There’s always something new to learn during a visit to Little Rock, Arkansas! The city is full of exciting museums that chronicle everything from civil rights, women's history, politics, and the world around us. Here are some of the best museums to visit in Little Rock.
USA Today has ranked the Museum of Discovery one of the best science centers in America, and, of course, we agree. Now celebrating their 95th anniversary, experiences include sheltering from a powerful twister in the Tornado Alley Theater, learning the principles of physics and force with hands-on exhibits, creating without limits in the Tinkering Studio, and witnessing the Guinness World Record musical bi-polar Tesla Coil. Best of all, it’s located in the heart of downtown Little Rock’s River Market District just steps from local restaurants, Riverfront Park, and even more fantastic museums.
Built in 1917 as a fire station, this building was in service until modern fire trucks became too large to fit inside. Now, the building is home to Little Rock’s only hostel and a museum chronicling the history of firefighting through more than a century’s worth of artifacts and equipment.
In September 1957, this high school was at the center of international attention when the governor ordered the National Guard to prevent nine Black students - The Little Rock Nine - from attending the all-white school. President Eisenhower later federalized the National Guard and sent troops to escort the students to class. It’s now the only functioning high school in the National Park Service. No visit to Little Rock is complete without a stop by the park’s visitor center, especially since 2022 marks the 65th anniversary of the desegregation crisis and the 15th anniversary of the visitors center itself.
Here you can explore two Navy vessels that bookended World War II. The tugboat USS Hoga leapt into action, fighting fires and rescuing sailors within minutes of the first attack at Pearl Harbor. The Balaoclass submarine USS Razorback was present in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered ending the war. It is the only museum of its kind in the intercontinental United States.
Housed in the oldest state capitol building west of the Mississippi River, this museum chronicles Arkansas history since it became a state in 1836. Exhibits range from historic first ladies’ gowns to natural curiosities and the building’s original legislative chamber. Its grounds are famous for hosting President Clinton’s two election night victory speeches in 1992 and 1996.
What was Arkansas like in the days before it was a state? Find out as you explore and interact with preserved frontier buildings, galleries of crafts, and living history actors. Here, Arkansas’s days of being at the edge of the Wild West are alive and exciting.
One of only two purse museums in the world, ESSE explores concepts of art, history, and femininity through the lens of women’s handbags and their contents. You’ll discover that purses can say a lot about a woman and her evolving position in society. These exhibits honor and celebrate the progression of the 20th century American woman.
With its on-site museum, restaurant, and iconic bridge, this is a highlight of any visit to Little Rock. Guests can explore the political career of our nation’s 42nd president, including memorabilia from his first political campaigns in Arkansas and full-size, exact replicas of the White House’s Oval Office and Cabinet Room.
This Arkansas Game and Fish Commission facility is located in Riverfront Park and tells the story of Arkansas’s most natural resources: the state’s lands and waters, and the animals that inhabit them. It features live native animals, interactive exhibits, an aquarium, and regular alligator and fish feeding demonstrations.
This museum celebrates Arkansas’s unique African American political, economic, and social achievements from 1865 to 1950. It depicts Little Rock’s historic West Ninth Street as a hub of Black entrepreneurship and entertainment, the Templars organization, and the legacy of Black legislators. It also features a new children’s gallery. It’s one of only nine nationally accredited Black history museums in the country, and it is a must-visit on any visit to Little Rock.
Built in 1840 to protect a frontier state from attack by Native Americans, this former arsenal building witnessed pivotal exchanges between Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War. It later became the birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur. Through exhibits and programming, the museum ensures that, “Old soldiers never die.”
Though it’s currently closed for a multimillion-dollar expansion, the reimagined Museum of Fine Arts will reopen to visitors in fall 2022 in a building that is just as beautiful on the outside as the art is inside!
Seeing all these museums can be exhilarating and exhausting! That’s why a good night’s sleep matters. Find the perfect hotel for your visit to Little Rock.