A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
With the weather on the verge (we hope) of a sustained period of just-rightness, this week we examine the best places to eat or drink outside. In selecting what follows, we looked for good views, large seating areas and spots that, even if they didn't satisfy the first two criteria, still steadily draw crowds.
Acadia For casual fine dining, it's hard to think of lovelier outdoor seating than at Chef James Hale's consistently excellent Hillcrest restaurant. Elevated above Kavanaugh and with part of its three-tiered wooden deck wrapped around an oak tree, Acadia's outdoor tables can make you feel like you're in a tree house. Go on fixed-price Mondays and Tuesdays, when you can get three courses for $24.50. Or if you're more interested in drinking, wine by the bottle is 20 percent off on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and martinis are discounted from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 3000 Kavanaugh Blvd. Full bar. CC. 501-603-9630. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Boscos Maybe the best patio with a view in the River Market district, Boscos' skinny second-story back deck can accommodate close to 80 people. When there's a concert at the amphitheater and during Riverfest, the restaurant and brewery requires either a level of spending or a cover charge — often $25 per person — to sit outside. Buyer beware, the sight lines are great unless nearby crepe myrtles are in bloom. Still, there's no better perch for people-watching. Another good time to go? During happy hour, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. during the week, when appetizers, martinis, wine and beer are discounted. 500 President Clinton Ave. Full bar. CC. 501-907-1881. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Fri.-Sat., 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
Brave New Restaurant On summer nights, when the temperature drops and Brave New standbys like Arkansas heirloom tomatoes and peaches are in season, don't let your hunger convince you to take a table inside if there's a wait for one of the 10 on the Riverdale restaurant's back deck. Brave New deservedly takes some lumps for being located in an office building, but whatever atmosphere the surrounding space lacks, the back porch, overlooking big willow trees and the Arkansas River, makes up for it. Perhaps the best food with a view in town. 2300 Cottondale Lane. Full bar. CC. 501-663-2677. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Forty Two If the Clinton Presidential Center architects had situated the restaurant on top of its cantilevered section instead of below it no other outdoor patios could compete. But the ground floor deck, accessed through the center's lower level, is still nice, with a great view of what will soon be the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge. The food is good, too, and reasonably priced. Every third Thursday evening of the month, Forty Two offers a five-course "Around the World" tasting menu, usually with entertainment; reservations are required. Sunday is a brunch buffet. 1200 President Clinton Ave. Full bar. CC. 501-537-0042. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. daily.
Cajun's Wharf The deck by which all others are measured in Central Arkansas. With around 55 tables, a small stage area and a dedicated bar (that's generally open Wednesday through Saturday) overlooking the Arkansas River, it's the biggest outdoor party space around on spring and summer weekends. Between 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., minors accompanied by a guardian can sit on the porch. Otherwise, it's 21 and up. Go during happy hour, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, when beer, well drinks, wine and Cajun's play-de-do cocktails are all discounted. Wednesday through Saturday, there's live music, too. 2400 Cantrell Road. Full bar. CC. 501-375-5351. 4:30 p.m. until close Mon.-Wed., 4:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Thu.-Fri., 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat.