Little Rock has no shortage of options for a fun Saturday outing. In recent years, the city has revitalized its downtown district and city parks, making it the perfect place for a day of sightseeing. In addition to its newest constructions, Little Rock also boasts several sites on the National Register of Historic Places, such as a Civil Rights landmark and two bits of Hollywood glamor.
The River Market District
The River Market offers opportunities for everyday shopping from local grocers with seasonal meat and produce year-round. From May through October, the covered outdoor area houses a local farmer’s market that brings together the best home-grown food in central Arkansas. At lunchtime, the enticing aroma wafting from Ottenheimer Market Hall, a diverse medley of ethnic dining, is enough to draw in any hungry tourist. And after they eat, visitors can continue their shopping in the River Market District’s many locally owned shops and art galleries.
Located behind the River Market, the Julius Breckling Riverfront Park spans 11 city blocks and 16 acres along the banks of the Arkansas River. La Petite Roche Plaza is home to the original “Little Rock”, the small outcrop of stone that inspired the city’s name upon its discovery by Benard de la Harpe. Peabody Park, an expansive children’s play area complete with brand-new equipment, a rock-climbing wall, tunnel structures, and spraying fountains, give tired parents an opportunity to rest and enjoy the view of the river. The Riverfest Amphitheater features 1,375 fixed seats and holds concerts throughout the year. And for exercise enthusiasts, the park’s new outdoor health museum known as the Medical Mile offers beautiful and interesting scenery while working in that daily walk or jog.
The Big Dam Bridge, completed in 2006, is a 4,226-foot-long pedestrian crossing over Murray Lock and Dam that connects a 14-mile loop. At its highest point, the bridge towers 9 stories above the Arkansas River. And with 239 light fixtures, it positively glitters at night on the Little Rock skyline.
When the Arkansas River Trail is finished, the bridge will be part of a 24-mile urban path that connects the Little Rock metro area. Now nearly thirty years in the making, the river trail will be a walking and biking option for the daily commute as well as for errands and family outings.
Little Rock Central High School in downtown Little Rock made history on September 23, 1957, when nine African-American teenagers were the first to integrate into an all-white school following the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling. The school is now a National Historic Site and is open to the public for tours at no charge.
Often called the Westminster Abbey of Arkansas, the park-like Mount Holly Cemetery boasts the company of many famous and important figures in Arkansas and Civil War history. Among the most famous is David O. Dodd, a 17-year-old Little Rock boy executed by the Union army for being a Confederate spy. Mount Holly’s burial roster and beautiful surroundings make for a fascinating day trip.
Pugh’s Old Mill in North Little Rock is believed to be the only surviving structure from the movie Gone With the Wind. Famous for its appearance in the opening credits of the film, it is now used for everything from school picture backdrops to wedding ceremonies. It’s free to the public and open from dawn to dusk.
The popular sitcom Designing Women featured a beautiful old house on a fictional street in Atlanta. That house was actually the Villa Marre hotel, located in the Quapaw Quarter in Little Rock. It was purchased as a private residence in 2002.
When a big-ticket show or concert comes to town, residents head a few miles north to Verizon Arena just over the bridge in North Little Rock. Opened in 1999, the arena is a massive 370,000-square feet facility and hosts some of the most famous names in music and entertainment.
And when the Arkansas Razorbacks make an appearance in Little Rock, War Memorial Stadium is the place to be. Hog fans will do anything to get a glimpse of their favorite team. If they can’t get in, they just tailgate outside and listen for the victory plays.