Discover Little Rock

May 1, 2024 | Featured, Travel

Are you looking for a cost-effective vacation that offers something for everyone? Look no further than Arkansas’s capital city, Little Rock, for an enjoyable “staycation” close to home that won’t break the bank.

Little Rock offers a wealth of activities to keep families entertained and a broad range of outdoor fun, dining, festivals, museums, and other attractions for visitors ages five to one hundred five.

LITTLE ROCK ZOO
Among many things that set Little Rock apart from other communities in the state is its acclaimed zoo, the only accredited attraction of its kind in the Natural State. Home to hundreds of animals on over thirty-three acres, the zoo offers something new around every corner.

The zoo began in 1926 with two animals: an abandoned timber wolf and a circus-trained bear. As the collection of creatures grew and attractions were added, better and more permanent enclosures were constructed. Today, the zoo offers guests a look at big cats, Asian elephants, bears, great apes, and a dazzling array of birds, just to scratch the surface.

A particular point of pride is Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe, which provides a specialized habitat for South African penguins, a species vulnerable to extinction. A tradition at the zoo is to observe the penguin feedings, which happen twice daily.

Other attractions not to be missed include the Arkansas Diamond Express Train, a scale replica of an 1863 C.P. Huntington locomotive-drawn train that debuted in 2014. Another popular draw is the Over-The-Jumps Carousel, a beautifully restored antique that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Only four Over-The-Jumps Carousels were ever built, and Little Rock’s is the only fully operational specimen.

Top off the visit with a genuine up-close-and-personal look at animals via the on-premises Arkansas Heritage Farm, an exhibit of heritage breed farm animals, a nod to our state’s agricultural history.

The zoo is open every day of the week and offers an engaging educational program. Zookeepers are on hand to offer insights and answer questions about various species. These presentations happen throughout the day and change with the day of the week; for a listing of current “keeper chats” and special events, visit the zoo’s website. Kids of all ages, from the very young to the young at heart, will love spending a day with the animals!

Little Rock Zoo
1 Zoo Drive, Little Rock
501.661.7200 / littlerockzoo.com

MUSEUM OF DISCOVERY
Another popular attraction for families is the Museum of Discovery, located downtown in the River Market district. This award-winning attraction dates to 1927 and is the state’s premier science and technology center. Its exhibits and fun activities focus on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and math through dynamic, interactive, educational experiences.

The Museum contains interactive and immersive exhibits, including the new Science Lab, which focuses on three content-focused zones: Forces & Energy, Light & Sound, and Electricity & Magnetism. Another popular exhibit, Tornado Alley Theater, shares real-life stories of one of Mother Nature’s most powerful storms.

Guests can also experience something shocking in the Entergy Theater at the Museum—a Guinness World Record musical bi-polar Tesla coil! The coil is a device that creates high-voltage electricity at a high frequency that is visible to the human eye. The Museum of Discovery’s Tesla coil emits electrical discharges to various songs and can produce 200,000 volts of electricity! The Museum of Discovery is open seven days a week during the summer. Check the website for hours and special events during your planned vacation.

Museum of Discovery
500 President Clinton Ave., Suite 150, Little Rock
501.396.7050 / museumofdiscovery.org

MACARTHUR PARK
Located in the heart of downtown Little Rock, MacArthur Park is an emerald oasis that families have enjoyed for generations. Home to multiple attractions, the park provides the perfect setting for a picnic lunch and the chance to burn off a little energy before visiting one of the interesting and educational sites nearby.

Families enjoy access to the MacArthur Park’s Unlimited Playground, welcoming all children regardless of challenges or ability. There’s also a pavilion offering families the opportunity to fish together and even a gated dog park for the family’s furry friends. The park is also home to the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, located inside the historic Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal.

Nearby is the Firehouse Hostel and Museum, the city’s first hostel. Occupying a 1917 craftsman-style building that once housed a working fire station, the Firehouse can sleep up to thirty guests and contains many pieces of firefighting equipment from days gone by.

The park’s star, however, is the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts. The dazzling complex recently completed a multi-million-dollar renovation, resulting in a breathtaking space to take in art for all ages. Browse the galleries, enjoy lunch on the premises, or take the family to a live performance in the Children’s Theatre. Best of all, general admission to permanent exhibitions is free.

MacArthur Park
601 East 9th Street, Little Rock
501.371.4770 / macarthurparklr.org

LITTLE ROCK RIVERFRONT
The Arkansas River is central to Little Rock’s identity, which has led to various attractions and improvements in the area.

The River Market district abuts the riverfront, where visitors can enjoy a Saturday farmers market during the growing season, as well as eclectic shops and fun restaurants. The Main Library (100 Rock Street) offers a large children’s and young readers section and regularly scheduled programming.

Also on the riverfront is the Witt Stephens Jr. Nature Center (602 President Clinton Avenue), operated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The Center offers a look at the unique wildlife of the region, including a massive fish tank and other live creatures, plus a butterfly garden, theater, and more.

A few steps from the nature center is the Arkansas River Trail, a scenic and well-used urban trail that forms a 15.6-mile loop on both sides of the river, anchored on both ends by the Big Dam Bridge and Clinton Presidential Park Bridge. The pedestrian- and bike-friendly bridge is the main thoroughfare through Riverfront Park, which offers several attractions over thirty-three acres. These include Little Rock Civil War Marker, Riverfront Park History Pavilion, Junction Bridge, Peabody Splash Park, Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden and La Petit Roche Plaza, which offers views of La Petit Roche or “Little Rock” that gives the city its name.

Visit the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau website at littlerock.com for more information on Riverfront Park, including maps and a list of nearby attractions.Whatever suits your interests this summer, there’s something for everyone in the capital city.

LITTLE ROCK AT A GLANCE
Food, beverages, and entertainment options abound in Little Rock, far more than can be listed here. Below are a few attractions in various neighborhoods; for more ideas, visit littlerock.com.

BEER & WINE
Stone’s Throw (stonesthrowbeer.com)
Lost 40 Brewing (lost40brewing.com)
Moody Brews (moodybrews.co)
Rusty Tractor (rustytractorvineyards.com)
River Bottom Winery (bobrookfarms.com)

SPORTS & OUTDOOR ADVENTURE
Pinnacle Mountain (arkansasstateparks.com)
Two Rivers Park (littlerock.com)
Big Dam Bridge (littlerock.com)
Bass Pro Shop (stores.basspro.com)
Big Rock Fun Park (bigrockfunpark.com)
TopGolf (topgolf.com)

TRAMPOLINE & ADVENTURE
DEFY Little Rock (defy.com/defy-little-rock)
Urban Air (urbanair.com/arkansas-little-rock-west)
Little Rock Climbing Center (littlerockclimbingcenter.com)

INDOOR FUN
Main Event (mainevent.com)
Dave and Buster’s (daveandbusters.com)
Arkansas Skatium (arkansasskatium.com)
Professor Bowl (professorbowlwest.com)
Dust Bowl Lanes (dustbowllounge.com)

WORDS Dwain Hebda
IMAGES courtesy Museum of Discovery, Little Rock CVB, MacArthur Park, Little Rock Zoo, Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts

Do South Magazine

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