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The 20 Best Things to Do in Little Rock for First Timers

Big Dam Bridge

Little Rock is the state capital of Arkansas, so it is one of the top tourist destinations in this state. It is known for its links to the civil rights movement, and also for the surrounding landscape that is ideal for a range of outdoor activities. If you are visiting this city, you will find plenty of things to see and do to keep you entertained during your trip. It makes sense to plan your visit before you arrive to make sure you have included all your favorite types of activities to get the most out of your visit. To give you some inspiration, here are the 20 best things to do in Little Rock, AK.

Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum

20. Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum

The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum is located along the Arkansas River in North Little Rock. Two floating vessels are the main attractions at the naval museum, one of which is a tugboat that is a Historic National Landmark. The other is a submarine that was in Tokyo Bay when Japan surrendered during World War II. There are also many other interesting artifacts and exhibits relating to the maritime history of the state, some of which are interactive.

Pinnacle Mountain State Park

19. Pinnacle Mountain State Park

The best place to admire the natural beauty of Little Rock’s surrounding area is at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. This state park is located just 15 miles northwest of downtown Little Rock, and it is like stepping into another world. There are two hiking trails that lead to the summit of the mountain, which is more than one thousand feet above sea level and offers stunning views over the valley. Surrounding the mountains, there are more than 2,500 acres of parkland, which includes multiple hiking trails. There are also many picnic areas around this park where you can enjoy a spot of lunch.

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

18. Go to Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Planetware recommends the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site as one of the top activities to enjoy in Little Rock. This site was the location of the struggles relating to school desegregation in 1957. On the day when the first nine black students entered the school, they were escorted by the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. You can only take a tour of this historic site by booking in advance as it remains a working school.

Art at Arkansas Arts Center

17. See the Art at Arkansas Arts Center

Art enthusiasts visiting Little Rock should go to the Arkansas Arts Center. You will find this gallery along East 9th Street, and it was established in 1914. Originally, it was the Fine Arts Club of Arkansas, and then it became the Arkansas Arts Center in 1960. The work of some well-known artists is on display at this center. These include works by Picasso, Wyeth, Redon, Rembrandt, and Degas. It is particularly famous for the exhibition of watercolors and drawings by Paul Signac. Some other highlights include a children’s theater, a museum school, and a research library. There is also a nice restaurant if you fancy a meal while you are out and about.

Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center

16. Explore the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center

The Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center is housed in a large building that has a 16,232-square-foot interior space, and this building sits within a 3.4-acre park. The exhibits on display within the center include examples of the fish and wildlife that you can find in Arkansas. Visitors can see live examples of wildlife because this urban park is located on the banks of the Arkansas River. Examples of the animals you will see include turtles, pelicans, and butterflies. The center also has an underground section, and this has an exhibition of Arkansas plants, a theater, and an aquarium.

MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History

15. Visit the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History

A great place to visit if you are interested in military history is the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. The museum explores the state’s military history, and the exhibits include photographs, military artifacts, weapons, uniforms, and documents. There are also nice grounds to explore, that include veteran memorials and contemplation gardens. Also, within the grounds, you will find the Arkansas Arts Center and the HI Little Rock Firehouse Hostel & Museum. It is possible to spend the night in the latter.

ESSE Purse Museum

14. See the Purses at ESSE Purse Museum

An unusual museum to visit id the ESSE Purse Museum, as the focus of the museum is purses. This unique museum on South Main Street is the only museum in the United States that focuses entirely on handbags. It looks at the history of purses, and the main permanent display is A Century of Women and Handbags 1900-1999. Not only does this exhibition look at the changing fashions, but it also takes a peek inside the contents of women’s handbags throughout history. There are also temporary exhibits throughout the year.

River Market District

13. Try New Cuisines at River Market District

Although there are many swanky restaurants in Little Rock, one of the best places to visit to try a diverse range of flavors is the River Market District. Located on President Clinton Avenue, on the south bank of the Arkansas River, this district has been transformed from derelict buildings into a modern culinary neighborhood. At the center of the district is Ottenheimer Market Hall, which is a public food market that has food stalls serving a wide range of national and international cuisines. There is also a farmer’s market that takes place from May through to October on Tuesdays and Sundays. This market showcases the best of the local produce.

Little Rock Zoo

12. Have Fun at Little Rock Zoo

A fantastic day out for all the family is a day at Little Rock Zoo. This zoo is home to more than 200 species of animals from across the globe. Some of the large animals include bears, rhinos, big cats, giraffes, elephants. Part of the zoo is the Arkansas Heritage Farm, which allows visitors to enjoy hands-on activities with the animals. This is one of the top activities if you have traveled to Little Rock with children.

Historic Arkansas Museum

11. Go to the Historic Arkansas Museum

You will find the Historic Arkansas Museum on East 3rd Street in Little Rock. It consists of a collection of buildings, including the Hinderliter House. Not only is this the oldest building in Little Rock, but it is also the former capitol building of Arkansas. The museum has restored houses, log buildings, and several gallery spaces.

Heifer Village

10. Explore Heifer Village

Heifer Village is a collection of attractions rather than a single activity. The focus of this venue is ending hunger and poverty, and this is a theme that runs through the various elements of this attraction. There is a variety of galleries and interactive exhibits to enjoy, and it is possible to take a guided tour. In addition to being an attraction, this venue is also an organization the provides support to people in need around the world.

William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum

9. Spend Time at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum

Not only is this venue a research facility, but it also has a huge museum with interesting exhibits. At the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, you will see more than one million photographs, interactive exhibits, and gifts received by Clinton while he was President. The complex covers three floors, and it includes full-scale replicas of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room.

Rock Town Distillery

8. Take a Tour of Rock Town Distillery

Various alcoholic beverages are produced at the Rock Town Distillery, including vodka, gin, and bourbon. A tour of the facilities gives visitors the opportunity to learn how rye, wheat, and corn are transformed to create these drinks. Located in downtown Little Rock, this award-winning distillery only works with grains sourced from within a 125-mile radius of the distillery. Visitors over 21 years of age can sample the goods at the end of the tour.

River Trail System

7. Walk the River Trail System

If you want to see the sights of the city and enjoy the outdoors on foot, then walking the River Trail System is one of the best ways of doing this. It is impossible to complete the entire trail in one day as the trail is an 88-mile loop. However, you can complete different sections on different days to enjoy the sights along the way. The trail crosses several bridges, and it connects 38 parks. Along the way, there are six museums, a quarry, and multiple significant landmarks. Take along your camera to capture some of the interesting sights you will see along the way.

Old State House Museum

6. Visit Old State House Museum

Old State Museum was originally the state capitol of Arkansas. It is an excellent example of Doric architecture, and the interior is now a museum. You will see historical displays relating to Arkansas politics, the inaugural gowns of governors’ wives, and examples of decorative arts. It is an interesting place to learn about both politics and historical events in Arkansas.

Riverfront Park

5. Stroll Around Riverfront Park

This downtown park is located along the Arkansas River on La Harpe Boulevard. The park covers 33 acres of land and stretches along 11 blocks. The park is filled with sculptures, trails, and playgrounds. Some of the highlights of the park include the Riverfront Park History Pavilion, the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, Little Rock Civil War Marker, and La Petit Roche Plaza. One of the best features of the park for children is the Peabody Splash Park. There is also the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden and an Amphitheater.

Museum of Discovery

4. Go to the Museum of Discovery

The Culture Trip recommends a trip to the Museum of Discovery. It is the oldest museum in Arkansas as it was established in 1927. The aim of the attraction is to ignite a passion for topics such as science, technology, and math. There are many interactive activities for people of all ages to enjoy, and there are events held throughout the year. This is a fantastic place to bring children during a vacation in Little Rock, as the interactive elements will keep them entertained, and they will have an experience that is both fun and educational.

River Rail Electric Streetcar

3. Ride the River Rail Electric Streetcar

A great way of exploring Little Rock is to ride the River Electric Streetcar. Originally, the streetcar system began operating in 1876 but then ended in 1947. The current system was established in 2004, and the line has been extended from 2.5 miles to 3.4-miles. The streetcars are replicas of vintage electric trolleys, and they call at several popular tourist attractions along the journey. It is a unique way to see the sights of Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Big Dam Bridge

2. Walk Across the Big Dam Bridge

One of the most significant landmarks in Little Rock is the Big Dam Bridge. It is particularly interesting because it is the longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge in the country. It connects approximately 20 miles of riverside trails in Little Rock and North Little Rock. The bridge also connects around 70,000 acres of parks. Throughout the year, a variety of events, recreational activities, and competitions are hosted on the bridge. It is free to walk or cycle across the bridge.

Arkansas State Capitol

1. Go to the Arkansas State Capitol

According to Vacation Idea, the best thing to do in Little Rock, AK, for first-timers is to go to the Arkansas State Capitol. This was constructed on the site of the state penitentiary between1899 and 1915, and the prisoners even helped to construct this historical building. While the architecture is worth admiring, it is what is inside that attracts most people. You can take a guided tour to see legislatures at work from the public gallery, and you will see various memorials.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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