12 Things To Do in Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Little Rock is the capital and most populous city of Arkansas. It is located on the south bank of the Arkansas River and forms a western edge of the Ozark Plateau. With rich history, natural beauty, family fun attractions, and southern hospitality, Little Rock has something to offer every type of traveler.

From exploring the epic Clinton Presidential Center to learning about Arkansas history at the Old State House Museum, enjoying interactive science displays at the Museum of Discovery, hiking through the trails of Pinnacle Mountain State Park, watching a performance at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, to trying mouthwatering barbecue, Little Rock promises memorable experiences.

Here are the top 12 things to do in Little Rock, Arkansas that you shouldn’t miss on your next visit:

Take a Stroll Through Riverfront Park

Riverfront Park is one of Little Rock’s premier attractions. This beautifully landscaped park stretches along the south bank of the Arkansas River for several miles. Visitors can enjoy relaxing strolls along the numerous walking paths and pedestrian bridges. The park also features several attractions like the River Market District, presidential monuments, amphitheaters, museums, restaurants, and more.

Don’t miss the epic views of the Little Rock skyline, Arkansas River, and the surrounding hills from the park. You can also book river cruises, rent a bike, grab a bite, or simply find a nice spot to relax along the riverfront. With so much natural beauty and things to do, Riverfront Park is undoubtedly one of the top attractions in Little Rock.

Visit the William J. Clinton Presidential Center

The Clinton Presidential Center is one of Arkansas’s most popular attractions. This modern glass-and-steel complex houses the largest museum dedicated to any US president in history. It includes replicas of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room along with over 80 million pages of official White House papers and 2 million photographs from the Clinton presidency.

Visitors can take guided tours through seven galleries displaying exhibits detailing Bill Clinton’s childhood, journey to the White House, policy achievements, controversies, triumphs, campaigns, and life after the presidency. The complex also features native species gardens, a restaurant, and the Clinton Museum store. The Center offers an incredible opportunity to study the life and presidency of one of America’s most influential modern leaders.

Explore the Grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol

The Arkansas State Capitol is located a short walk from Riverfront Park. The Capitol building was completed in 1915 and houses the state legislature. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and recognized as a National Historic Landmark for its neo-classical architecture and symbolic details.

Visitors can join free guided tours to view the building’s original light fixtures, brass doorknobs, marble floors, ornate staircases, bronze doors, and more. The Capitol grounds also feature monuments of prominent Arkansans like civil rights activist Daisy Bates, former US Senator J. William Fulbright, and the Little Rock Nine among others. The lush gardens, reflective pool, and fountain on the Capitol grounds are perfect for an afternoon stroll after your building tour.

Learn About Arkansas History at the Old State House Museum

The Old State House Museum explores over 200 years of Arkansas history and culture. It is housed within Little Rock’s oldest surviving state capitol building constructed in 1833. The Museum features permanent and traveling exhibits highlighting Native American heritage, early statehood, civil rights struggles, prominent Arkansans, Confederate history, and more.

Visitors can view a rare copy of Arkansas’ 1836 Constitution, explore a 1845 printing press, and walk through rooms restored to the 1860s Victorian-era style. Exhibits also include over 10,000 artifacts like war weapons, paintings, furniture, tools, toys, quilts, and photographs. With interactive displays and knowledgeable tour guides, the Old State House is one of the best places to soak in Arkansas’ rich history.

Enjoy Interactive Science Exhibits at the Museum of Discovery

The Museum of Discovery features hands-on exhibits and programs to spark creativity, provide learning experiences, and encourage innovation. Permanent exhibit halls include Innovation Space, Young Learners Tree House, Health and Wellness, and Energy and Environment. Visitors can enjoy interactive science displays, giant LEGO blocks, art experiences, lab experiments, farmer’s markets, health clinics, energy generators, and more.

Temporary traveling exhibits have included topics like physics, space, chemistry, engineering, geology, genetics, and animal habitats. The Museum also hosts several annual events like BubblePalooza, Trash to Treasure, Brick by Brick, and STEAM education workshops. With fun experiences for all ages, the Museum of Discovery makes learning about STEAM topics highly entertaining.

Hike Through Pinnacle Mountain State Park

Pinnacle Mountain State Park is located just 15 minutes from downtown Little Rock yet seems worlds away. The centerpiece of the park is the dramatic Pinnacle Mountain, an iconic landmark rising 756 feet with rocky cliffs and lush forests. Outdoors enthusiasts will love hitting the park’s over 20 miles of multi-use trails spanning varied terrain from gravel paths to rugged terrain.

Popular hiking trails include the Base Trail circling the mountain, the steep East Quarry Trail leading straight up the summit, and the scenic Kingfisher Trail traversing wetlands. The park also features excellent rock climbing, camping, fishing, biking, and horseback riding opportunities. You’re bound to work up an appetite tackling the trails and can refuel at the park’s visitor center featuring a restaurant with scenic views. Pinnacle Mountain State Park offers an easily accessible outdoor getaway right from Little Rock.

Catch a Performance at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre, also called The Rep, is the state’s largest nonprofit professional theatre company. Founded in 1976, The Rep puts on an entertaining lineup of Broadway musicals, comedies, dramas, and productions for young audiences. Most performances take place at The Rep’s intimate 378-seat theatre housed downtown in the historic Arkansas Arts Center building.

Visitors can enjoy popular shows like Into the Woods, The Sound of Music, To Kill a Mockingbird, and A Christmas Carol along with regional premieres and experimental productions. The Rep also offers student matinees, sensory-friendly performances, and pay-what-you-can previews catering to every budget. For an evening of culture and entertainment in Little Rock, you can’t go wrong catching a first-rate show at The Rep.

Tour the Grounds of Curran Hall

History and architecture buffs will love a visit to Curran Hall located within Little Rock’s Quapaw Quarter historic district. This antebellum mansion was constructed in 1842 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The atmospheric grounds transport you back in time with lush gardens, grand 200-year old oak trees, and a striking 1850s barn.

Docent-led tours take you inside the mansion to view period furnishings, elaborate woodwork, and Arkansas made glass windows. You’ll hear tales from the Curran family’s history and stories of the home functioning as a civil war hospital. After your informative mansion tour, stroll the grounds to fully take in one of Little Rock’s hidden historic gems.

Sample Mouthwatering Barbecue

No visit to Little Rock is complete without trying authentic southern barbecue. Countless restaurants serve up smokey brisket, fall-off-the-bone ribs, pulled pork, spicy sausages, tender turkey, with all the classic sides from baked beans, slaw, potatoes, greens, mac n’ cheese, cornbread, and more.

Top spots barbecue fans must try include Sims Bar-B-Que noted for turkey wings and ribs, Whole Hog Cafe started by championship pitmasters, and Count Porkula BBQ with creative selections like bacon-wrapped meatloaf. Be sure to come hungry to fully enjoy Little Rock’s finger-licking barbecue offerings. Don’t forget some wet napkins!

Peruse the Galleries of SoMa Creative District

The South Main (SoMa) arts district features over 20 local art galleries, studios, museums, and performing arts centers within a compact walkable area. Visitors can browse paintings, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry, glassworks, and more from emerging and established Arkansas artists.

SoMa anchors include the Arkansas Arts Center with rotating fine art exhibits, the eclectic Matt McLeod Fine Art Gallery, WHYR-AM Pirate Radio music museum, and Studio Main housing resident artists’ studios. The neighborhood also boasts quirky sculpture gardens, the Greenhouse performing arts venue, and colorful building murals. With a creative vibe reminiscent of Austin or New Orleans, an afternoon wandering SoMa’s galleries and museums is a must in Little Rock.

Shop Local at the River Market District

The River Market district in downtown Little Rock is a hub for tasty eateries, quirky shops, fresh produce, and community events. The River Market food hall features delicious vendors slinging everything from crepes, baked goods, coffee, tacos, pho, barbecue, to gelato. Outside, the River Market pavilions host a lively farmer’s market multiple days a week overflowing with seasonal fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, flowers, and artisan goods.

Visitors can also browse the district’s boutiques selling Arkansas-made products, antiques, records, books, souvenirs, and gifts. Don’t miss checking event schedules for the district’s weekly musical performances, magic shows, fitness meetups, and themed festivals happening year-round. Trying local flavors while soaking in community vibes, the River Market is a beloved Little Rock institution.

Relax at Wrightsville Beach Park

Just ten minutes from downtown, Wrightsville Beach Park provides a chance to swim, boat, picnic, and soak in nature without leaving Little Rock. Visitors can sunbathe, play beach volleyball, throw frisbees, try stand-up paddleboarding, or splash around the swim area on hot summer days. Anglers will enjoy casting lines to catch catfish, bream, crappie, and bass from the fishing pier jutting into the Arkansas River.

Shady oak groves with picnic tables allow a spot to enjoy local snacks after working up an appetite swimming. Keep an eye out for herons, hawks, turtles, and other wildlife that call the park home. Wrightsville Beach Park delivers a laid-back vibe making it easy to embrace those sunny Arkansas days.

Conclusion

Offering rich history, natural beauty, family fun, performing arts, southern hospitality, and mouthwatering barbecue, Little Rock provides memorable experiences for travelers of all interests. From the bustling River Market to the soaring Pinnacle Mountain trails, visitors will discover why Arkansas’ capital city shines as the “Natural State’s” crown jewel. Use this list of top attractions and activities to guide your Little Rock explorations for a satisfying look at authentic local culture. With endless options for making lasting memories, Little Rock is truly an underrated gem awaiting your next visit.

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