11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Little Rock, AR
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Little Rock lies in the heart of the state, separated from its sister city of North Little Rock by the Arkansas River. The town, founded in 1820 shortly after the Arkansas Territory was established, has been the capital ever since. Providing an abundance of cultural and natural attractions, Little Rock has lured tourists for more than a century. The city is full of family friendly, fun things to do. The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum can be found here, and the nearby Pinnacle Mountain State Park offers all sorts of adventures throughout the year. The downtown Quapaw Quarter District (named after a local Indian tribe) preserves some handsome remains of old Little Rock, including the classical Old State House and the MacArthur Museum, where General Douglas MacArthur was born. Fans of Gone with the Wind will want to visit the Old Mill in North Little Rock, where early scenes of the film were shot.
See also: Where to Stay in Little Rock
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1 Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site was the site of struggles over school desegregation in 1957. Nine African-American teenagers were entering their first day of school at a time when desegregation of the schools was just beginning. That day went down in the history of the Civil Rights movement as being a pivotal event. The U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division was brought to Little Rock to escort the nine students into the school on the next day. Little Rock Central High is still an active school, and the only way to tour this historic site is by reserving a ranger-led tour ahead of time.
Address: Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive and Park Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
2 William J Clinton Presidential Library and Museum
The Clinton Presidential Library has an archival research facility and a museum. Interactive exhibits, more than one million photos, and gifts that Clinton received as president are on display throughout the three floors of the complex. Full-scale replicas of the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office can also be visited within this educational space. The facility and the Clinton Foundation host numerous events, speakers, and programs throughout the year. The museum was designed for a self-guided experience, though guided tours are available throughout the day.
Address: 1200 President Clinton Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas
3 Old State House Museum
As the original state capitol of Arkansas, the Old State House was designed by Gideon Shryock and is one of the best examples of Doric architecture in the southern states. The building commenced in 1833 and was completed in 1842 with some alterations done in 1885. The Old State House witnessed many displays of dramatic history within its walls, including a fatal duel between legislators and the Arkansas vote to secede from the United States. On display in the museum are decorative arts, inaugural gowns of governors' wives, and historical displays relating to the politics of the state.
Address: 300 West Markham Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
4 Pinnacle Mountain State Park
Just over 15 miles northwest of downtown Little Rock, Pinnacle Mountain stands well over a thousand feet above the surrounding river valley. Two hiking trails that lead to the summit provide unbeatable views, and miles of other multi-use trails wind through the nearly 2,500 acres of state park property. Other popular activities and amenities at this day-use state park include interpretive programs, boat launches, and picnic sites. Camping is not available at Pinnacle Mountain, but more than 100 campsites can be found in Maumelle Park less than five miles away.
Address: 11901 Pinnacle Valley Road, Little Rock, Arkansas
5 State Capitol
Based on the design of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, the Arkansas State Capitol is made of white marble and granite. The front entrance doors for the State Capitol are made of bronze and the cupola is covered in 24-karat gold leaf. Visitors can explore the building and grounds on a scheduled tour. Popular public areas of the capitol include the Governor's Reception Room, the Old Supreme Court Chamber, and a glistening rotunda. Permanent and rotating exhibits can be found throughout the building, and the landscaped grounds outside feature walking paths and commemorative statues.
Address: 500 Woodlane Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
6 River Market District
River Market is a year-round market offering 10,000 square feet of shops, stalls and tables that sell food and unique products. The market hall is an open concept building with food stalls, coffee vendors, groceries, and take-out options. The River Market also lends quick access to the scenic Arkansas River Trail for walking or biking, and other cultural outlets like the Museum of Discovery can be accessed nearby. Special events occur at the River Market District throughout the year, ranging from big-name concerts to Fourth of July fireworks over the river.
Address: 400 President Clinton Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas
7 The Old Mill
The Old Mill is a scenic recreation of an 1800s grist mill surrounded by three acres of landscaped settings. Starring in the opening scene of the 1939 classic, Gone with the Wind, The Old Mill is well-known throughout the area as a picturesque place to enjoy the day. Apart from The Old Mill itself, the sculptures created by renowned artist Senòr Dionicio Rodriguez that adorn the park have landed this natural space on the National Register of Historic Places. Admission is free to this North Little Rock city park, and guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more.
Address: 3800 Lakeshore Drive, North Little Rock, Arkansas
8 MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History
The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History is housed in the historic Tower Building, part of the Little Rock Arsenal. The museum explores the military history of the state through artifacts, photographs, documents, uniforms, weapons, and other military items. The building is one of the oldest in the region and was the birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur. Surrounding the museum, MacArthur Park also has many other attractions, including contemplation gardens, veteran memorials, and the Arkansas Arts Center. For a unique lodging option, the HI Little Rock Firehouse Hostel & Museum within the park is a fun place to spend the night.
Address: 503 East Ninth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
9 Little Rock Zoo
As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Little Rock Zoo maintains a collection of animals, with approximately 200 different species from around the world. While this is not a huge zoo, it does maintain a good collection of large and exotic animals including, elephants, giraffes, big cats, rhinos, and bears. Hands-on interactions with animals are a popular feature of the Arkansas Heritage Farm at the zoo, and fish-feeding and lorikeet landing stations are other fun parts of a visitor experience.
Address: 1 Zoo Drive, Little Rock, Arkansas
10 Wildwood Park
Wildwood Park is a park for music and the performing arts, designed for indoor and outdoor performances. With 104 acres, the park also has a number of gardens and smaller facilities. Within Wildwood, the Butler Arboretum contains daffodils and native flowering trees, and the neighboring Gertrude Butler Gazebo features a daylily garden and scenic views of Swan Lake. Other gardens worth exploring include Bruce Garden, home to native perennials and decorative grasses, and the Asian Woodland Garden with a ceremonial tea house and wide array of Japanese plants.
Address: 20919 Denny Road, Little Rock, Arkansas
11 Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum
The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum can be found alongside the Arkansas River in North Little Rock. The main attractions at this naval museum include two floating vessels involved in World War II - a tugboat recognized as a Historic National Landmark, and a USS Razorback submarine that was present in Tokyo Bay when Japan formally surrendered the war. Visitors can take a guided tour on and into the operational submarine, getting a good sense of the inner workings of the ship. On dry land, the museum and North Shore Riverwalk also display memorials and a peace garden.
Address: 120 Riverfront Park Drive, North Little Rock, Arkansas
Where to Stay in Little Rock for Sightseeing
Many of Little Rock's top attractions are in the downtown area, including Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, the River Market District, and the Clinton Presidential Library. For sightseeing, shopping, or entertainment, the best option is to find accommodation in, or near, the city center. Below are some highly-rated hotels in convenient locations:
- Luxury Hotels: With a prime location in downtown, not far from the River Market District and The Discovery Museum, The Capital Hotel is a historic property with large rooms and suites and elegant, old-world charm. Nearby, and also within walking distance of some of the city's top sites, the Little Rock Marriott is a modern, upscale choice, featuring contemporary rooms, including some with good views over the city, and on-site restaurants.
- Mid-Range Hotels: In the trendy River Market District, not far from the Clinton Library, the Residence Inn Little Rock Downtown offers rooms that range from studios to two-bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens and features an indoor pool and free breakfast. Another good option in the same area and offering similar room choices and amenities is Homewood Suites by Hilton. If you are looking for something quaint or even romantic, the Robinwood Bed and Breakfast has five charming rooms and is in downtown's historic Quapaw Quarter.
- Budget Hotels: In a good downtown location, La Quinta Inn and Suites offers comfortable rooms, a seasonal pool, and complimentary breakfast. Other good-value hotels can be found a little further out from downtown, including the Wingate by Wyndham, about 10 to 12 minutes west of the city center, and the more modest but comfortable Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, 15 to 20 minutes southwest of downtown.