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Little Rock is a capital city that has a lot to offer in terms of museums, historical attractions, lovely parks, and great restaurants. It is an affordable and family-friendly vacation destination in Arkansas that’s also accessible from many parts of the region. Here are a few of the top things to do in Little Rock next time you are passing through Arkansas or looking for a fun weekend trip.
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The Arkansas State Capitol building is a historic and classic piece of architecture that dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. This is the former site of the state penitentiary and features beautiful marble, gold, and limestone fixtures. Inside the capitol building, visitors can see memorials and replicas of important historical events. See the governor’s reception room and old supreme court chamber here. Call the visitors office to schedule a tour of the building. The Old Statehouse is now a museum, while this new capitol building might remind you of the capitol building in D.C. You can also check out the governor’s mansion in the downtown area when you are in town and learning about local history.
To see a different perspective of Little Rock, consider getting out the river for a fun adventure. Rock Town River Outfitters offers kayak tours and rentals, as well as bike tours and rentals for visitors. On a kayak tour, you can enjoy the beauty of the Arkansas River on calm waters as you float through the city and enjoy the sites from the water. You can also choose an evening sunset tour or take a stand-up paddleboarding lesson. SUPs and sit-on-top kayaks are available at River Mountain Park for hourly rentals.
It’s also important to learn about Civil Rights history when you’re in Little Rock, such as at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. This was where school desegregation issues arose in 1957 after African-American teenagers started their first day of school here in the very early days of desegregation. This high school set a precedent for equality and education in America and around the world. There is no fee to visit the park or for guided ranger tours and programs. Tours are offered on select weekdays, except on major holidays.
The Little Rock area is also a wonderful place to go for a hike and enjoy the beauty of nature. One popular recreation spot is the Big Dam Bridge, which is a pedestrian and bike bridge that connects riverside trails in the Little Rock area. This is also a location for popular local events, such as the Big Dam Bridge 100 Bike Tour. Also, check out the Arkansas River Trail System, which is an 88-mile loop that goes through Little Rock, North Little Rock, Conway, and Maumelle. About 38 parks are linked by the trail, as well as museums and other interest areas in a very accessible way.
Little Rock also has a nice zoo that spans about 33 acres and is the largest zoo in Arkansas. There are hundreds of animals here that are categorized by animal type and habitat. Zoo amenities include Café Africa, the gift shop, snack shack, fish feeding, and educational presentations. There are also special events hosted at the zoo, such as Zoo Brew, Breakfast with Animals, and Boo at the Zoo for Halloween.
Head over to nearby North Little Rock to see the Old Mill, which is a replica mill that is a beautiful place to see. The original grist mill existed in the 1800s, and it was featured in the 1939 film, Gone with the Wind. There are no admission costs to visit the mill. It’s a very photogenic place so make sure to bring your camera. If you’re with a group of 10 people or more, you can make reservations for a guided tour that lasts about 30 minutes.
Bill Clinton is one of the most famous Little Rock residents of all time, and so a visit to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum is a must when you’re in town. Inside, visitors can check out the Oval Office replica and a large collection of archives. Onsite, 42 Bar and Table serves lunch, dinner, and drinks.
There’s also a bridge in town named after Bill Clinton, and the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge closed the gap to complete the 14.2-mile Arkansas River Trail. Here’s a fun piece of trivia: Little Rock is the only U.S. city that has four pedestrian bridges that stretch over navigable waters. In this area, you’ll find parking, and it is pet-friendly. Before Clinton was president, the bridge was known as the Rock Island Railroad Bridge, which was built in 1899 as a railroad route.