The Tricentennial of La Petit Roche
On April 9, 1722, French explorer Jean-Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe and his men were sailing up what we now know as the Arkansas River when they came across a rock outcropping that was just large enough to form a small harbor for their boats. The men named this place “la petite roche,” or “the little rock.” Visitors can see what remains of that first little rock at La Petite Roche Plaza in Riverfront Park. Celebrations to mark the 300th anniversary of this naming will occur throughout the year.
New Biking Trails
When people learn how Little Rock got its name, one question always comes up: “If there’s a little rock, is there a big rock?” The answer is yes, and in 2022 it’ll be the site of Central Arkansas’s newest biking trails. The so-called “big rock” is now Big Rock Quarry on the north bank of the Arkansas River. It’s famous for its towering orange granite cliffs. In 2022, an asphalt pump track will be built on the quarry floor as the first phase of the Big Rock Quarry Bike Park. Eventually, it will include flow trails, downhill mountain biking trails, cross country skills trails, and a bicycle playground. And, if pump tracks aren’t your thing, there are still more than 1,200 miles of trails to explore in and around Little Rock.
New Exhibits at the Clinton Presidential Library
The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum is easily one of Little Rock’s top attractions. With its insights into American political history and its faithful recreation of the Oval Office, it’s a must-see for locals and visitors alike. In 2022, two exhibits will be on display. Outdoors, “Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet” features 26 sculptures that support climate change initiatives. Indoors, a new exhibit, “Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights,” will open in the spring and commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women. This vibrant, multimedia exhibit will explore the risks women and their male allies took to win the vote, expand democracy, and elevate human rights.
The 65th Anniversary of Desegregation at Central High School
In September 1957, Little Rock Central High School was at the center of international attention when Governor Orval E. Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine Black students from attending. President Dwight D. Eisenhower later federalized the National Guard and sent in federal troops to escort the students to class. The school became a crucial battleground in the struggle for civil rights. Dramatic media images of the conflict seared themselves into public memory. The Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Visitor Center opened in September 2007 and is also celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2022. Its interactive displays include interviews with the Little Rock Nine and historical video clips.
The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts Reopens
The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts first opened in downtown Little Rock in 1937 and closed for renovation in summer 2019. In fall 2022, the museum will reopen its doors after a $140+ million renovation. Designed by renowned architecture practice Studio Gang, the museum’s distinctive new design preserves and features the building’s original 1937 façade combined with a wholly reimagined space that is sure to become one of Little Rock’s most iconic photo spots. A new restaurant and landscaping in the adjacent MacArthur Park will complete the transformation. An exact opening date hasn’t been set yet, but you can expect to take your own tour of the new museum later this year.
Are you looking to grab a bite at a locally owned restaurant during your visit? Check out these farm-to-table spots or these can’t-miss patios.