Little Rock: The South's Best Kept Secret

by Michael Satterfield

I have to admit that Little Rock wasn't on my radar as a destination city, but since I would be passing through while working on some other stories I reached out to their visitor's bureau to see what Little Rock had to offer. Situated on the south bank of the Arkansas River, the city was named La Petite Roche (Little Rock) by the French explorer Jean-Baptiste Bénard de la Harpe in the 1720s and it has been the capital of Arkansas since 1821, so there is a lot history in the city. Other than being home to Bill Clinton, there wasn't much that I knew about the most populous city in Arkansas. 

Like many road trippers, I have driven through Little Rock on the I30 or I40, passing through, perhaps stopping for gas near the highway, but never venturing into the city. From the highway, Little Rock looks like nearly any small city, but as I made my way into the city I was greeted by a lively downtown, beautiful architecture, and a lot of Taekwondo practitioners (apparently the American Taekwondo Association is headquartered in Little Rock).



While I would spend just a few days in the city, every interaction, meal, and experience exceeded my expectations. Coming from a city of similar size in Texas all I can say is that Little Rock feels like a much bigger city, filled with art, culture, and great food, all compacted into an easy to navigate city, that even has free trolly car service. So park your car, jump on the Green Line and explore Little Rock with me.


Where to Stay: 


Capital Hotel

5-star hotel
111 W Markham St
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 374-7474

I stayed at the Capital Hotel in the heart of downtown, first opened in 1876 the hotel offers old-world sophistication with modern luxury. It has been called Little Rock's "Front Porch" and is also home to two award-winning restaurants & bars as well as an upscale menswear store.

Other Options: If the Capital is booked, or just not your style little rock has all the major chains including Hilton, Marriott, and Holiday Inn Express.


Where to Eat:



111 W Markham St
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 374-7474

Located in the Capital Hotel and Led by a Michelin Star award-winning chef One Eleven offers an upscale take on many southern classic comfort foods, you will not be disappointed by the food, service, or wine selection at One Eleven. Reservations are recommended. 


111 W Markham St
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 374-7474


Just across the lobby from One Eleven is the Capital Bar & Grill a great place to grab a great lunch. Their $10.95 lunch specials rotate each day but include dishes like red beans and rice with andouille sausage, fried chicken, and a very nice bbq pulled pork sandwich. Or just grab a drink and order some of the spiced pecans.



At The Corner
201 E Markham St
Little Rock, AR 72201
(504) 400-8458

A modern take on the classic diner, quick, casual, and really good. Known for their breakfast and burgers it is a great place for a quick bite. I highly recommend the chicken and waffles.



42 Bar and Table
1200 President Clinton Ave 
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 537-0042

Located at the Clinton Presidental Library the menu is a mix of classic American and international dishes. Open for Brunch, Lunch, and Dinner it is a great addition to your visit to the Clinton Library. Plus they offer free valet parking for dinner guests. Reservations are recommended for dinner. 


What to Do:



Clinton Presidential Library
1200 President Clinton Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 374-4242

If you are a kid who came of age in the 1990s like me, Bill Clinton was your President and the Clinton Presidental Library should be on your list in Little Rock. Featuring stunning architecture, an incredible history of the Clinton years, and visiting exhibits. 

Admission is $10 per person with discounts for Students, Seniors, and Retired Military. 
Active Duty members of the US military are free. 




Rock Town Distillery
1201 Main St
Little Rock, AR 72202
(501) 907-5244

Located in downtown Littel Rock, Rock Town is the first legal distillery of any kind in Arkansas since prohibition. Founded in 2010 by Phil Brandon Rock Town has racked up countless national and international awards. Tours do not require a reservation and are given at 2PM, 4PM, and 7PM, Tuesday-Sunday. 

The standard tour and tasting is just $10 + tax and takes you through the whole process of making Rock Town's Whiskey, Bourbon, Gin, and Vodka.




Downtown -  River Market District

Little Rock is a city of art and no locations highlight this more than the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden. The garden follows along the banks of the Arkansas River through a series of public parks, green spaces, playgrounds, and walking trails. With over 70 pieces of art on display valued at over $2 million dollars, it might just be the largest open-air art museum in the world. Since it is a public park it is free to visit year-round.


Central Flying Service
2301 Crisp Drive
Little Rock, AR 72202
(501) 975-9330

Take an aerial tour of the city and surrounding countryside and then take control of the plane and if you are brave enough enjoy flying for the first time. Starting at under $99 for an introductory flight lesson it is an amazing experience.  



524 Main St 
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 590-4328

Treat yourself to a haircut, straight razor shave, and a relaxing warm towel at Handle Barbershop in downtown. The shop has a cool atmosphere and only uses high-quality products, but call ahead as they have a steady stream of regulars and slots fill up fast. 




Rent a bike, kayak, or paddleboard, explore on your own or take a guided tour and see the city lead by local experts. Founded by avid outdoorsman Samuel Ellis with the goal of opening up the Arkansas River as a recreational destination, Rock Town River Outfitters offers kayak experiences that last about two and a half hours while your guide shares local legends and history. If you are new to kayaking or paddleboarding they eve have beginners classes so you can learn the basics before setting out on your adventure. Prices range from $25-$45 for boating experiences and you can rent a wide selection of bikes in 2-hour increments or by the day.




Shop Local Artists
Downtown

From funky art prints and t-shirts to artisan jewelry and handcrafted chocolates from Cocoa Belle downtown Little Rock is full of independent boutiques full of unique gifts you won't find anywhere else. Be sure to stop in and visit the Bella Vita shop on 6th Street.



201 S Victory St
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 708-2200

If you have ever seen a beautiful handmade wooden canoe or kayak, you know it took a skilled craftsman hour to build. Award-winning wooden boatmaker Greg Johnson "build a boat" experience lets you build your own floating work of art, the process takes several days so you need to plan for it, but when you leave you will have what will be a family heirloom with an amazing story to go with it.





Besides the Clinton Presidental Library, Little Rock is home to dozens of fascinating museums, art galleries, and memorials, like the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Arkansas Arts Center, the ESSE Purse Museum, and the Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park. 

For all museum and cultural attractions visit LittleRock.com.



This trip was made possible by our friends at Jeep and the city of Little Rock. While some of our meals and hotels were provided by the visitor's bureau all opinions are my own and this is not a sponsored post. 

5 Comments

  1. When in Little Rock, do not forget "The Oyster Bar" on Markham street. Great shrimp gumbo...fried shrimp...coldest beer in town. Prices are a bargain too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. As featured on Diners Drive Ins and Dives - Brunos Little Italy on Main Street -BEST italian food ever!

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  3. Fantastic review and having grown up in The Natural State I'm glad to see others are discovering Little Rock! There are several people who have a passion to preserve classic cars in central Arkansas. Hope to meet you at a Wheels of Waco outing soon.

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