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.
AEROSPACE EDUCATION CENTER
The Aerospace Education Center offers an exciting lineup designed to inspire the imagination. Located near the Little Rock National Airport, AEC offers aviation and aerospace exhibits, including an original Sopwith Camel and a replica of the Wright Flyer. Its IMAX theater offers a wide variety of science-related films—call or visit them online to find out what's showing. Open Thurs.-Sat.
3301 E. Roosevelt Rd. Show times and ticket prices vary. 376-IMAX (4629); www.aerospaced.org
ARKANSAS ARTS CENTER
Whether hoping for a glimpse of the classics, cutting-edge or points in-between, art lovers will find plenty to appreciate at the Arkansas Arts Center, the state's largest cultural institution with more than a dozen galleries to browse.
The Arts Center offers visitors traveling exhibits as well as exhibits from their own growing collection—from American, Renaissance and European artists to the modern works. Among the most recognizable works in the collection are the drawings of Cézanne, Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Georgia O'Keeffe, Rembrandt and Rubens.
In addition to its impressive collection, it houses a number of other cultural venues. Its Children's Theatre is a professional theater company presenting children's classics September through May. Best Impressions Restaurant offers a delicious lunch experience, and the Museum Shop features unique gifts and interesting works by regional artists.
501 E. 9th St. Hours: Tuesday–Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Closed Monday and major holidays. Cost: Most exhibits are free. 372-4000; www.arkarts.com
ARKANSAS STATE CAPITOL
It's hard to venture to the center of the city and not catch a glimpse of the Arkansas State Capitol's bright dome, with its 24-carat gold-leaf cupola. Construction began in 1899 and took 16 years and $2.2 million (now valued at $320 million) to complete, which resembles a scaled-down version of the U.S. Capitol. The price and effort were well worth it. The bronze front entrance doors, which were purchased at Tiffany's, are 10 feet tall and four inches thick. An upward view from beneath its breathtaking rotunda can weaken the knees. The Capitol's halls are lined with some of Arkansas's favorite politicians and changing displays devoted to Arkansas history.
500 Woodlane (between Markham and Seventh streets). Hours: Monday–Friday 7 a.m.–5 p.m., weekends and holidays 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Tours: Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Cost: Free. 682.5080; www.sos.arkansas.gov
ARKANSAS STUDIES INSTITUTE
The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) was one of the first institutions to have faith in the River Market, and now, its main library draws more than 450,000 visitors each year.
Not quite satisfied, CALS decided to partner with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and rehab a couple of old buildings on President Clinton Avenue.
These buildings now makeup the Arkansas Studies Institute, which is dedicated to the study of Arkansas and houses about 10 million artifacts, including UALR archives, the papers of Arkansas governors Dale Bumpers, Winthrop Rockefeller, Jim Guy Tucker and Frank White and the gubernatorial papers of Bill Clinton.
401 President Clinton Ave. Hours: Monday–Saturday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Cost: Free. 320-5700; www.cals.org.
CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CENTER AND PARK
To describe this nationally-renown facility on the bank of the Arkansas River as a "must-see" for anyone visiting Little Rock is an understatement.
Explore the 20,000-square-feet of museum exhibit space, including a 110-foot-long timeline detailing the history of President Clinton and his administration. The timeline utilizes photographs, videos and interactive stations, and is flanked by thematic alcoves highlighting specific achievements during his time in office. Enjoy a power trip while standing in the full-scale replica of the Oval Office, or play the role of a cabinet member by using interactive media stations in a replica of the Cabinet Room.
The upstairs alcoves contain displays about life in the White House, including personal artifacts from the former First Family. Surrounded by a 30-acre city park, the building's design symbolizes President Clinton's theme of "Building a Bridge to the 21st Century."
In addition, the center houses the largest archival collection in American Presidential history as well as educational, research, and reception facilities.
1200 President Clinton Ave. Hours: Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sunday 1–5 p.m. Closed New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Cost: Adult $7; senior $5; age 6-17 $3; 5 and under free. 374-4242 or www.clintonpresidentialcenter.org.
COX CREATIVE CENTER
Part of the Central Arkansas Library System, the Cox Creative Center is located in a 1907 vintage, renovated warehouse in the River Market housing a coffee shop, bookstore and Cox Creative Gallery.
120 Commerce St. Hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed Sunday. Free. 918-3093; www.cals.org
CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
While called the "Central High Crisis" by the world in 1957, Little Rock also became known as the city where the federal government took a stand against segregation.
As a way to mark and learn from this period in history, the Central High School National Historic Site Visitor Center offers its guests a historic look at the events surrounding the Central High Crisis.
2120 Daisy L. Gatson Bates Dr. Hours: Monday-Sunday 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Cost: Free. 374-1957; www.nps.gov/chsc
Already a favorite and source of pride throughout the Little Rock community, Heifer International has grown. The newly-opened Heifer Village, sandwiched between Heifer and the Clinton Presidential Center, gives locals and visitors more to love. Heifer Village is part museum, discovery center and classroom, and is designed to inspire. Its interactive exhibits are unique and focus on the serious subject of ending hunger and poverty.
Like Heifer International's headquarters next door, Heifer Village is an example of responsible construction practices and is definitely worth a look. In fact, Heifer's headquarters has garnered a number of national awards for its green building.
Heifer International has helped approximately 10.5 million families in more than 125 countries move toward greater self-reliance.
1 World Ave. Hours: Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sunday from noon–5 p.m. Cost: Free. 907-8800; www.heifer.org/heifervillage
HISTORIC ARKANSAS MUSEUM
Restoration has been a major theme in the recent history of the Historic Arkansas Museum, whose grounds display some of Little Rock's oldest homes. The newest updates include the 1830s Plum Bayou Log House site and a River Rail stop on Second Street, making it easier for visitors to access the city's frontier past. The museum's permanent and traveling exhibits are showcased in its five galleries, including Gallery II, Trinity Gallery, Horace C. Cabe, Study and Knife galleries. A sixth exhibit hall, the Sturgis Children's Gallery offers interactive fun for the young and young-at-heart.
The museum's five pre-Civil War buildings, including the 1826 Hinderliter Grog Shop, offers visitors a unique way to learn about the early history of the state.
200 E. Third St. Hours: Monday–Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sunday 1–5 p.m. Cost: The museum is free, but the Tour of Homes is $2.50 for adults, $1.50 for seniors over 65, $1 for children under 18. 324-9351; www.historicarkansas.org
Now known as The Empress of Little Rock Bed & Breakfast Inn, this ornate 7,200-square-foot mansion is a spectacular example of 1880s Queen Anne architecture and is considered one of the best small luxury hotels in the country. The gardens surrounding the house are equally spectacular.
2120 S. Louisiana St. Public tours available Monday-Friday at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., and by appointment only on the weekend. Cost: $7.50. 374-7966; www.theempress.com
One of the newer structures in the neighborhood, this Georgian Colonial-style home was completed in 1950 during Gov. Sidney McMath's term. The mansion incorporated brick from the old Arkansas School for the Blind, which originally occupied the site where the house now sits.
1800 Center St. While open to the public for tours on Tuesday and Thursday, you must call ahead for an appointment. Cost: Free. 324-9805; www.arkansasgovernorsmansion.com
MACARTHUR MUSEUM OF ARKANSAS MILITARY HISTORY
Named for World War II commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History was created to honor the state's military heritage through exhibits featuring artifacts, photographs, weapons, documents, uniforms and other military items.
The museum is located in the city's oldest surviving neighborhood, and original Tower Building—where Douglas MacArthur was born Jan. 26, 1880—is the centerpiece of the 36-acre MacArthur Park where the museum is located.
MacArthur Park is home to both the military museum and the Arkansas Arts Center.
503 E. 9th St. Summer hours: Tuesday–Friday 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday 1–4 p.m. Closed Monday and major holidays. Cost: Free. 376-4602; www.arkmilitaryheritage.com
MOSAIC TEMPLARS CULTURAL CENTER
Tragically in 2005, the Mosaic Templars of America's headquarters burned to the ground. Stunned motorists mourned the loss as they drove into downtown Little Rock the morning after the fire. But like the legendary Phoenix rising from the ashes, a new building was built in its place and was dedicated as the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, a state-funded museum dedicated to the Templars and the state's black history.
Ninth and Broadway streets. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Cost: Free. 683–3593; www.mosaictemplarscenter.com
MOUNT HOLLY CEMETERY
This cemetery is the final resting-place of some of the state's most prominent people and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Some of the cemetery's residents include Pulitzer Prize-winning poet John Gould Fletcher and executed Confederate spy David O. Dodd, as well as five Confederate generals, 10 former Arkansas governors and six U.S. senators.
1200 Broadway St. Hours: Monday-Sunday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Winter hours: Monday-Sunday 8 a.m.-4 p.m. 376-1843
MUSEUM OF DISCOVERY
Dedicated to exploring the sciences, social sciences and technology, the Museum of Discovery is as entertaining as it is educational. Interactive exhibits cover a broad range of topics such as energy, insects or a look at other cultures, as well as providing kids with hands-on experiences with exhibits that allow them to create their own crafts. The museum will close in 2011 for renovations, so call for the latest information before planning your day.
500 President Clinton Ave. Hours: Monday–Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Sunday 1–5 p.m. Admission: $8 adults; $7 for kids 1-12 and seniors 65+. Children under one year admitted free. 396-7050; www.amod.org
OLD STATE HOUSE MUSEUM
Located in the oldest surviving state capitol west of the Mississippi River, the Old State House Museum is designated as a National Historic Landmark—although to many, the Greek Revival building is best known as the backdrop of President Bill Clinton's 1992 and 1996 election-night celebrations. The museum focuses on Arkansas's history beginning with its statehood, and is home to nationally-recognized collections of Civil War battle flags.
300 Markham St. Hours: Monday–Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday 1–5 p.m. Cost: Free. 324-9685; www.oldstatehouse.com
One of only a few remaining antebellum homes in the city, this stately neoclassical home was built in 1843 for Frederic Trapnall and his wife, Martha. After serving as a boarding house in the 1920s, it became the Junior League of Little Rock's headquarters. In 1963, it underwent extensive renovation. Today, the building is owned by the Department of Arkansas Heritage and is open to the public.
423 E. Capitol Ave. Hours: Call for appointment. Cost: Free. 324-9716; www.trapnallhall.com
Located in the heart of downtown Little Rock, the River Market consists of a Farmer's Market, Market Hall, pavilions and plazas. The Market Hall houses permanent merchants who offer year-round specialties, from freshly baked pastries and breads, hand-roasted gourmet coffee and specialty drinks, mouth-watering barbecue and more. In the spring and summer, don't miss the Farmer's Market open Tuesdays and Saturdays until 3 p.m. After dark, the River Market District is transformed into a hip hangout with rockin' hot nightspots like Sticky Fingerz Rock 'n' Roll Chicken Shack, Rumba!Revolution, Underground Pub, Flying Saucer, Bosco's and Gusano's Pizzeria.
400 President Clinton Ave. 375-2552; www.rivermarket.info
Now known as Curran Hall, the house was built by Col. Ebenezer Walters as a wedding present for his bride, who unfortunately died before its completion in 1843. It is now the home of the Little Rock Visitor Information Center. Find out all you need to know about Little Rock here.
615 E. Capitol Ave. Hours: Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday 1-5 p.m. Cost: Free. 371-0076; www.littlerock.com/curran-hall/
WITT STEPHENS JR. CENTRAL ARKANSAS NATURE CENTER
Without a doubt, the greatest concentration of wildlife downtown is at Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center.
The 16,232-square-foot Game and Fish Commission facility is located on a 3.4 acres inside the Julius Breckling Riverfront Park, and focuses on wildlife conservation, learning from the past and looking at what can be done in the future to keep Arkansas beautiful. It also highlights the wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities the state's fish and wildlife resources provide and the role of Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
602 President Clinton Ave. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Cost: Free. 907-0636; www.centralarkansasnaturecenter.com.