9 Reasons Why You Should Visit Little Rock, Arkansas

biking in Little Rock, ArkansasBiking 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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