9 Reasons Why You Should Visit Little Rock, Arkansas

By Darley Newman
September 22, 2015
Biking in Little Rock, Arkansas
Courtesy Darley Newman

With cool attractions waiting to be discovered, tons of cultural activities, and family-friendly fun, Little Rock definitely deserves a spot on your travel radar. Here's my list of things you shouldn't miss.

First, check out this video to see the best of Little Rock!

Visit the Clinton Presidential Library

The Clinton Presidential Library and Park should be #1 on your must-visit list. The 20,000 square-foot library and museum space houses everything from Clinton family memorabilia to a replica of the Oval Office. Distinctive photos, special gifts from global heads of state, and an extensive archive detailing Bill Clinton’s day to day life in office will interest history buffs and those with a fascination for presidential power.

Stop by the Governor’s Mansion

Stop by the Governor’s Mansion, which Arkansas governors have called home since 1950 and where Bill and Hillary Clinton once resided. Many people do drive by this National Register of Historic Places mansion in a vehicle, but cycling will give you a different sense of the neighborhood its in and this mansion’s location, which is somewhat unassuming.

Take a bike tour around town

Taking a bike tour in a new city can be a fun way to meet local people and get a sense of the are's top attractions and neighborhoods. Sign up for a guided tour with Bobby’s Bike Hike to see the city from a different point of view. My local guide had some awesome insights into Little Rock, and I enjoyed some of the best BBQ I’ve ever eaten at a place I probably wouldn’t have found without him, which I will now reveal after the video!

Home of the state's best BBQ

Little Rock has some of the best BBQ in Arkansas, and your first stop should be Sims Bar-B-Que. The original Sim’s dates back to 1937 and though it’s moved locations, it’s still serving up the same tangy, sweet sauce that has attracted locals and celebrities for generations. Peruse the walls for photos of the famous foodies that have frequented this truly local restaurant—don't leave without getting the ribs.

Indulge in your favorite flavors of ice Cream

Located in the SOMA neighborhood of Little Rock, Loblolly Ice Cream in The Green Corner Store & Soda Fountain has unique, handcrafted flavors created with fresh products from local farmers, meaning you’re tasting a bit of Arkansas here. Flavors range from salted caramel to peach buttermilk to campfire s’mores...yum! The atmosphere is retro, yet hip, with a truly neighborhood feel.

Stop for sweets at Community Bakery

Just a few blocks away from Loblolly Ice Cream, make room for more sweets at Community Bakery, a gathering spot for the Little Rock community since the 1940’s. This top bakery makes hundreds of items each evening, including traditional goodies your grandmother or mother may have baked, like banana nut bread and tasty European specialties. If nothing else, stop by to people watch and get a sense for the diverse community surrounding this special bakery.

If you want to get back to nature, visit these awesome Arkansas State Parks!

Feast on local favorites at the Farmer’s Market

In the River Market District, enjoy top restaurants and tempting, healthy treats at the Farmer’s Market, which has been attracting travelers to downtown Little Rock since 1974. Robust blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, peaches, and tomatoes are just some of the healthy snack options or your next meal at this vibrant farmer’s market. On my visit, several musicians were playing live music at the market, adding further to the diversity of this Arkansas staple.

Visit the only purse museum in the country

Started by collector Anita Davis, the Esse Purse Museum bills itself as the only brick and mortar purse museum in the USA and one of three in the world. This rare museum takes you through the twentieth century, telling a sort of women’s history through style and substance. Fashionistas will get a kick out of the interesting and colorful designs and brands showcased, but it’s not only a female travel hotspot. Men, too, may enjoy getting a peek inside women’s purses. The museum also has a store, where kitschy and fun items including vintage purses are sold.

Say 'Cheers' at the Capital Hotel bar

End your day with a drink at the historic Capital Hotel, which dates back to 1870 and is located in downtown Little Rock. Called "the front porch of Little Rock,” this landmark hotel has hosted political greats throughout history including President Ulysses S. Grant and even served as the local headquarters during Clinton’s tenure as President. The bar at One Eleven Capital Hotel is an upscale retreat where classic cocktails mix with local flavors.

Whether you can fit one or all of these adventures into your trip to Little Rock, don’t forget to ask the locals for their suggestions—you never know what you might discover. Here's what happened when I toured nearby Hot Springs, Arkansas, with a local guide.

This article was written by Darley Newman, the Emmy-nominated host of Equitrekking on PBS and host and producer of Travels with Darley, coming to PBS this fall and available online now on AOL and Budget Travel.

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10 Things To Do In Shenandoah Valley

Families, foodies, nature lovers, and retro-seekers will find plenty to love about Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Despite being located just outside Washington, D. C.’s congested Beltway, it could easily be mistaken for Mayberry, U.S.A. An easy drive from much of the Northeast corridor, this welcoming slice of Americana oozes small town hospitality and best of all, the prices here are anything but big city. If you’re looking for a road trip with a genuine throwback quality, you’ve met your match. Here are 10 things to do in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Visit Shenandoah National Park Visiting this region without experiencing majestic Shenandoah National Park is like going to Rome and skipping the Colosseum. Motorists will marvel at the Blue Ridge Mountain views as they ramble along the 105-mile Skyline Drive—be sure to get out of the car to explore the park’s pristine beauty up-close. It’s a hiker’s delight with more than 500 miles of trails and countless nature opportunities. Ranger-led programs are free each day in summer and on weekends during colder months. The park also offers a variety of inexpensive overnight accommodations—camp out at one of four peaceful sites or stay at Skyland Resort or Big Meadows Lodge, where accommodations range from rustic cabins to rooms with gorgeous mountain views. Ride down a lazy river Shenandoah River Adventures offers a fun, refreshing way to get acquainted with the serene Shenandoah River. There’s beauty in spades along the water, and floating down it gives you an excellent vantage point. Rent a tube, canoe, or kayak and launch yourself into an adventure. Check out the caverns Head underground and explore one of the numerous caverns located in the valley. Those stalagmites you learned about in high school geology class are strikingly beautiful. Luray Caverns in Luray are the largest and most popular caverns in eastern America. A guided one-hour tour will take you on paths crammed with otherworldly formations and crystal-clear pools. Music is part of the experience, as the world’s only Stalacpipe Organ is here, creating live music of symphonic quality from the dazzling stone formations. Remember to wear a jacket as the cavern temperature is a constant 56 degrees. Zip-line Bear Mountain Adrenaline junkies, rejoice! Bear Mountain in Luray offers multiple zip-lines and climbing walls spread across 50 acres of scenic forest. Mature trees provide shade, so you can focus on the adrenaline-pumping excitement while hardly breaking a sweat. Go back in time at Dinosaur Land Step into the prehistoric past with a visit to Dinosaur Land. This roadside attraction in White Post is a sculpture park with 50 life-size dinosaur statues fabricated out of fiberglass. Kids (and kids at heart) will delight in climbing on these realistic-looking giants. Watch an old-school Drive-In Movie The venerable Family Drive-In Theater in Stephens City opened in 1956. In many ways, it seems frozen in time, but you can expect a quality 21st century viewing experience, complete with digital projection. The best part: Every night is double feature night with two films screened for the price of one. From the tasty food served at the concession stand to the on-site playground for restless kids, movie buffs won’t want to miss this refreshing blast from the past. Spend a day on the farm The agriculturally rich Shenandoah Valley is a great place to connect with your food source. Depending on when you visit, you may pick your own apples, pumpkins, peaches, and strawberries. Mackintosh Fruit Farm is located in rural Berryville, where this family-owned farm sells fresh produce at their farm stand, or head to their fields and orchards and do it yourself. They also host delectable farm dinners in summer. Families favor Great Country Farms in Bluemont, where you'll find activities like a seasonal corn maze, wagon rides, and pig races. Plump donuts warm from the fryer and fresh-pressed cider are absolutely delicious and hard to resist. Feast on local favorites Comfort food rules in the Shenandoah Valley, so prepare your palate for down-home delicacies, large portions, and low prices. The Thunderbird Café outside Harrisonburg serves Southern classics in a casual environment. Breakfast is an eye-opener with creamy grits, pancakes, country sausage, and homemade biscuits providing sustenance for the entire day. Gathering Grounds, located in Luray, is a local hangout where the pie is always fresh and the coffee piping hot. Hearty sandwiches and homemade soups are easygoing options. Rumor has it First Lady Michelle Obama dined here when she visited the caverns, so it has the executive seal of approval. Bring on the brew Virginia is in the midst of a bona fide beer renaissance and the Shenandoah Valley is fast developing a reputation as a hops and barley hotspot. Brothers Craft Brewing in Harrisonburg is a popular watering hole. Their mission is to brew delicious craft beers while supporting the community and adhering to earth-conscious practices. Wet your whistle with a selection of balanced brews that should appeal to a broad spectrum of beer lovers. Indulge in sweet desserts There are several branches of Kline’s Dairy Bar scattered throughout the Shenandoah Valley, where the ice cream and frozen custard have been made fresh daily since 1943. Prices seem frozen in time, too, so there’s nothing stopping you from indulging in a creamy Kline’s cone on a steamy day. For more info and Virginia vacation ideas, please visit www.Virginia.org and www.Goblueridgetravel.com. This article was written by Allison Tibaldi, a native New Yorker who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto, and Los Angeles. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. When she's not traveling, she's scouring NYC for delectable eats. As a freelance travel writer, she focuses on family, culinary, and car-free travel. She's also a senior travel writer at offMetro.com.

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Coolest Small Towns in America 2015

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Friendly eateries like The Grill House, Minnie Sophrona’s Restaurant, and Corky’s Drive-In, plus an old-timey movie theater and much more, make visitors feel at home here. And with the lovely Kalamazoo River winding its way through town and Allegan’s proximity to Lake Michigan, inland lakes, and ski resorts, all four seasons can be filled with outdoor fun and natural beauty. Whether you’re craving a thriving food and art scene, a buzzworthy county fair, or you just love fishing (including ice fishing!) or golf, Allegan is a warm and welcoming getaway. #5 WASHINGTON, NC: A Southeast sailing mecca (pop.: 9,744). Locals like to say that Washington has a small-town feel but big-town activities. The waterfront downtown is a major draw, with a renovated theater, wonderful shops, and a wine-tasting scene that surprises some visitors. The Pamlico River is popular with the sailing crowd 10 months of the year, and hunting and fishing are thriving activities in the area. Founded in 1776 and named for General George Washing­ton years before he became our nation’s first president, this town wears its history proudly but lightly, sometimes referring to itself as “Little Washington.” #6 DELHI, NY: Galleries, antique shops, and a film festival in the Catskills (pop.: 3,087). The western Catskills in Upstate New York make for a wonderful setting, with rolling hills and the Delaware River (yes, its west­ern branch reaches all the way up here) flowing through town. A thriving Main Street is ideal for browsing eclectic gal­leries, antique shops, and an artisan guild that features local talent. If you ever tire of exploring the hiking trails and enjoying water sports on the river, get ready for the Catskill Mountains Film Festival, the Delhi Covered Bridge Run, and the Taste of the Catskills food festival, among other crowd-pleasers in this popular town. #7 FORT MYERS BEACH, FL: This perfect island town is your gateway to the Everglades (pop.: 6,277). On Estero Island, on Florida’s southwest­ern coast, Fort Myers Beach should not be confused with the nearby city of Fort Myers. Here, everybody knows everybody, and you’re never more than a mile or so from the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Think of this as your entry point for exploring this remarkable stretch of coast­line, including gorgeous islands, Everglades National Park, and creatively prepared local seafood at restaurants such as The Beached Whale and Matanzas on the Bay. #8 HURON, OH: Beaches, craft beer, and live music on Lake Erie (pop.: 7,149). Where the Huron River meets Lake Erie, one of the Midwest’s hidden gems is waiting for you. Go hiking at Shel­don Marsh State Nature Preserve, visit the Huron Pier for some great fishing, relax on Nickel Plate Beach, or hit the local golf course. You can enjoy this town just by taking a leisurely stroll along downtown’s waterfront streets and visiting the scenic boat basin for photo ops or one of the town’s many festivals. 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Budget Travel Lists

5 Unusual Things To Do in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Here are five of my best tips for truly getting off the beaten tourist track in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A word of warning: some of these are not for the faint of heart. Dare to eat like a Khmer First off, grubs, bugs, and other creepy crawlies are on the menu. Head for the Russian market if you want to try a tarantula that can be as big as your fist. Hairy and not too appetizing to many foodies, they are a local delicacy called ora-pingin K'mai. Another tasty treat is about-to-be-hatched black chicks, complete with tiny beaks and claws. If you don't want to sweat it out in the Russian market—which can be oppressive, particularly during the hot season—check out the menu at the Rik Reay BBQ just across the street from the weekend night market on Street 108 where fried red ants, spiced pig guts, and beef intestines are on offer. Have a massage at a blind clinic An astronomical one percent of the estimated 14.6 million people in Cambodia—that is 146,600 people—are blind. The main causes: eye diseases that could have been treated but weren't because of poverty, accidents—including land mines that are still busy exploding—or people were blind from birth. Many of the blind are trained in the art of massage, as it is a way they can make a living through their fingers. The massages are often called Cambodian, Thai, and "relaxing," but are always involve a lot of twisting, pummeling, and fancy footwork. Important tip: specify if you want soft, medium, or hard. For those who want strong, some of the masseurs take pleasure in digging in with their hands, elbows, and feet until they elicit a moan or a groan. Drink on Street 172 If you want a good place to drink generously, sit at the bar and meet whoever happens to be around, or if you're aching to play a game of pool, wander into Sundance. Harry, the owner and operator, sets up the kind of bar he wanted to drink in, complete with flat screen televisions showing all the big sporting events. The area out back by the pool is quieter—buy a draught beer for a dollar and you can swim all day. If you want a quiet, personable place, turn left from Sundance and head down the street until you see a banner-type sign on the right that says Chinese Noodles. Next door to it is Quealy's, a delightful little place run by a British woman named Jess. There isn't a kitchen, but you can get a BBQ sausage or a hamburger cooked on the coals in front of the bar, or order Chinese take-away from the place next door. Slow down and smell the Mekong Well, actually you may not want to sniff the waters particularly during the monsoon season. However, a cyclo—a bicycle with seating room for one and a half average size adults in the front—is a good way to see the riverfront at a leisurely pace. Cyclo drivers are a dying breed and are among the poorest of the poor, so don't be afraid to tip. Get stuck in a traffic jam The traffic in the capital can only be described as utter and total chaos—but it works. The pecking order is bicycles to the far-right, then moto-scooters, next tuk-tuks, and finally cars and SUVs. But as soon as everyone starts weaving in and out it all turns to shambles. On a scooter and can't get across the lanes of traffic? No problem, drive close to the curb on the wrong side of the street and the on-coming drivers will give way. A final tip: The secret to having a great time in Cambodia is simple. When you are in midst of a situation that defies description, sit back, take a deep breath, roll your eyes, and mutter, "It's the Kingdom."  Do not try to figure out Khmer logic—if it, in fact, exists—as this will spare you a headache and/or a drinking problem. This article was written by Jody Hanson, an insufferable travel junkie who has visited 107 countries (67 on her own), lived in nine, and holds passports in three—she has visited all the countries in North, Central and South America except for Venezuela, Guyana, Surname and French Guinea. She wrote this article on behalf of Tucan Travel, a tour company that offers all types of travel excursions to Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia.

Budget Travel Lists

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