From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Located on the scenic Arkansas River is Little Rock, which is both the capital and most populous city of Arkansas. With its mix of family fun, fantastic dining, and budget-friendly attractions, not to mention its stunning natural scenery, Little Rock is a popular destination among Arkansas locals and travelers from out-of-state.
Even those who have lived in the city for a decade would agree they haven’t experienced all that Little Rock has to offer, while for those new to the region – well, they’ve got a lot to look forward to as well.
Ready to discover the best of Little Rock, Arkansas? Let’s get started!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Looking to leave the bustling city behind in favor of Mother Nature? Luckily for you, Little Rock has numerous state parks and recreation areas nearby, all offering fun activities and the tranquillity of the great outdoors.
At Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park, you’ll find Arkansas' tallest American Indian mounds, offering an important and fascinating piece of history. You can also see archeological research at work, plus enjoy recreational activities such as hiking and learning more about the region at the visitor center.
Just an hour’s drive from Little Rock, this stunning 2,240-acre lake park offers activities such as boating, camping, picnicking, hiking, and more. Perhaps the most popular pastime of all at Lake Catherine State Park is to take the Falls Branch Trail hike, which passes by the picturesque Falls Creek Falls.
Located in Arkansas River Valley in central Arkansas, around an hour and 14 minutes’ drive north-west of the city, is Petite Jean State Park. Enjoy the impressive canyons and bluffs, as well as a 95-foot waterfall and the 100-acre Lake Bailey. You’ll also get to observe more geological and archaeological features, such as Bear Cave, Rock House Cave, the Grotto, Turtle Rocks, Carpet Rocks, and Natural Bridge.
The famous Pinnacle Mountain State Park is just a 25-minute drive from Little Rock, so you can escape for a lunch break, an afternoon, or even an entire day! There are over 15 miles of trails, including 7 miles of challenging mountain bike trails to explore, as well as opportunities to kayak, picnic, rock climb, fish, stargaze, and more.
If you fancy a one-hour-and-twenty-minutes’ drive out of the city, then you can experience another popular and well-known state park within Arkansas: Lake Ouachita State Park. Here, you’ll find 40,000 acres of clear, clean water surrounded by the scenic Ouachita National Forest. Enjoy swimming, skiing, scuba diving, boating, kayaking, fishing, and so much more.
If you’re still looking to explore more of Little Rock by foot, then perhaps a hike in or outside of the city is in order? These two trails don’t just offer magnificent views and natural scenery, but are also the two most popular walks within the area.
Just 41km north of the city center is the Kenny Vernon Nature Trail, a much-loved walkway among locals. This 2.25 miles round trip passes through hardwood forests and wetlands. Be on the lookout for plenty of wildlife, including waterfowl, turtles, frogs, white-tailed deer, beavers, muskrats and swamp rabbits. Be sure to bring your fishing rod too, as nearby Palarm Creek is a good place to catch crappie and catfish.
If you’re looking for something a bit more challenging, then the Pinnacle Mountain West Summit Trail is for you. It’s rated as moderate and is a 2.4 kilometer heavily trafficked out and back trail located near the city. If your legs start to hurt with the incline, don’t fret; the views from the top are totally worth it!
Whether you’re craving a casual spot for lunch or the luxury of fine dining, Little Rock is filled to the brim with eateries worth noting. Here are our favorites!
The Root Café is all about building community through local food. Along with their delicious offering of food which uses locally sourced ingredients, the café also hosts a range of activities including workshops, classes, guest speakers, live music, and other special events. Try their vegetarian shiitake mushroom burger, or for something meatier, the slow-braised pork shoulder.
Big Orange is famous for their burgers, salads, and shakes, but as the locals say: “there’s more than meets the eye”. You see, their burgers aren’t just delicious, but state-famous, including offerings such as white truffle and pecorino, smashed avocado and turkey, and a range of patty options (including meat-free).
If you’re seeking something a little more ‘fine dining’, then Table 28 is certainly worth considering. It offers “modern American cuisine with a twist” and is run by Award-winning Executive Chef Scott Rains. The food is cooked using locally grown produce and features a Southern flair. We recommend the popular crispy pork cheek, purple rice risotto, or duck breast.
The Pantry Restaurant sets itself apart from those in Little Rock by offering an intriguing fusion of Czech and German classics as well as delightful appetizers, burgers, salads, and flatbreads. Our advice? Make sure you leave some room in your appetite for their not-to-be-missed, award-winning desserts!
Faded Rose Restaurant has been serving delicious meals and drinks to Little Rock locals and visitors since 1982. They pride themselves on offering the highest quality New Orleans style steaks and traditional Creole and Cajun comfort food at reasonable prices, and it’s safe to say they don’t disappoint! As a mainstay of the region, it’s certainly worth the visit.
Wondering “what’s next?” Well, when it comes to Little Rock’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
If you and your family are looking for a way to pass the day, look no further than these fantastic activities.
The Little Rock Zoo's mission is to inspire people to value and conserve our natural world. It covers an area of 33 acres and is home to more than 725 animals representing over 200 species. Enjoy stopping by the enclosures to learn more about each animal, as well as partaking in workshops, tours, presentations, animal feeding, and more.
The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History is located in the historic Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal and aims to preserve the contributions of Arkansas men and women who served in the armed forces. Across numerous exhibits, you can observe artifacts, photographs, weapons, documents, uniforms and other military items that tell the story of Arkansas’ military history.
What should you do in Little Rock once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
The Little Rock River Market Entertainment District is the place to be, day or night, but there’s something about this area once the sun goes down that makes it truly feel alive. Here, you’ll find a number of bars, restaurants, and shops, as well as attractions including museums. Perhaps it’s the hourly animations and colors that light up the city’s three bridges that you’ll love the most, however, drawing crowds of locals and visitors after dark.
The Big Rock Mini Golf and Fun Park is open nightly until 10 p.m., so it’s the perfect place to enjoy some entertainment post-dinner. It offers 7.5 acres of fun activities such as a maze, mini golf, go-karts, arcade games, bumper boats, and so much more. There’s also food and beverages on-site to quench your appetite.
Looking to save a dollar or two during your Little Rock excursion? There are plenty of activities and attractions that can be visited on a budget, helping you to get the most out of your time spent in the city.
Located within the Clinton Presidential Center and Park is the William J Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, which features exhibits, special events, and educational programs, as well as replicas of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room. Come and learn about life in the White House; Admission ranges from just $6 - $10.
The Museum of Discovery is Arkansas’s premier science and technology center, which brings engineering, arts and math to the public through dynamic and interactive experiences. Founded in 1927, it’s the oldest museum in the state and features over 90 hands-on exhibits that visitors of all ages will love. Admission ranges from $8 - $10.
If you’re looking to make the most out of your time spent in Little Rock, then look no further than these recommended activities. Oh, and did we mention they’re completely free?
The Big Dam Bridge isn’t just the longest speciality-built bicycle and pedestrian bridge in the state, but the entire country, spanning a whopping 1,288 meters. Along with being a fantastic walk to do in the city, it’s also the location of Arkansas' largest annual cycling tour, The Big Dam Bridge 100.
The State Capitol is a great place to learn more about the region, particularly in terms of architecture, political history, and military history, but it also holds a number of exhibits each year for guests to enjoy. Free tours of the Capitol Building are offered weekdays from 9am-12pm and from 1pm-3pm, or you can pick up a brochure on-site and do a self-guided tour.
By now, you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Little Rock has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
Dream Spa & Massage, located across two locations in Little Rock, is dedicated to complete healing with a whole-body approach. It’s the most recommended among locals and for plenty of good reasons too. They offer a number of therapeutic massage therapies, including Swedish, deep tissue, Ashiatsu, hot stone, and aromatherapy, along with other treatments such as hydrotherapy, body scrub, and more.
If you want to feel beautiful, refreshed, and rejuvenated, then a trip to Rejuvenation Clinic is on the cards. The Day Spa offers relaxing massages, as well as manicures, pedicures, cleansing facials, and refreshing body treatments, while their Med Spa offers medical-grade chemical peels, injections, and laser treatments.
If rejuvenation for you is less about deep relaxation and more about sweating it out, then you’re in luck. Little Rock is home to some of the highest-rated gyms and yoga studios within the region.
At Arkansas Yoga Collective, you can take part in any of their 8 group classes a day, ranging from beginner to all-levels, private yoga coaching, and weekend workshops. They even offer on-site massage therapy, so you can take your relaxation to a whole new level, as well as a coffee lounge and gift shop. It’s an all-in-one yoga studio like you’ve never experienced before.
You’ll findClubhaus Fitness located in the heart of Riverdale near downtown Little Rock and it serves as the premier boutique fitness center within the region. There are over 70 classes a week on offer, including hot yoga, cycling, barre, pilates, strength training, and their signature H.I.I.T. Brickhaus and Powerhaus group classes, so there’s something for everyone!
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Little Rock without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this large city, but consider these days trip next time you fancy a new adventure.
Just two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Little Rock is Crater of Diamonds National Park, which is the only diamond mind in the United States, and indeed one of the only in the world, where visitors can search for diamonds at their original volcanic source. Other recreational activities on offer here include hiking, water play, fishing, and ranger-led programs.
Just over an hour by car will take you to the city of Hot Springs, where naturally heated thermal springs can be found in almost every direction you look. Other attractions in this interesting place include The Gangster Museum of America, Garvan Woodland Gardens, Tiny Town, the Magic Springs Theme and Water Park, and of course, Hot Springs National Park.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Little Rock that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Little Rock? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.