign for presidency and celebrated his victory, both in 1992 and in 1996, on election night in front of the Old State House.
9. Snap a Shot with the Sugarbakers
Considered a local Little Rock landmark, the circa 1881 Villa Marre, a Second Empire/Italianate home gained fame when, in the 1980s, television producers and former Arkansas residents Harry Thomason and his wife, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason used the home’s exterior to depict the Sugarbaker design firm on the couple’s CBS television series “Designing Women.” Formerly a house museum, the Villa Marre, 1321 S. Scott St., is now a private residence and no longer open for tours, but you can take of photo of its famous exterior.
10. Go Window Shopping
Once a nearly abandoned warehouse district along what used to be known as East Markham Street (now President Clinton Avenue), this stretch of Little Rock’s downtown has come back to life as the River Market District encompassing several city blocks. The William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park is a part of the district and l’s new world headquarters will soon be nearby. The area is filled with restaurants and retail shops as well as the Little Rock River Market, featuring an array of owner-operated shops and stalls and a seasonal farmers’ market in the warmer months.
11. End Hunger
Heifer International’s world headquarters are in Little Rock and you can tour the platinum LEED certified building and enjoy interactive exhibits at Heifer Village. Closed Sundays.
12. See the Rock
You’ve got to see the landmark for which the city was named, La Petit Roche, at the north end of Rock Street in the History Pavilion in Riverfront Park. This first outcropping of rock along the Arkansas River above its mouth was known to pioneers and early explorers traveling the river in the early 19th century as “La Petit Roche” to distinguish it from the big rock upstream. The little rock on the south bank marked the transition from level lands of the east to the rugged hills of the mountain ranges and offered a natural landing for those traveling by boat.