31 Cool Things To Do in Metro Little Rock
by Metro Little Rock Staff on 9/29/2016 12:26 am
An eclectic guide to the best activities and attractions in and around Metro Little Rock.
1. THE CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CENTER.
How can you move to Metro Little Rock and not check out the notable center named for our 42nd president? The 148,000-square-foot William J. Clinton Presidential Center & Park encompasses a museum, presidential archives and educational and research facilities. Must-see permanent exhibits include full-scale replicas of The Oval Office and the Cabinet Room, decorated exactly the way they were during Clinton’s time in office. A steady stream of visiting exhibits also comes through the center each year. Visit on Aug. 19 and get free admission in honor of President Clinton’s birthday! | (501) 374-4242, ClintonPresidentialCenter.org
Also, take advantage of the free Clinton School Speaker Series. Learn more at ClintonSchoolSpeakers.com.
2. BIG DAM BRIDGE & ARKANSAS RIVER TRAIL
The world’s longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge built specifically for that purpose, the Big Dam Bridge is a favorite among Metro Little Rock residents. Located over Murray Lock & Dam, the bridge has a 14-foot-wide deck that extends 4,226 linear feet across the Arkansas River. Locals love to walk, run or ride their bikes over the bridge and along the 24 miles of scenic Arkansas River Trail that runs on either side. | BigDamBridge.com
3. DICKEY-STEPHENS PARK
From April to September each year, people flock to Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock for Arkansas Travelers minor league baseball games and river and skyline views. Game days mean special kid zones, mascots, autographs and activities, even offering special events that range from honoring our military veterans to 1980s movie themes. But it doesn’t end in September, Dickey-Stephens also hosts concerts, firework shows and other family fun events all year. | Travs.com
4. CRYSTAL BRIDGES MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
As soon as you get settled in, this is a trip you must take. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art houses one of the most remarkable collections of American art anywhere. Envisioned by Walmart heiress Alice Walton and named for nearby Crystal Spring, the museum’s architecture is inspired by its picturesque surroundings and aimed at enhancing and protecting the natural beauty of the site. Works by Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell, Roy Lichtenstein, John Singer Sargent and more grace the walls of the eight individually designed pavilions. | (479) 418-5700, CrystalBridges.org (One-way travel time – 3.5 hours)
5. ARKANSAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Led by Conductor Philip Mann, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presents a season of beautiful masterworks, pops and chamber concerts. The The 2016-2017 season performances will return to the newly renovated Robinson Center at the end of November. Can’t get enough of the symphony? Season subscribers enjoy the best seats in the house and significant discounts over normal single-ticket prices, and there are plenty of ASO-affiliated events to take part in. | (501) 666-1761, ArkansasSymphony.org
6. LITTLE ROCK MARATHON
Each March, 14,000-plus participants from across the metro, state, region and beyond flock to downtown Little Rock to take part in this annual athletic competition, known far and wide for its dinner-plate-sized medals. The event includes more than the 26.2-mile trek, but also a half marathon, 10K, 5K, kids marathon, pasta party and more. This year’s marathon will take place March 7, 2017. Other related marathon event dates and times vary. | LittleRockMarathon.com
7. THE BUFFALO RIVER
Outdoor enthusiasts, you’re going to love this! Located just off Scenic Byway 7 near the town of Jasper, approximately 100 miles from Little Rock, the Buffalo National River winds through the Arkansas Ozarks, flowing into small rapids and calm pools before emptying into the White River. The Buffalo’s beauty and mild manner make it a perfect destination for canoeing, floating and fishing. The 95,000 acres of public land surrounding the river offer campgrounds and cabins, as well as springs, caves, waterfalls, trails and more. | (870) 439-2502, www.NPS.gov/Buff (One-way travel time - 2 hours)
8. SHAKESPEARE THEATRE
Located in Conway, about 30 minutes north of Little Rock, the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre produces a selection of the Bard’s plays, along with other productions, in its summer festival each June. For info about the 2016 festival, visit ArkShakes.com.
9. WINE COUNTRY
About a half-dozen wineries near where the Arkansas River meanders between the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains offer tastings, tours and events. Wine-making began there in the 1880s, making Arkansas the South’s oldest wine-producing state. Two European families started it all after noting the region’s similarities in climate and soil with that of Switzerland and Germany’s wine-making regions. | Arkansas.com/Things-To-Do/Wineries-Micro-Breweries (One-way travel time – 2 hours)
10. ARKANSAS ARTS CENTER
Whether you’re looking for family programming, plays, art classes, lectures, films, shopping, dining or just an incredible collection of artwork from across the globe—including a nationally renowned collection of works on paper—the Arkansas Arts Center has got you covered. When you’re out and about, keep your eyes peeled for the Artmobile, a gallery space on wheels with themed exhibitions, one of the very few of its kind. | (501) 372-4000, ArkArts.com
11. FARMERS MARKETS
Over the past few years, farmers markets have sprouted up all over the state, and they’re especially plentiful in Metro Little Rock. Local markets sell everything from farm-fresh eggs, grain-fed beef and organic produce to goat milk soap and heirloom plants and seeds. For more information and a helpful list of farmers markets in the area, visitArkansas.com/Dining/Farmers-Markets.
12. MOVIES IN THE PARK
This free outdoor movie series is a local favorite. Movies begin at sundown each Wednesday in June and July and are held in the Riverfest Amphitheatre overlooking the Arkansas River. You can BYOB, just no glass. Concessions available for purchase. Don’t forget the bug spray! | MoviesInTheParkLR.net
This is a huge visual and performing arts celebration held annually in downtown Little Rock. Along with local vendors and food trucks, acts like Miranda Lambert, Al Green, Jason Aldean, Ludacris, Pat Benatar, Blues Traveler, Heart, Everclear and many more have made this the most anticipated festival in Arkansas each year. | RiverfestArkansas.com.
14. OAKLAWN RACING & GAMING
Some of the world’s best thoroughbreds have raced at Oaklawn, including American Pharoah, the winner of the 2015 American Triple Crown. Oaklawn’s live season runs annually from January through April and simulcast racing is broadcast year-round. In addition, the park has recently expanded to allow forms of electronic gambling, including video poker and other games of skill. And don’t leave the park without gobbling up one of their popular corned beef sandwiches. | (800) OAKLAWN, Oaklawn.com (One-way travel time – 1 hour. Discover more in the Hot Springs Guest Guide!)
15. PINNACLE MOUNTAIN
Eight hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous wind their way around Pinnacle Mountain, with two leading to the summit. Those who reach the 1,011-foot peak are rewarded with views of the Arkansas River, downtown Little Rock and Lake Maumelle. The park also features two mountain bike trails – the 0.70-mile Rabbit Ridge Trail and the 7.4-mile Jackfork Trail – and two barrier-free trails, the half-mile paved Kingfisher Trail and .60-mile paved Arkansas Trail in the Arkansas Arboretum. Children also enjoy planned activities with the park rangers. | ArkansasStateParks.com/PinnacleMountain
16. ARKANSAS REPERTORY THEATRE
Known to locals as “The Rep,” this is the only professional, nonprofit theater of its size within 300 miles of Little Rock, including Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans. The remaining 2016-17 season performances are “The Crucible,” “A Christmas Story,” “Sister Act,” “Jar on the Floor” and “Godspell.” Locals snatch up season tickets so they never miss a show. | (501) 378-0405, TheRep.org
17. CELEBRITY ATTRACTIONS
This touring company brings Broadway performances to Metro Little Rock every year. The 2016-17 season includes favorites like “Elf,” “Cinderella,” “The Phantom of the Opera,”and “Riverdance.” This year’s performances will be at the newly renovated Robinson Center downtown.| (501) 244-8800, CelebrityAttractions.com
18. ACANSA ARTS FESTIVAL
Concerts, gallery viewings, educational events and all sorts of festivities fill the schedule for the Acansa Arts Festival, a five-day celebration in the capital city of the best Arkansas has to offer. Scheduled in September, Acansa takes place in venues on both sides of the river, including the Clinton Presidential Center, Arkansas Arts Center, Argenta Gallery and the Creative Corridor— the strip of Main Street, an up-and-coming area, home to not only The Rep, but the symphony, ballet, art galleries, restaurants, residences and creative offices. | AcansaArtsFestival.org
19. CENTRAL ARKANSAS LIBRARY SYSTEM
Looking for a good read? You’re bound to find it at one of the 14 CALS branches across Pulaski and Perry counties, including the state-of-the-art Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center, complete with a computer lab, teaching kitchen, garden activity area, a 165-seat theater and study rooms of all sizes — in addition to more than 21,000 books, DVDs, and CDs. Clubs, classes and events await visitors at every branch, with guests (and celebrity authors) funneling in from all over for the Arkansas Literary Festival. The main campus downtown also boasts a separate bookstore and café, along with the Ron Robinson Theater—a 315-seat multipurpose event venue home to film festivals, concerts, plays, lectures and other events. | CALS.Lib.AR.us
The whole “Natural State” thing doesn’t stop at hiking and fishing. Golf enthusiasts reap the benefits as well with multiple courses with incredible views. Little Rock has The First Tee of Central Arkansas, Rebsamen, Hindman Park and War Memorial courses. Cabot has Greystone Country Club while Sherwood has The Greens at North Hills, and you can find both Burns Park and Stonelinks courses in North Little Rock.
21. THE OLD STATE HOUSE
Since Arkansas became a state in 1836, it’s had a full and rich history. Get a taste of tradition at the Old State House Museum, a stunning structure in downtown Little Rock and the oldest surviving state capitol west of the Mississippi River. Get your hands dirty at the Historic Arkansas Museum’s log cabin and homestead, or head inside the gallery to check out the Arkansas-made artwork and interactive children’s display. | OldStateHouse.com, HistoricArkansas.org
22. FOOD TRUCKS
Delicious meals are served daily from beloved food trucks like The Beast, Southern Gourmasian, Excaliburger and more, but Metro Little Rock has upped the ante with its Main Street Food Truck Festival. In September, about 5,000 foodies gather on Main Street in downtown Little Rock to sample delicious fare from local food truck vendors. If you miss it, try Food Truck Fridays, held seasonally. | MainStreetFoodTrucks.com
23. LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL
Little Rock stands as a pivotal point in the African American and civil rights narrative. Interactive exhibits at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site (a visitor center across the street) chronicle the struggle and eventual battleground the school became in the desegregation crisis of 1957. | NPS.gov/CHSC
24. MOSAIC TEMPLARS CULTURAL CENTER
Located in what was once the headquarters of an organization established to provide services to blacks during segregation, the MTCC serves as an interpreter of Arkansas’ African American community and history. Guests can take part in art exhibits, live performances, family-centered block parties and more. | MosaicTemplarsCenter.com
25. HEIFER INTERNATIONAL HEADQUARTERS
The fight to end world hunger and poverty is not an easy one, but charities like Heifer International are taking it on head-first. With stations and projects all over the planet, the large nonprofit calls The Natural State home, seated just off the banks of the Arkansas River in Little Rock. Discover more than 80 interactive exhibits, tour the headquarters, explore the restored wetlands, shop for fair trade items or grab lunch at the café. | (800) 422-0474, Heifer.org
26. MUSEUM OF DISCOVERY
Come one, come all, and prepare to be amazed by, well, pretty much everything at the Museum of Discovery. Check out the hands-on exhibits exploring science, nature, technology and history. The MoD recently installed a world record bi-polar Tesla coil exhibit (think musical lightning), and the director of visitor experience Kevin Delaney is a frequent guest on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” when he’s not busy amazing crowds in downtown Little Rock. | www.MuseumOfDiscovery.org
27. ESSE PURSE MUSEUM
Messenger, tote, satchel, clutch; whatever you carry, the Esse Purse Museum in the South Main district of Little Rock has you covered. See the progression of the modern American woman through one of the most fascinating lenses: the things she carried with her. | EssePurseMuseum.com
28. BALLET ARKANSAS
As the state’s only professional ballet company, Ballet Arkansas offers a choreographic competition, touring show, classes and more, including an annual production of “The Nutcracker,” a Christmas tradition for many families in central Arkansans. | BalletArkansas.org
29. HAPPY HOUR
Over the past few years, the craft beer scene in the metro has exploded. The Little Rock metro boasts nine breweries, ranging from nano-breweries like Blue Canoe, to Diamond Bear, a large operation reaching across the South. Whether you’re in it for the hops or the pilsners, there’s a beer for everyone in Little Rock. Cheers!
30. WITT STEPHENS JR. CENTRAL ARKANSAS NATURE CENTER
They don’t call it The Natural State for nothing. If you want to take advantage of the great outdoors, visit the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center. The team there will set you up on geocaching adventures, alligator feedings or top-notch fishing, Arkansas-style. | CentralArkansasNatureCenter.com
31. ADULT SPORTS LEAGUES.
The area is home to an array of fitness options. From running or cycling our amazing trails to taking spin classes and enduring Crossfit training—there’s something for everyone. Sports teams, too. If tennis is your thing, check out the Arkansas Tennis Association. There’s also the Central Arkansas Volleyball Association, soccer leagues (United Soccer is great for the kiddos), softball and kickball leagues, and country clubs with great weekly competitions for their members. Running groups are all over, just visit ArkansasRunner.com to find a troupe near you.