When French explorers first came to the area that we call Little Rock, they used a small stone outcrop on the Arkansas River as a landmark to guide their journey. To keep things simple, they called it La Petite Roche, aka Little Rock. It’s been several hundred years since the French explorers first came to the region, and the small rocky area they knew has exploded into a rich, diverse city.
Today’s Little Rock, AR has thriving charm, culture, and industry. As a result, it’s extremely hard to run out of things to do in Little Rock. In Arkansas‘s capital city, you’ll find museums and cultural centers galore, scenic river walks, wild animals, and more.
Here are 14 things to do in Little Rock that we know you and your crew are going to love.
LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
It’s not often that the United States government lists a high school as a National Historic Site, but Little Rock Central High School is an exception. The school made history after the explosive Brown vs. Board of Education case made segregation illegal in United States public schools, enforcing African American Civil Rights in education.
Here at Little Rock Central High School in 1957, nine African American students braved protests to attend a formerly all-white school. They did so, facing the Arkansas National Guard, called by Governor Orval Faubus to prevent their entrance. But, as they would come to be called, the Little Rock Nine eventually found themselves escorted to school by federal troops at the order of President Eisenhower.
It was the first time that Brown vs. Board of Education was enforced in the U.S., with Little Rock Central High School becoming the catalyst for de-segregated education across the country.
Visitors to the high school will find themselves guided by knowledgeable park rangers who will share these stories and others, detailing the remarkable story of the nine students and their successors. In addition, you’ll tour the high school grounds, the commemorative garden, and the Magnolia Mobil Station, where the press set up shop to record the events of desegregation.
Details: 2120 W Daisy L Gatson Bates Dr., Little Rock, AR 72202 | Website
WILLIAM J CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM
It’s something else to see full-scale replicas of the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office outside of Washington D.C., but you can do just that at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, located within the Clinton Presidential Center and Park.
President Clinton was born and raised in Arkansas, and as a true Arkansawyer, when it came time to select the location of his Presidential Library, he chose his home state, in the city of Little Rock. The library serves both as an archive and as a museum of President Clinton’s time in office.
During a visit to the museum, you can take a guided tour to get the full scope of the exhibits. The permanent exhibits detail Clinton’s foreign policy, actions while in office, and day-to-day life in the White House. Additionally, the museum offers special programs and rotating exhibits on additional topics like women’s rights, popular culture, and more.
Details: 1200 President Clinton Ave, Little Rock, AR 72201 | Website
LITTLE ROCK ZOO
One family favorite activity of visitors and locals alike is the Little Rock Zoo. Famous for its big cats and diverse array of exhibits, the Little Rock Zoo provides an escape to the wild for all who visit it.
Among the furry critters and scaly friends you’ll meet at the zoo are rare fossas and bush dogs, maned wolves, snakes, and of course, the famous big cats: cheetahs, jaguars, lions, leopards, and tigers. The zoo also has a carousel, bird feeding experience, cafe, and train for additional fun.
Details: 1 Zoo Dr., Little Rock, AR 72205 | Website
ARKANSAS MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
Nestled on a gorgeous green lawn in MacArthur Park, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts provides an enriching experience for every visitor. This pinnacle of artistic exploration is not only a museum, but also an innovative art school.
The museum has several permanent collections on display that are worth a look. For example, in the Art Through the Ages collection, you can view a 500-year-old German print, work by Rembrandt, and other historically rich pieces of artwork. There’s also a European collection, American Art, Contemporary Art, and art of the American South.
In addition to its permanent exhibits, the museum also curates fresh artwork throughout the year. You may find local pieces of work, youth-designed art, and other fascinating displays in the visiting exhibits.
Details: 2510 Cantrell Rd, Little Rock, AR 72202 | Website
PINNACLE MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
Little Rock sits on the Arkansas River, and around the city rests some of the best scenery in Arkansas. One of the natural wonders of the area is Pinnacle Mountain State Park.
Before starting on your Pinnacle Mountain adventure, you’ll want to stop by its Visitor Center to grab a map of the hiking trails or check out kayak rentals. In addition, the park offers prime fishing and boating on the Big and Little Maumelle Rivers. Or, take a hike along the East Quarry Trail to reach the top of Pinnacle Mountain and catch some of the best views in Arkansas.
I also recommend spending extra time at the Visitors Center learning about how the state park is also a Trails of Tears National Historic Site. Thousands of Native Americans found themselves passing Pinnacle Mountain on their harrowing journey along the Trail of Tears.
Details: 11901 Pinnacle Valley Rd, Roland, AR 72135 | Website
Little Rock sits on the Arkansas River, so it should come as no surprise that the city has a park called Riverfront Park. This city park has 33 acres worth of outdoor fun, including a splash park, the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden, and the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center.
Riverfront Park is dedicated to the history and wildlife of Little Rock. You’ll find history recorded for exploration at La Petit Roche Plaza and the Riverfront Park History Pavilion. Over at the Nature Center and William E. “Bill” Clark Presidential Park Wetlands, you can get up close and personal with Arkansas’s fish and wildlife. You can spend a whole day just exploring all Riverfront Park has to offer! A visit here is one of the best things to do in Little Rock.
Details: 400 President Clinton Ave, Little Rock, AR 72201 | Website
RIVER MARKET DISTRICT
Downtown Little Rock is the cultural center of the city. No area is more vibrant than the River Market District. If you ask a local where to get food or find entertainment, they’ll likely point you here.
The River Market District is home to restaurants, bars, boutiques, and gardens. Its Farmers Market looks out over the Arkansas River, providing locally grown and made products for Little Rock residents and visitors to enjoy. Meanwhile, at Ottenheimer Market Hall, you can sample food from around the world, including dishes from Japan, Mexico, the Middle East, and the U.S.
While you’re in the district, make sure to stop by the H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden for a serene break from the city. There, you can learn about South Korea and the Martial Arts and learn more about Eternal Grandmaster H.U. Lee who founded the ATA International (the American Taekwondo Association).
Families can take a short walk and find plenty to do in the River Market District, too. The Margaret Clark Adventure Park has a phenomenal playground, while Peabody Splash Park offers a fun way to cool down during the spring and summer.
Details: 400 President Clinton Ave, Little Rock, AR 72201 | Website
MUSEUM OF DISCOVERY
The Museum of Discovery technically resides in the River Market District, but this attraction is so popular, it deserves its own section. This interactive museum has been ranked as one of the best in the United States by USA Today, and it’s not hard to see why.
The Museum of Discovery has over 90 exhibits tailored to teaching children about science. Exhibits cover everything from tornadoes to dinosaurs. Your kids will love exploring the math of the Mayans, the science of the human body, and exploring how art and science work together while visiting the museum!
Details: 500 President Clinton Ave, Little Rock, AR 72201 | Website
THE ARKANSAS RIVER TRAIL
Consider checking out the Arkansas River Trail if you’re looking for a great place to run, walk, or bike during your Little Rock visit. The trail features a 15.6-mile loop that crosses the Big Dam Bridge and the Clinton Bridge.
Little Rock’s Arkansas River Trail provides an exceptionally bike-friendly experience. The Big Dam Bridge is the longest bike-friendly bridge in the country, and allows pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the Arkansas River and enjoy the scenery during their travel. The trail also has bike servicing areas to assist cyclists with any repairs they need during their time on the trail.
Details: Arkansas River Trail, Mayflower, AR 72106 | Website
ESSE PURSE MUSEUM
It goes without saying that purses are part of women’s history, regardless of whether or not you use a purse. (Let’s be honest, pockets aren’t big enough for wallets, so most of us ladies have purses.) At the Esse Purse Museum, you can explore the history of purses and their role in defining a woman’s identity.
Even if you don’t use a purse, a visit to the Esse Purse Museum is worth it for one reason: there are only two purse museums in the world! So why not explore the unique, rare, and fascinating purses and accessories held there? You can say you went to one of the only purse museums in the world – that’s pretty darn cool!
Details: 1510 Main St, Little Rock, AR 72202 | Website
HISTORIC ARKANSAS MUSEUM
Arkansas has seen a great deal of history. It grew out of the determination of pioneers, survived the Civil War, and has evolved into an industrial powerhouse. So naturally, the Historic Arkansas Museum covers the intricate history of the state.
One unique feature of the museum is that it actually resides within several buildings, one of which is the oldest building in Little Rock! The museum also has a farmstead, on which you can explore reproductions of slave cabins, blacksmithing, and farming techniques. Exhibits inside the museum change regularly, with past exhibits covering Native Americans of the area, Civil War history, and women’s rights.
Details: 200 E 3rd St, Little Rock, AR 72201 | Website
OLD STATE HOUSE MUSEUM
The Old State House of Little Rock has a storied past. Construction began in 1833, and ever since then, this Greek revival mansion has played a significant role in the history of Arkansas. Within the mansion’s walls Arkansas was signed into the Union, and less than 30 years later, seceded during the Civil War. Presidents have held their victory parties here. Today, the museum shares these and other stories with its visitors.
Visitors to the Old State House Museum will find themselves falling backward through time, to nearly two centuries ago when the United States was still a very young nation. You’ll walk through the 1836 House of Representatives chamber, discover the clothing and stories of the First Ladies of Arkansas, explore the governors of the state, and other exhibits while there.
Details: 300 W Markham St, Little Rock, AR 72201 | Website
THE OLD MILL
The glistening waters of a lake and the gentle perfume of flowers set the stage for the Old Mill of Little Rock. You probably recognize this landmark from Gone With the Wind, which opened on this scenic mill.
Originally built in 1939, the Old Mill is technically a reproduction of an 1880s water-powered mill. It’s a unique piece of architecture because, though less than a century old, the Old Mill was always designed to look abandoned. For example, it lacks doors and window frames. Instead, a majority of the Old Mill consists of concretely artfully carved to look like wood, metal, and stone, by sculptor Senòr Dionico Rodriguez.
The mill offers 30-minute guided tours on which you’ll learn more about this landmark’s role on the Silver Screen. It may surprise you to find out that though the building is not that old, some artifacts inside it are, including its grist mill circa 1828, and rocks collected from a road laid out by Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Details: 3800 Lakeshore Dr., North Little Rock, AR 72116 | Website
ARKANSAS INLAND MARITIME MUSEUM
In North Little Rock, you can visit some of the ships and submarines that made American history at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum. The museum first opened its doors in 2005, and centers around the USS Razorback submarine that served in WWII. Since then, it has expanded its collection to include sea-faring vessels from several wars.
Visitors to the museum can step inside these artifacts of maritime history. Don’t miss the USS Hoga, a ship that survived Pearl Harbor and joined the museum in 2015. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can stay the night on a Submarine Sleepover and live, eat, and sleep as a sailor did back in WWII.
Details: 120 Riverfront Park Dr., North Little Rock, AR 72114 | Website
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO ARKANSAS
- YOUR ARKANSAS VACATION
- HOT SPRINGS: 21 Amazing Things To Do In Hot Springs, Arkansas
- EUREKA SPRINGS: 16 Best Things To Do In Eureka Springs, Arkansas
- BENTONVILLE: 14 Awesome Things To Do In Bentonville Arkansas
WHERE TO STAY IN LITTLE ROCK
Best Downtown for Families. Residence Inn by Marriott Little Rock Downtown features a great downtown location only a mile from Verizon Arena and less than a mile from the convention center. It’s also a super choice for families with it’s pool, breakfast, and privacy afforded to the parents.
Best Bed & Breakfast. Rosemont B&B Cottages are upscale and offer vintage charm and style, all right tin downtown Little Rock. Amenities include Homemade Breakfast brought right to your cottage.
Best Budget Option. Tru By Hilton Little Rock West is a bit farther from city-center at 9.1 miles but the price is right. As always, are recommendations only included well-rated properties. An American breakfast is included here.
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