2017 Attractions for Central Arkansas
Argenta Arts District
This arts district in downtown North Little Rock is located along the banks of the Arkansas River and is home to Verizon Arena, Dickey-Stephens Ballpark and several art galleries and restaurants as well as a community theater and eclectic shopping. The Argenta Farmers Market takes place every Saturday beginning in late March from 7 a.m.–noon. All products sold are certified as coming from Arkansas family farmers.
Arkansas Arts Center
Located in Little Rock's historic MacArthur Park, the Arkansas Arts Center is a first-class facility with a renowned permanent collection of drawings, paintings, photographs, prints and contemporary craft with works dating from the Renaissance to the present. It is also home to top-notch exhibitions spread throughout seven galleries as well as the nationally-recognized Children’s Theatre and the Museum School. A casually elegant restaurant – Canvas -- and a museum gift shop are on site.
Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum
The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum includes the USS Snook Memorial, the USS Scorpion Memorial, the Beacon of Peace and Hope sculpture as well as four Arkansas vessels. The newly added USS Hoga is best known for its involvement during the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941 when it spent 72 continuous hours fighting fires. The USS Razorback is also located at the museum and was present in Tokyo Bay at the signing of the Peace Treaty ending World War II. This submarine is the only vessel to have earned battle ribbons in World War II and the Vietnam War.
Arkansas Repertory Theatre
The Arkansas Repertory Theatre, or The Rep, is the state’s largest non-profit professional theater company and is a member of the League of Resident Theatres. Its historic building in downtown Little Rock includes a 385-seat Main Stage and a 99-seat black box Second Stage. The Rep employs a resident staff of designers, technicians and administrators and guest artists from across the country to produce eight to ten works ranging from contemporary comedies and dramas to classics of dramatic literature to world premieres.
CONTACT: 601 Main Street, Little Rock, AR 72201, 501-378-0445, www.TheRep.org
Arkansas River Trail
Creating an expansive 88-mile loop, the Arkansas River Trail winds its way across the entire Little Rock metropolitan area connecting 38 parks, 12 museums and the towns of Little Rock, North Little Rock, Maumelle and Conway. The trail is popular to hikers, cyclists, skaters and joggers and crosses over four major bridges including the 1,600-foot long Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, the 1,162-foot long Two Rivers Park Bridge, the 100-year-old “lift-span” Junction Bridge and the 4,200-foot long Big Dam Bridge, the longest pedestrian bridge built in the world solely for recreation.
Arkansas State Capitol
Constructed between 1899 and 1915, this neo-classical building has provided a century of service since the legislature first met in the unfinished structure in 1911. The exterior of the Capitol features Arkansas limestone, plus six bronze doors crafted by Tiffany’s of New York and ornate chandeliers by the Mitchell-Vance company. Guided and audio tours are available through the permanent and seasonal exhibits depicting the historic events and people who shaped Arkansas.
Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
Led by conductor Philip Mann, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (ASO) performs more than 60 concerts per season including their popular Masterworks series and Pops Concerts as well as statewide touring, chamber music and educational performances. The ASO collaborates with Ballet Arkansas and the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and features its members in the Rockefeller and Quapaw Quartets, the ASO Brass Quintet, the ASO Big Band, the Arts Partners Quartets and the Arkansas Symphony Youth Ensembles. Distinguished guest artists that have performed with the orchestra include Itzhak Perlman, Yo Yo Ma, Mignon Dunn, Marilyn Horn, Andre Watts, Maureen McGovern, Bernadette Peters, Maya Angelou, and Doc Severinsen.
Bayou Meto Urban Canoe Trail
Two-mile shaded waterway provides canoers and kayakers a view not seen from any other location, including large cypress trees, beaver dams and a profusion of wildlife. Ramps are located at Dupree Park and Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Heritage Park.
CONTACT: Jacksonville, AR 72076, 501-982-4171.
One of the nation's larger municipal parks, North Little Rock's Burns Park covers 1,575 acres and is one of the most diverse parks in the state. It features include family picnic areas, pavilions, playgrounds, an amusement park with children rides, miniature golf, batting cages, boat launching ramp, disc golf, bocce courts, hiking and walking trails, an urban equestrian trail, a BMX bike track, an RV park and camping area, and a softball, baseball and soccer complex.
CONTACT: Exit 150 off Interstate 40, North Little Rock, AR 72118, 501-791-8538, www.NLRPR.org
Cadron Settlement Park
This National Historic Site on the Arkansas River offers the Blockhouse restoration, a boat launching ramp, hiking trails, picnic areas, a pavilion, handicapped trails and parking areas, a historical mural of this pioneer settlement, markers and interpretive signs. The location, a part of the Arkansas Heritage Trails Registry, was a stop on both the Trail of Tears and the Butterfield Overland Mail Route Trail.
Central Arkansas Nature Center
The Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center is located in Little Rock’s downtown River Market district and features exhibits and programs highlighting the variety of outdoor recreational opportunities that the state’s fish and wildlife resources provide. Located on the Arkansas River, watchable wildlife programs are available within this urban setting. An exhibit hall, aquariums, a gift shop, theater and special educational programs are also offered by the center.
Clinton Presidential Center and Park
The Clinton Presidential Center is situated on the banks of the Arkansas River in the River Market District of downtown Little Rock and is home to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service and the Little Rock offices of the Clinton Foundation. The library contains the largest collection of presidential papers and artifacts in U.S. history and includes an authentic replica of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room. The Clinton School of Public Service, located in the renovated 1899 Choctaw Train Station, is the first graduate school in the nation to offer a Master of Public Service degree and hosts complete hands-on public service missions ranging from local work to international projects. Special events, exhibits and nationally-known speakers are held throughout the year. Forty Two, which gets its name from Clinton’s place in the line of U. S, presidents, is a full-service restaurant that offers an eclectic menu.
Diamond Bear Brewing Company
Little Rock’s first production brewery, Diamond Bear Brewing Company produces beer using the methods of European brewers, using only two-row malted barley, hops and yeast, plus Arkansas water. Since its founding in 2000, Diamond Bear Brewery has won numerous national and international awards for its beer including Gold Medals at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup. Public tours are available and include samples, a facility tour and a souvenir pint glass.
Dave and Buster’s
What began 40 years ago as two Little Rock establishments—a restaurant and a nearby grown-up play space—has now returned to its hometown after merging to build one of the country’s most popular arcade restaurants. Dave and Buster’s first opened in Dallas in 1982 (with Dave’s name coming first as the result of a winning coin toss) and now has nearly 100 current and soon-to-open locations across the nation—including one outside the continental U.S., in Hawaii. The recently opened Little Rock location is the duo’s first and only in their home state of Arkansas.
Dickey-Stephens Park is the third home of the Minor League Baseball Team the Arkansas Travelers, the Class AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim since 2001. The stadiumA tradition from historic Ray Winder field, the wooden “bleacher bum” section, is now behind the first base line and consists of aluminum bleachers. It’s located next to a draft-beer garden. The park is named for the Stephens family who donated the land and Arkansas natives and brothers Bill Dickey and George “Skeeter” Dickey, the former a Baseball Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees and the latter a catcher for the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox. Upon its completion, Dickey-Stephens Park was named the best new ballpark of 2007 by BaseballParks.com and BallparkDigest.com.
CONTACT: 400 West Broadway Street, North Little Rock, AR 72114, 501-664-1555, www.Travs.com
Esse Purse Museum
Esse Purse Museum, located in Little Rock’s newly revitalized South Main Street district, is home to the permanent exhibit “A Century of Women and Handbags (1900-1999).” This collection showcases the purse’s evolving function, design and variety of contents which illustrate the story of the American woman in the 20th century. The museum’s temporary exhibits showcase the history of fashion design and the arts.
Gann Museum of Saline County
Originally the medical office of Dr. Dewell Gann., Sr., The Gann Museum of Saline County is the only known structure in the world built of Bauxite. Among the exhibits is one of Niloak pottery, which was originally developed in Benton and shipped world-wide. Other exhibits include Quapaw and Caddo Indian artifacts, an area devoted to the aluminum era of Saline County and a section devoted to the Civil War, World War I and World War II.
CONTACT: 218 South Market Street, Benton, AR 72015, 501-778-5513.
Heifer International, Heifer Ranch and Heifer Village
Heifer Ranch, located in Perryville, is a working farm complete with gardens and animals that serves as a hands-on immersive experience to promote sustainable solutions to global hunger, poverty and environmental degradation. Heifer Village, located in Little Rock, uses interactive exhibits and engaging educational programming to introduce visitors to Heifer International’s innovative work of providing livestock and training to families worldwide, and focuses on the sustainable, practical and cost-effective solutions to hunger and poverty. Half-hour tours of the headquarters showcases Heifer’s dedication to sustainability, its mission to end world hunger and commitment to responsible use of resources.
CONTACT: Heifer Ranch, 55 Heifer Road, Perryville, AR 72126; Heifer International and Heifer Village, 1 World Avenue, Little Rock, AR 72202, 501-907-2600, www.Heifer.org
Hindman Park Urban Canoe Trail
These urban canoe launch sites replace informal launch areas and provide paddlers easier access to the 20+ mile Fourche Creek; expands access to other city parks and trails.
CONTACT: 60 Brookview Drive, Little Rock, AR 72204, 501-565-6450.
Historic Arkansas Museum
The Historic Arkansas Museum, located in Little Rock’s downtown, is a historic site museum depicting Arkansas's early history. The site includes five pre-Civil War houses that have been restored to antebellum appearances including the oldest building still standing in Little Rock, the Hinderliter Grog Shop. Visitors encounter actors portraying original residents. The center’s museum features several permanent exhibits including “Arkansas Made: History of the Bowie Knife,” a collection of more than 100 historical and modern knives, including the Bowie No. 1. Also on display is the exhibit “We Walk in Two Worlds,” depicting the story of Arkansas’s first people, the Caddo, Osage and Quapaw Indian tribes. There are also a living history theater and educational areas. The compound has been honored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the most significant museum villages in the nation and has been called a "little Williamsburg" by travel writers.
Historic Downtown Keo
Known from 1900 to 1961 as the commercial center of the cotton-growing community, Keo is a small downtown district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The quaint downtown area includes antique shops, a veteran’s park and Charlotte’s Eats & Sweets, famous for its award winning pies. Morris Antiques, one of the largest antique showrooms in the mid-South, is found in Keo and features more than 60,000 square feet in nine buildings of quality antiques from America and Europe, dating from the 1750s to the 1940s.
Jacksonville Military History Museum
Commemorating the area’s role in the nation’s military history, the Jacksonville Military History Museum contains exhibits on the Civil War Battle of Reed’s Bridge, the World War II-era Arkansas Ordinance Plant and the 3-D Desert Storm outpost. An interactive Titan II Missile Launch Control exhibit, a collection of over 350 original WWII posters and the Mighty-Mite, the smallest jeep ever produced, are also on display.
Little Rock's main water supply (no swimming allowed), Maumelle is also a popular boating and fishing lake. Sailing is a top sport here with regattas held on a regular basis. Several marinas call the lake home as does the Grande Maumelle Sailing Club. The lake, dammed in 1957, covers an area of 14 square miles and has a 70-mile shoreline. Bass is the main fishing lure here with white, black and hybrid striped being popular catches. Kentucky bass, crappie, bream and catfish are other species found in the lake.
CONTACT: Roland, AR 72135, 501-329-2986.
Little Rock Central High National Historic Site, Museum and Visitor Center
A major U.S. civil rights landmark, this National Historic Site is still a working school. Arkansas’s first African-American students -- “the Little Rock Nine” -- were admitted here in 1957 following a confrontation between Governor Orval Faubus, who used the state's National Guard to block desegregation, and President Eisenhower, who sent federal troops to enforce it. Commemorative Garden (sculpture surrounded by a landscaped garden) also on site. Guided tours of the school (by reservation only) during the school year. The museum features permanent exhibits covering these 1957 events and its role in the nationwide Civil Rights Movement. The former visitor center, a restored Mobil Service Station, is now used for special programs.
CONTACT: 2120 Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive, Little Rock, AR 72202, 501-374-1957, www.NPS.gov/chsc
Little Rock Nine Memorial: “Testament”
Nine life-sized bronze statues pay homage to the nine Little Rock students -- Melba Pattillo, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray, Carlotta Walls, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas, Minnijean Brown and Thelma Mothershed -- who overcame major obstacles to integrate Little Rock Central High School (now a national historic site) in 1957. Located on the State Capitol grounds.
Little Rock Zoo
The Little Rock Zoo is home to the Cheetah Outpost, Penguin Pointe, Wild Wonders Animal Show, Lorikeet Landing interactive exhibit, Café Africa and the Safari Trader Gift Shop among other attractions. Over 750 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians call this nationally-accredited facility home. The Arkansas Diamond Express, a C.P. Huntington replica train is available for rides through the zoo grounds. The Over-The-Jumps Carousel, one of four carousels with an undulating track produced in the 1920s, is situated at the zoo’s entry and features meticulously restored ponies and chariots.
Lorance Creek Natural Area
Developed by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, this area is primarily a deep swamp spreading along both sides of Lorance Creek. A handicapped accessible trail and boardwalk provide visitors an opportunity to explore and learn more about this special place. The paved trail winds through a mixed pine and hardwood forest into a bald cypress and water tupelo swamp. Interpretive panels line the trail and boardwalk illustrating the value and functions of wetlands, natural divisions of Arkansas and plant and animal life of forested wetlands. Located on Bingham Road off Interstate 530 (Exit 9) in southern Pulaski County.
Lower White River Museum State Park
Exhibits at the Lower White River Museum define this river as one of the transportation routes for Arkansas’s early settlers and display its influence on settlements during the steamboat era. Life-sized figures of Captain James C. McManus, Memphis schoolteacher Miss Sallie Davis, surveyor John Garrison and Henry, a slave, introduce themselves to visitors via audio using dialog taken from oral history records and slave narratives. Other exhibits in the museum display the importance of agriculture, the influence of the Civil War, details on pearling and button-making and educational resources on the early timber industry, education, fishing, hunting, medicine and riverboats.
MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History
The museum is located in the historic Tower Building of Little Rock's Old Arsenal, a National Historic Landmark and the birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur. The building now preserves Arkansas's military heritage from territorial days to present. Exhibits include artifacts, photographs, weapons, documents, uniforms and other military items from the contributions of the men and women who served in the armed forces.
Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
The Mosaic Templars of America was founded in Little Rock in 1882 by former slaves John E. Bush and Chester W. Keatts as a black fraternal organization to provide services such as burial and life insurance to the African-American community. The former headquarters is now a reconstructed museum that collects, preserves, interprets and celebrates Arkansas's African American culture and community from 1870 to present. It also informs and educates the public using interactive exhibits about African-American achievements, especially in business, politics and the arts.
Museum of Automobiles
A collection of 50 regularly rotated vintage vehicles dating from 1904 to 1967 are on display at the museum on Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton. The museum has a gift shop and offers surplus cars for sale. Very popular are two annual car shows and swap meets (June and September).
Museum of Discovery
Full of interactive exhibits and programs, the Museum of Discovery provides visitors with educational opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. Visitors can learn to build things in the “Tinkering Studio,” discover how energy is used in the “Discovery Hall” or walk over a satellite photo map of the state of Arkansas at the “Earth Journeys” exhibit. Children six and under are welcome in the “Room to Grow” exhibit where they can use their imagination in a creative, hands-on environment tailored to their unique educational needs. Located in Little Rock’s River Market District.
The Old Mill at T.R. Pugh Memorial Park
An authentic reproduction of an old water-powered grist mill, this striking structure was built in 1933 and appears in the opening scene of the classic film Gone with the Wind and is believed to be the only building remaining from the film. The park is decorated with sculptures of toadstools, tree stumps, and a tree branch-entwined bridge that connects the mill to the rest of the park. Senor Dionico Rodriguez, a sculptor and artist of Mexico City, was responsible for all the details of each piece of concrete work made to represent wood, iron or stone, as well as the designing of the foot bridges and rustic seats. In 1991, Rodriguez's work at the Old Mill was renovated by his grandson, Carlos Cortes. The Old Mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and tour guides are available by appointment for groups.
Old State House Museum
Set in the oldest surviving state capitol west of the Mississippi River, the Old State House Museum has been designated a National Historic Landmark, though it is probably best known throughout the country as the scene of President Clinton's 1992 and 1996 election night celebrations. This magnificent Greek Revival structure houses a multimedia museum of Arkansas history with a special emphasis on women's history, political history and historical programming for school children. This Little Rock museum also boasts nationally recognized collections of Civil War battle flags, the inaugural gowns of governors' wives, Arkansas art pottery, and African-American quilts.
Outlets of Little Rock
A 325,000-square-foot outlet mall with more than 60 stores, located next to Bass Pro Shop in the Gateway Town Center. Includes such stores as Old Navy, Famous Footwear, Rack Room Shoes, Restoration Hardware, Banana Republic, Oshkosh/Carter’s, Gap Factory, Dress Barn, Kay Jewelers, Rue 21.
Petit Jean State Park
This flagship of the state parks system encompasses 2,658 acres of rare natural beauty -- an abundance of unmarred woods, ravines, streams, springs, spectacular views and interesting ecological formations preserved almost as French explorers found them 300 years ago. In addition to cabins and the park's Mather Lodge, the park has a restaurant, swimming pools, campsites, boating, fishing, several hiking trails and the spectacular 95-foot Cedar Falls.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park
A day-use park dedicated to recreation, environmental education and conservation, Pinnacle Mountain State Park hosts activities including interpretive programs, festivals, exhibits, canoe and kayak rentals and floats, barge tours, technical rock climbing and star parties. Facilities at the park include picnic sites, pavilions, launching ramps, hiking trails, mountain bike trails, horseback riding concession, the Arkansas Arboretum and paddle boat rentals; a visitor center overlooks the Arkansas River.
Plantation Agriculture Museum State Park
This museum interprets the history of cotton agriculture in Arkansas from statehood in 1836 through World War II. The museum building was originally the general store and Scott Post Office and now features several installations and exhibits. The restored 1920s Dortch Gin Exhibit Building and Seed Warehouse No. 5 depicts how cotton was grown, picked and processed. The one-of-a-kind structure includes equipment from the original owner’s early 1900s cotton gin and is built so visitors can view the full sized gin from every angle. The gin includes two Munger gin stands, a rotating two bale press, a Fairbanks engine and line shaft pulley system.
Quapaw Quarter and Curran Hall Visitor Information Center
Quapaw Quarter is a nine square mile area that encompasses Little Rock's oldest and most historic district. The neighborhood includes Little Rock Central High School, Arkansas Governor's Mansion, Arkansas State Capitol and MacArthur Park. Walking and driving tours available at Curran Hall Visitor Information Center. The visitor center also serves as the headquarters for the Quapaw Quarter Association and the Mayor’s Reception Hall.
CONTACT: 615 East Capitol Avenue, Little Rock, AR, 72216, 501-371-0075, www.Quapaw.com
Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Heritage Park
This heritage park is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the most intact of the three battlefields associated with the Little Rock Campaign during the Civil War. Also an official Trail of Tears site, the park includes an 1860-era replica homestead and a walking trail with narrative markers highlighting the 1863 Civil War battlefield site. Special events are held throughout the year.
The permanent home for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Arkansas as well as site for major touring productions recently underwent a two-year, $70 million renovation and expansion that preserved the historic 1939 Art Deco façade and lobby, expanded meeting and event space and added a huge patio, and dramatically increased acoustical and technical capabilities—all in a LEED-certified package.
River Market District
This area of downtown Little Rock is filled with restaurants, shops, art galleries, museums, bars, hotels, a seasonal farmers market, Riverfront Park and La Petite Roche Plaza. Riverfront Park stretches 11 blocks and 33 acres along the Arkansas River and serves as a venue for events, concerts and outdoor recreation. La Petite Roche Plaza is located within the park and tells the history of Arkansas’s capital city, named by early French settlers for the “little rock” that they saw here when arriving. The Ottenheimer Market Hall has more than 17 permanent merchants who offer a growing list of market specialties year-round. The River Rail Trolley provides transportation within the River Market District and between downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.
Rock Town Distillery
The state's first legal distillery of any kind since Prohibition, Rock Town Distillery uses Arkansas grown grains to distill their award-winning bourbon, whiskey, vodka, gin and moonshine. Tasting tours are offered daily at the distillery.
Scott Plantation Settlement and Heritage Farm
The Scott Plantation Settlement depicts early farming life from statehood through mechanization and features original area plantation structures include a hand-hewn cypress corncrib, 1840s dog trot log cabin, train station, commissary, ice-house, one-room school, doctor’s office, tenant houses and a blacksmith shop. A Civil War interpretive sign explains the Battle of Ashley’s Mill, part of the Little Rock Campaign. Adjacent to the settlement is the Scott Heritage Farm, the shareholder-owned farm that uses organic methods to grow its crops. Learning and research projects for groups are available and explain how food is grown in a sustainable, small acreage farm.
SoMa Southside Main Street District
This historic neighborhood just across I-630 from the River Market is home to funky shops such as the Green Corner Store, Moxy Modern Mercantile and South Main Creative; trendy eateries like South on Main, Raduno, the Root Cafe and Loblolly Creamery; and North America's only museum dedicated to the art of the handbag, the ESSE Purse Museum.
Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park
Comprising one of the largest and most impressive archeological sites in the Lower Mississippi River Valley, this unique mound complex was the cultural center of the Plum Bayou people. Three mounds remain where 18 once stood surrounded by an earthen embankment eight to ten feet in height, a portion of which is still visible today. These sites are the remains of a large ceremonial complex and are rich with historical artifacts. A visitor center, pavilion, museum, guided tours and special events are also available at the park.
Wattensaw Bayou Water Trail
An Arkansas Water Trail, the Wattensaw Bayou Water Trail consists of two sections totaling a length of 7.8 miles. The trail is a flat-water float and fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities abound.
Situated on 105 picturesque acres in west Little Rock, Wildwood Park for the Arts is home to several botanical gardens and the 625-seat Lucy Lockett Cabe Festival Theatre. Open free to the public daily, admission fees apply during festival weekends. Call to schedule a garden tour.
Woolly Hollow State Park
Located on 40-acre Lake Bennett, this 370-acre park in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains offers fishing, floating, swimming, hiking and biking, including a new 10-mile single-track mountain bike trail that rises over rolling terrain to offer ridgeline views of the lake during winter. Park facilities include 30 Class AAA campsites and 10 tent sites, a launch ramp, snack bar and bathhouse with hot showers. Pristine Lake Bennett was named a top swimming hole by the Weather Channel.