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What to do in Chenal 

Promenade on over to the shopping center.

Talk about fancy. Well, the entire Chenal neighborhood in West Little Rock is pretty hifalutin, so it only makes sense that its main shopping center has fountains with gargoyles, bronze sculptures of children at play, huge decorative lampposts, wrought-iron gates and a store that sells canine haute couture (Just Dogs! Gourmet). This is the shopping center with the first DSW shoe store, the first Apple store and the first Anthropologie to open in Little Rock. The Chenal 9 Theatre has the only IMAX screen in town. And Big Orange does burgers, fries, shakes and cocktails as well as anyone around.

Explore big boxes.

Big-box stores boomed in roomy West Little Rock: You've got your Barnes and Noble; Toys R Us; Petsmart; Best Buy; Sam's; Garden Ridge; Home Depot; Bed, Bath and Beyond; Staples; Old Navy; Target and, farther west, the planet's largest Kroger store complete with furniture — and that's just along the main drag. No, these aren't quaint independently-owned stores; there's not a lace curtain or shop cat at any of them. But yes, they've got what you need and they're buffered by upper-crust developments like St. Charles and Chenal so you don't feel you've descended into some sterile consumer district when you're there.

Meditate.

Amid the retail rush in West Little Rock is the non-denominational Arkansas House of Prayer, a beautiful copper-sided building set among the pines on the grounds of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church. Inside, cushions surround a central earthen hearth in the round meditation room, lit by natural light from above. Outside, a wooden deck is surrounded by a stone wall. It's a silent retreat where one can escape the noise and stress of everyday life; for the religious, it's a place to chat with God.

Enjoy performing arts in the wild woods.

Wildwood Park for the Arts, set in 104 acres of woods and water north of Chenal Parkway, is home to the 625-seat Lucy Lockett Cabe Theatre and a series of gardens, including the Richard C. Butler Arboretum, the Gertrude Remmel Butler Gazebo and Gardens, Ruth Allen Dogwood Trail, the Boop Water Garden, the Carl Hunter Wildflower Glen, the Bruce Theatre Gardens, the Doris Carre Gay Asian Garden, the Campbell Davies Reflection Garden and the 8-acre Swan Lake. The theater hosts theatrical and dance performances and the grounds are the setting for several festivals throughout the year.

Drive around looking at the really big houses.

There are some mighty fine homes in the Chenal Valley neighborhoods, and it's fun just to drive around and see some of these mansions, many of them circling the Chenal Country Club golf course. The grass is manicured, the statuary is showy, the rooftops are steep a la French maisons and so are the price tags — these are the neighborhoods where you'll need a million clams to move in. Not all are behind gates, so enjoy the ride.

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