12 Attractions in Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Little Rock, the capital city of Arkansas, is an underrated travel destination filled with history, culture, art, and natural beauty. Located on the Arkansas River, Little Rock blends southern charm and hospitality with metropolitan attractions and activities.

Whether you’re interested in exploring the great outdoors, learning about America’s storied past, seeing world-class art exhibits, or experiencing the city’s vibrant music scene, there are plenty of things to see and do to cater to every type of traveler.

From the Clinton Presidential Library to the River Market District, Little Rock rewards visitors with hidden gems around every corner. The city offers visitors a diverse array of attractions, including national parks, gardens, museums, historic sites, concert venues and theaters. And while it may fly under the radar compared to many big-name cities, Arkansas’ capital has a lot to boast about.

Keep reading for the 12 best attractions in Little Rock that should be on every traveler’s itinerary, from its most famous sites to its best-kept secrets. No matter your travel style or interests, this guide will help you plan an unforgettable trip to one of the South’s most underrated destinations.

The Clinton Presidential Library and Museum

Perhaps Little Rock’s most famous attraction is the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. Located on a 30-acre site along the Arkansas River, the library honors the life and legacy of 42nd U.S. President Bill Clinton, the first president from Arkansas. The complex includes a full-scale replica of the Oval Office during Clinton’s presidency along with rotating exhibits highlighting his impact.

The permanent exhibits provide an intimate look at Clinton’s early days in Arkansas, his eight years in the White House, and his ongoing humanitarian work through the Clinton Foundation. Visitors will gain insight into key achievements like economic prosperity, technological innovation, globalization efforts and promoting peace worldwide. The museum also houses over 80 million pages of official White House records chronicling major events during his administration.

In addition to housing the largest archival collection on an American president, the complex features a full-scale replica of the Oval Office, gift shops and a restaurant overlooking the Arkansas River. The Clinton Presidential Library offers hourly guided tours or self-guided smartphone tours, allowing flexibility for visitors to explore at their own pace.

The River Market District

For a taste of Little Rock’s vibrant culture and history, head to the lively River Market District located on the banks of the Arkansas River. The open-air market has been an important part of the city since the early 1900s. Wander through over 60 locally owned shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants housed in historic brick warehouses and open-air stalls.

The River Market boasts endless options for dining and entertainment, including shared food halls, craft breweries, street performers, farmers markets and seasonal festivals. Visit the River Market Hall to browse arts and crafts from local artisans or grab a bite from the array of cuisine stalls and cafes. Just steps away, the Bernice Garden provides a tranquil setting among towering trees, flowering beds and fountains along the riverfront.

No trip to Little Rock’s River Market District is complete without riding across the Arkansas River on the Big Dam Bridge, one of the country’s longest pedestrian and cycling bridges. After working up an appetite exploring the neighborhood, pull up a seat at any of the restaurants and listen to live music while taking in views of the riverfront.

Pinnacle Mountain State Park

Escape the city and experience the rugged beauty of Pinnacle Mountain State Park located 15 miles west of downtown Little Rock. The centerpiece of the park is the iconic rocky peak that juts 1,000 feet above scenic vistas of the river valley below. Outdoor enthusiasts flock here year-round to hike over 20 miles of blazed trails spanning different terrain and skill levels.

Challenge yourself ascending to the summit of Pinnacle Mountain along the rocky East Summit Trail or opt for the more gradual western route to take in panoramic views from this iconic landmark. Mountain bikers can test their skills on the technical Ouachita Trail winding through the forest, while other trails cater to trail runners and day hikers.

After working up a sweat on the trails, cool off by fishing, boating or swimming in the park’s two pristine lakes. Set up camp at one of 60 campsites or stay in a cozy stone cabin nestled in the woods. Whether you come for hardcore adventures or peaceful nature watching, Pinnacle Mountain State Park guarantees epic views and exciting outdoor recreation just minutes from downtown.

Historic Arkansas Museum

Immerse yourself in over 200 years of Arkansas history and heritage at Little Rock’s oldest cultural institution. Established in 1929, the Historic Arkansas Museum occupies a scenic riverfront setting once home to the state’s earliest structures. The museum spans multiple buildings chronicling pivotal moments, from Native American settlements through early statehood and the Civil War.

The focal point is an entire antebellum town recreated based on drawings, diaries and archaeological finds. Costumed interpreters bring the 1840s past to life demonstrating Colonial trades and skills on guided tours. Inside the museum galleries, intricate dioramas depict key events during the Louisiana Purchase through Arkansas’ early development.

While the permanent collection delves into the state’s past, the museum also showcases contemporaryregional art. Special programs like hands-on kids’ activities and living history encampments engage visitors of all ages with Arkansas’ rich culture. From unknown gems in the preservation lab to renowned works in the fine art collection, the Historic Arkansas brings the state’s storied past to the present.

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

A pivotal site in the American Civil Rights Movement, Little Rock Central High School offers a profound history lesson on equality and social justice. After the Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in 1954, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus defiantly blocked nine African-American students from enrolling at the all-white Little Rock Central High School.

Today the school functions as an active high school and National Park Service historic site, welcoming over 130,000 visitors annually. Join a ranger-led tour through the museum exhibits to relive the traumatic events of 1957 when the Little Rock 9 first integrated classes under armed escort to protect them violent mobs. Visitors gain perspective of school integration struggles through multimedia exhibits in a preserved classroom and 1915 neoclassical façade.

Explore the pristinely preserved walls Central High students walked over 60 years ago for a thought-provoking journey through one of America’s most turbulent struggles for equal education.

Arkansas Arts Center

Discover exceptional fine arts showcasing local, regional and national works at the Arkansas Arts Center. The multidisciplinary museum founded in 1960 houses the state’s premier art collection with over 5,000 works spanning world-class paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography and decorative arts.

The globally inspired Children’s Theatre performances ignite young imaginations in the intimate museum theater. Budding artists can enroll in studio art classes to hone skills in diverse mediums and techniques. Frequent special exhibits highlight nationally-renowned artists alongside emerging talent found right in Little Rock’s creative community.

In addition to the permanent collection galleries, the Arkansas Arts Center features an art museum gift shop, research library and welcoming restaurant overlooking the scenic grounds. With dynamic public events and educational programs, the Arkansas Arts Center provides an enriching artistic escape for visitors of all ages and interests.

Heifer International

For a unique urban farm experience, spend an afternoon exploring Heifer International’s global village and discovery farm. Their striking headquarters situated along the Arkansas River features exhibits spotlighting Heifer’s mission to end poverty through sustainability and community education. Visitors tour replications of traditional homes in areas where Heifer supports programs overseas, including a Nepali stone house and Guatemalan stilt home.

Hands-on activities like grinding corn and carrying water immerse guests in daily challenges faced in developing regions. The highlight is interacting with farm animals like goats, chickens and rabbits in the Children’s Barn. Heifer also manages an onsite organic farm supplying seasonal produce to local food banks and hosting gardening workshops. Through educational home rebuilding efforts after disasters to urban agriculture initiatives, Heifer International celebrates how small actions can change the world.

Little Rock Zoo

Little Rock’s premier family attraction, the Little Rock Zoo provides memorable wildlife encounters with over 700 animals from around the world. As Arkansas’ only zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Little Rock Zoo prioritizes animal conservation through educational programs and captive breeding.

Get eye-level with majestic big cats in the extensive Cat Country exhibit home to tigers, jaguars, snow leopards and lions. Visit the newly expanded see-through herpetarium crawling with reptiles and amphibians native to Arkansas. Popular attractions include feeding the playful otters and penguins daily while the gorillas always put on an entertaining show.

Special events like summer splash park days and overnights inside the zoo add extra excitement. With an endangered Mexican wolf exhibit opening in 2023 and preserved native habitat across 42 scenic acres, the Little Rock Zoo offers wild family fun just minutes from downtown.

Arkansas State Capitol

The centerpiece of Little Rock’s skyline, the Arkansas State Capitol impresses visitors with classical Greek-Revival architecture and manicured grounds. As the site of government affairs since 1911, Arkansas’ capitol overlooks the city and Arkansas River hosting historical statues honoring influential leaders. Inside the Capitol’s domed rotunda shines a striking stained-glass skylight and display of state flags. Intricate decorative details like mosaic floor tiling and brass door hinges represent the skilled craftsmanship of a bygone era throughout this National Historic Landmark.

Join a free guided tour to access the Senate viewing galleries and old Supreme Court room adorned with art deco architectural details. Walk beneath the soaring ionic columns to explore legislative rooms and the Governor’s conference room accented in rich cherry wood paneling and mounted animal trophies. The expansive grounds provide a scenic backdrop for monuments to military veterans and Civil Rights leaders as a testament to those who shaped Arkansas’ future.

Big Dam Bridge

Cross America’s longest pedestrian and cycling bridge spanning nearly 4,200 feet across the Arkansas River. As the world’s largest freestanding bridge built specifically for non-motorized traffic, the Big Dam Bridge connects over 14 miles of multi-use trails between Little Rock and North Little Rock. Depending on time and energy, walkers and cyclists can tackle the entire Ouachita Trail or access the bridge from various entry and exit points.

The epic elevated pathway built 100-feet above the river guarantees awesome views of the downtown Little Rock skyline or north shore’s natural wetlands environment. Linking museums, neighborhoods, restaurants and entertainment on both sides of the river, the Big Dam Bridge provides a unique vantage for exploring Arkansas’ capital city.

Robinson Center Performance Hall

Regarded as one of Arkansas’ premier venues, the Robinson Center Performance Hall hosts over 300 events annually ranging from touring Broadway productions to big-name music concerts. The 1930s art deco multi-use facility balances historic charm with modern amenities across performance halls acclaimed for near-perfect acoustics. Frequent headliners grace the main 2,100-seat music hall outfitted with an enviable Fazioli grand piano on stage.

For more intimate shows, the smaller 350-seat hall draws crowds with diverse acts from visiting comedians to jazz musicians. Before the curtain rises, grab dinner at the onsite retro venue hosting musical dinner shows beneath vintage neon signage reminiscent of the Robinson Center’s early days. Through award-winning Broadway musicals, chart-topping singers and side-splitting comics, the Robinson Center spotlights Little Rock’s sizzling entertainment scene.

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

Discover an important part of Little Rock’s African American history at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, a preserved turn-of-the-century building complex. Constructed in 1905, the Mosaic Templars building functioned as the headquarters governing a prominent Black fraternal organization and later community business. Permanent exhibits chronicle the Templars’ national expansion providing critical services when racism and Jim Crow laws limited opportunities for people of color.

Rotating art exhibits showcase prominent Black artists while spotlighting local youth and emerging talent. Living history programs allow families to experience 1920s commerce in the restored hotel, pharmacy, and economic office rooms leased to African American entrepreneurs. Explore this National Historic Landmark showcasing Little Rock native son Scott Joplin’s musical impact and stories preserving African American stories influencing Arkansas.

Conclusion

Little Rock rewards visitors with no shortage of attractions and activities guaranteed to cater to every interest. From admiring presidential archives chronicling history in the making to honoring those who triumphed over injustice, many attractions double as impactful history lessons on quintessential American stories. Families thrill at hands-on discovery through wildlife encounters, art creation and living history lessons bringing yesterday’s world to life.

Outdoor enthusiasts traverse riverside pedestrian bridges, conquer soaring mountain peaks and explore fertile urban farms and gardens. Performing arts venues captivate audiences with Broadway musicals and chart-topping concerts highlighting Little Rock’s vibrant entertainment. Through this blend of culture, adventure and education, Little Rock’s top attractions offer something to enlighten and excite every type of traveler.

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