Livin’ Large in Little Rock
There’s an old saying to describe the small-town nature of the capital city that goes, “They don’t call it Big Rock.” But that just describes the atmosphere, not a lack of things to do and see. In that regard, Little Rock can hang with the best of ’em in terms of places to eat or shop as well as attractions and events.
“When I think of Little Rock, I think of a very strong sense of community,” says Libby Lloyd, director of communications for the Little Rock Conventions and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a big small town, and I think that’s relevant to a lot of people, residents and visitors alike.
“It’s very easy to get around in this city, and we’ve got the best of both worlds of that urban/outdoor experience. As the state’s urban core, we have all these amenities of the city, but then within 15-20 minutes, you can be in nature and outdoors, too.”
The CVB has developed an attractions pass, a mobile app that identifies local places to see where visitors can check in and earn prizes. The following is just a sampling of the attractions to be had in the capital city, as recommended by the CVB (find more at explore.littlerock.com).
William J. Clinton Library and Museum
No trip to Little Rock is complete without a visit to the museum detailing the eight years Bill Clinton served in the White House. The full-size replicas of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room are just the beginning of the fabulous treasures waiting to be discovered.
Big Dam Bridge
Located along the River Trail, at 4,226 feet, The Big Dam Bridge is the longest bridge built for pedestrian and bicycle traffic in North America. Great for a brisk ride or run, the BDB is also a prime people-watching spot spanning the Arkansas River.
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
Learn about the fateful events that transpired during the first days of the 1957 school year, when nine Black students attempted to report to Little Rock Central High School. Multimedia displays at the site recreate those tense days and the civil rights victory that was to follow.
Little Rock Zoo
The whole family can get wild at the Little Rock Zoo, home to more than 500 animals, including elephants, penguins, primates and several species of big cats. Be sure to catch a ride on the Arkansas Diamond Express historic train, and take a spin on the old-fashioned carousel.
Museum of Discovery
Unleash the kids’ imaginations at the museum ranked by USA Today as one of the best science centers in America. The mysteries of weather, chemistry, physics and the natural sciences are all on display here through fun, age-appropriate activities. Great for the young and young at heart.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park
Don’t just stay in the city – get out into nature with a trip to nearby Pinnacle Mountain State Park. One of Arkansas’s most visited state parks, Pinnacle features climbing and foot trail routes to the summit as well as world-class mountain biking trails, paddle boat rentals and Little Maumelle River kayaking.
Funky boutiques, sophisticated shops and stores chock-full of one-on-a-kind finds are on the menu for any shopping excursion in Little Rock. The following businesses were crowned Best Of in AY Magazine’s annual reader’s poll.
Bang Up Betty
Looking for something unusual? Look no farther than Bang Up Betty across the bridge in North Little Rock, specializing in snarky, meaningful, well-made jewelry. The quirky pieces can be personalized in any number of ways to make a one-of-a-kind gift they’ll always appreciate. Voted Best Jewelry Designer.
Caracalla Salon & Body Spa
If all that shopping leaves you sore and worn out, book some time at Caracalla, voted Best Salon. Caracalla pampers you from your hair to your toes (literally), leaving you feeling rejuvenated and ready for your next adventure.
Nestled into Little Rock’s charming Hillcrest neighborhood, Box Turtle is one of the top boutiques in Central Arkansas. Voted Best Local Women’s Clothing, the store also offers houseware, books, cards and other treasures for the discriminating shopper.
Baumans Fine Men’s Clothing
Rediscover the art of gentlemanly attire at Baumans in Little Rock’s Heights neighborhood. A throwback to a time when clothes made the man, Baumans provides quality merchandise and unparalleled customer service to help each client find his own personal style. Voted Best Local Men’s Clothing.
Two things you learn very quickly when you live in or visit Little Rock – one, we love our food and, two, we have plenty of restaurants to suit any taste. No matter what your favorite category or dish, you’ll find it here, just like these selections taken from the AY Magazine’s Best Of winners.
Little Rock’s favorite place for baked goods keeps rolling along, adding another Best Bakery title to its collection. Not only does Community Bakery produce the best cakes, pies and other sweet treats (try the sugar cookies) but hot artisan sandwiches and breakfast items and the best coffee around.
Eat My Catfish
Folks in the South love their catfish, so to be voted Best Catfish really says something about Eat My Catfish. Serving up the highest-quality U.S. farm-raised filets – never frozen, duh – it’s flaky and flavorful fish. Not into it? Try the shrimp, po’boys or a plate of mudbugs (crawfish to you Northerners).
Arthur’s Prime Steakhouse
They don’t make ‘em like this anymore! Arthur’s serves only the finest beef and seafood, expertly prepared and presented with the utmost in attentive service. Winner of not one, but two Best Of awards (Best Fine Dining and Best Steak), Arthur’s is the place for a memorable evening.
Bruno’s Little Italy
When you do something for almost three-quarters of a century, you get pretty good at it. That’s just what you find at Bruno’s Little Italy, where they have been serving up the best Italian food around since 1949. Voted Best Italian, try the spaghetti carbonara or one of the terrific pizzas.
Summer camp was never this much fun! Voted Best New Restaurant, this funky, retro spot serves up amazing tacos and sides as well as a bevy of specialty drinks that will have you smiling in no time. There’s also a rotating tap of beers from sister brewery Lost Forty, just up the street.
When it’s time to let the good times roll, head to Maddie’s Place, voted Best Cajun/Creole. Settle in with your favorite cocktail, wine or one of the local beers on tap. Then enjoy the best of traditional Cajun and Creole favorites including jambalaya, shrimp and grits and red beans and rice.
Heights Taco & Tamale
Wind down your day with a sip or two at Heights Taco & Tamale, voted Best Happy Hour. Skilled mixologists can whip up anything you can imagine or let them create something totally unique, just for you. While you’re there, get something to munch on – HTT was also voted Best Cheese Dip.
Little Rock loves a good party, as one look at the social and festival calendar will tell you. From music and cultural events to one-of-a-kind food festivals and holiday attractions, the capital city is the place to be. Check out these events, recommended by the Little Rock CVB.
Main Street Food Truck Festival
No one goes home hungry from one of the biggest food events of the year. Browse dozens of food trucks preparing everything from BBQ to funnel cakes to burgers and hot dogs. Plenty of music and fun for the whole family!
Little Rock RibFest
If you dine on fine swine, this is the event for you! Every ticket holder is a judge, voting for their favorite ribs from the best competitive smokers the area has to offer. While you chow down, enjoy music, vendors and even the day’s college football on the big screen.
Arkansas State Fair
If you love a good midway (and honestly, who doesn’t?) be sure to attend the Arkansas State Fair. This award-winning event brings everything you love about a fair into one place – livestock, carnival rides and games, cooking competitions and plenty of fair food.
International Greek Food Festival
The largest ethnic festival in Arkansas, the International Greek Food Festival has to be experienced to be appreciated. One of the city’s largest events, the festival pays homage to the many cultures that make up Little Rock’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church through the dishes of their immigrant forefathers.