Back in 1957, the governor ordered the Arkansas National Guard to stop nine African-American students from entering Central High School and the federal government had to send in paratroopers to escort them inside. Little Rock -- and a lot of other Southern cities -- still have some work to do in the equal-rights department but the city has come a long way. Now it's better known for its association with former president Bill Clinton, who kept his campaign headquarters here.
Like Clinton or not, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Park is worth seeing. It's the second largest of the presidential libraries and has the largest collection of documents on site. There's also a replica of the Oval Office. The Arkansas State Capitol, which is an exact copy of the White House, is also worth a tour (and a lot easier to get into than the real White House). The Heifer International Center, which is dedicated to ending hunger and poverty, is an interesting stop. It's an abandoned railroad yard transformed into a model green building. Heifer Village, across from the presidential library, educates visitors to the possibility of a world without poverty or hunger. If hunting and fishing is an interest, head to the C. Maurice Lewis Jr. Natural Resource Complex. You can hike in Pinnacle Mountain State Park or take a walk along the Arkansas River Trail, which leads from downtown Little Rock to Pinnacle Mountain. Don't miss the 4,226-foot-long Big Dam Bridge, which is the main feature of the River Trail. If you happen to be in Little Rock in October, spend a day at the Arkansas State Fair for a taste of true Americana.
Little Rock calls itself the "dining capital of Arkansas," which is not quite the same as, say, the dining capital of California but still there is excellent food here, especially if you like Southern comfort food. Think barbecue, catfish cooked a number of ways, greens and grits. There are a lot of choices in west Little Rock, particularly along Cantrell Road, N. Rodney Parham Road, Shackleford Drive and Chenal Parkway. There are also popular restaurants along Kavanaugh Boulevard in the upscale neighborhoods of the Heights and Hillcrest.
Shops, boutiques and galleries line the River Market District, which is the lively center of Little Rock retail and entertainment. Upscale stores can be found in Midtowne, which claims to carefully screen each retail tenant. There's a wide assortment of shops and food stalls at Ottenheimer Market Hall at River Market. If you're looking for a mall, try McCain Mall in north Little Rock or Shackleford Crossing on Shackleford Road.
9101 Mabelvale Pike
2120 Daisy Bates Drive
1406 Cantrell Road
Ottenheimer Plaza & River Market Avenue