Little Rock is the capital of the state of Arkansas and, as such, is also the most populous place in the state. With that in mind, I found a huge amount going on there at any given time.
Being the home of the State Capitol, I expected to find a wide range of historical landmarks and places of cultural significance in the city. Many of these were linked to the Clinton family, including a replica of the Oval Office.
I discovered a wealth of museums dedicated to diverse topics, ranging from military history to the story of the evolution of the purse.
When it came to natural attractions, Little Rock did not disappoint. One of the highlights was the beautiful Riverfront Park, which stretched along the majestic Arkansas River.
In addition to the park, there were an array of other beauty spots such as parks, zoos, and gardens. For those looking for something a little different, there was even the opportunity to go for a ride on a period replica of an electric streetcar.
So, let’s explore the 15 best things I did in Little Rock during my visit.
1. Arkansas State Capitol
When I visited Little Rock, I knew I couldn’t miss the chance to come to the center of the action—the Arkansas State Capitol building, which also served as the home of the Arkansas government.
The building itself was a historical gem, constructed back in 1899 and originally used as a state prison. Over the years, it underwent transformation, now boasting lavish marble and ornate limestone interiors. Its crowning glory was the magnificent 24-carat gold leaf cupola that gleamed at the top, making it visible from afar.
Inside the Capitol building, I discovered a treasure trove of important monuments. Among them was a model of the Liberty Bell, symbolizing the nation’s freedom. Another significant memorial honored the Little Rock Nine Civil Rights movement, commemorating the brave individuals who fought for equality.
I also encountered a thought-provoking monument dedicated to Confederate War Prisoners, reflecting on a tumultuous period of history. Fortunately, guided tours of the building were available, led by knowledgeable staff members who provided insightful explanations about the significance of each of these historical gems.
2. Heifer Village
During my time in Little Rock, I had the opportunity to visit Heifer Village, an incredible showcase of exhibits dedicated to the work of Heifer International Headquarters. This organization is committed to teaching self-sufficiency and providing support to low-income families.
As I explored Heifer Village, I encountered a fascinating mix of interactive galleries, captivating videos, and engaging hands-on activities. Each display beautifully highlighted the impactful work of Heifer International. I learned about their noble mission to combat poverty and hunger, and I discovered various ways to contribute and get involved myself.
To enhance the experience, I joined a guided tour of the complex. The knowledgeable guide shared captivating insights into the organization’s efforts and achievements. Additionally, I had the pleasure of visiting a communal garden, which I can imagine would be even more enjoyable during warmer weather.
3. Museum of Discovery
I had the pleasure of exploring the Museum of Discovery, the oldest museum in the city. It proved to be the perfect destination for history and natural science enthusiasts alike.
The museum, which first opened its doors in 1927, offered an excellent activity on a rainy day. It was particularly ideal for families traveling with children. The facility had evolved over the years and now housed an impressive collection of over 14,000 historically and culturally significant items. The exhibits included captivating displays of insects, animals, fossils, and other intriguing artifacts.
What made the Museum of Discovery truly exceptional were its interactive galleries. I delighted in the opportunity to get hands-on and actively engage with the world of science and nature. It was an immersive experience that allowed me to learn and discover while having fun.
4. River Market District
I have also explored the lively River Market District, situated on one of the banks of the Arkansas River. Developed in the 1990s, this district quickly became a vibrant hub of the city, offering a diverse range of attractions.
One of the standout features of the River Market District was the Ottenheimer Market Hall. This bustling food area was filled with charming old-fashioned stalls, each operated by different vendors. It was a culinary haven, offering a delightful array of flavors and dishes to indulge in.
In addition to the market hall, the district was also home to a vibrant farmers’ market. It was a haven for fresh produce and local goods, creating a vibrant atmosphere and providing a wonderful opportunity to support local farmers and artisans.
Among the architectural gems in the River Market District was the impressive River Market Tower. Its towering presence added a touch of modernity to the surrounding landscape, serving as a prominent landmark within the district.
5. William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum
To make the most of my journey, I made sure to explore the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, which was an integral part of the expansive Clinton Presidential Center and Park. It also housed the offices of the Clinton Foundation.
The highlight of the museum was undoubtedly the meticulously crafted scale model of the Cabinet Room in the White House. It offered an immersive experience, allowing visitors to envision the setting where important decisions were made. Additionally, the museum featured a remarkable replica of the Oval Office, providing a unique opportunity to tour and capture photographs in this iconic space.
Exploring these meticulously recreated spaces was a memorable experience. It allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the White House and the pivotal role played by President Clinton during his time in office.
6. Big Dam Bridge
I extended my visit the remarkable Big Dam Bridge, which holds the prestigious title of being the longest pedestrian and cycle bridge in the entire United States.
This bridge served as a crucial link, connecting over 20 miles of scenic trails that gracefully followed the river’s edge. It acted as a seamless connection between the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock, facilitating convenient access for pedestrians and cyclists.
I relished the chance to explore the bridge on foot or by bicycle, enjoying the breathtaking views of the surrounding natural beauty as I traversed its expansive span. The bridge provided a peaceful and invigorating experience, allowing me to immerse myself in the tranquility of the river and its surroundings.
Beyond its functional purpose, the Big Dam Bridge also served as a vibrant venue for various events. It became a focal point for races, sponsored walks, and other community gatherings, attracting enthusiastic participants and fostering a sense of camaraderie.
7. Old State House Museum
As I continue my visit to Little Rock, I have also made sure to explore the Old State House, a renowned site known for its cultural and historical significance. It held a special place in the city’s history as the location where Bill Clinton celebrated his election night during the presidential race in 1992. The building itself dated back to 1833 and had since become a United States National Historic Landmark, housing a captivating museum.
Stepping inside the Old State House, I discovered a rich collection of artifacts that beautifully reflected the culture of Arkansas and the area’s vibrant history. The exhibits showcased a diverse range of items, including textiles, pottery, and flags dating back to the Civil War era. Each piece served as a window into the past, providing insight into the lives and stories of the people who shaped the region.
As I explored the museum, I couldn’t help but feel a deep appreciation for the preservation of Arkansas’s heritage within the walls of the Old State House. The displays were thoughtfully curated, offering a glimpse into the past and allowing visitors like myself to connect with the area’s historical roots.
8. River Rail Electric Streetcar
Taking a trip on the River Rail Electric Streetcar was a memorable and enjoyable way to explore Little Rock. It allowed me to step back in time, appreciate the city’s rich history, and enjoy a charming journey through its streets.
The streetcar system originally commenced operations in 1876, serving the city until its closure in the 1940s. Fortunately, in 2004, it reopened its doors to visitors, allowing us to relish in its nostalgic charm.
Stretching for 3.4 miles through the city, the streetcar journey was particularly enchanting as it crossed the picturesque Arkansas River, seamlessly connecting Little Rock with the North Little Rock area. It provided a unique and scenic perspective of the city’s surroundings.
As I boarded the streetcar, I couldn’t help but appreciate its classic, period-style design—a faithful replica of the original. It added an extra touch of authenticity to the experience, truly immersing me in the bygone era.
During the ride, I was delighted to pass by numerous notable landmarks, including the renowned Clinton Library and the bustling River Market. It was a fantastic opportunity to glimpse these iconic sites from a different perspective, further deepening my connection with the city.
9. The Arkansas River Trail System
The remarkable Arkansas River Trail System is an expansive network of trails spanned an impressive 88 miles, winding its way through both Little Rock and North Little Rock. Along the way, it passed by renowned landmarks, including the iconic Big Dam Bridge and the Clinton Presidential Bridge.
The beauty of the Arkansas River Trail System lay not only in its length but also in the diverse array of attractions it connected. The trail seamlessly linked museums, parks, and other points of interest throughout the city. It provided a wonderful opportunity to immerse myself in the natural splendor of the landscapes in and around Little Rock.
Whether hiking or biking, I found immense joy in traversing the trail. It offered a refreshing escape from the urban environment, allowing me to reconnect with nature while simultaneously exploring the city’s hidden gems. The ever-changing scenery, from tranquil river views to lush greenery, never failed to captivate me.
As I ventured along the Arkansas River Trail, I encountered a blend of cultural and natural treasures. I marveled at the architectural marvels of the bridges, soaked in the history and charm of the area, and relished the peaceful ambiance that enveloped me.
10. Riverfront Park
Spanning an impressive 33 acres, Riverfront Park offered a wide range of activities and amenities to cater to all visitors. I delighted in exploring the park’s walking trails, taking in the scenic views of the river and immersing myself in the tranquility of nature. For younger visitors, the park featured well-maintained playgrounds that provided endless entertainment. True to its name, the park stretched along the banks of the Arkansas River and served as a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike.
What made Riverfront Park truly special was its rich historical significance. Numerous memorials and monuments dotted the park, allowing me to delve into the state’s storied past. I discovered the thought-provoking Little Rock Civil War Marker and explored the enlightening Riverfront Park History Pavilion, which offered a fascinating glimpse into the city’s heritage.
The park also boasted a captivating sculpture garden, where art seamlessly blended with nature. It provided a serene setting to appreciate a diverse range of artistic expressions.
For those seeking a deeper connection with the natural world, Riverfront Park catered to that as well. The park featured a nature center, allowing visitors to learn more about the local flora and fauna. Furthermore, during the warmer months, younger visitors could cool off and enjoy themselves in style at the splash park, adding a refreshing and playful element to the park experience.
11. ESSE Purse Museum
ESSE Purse Museum held the distinction of being the only museum in the country solely dedicated to showcasing purses. It was a hidden gem that shouldn’t be missed by fashion lovers and curious minds alike.
Upon entering the museum, I was greeted by a captivating collection of both rotating and static galleries. One of the highlights was the permanent exhibit titled ‘A Century of Women and Handbags 1900-1999,’ which offered an enthralling journey through the evolution of purses over the years.
As I explored the museum, I was enthralled by the carefully curated displays that revealed the intricate relationship between fashion, history, and culture. The collections of purses showcased the artistry, craftsmanship, and design trends of each era, giving me a newfound appreciation for this accessory that often goes unnoticed.
The ESSE Purse Museum provided a comprehensive and immersive experience, allowing me to connect with the stories and experiences of women throughout history. It offered a unique perspective on how purses evolved and reflected societal changes over the years.
12. Bernice Garden
I had the pleasure of discovering the enchanting Bernice Garden—an exquisite privately owned garden that welcomed the public with open arms. Established in 2007, its purpose was to highlight the innate natural beauty of the city
As I strolled through the garden, I encountered a delightful mix of both rotating and static sculptures, all meticulously crafted by talented artists from the Arkansas area. These captivating art pieces added a touch of elegance and whimsy to the serene surroundings.
The Bernice Garden was not just a feast for the eyes; it also provided pockets of lush shade, inviting benches for contemplation, and vibrant mosaics that added splashes of color to the landscape. I found myself drawn to these serene corners, where I could sit and embrace the tranquility of the garden.
What truly captured my attention were the countless indigenous plants that adorned the garden. From fragrant local herbs to resilient perennials, the garden showcased the diverse flora that thrived in the region. It was a celebration of the natural beauty of Arkansas, and a reminder of the importance of preserving and appreciating the local ecosystem.
13. MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History
The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History holds a special significance as it is the birthplace of Douglas MacArthur, the renowned military figure after whom it is named. As I stepped inside, I was greeted by a treasure trove of both permanent and temporary exhibits that offered a captivating journey through the history of the area. It is an essential stop for anyone interested in delving into the town’s rich military heritage.
The museum thoughtfully showcased its collection through a variety of mediums. Period photographs provided vivid glimpses into the past, while carefully preserved documents, including letters and memoirs, offered intimate insights into the experiences of those involved. The displays also featured an impressive array of military artifacts, such as antique weaponry and uniforms, which added a tangible element to the historical narrative.
As I moved from exhibit to exhibit, I found myself immersed in the stories of bravery, sacrifice, and resilience that shaped the region’s military history. Each display shed light on different aspects of the military heritage, providing a comprehensive understanding of the contributions made by individuals and the collective efforts that helped shape the course of history.
The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History was not just a repository of artifacts; it was a testament to the profound impact that military events have had on the community. It was a place where I could pay homage to the bravery and dedication of those who served, while also deepening my own understanding of the historical context in which they operated.
14. Little Rock Zoo
Since its opening in 1926, the Little Rock Zoo has been home to a remarkable collection of wildlife, boasting over 725 animals from more than 200 different species. As I explored the zoo’s well-designed layout, I discovered that it was divided into four distinct sections, each offering a unique and immersive experience. It is located on Zoo Drive. Covering an impressive 33 acres of land, it proudly holds the title of the largest zoo in Arkansas
In the African section, I encountered a diverse array of animals, including majestic lions, graceful giraffes, and intriguing primates. It was a chance to witness the incredible biodiversity of the African continent up close.
The Big Cat Zone was a particular highlight for me. The opportunity to observe the regal tigers, agile cheetahs, and powerful leopards in their natural habitats was truly awe-inspiring. The zoo’s dedication to providing a safe and comfortable environment for these magnificent creatures was evident in the spacious enclosures and enriching activities available to them.
For younger visitors, the Children’s Farm and petting zoo offered a delightful experience. Here, they could interact with friendly animals and learn about the importance of nurturing and caring for them. The joy on their faces as they fed and petted the animals was heartwarming.
One of the most memorable sections of the zoo was the dedicated barn for elephants. Observing these gentle giants in their expansive enclosure was a humbling experience, and the educational displays provided valuable insights into their conservation efforts.
As I explored the Little Rock Zoo, I couldn’t help but appreciate the care and dedication given to the animals’ well-being. It was evident that the zoo’s mission extended beyond entertainment, as they actively contributed to conservation initiatives and education about the importance of wildlife preservation.
15. Historic Arkansas Museum
Lastly, I had the pleasure of exploring the captivating Historic Arkansas Museum—a haven for history enthusiasts seeking a deeper understanding of the city’s rich past. Nestled within its grounds were a collection of historic buildings that beautifully showcased the architectural heritage of Arkansas.
One of the standout buildings in the museum complex was the esteemed Hinderliter House. This historical gem proudly holds the title of the oldest building in Little Rock, offering a glimpse into the city’s earliest days. As I stepped into its well-preserved interiors, I couldn’t help but marvel at the craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into its construction.
The Historic Arkansas Museum, established in 1941, extended for nearly a block, encompassing various restored historical houses. Each house served as a testament to a specific era, allowing visitors to step back in time and immerse themselves in the stories of the past.
As I ventured through the museum, I was delighted to discover that some of the houses featured galleries and exhibits. These carefully curated spaces provided invaluable insights into the culture, traditions, and everyday life of bygone eras. From interactive displays to informative signage, the museum ensured that visitors could engage with the exhibits and deepen their appreciation for Arkansas’s vibrant history.
The restoration efforts undertaken by the museum were truly commendable. Every detail, from the architecture to the furnishings, was thoughtfully preserved to transport visitors to a bygone era. It was a remarkable experience to walk through the rooms and imagine the lives of those who once inhabited these historical spaces.
Exploring the Historic Arkansas Museum was a journey through time, where I could witness the evolution of Little Rock firsthand. The museum’s dedication to preserving the city’s architectural heritage and sharing its stories was evident at every turn.