How long have you lived in Little Rock? If you moved here from somewhere else, what’s your “coming to Little Rock” story?
I’ve lived in Little Rock since 2005. Though I grew up in Sherwood, Arkansas, I was fortunate enough to attend school at Horace Mann Magnet Middle School and Parkview Arts/Science Magnet High School in Little Rock. I moved to Colorado to attend graduate school and then moved back to Little Rock. Little Rock has always felt like home.
What are some of the things you love most about Little Rock as a city?
I love Little Rock’s diversity. We are accepting of different people and that enriches the cultural vibe of the city. We have so many options for things to do, places to go and especially places to eat and drink. My friend group is diverse and I’m grateful for that. I understand different perspectives. We also are a city that isn’t too large or too small. You can feel comfortable getting around town quickly. I also love the recreational opportunities Little Rock offers. We have such great parks where you can go kayaking or go walking down by the river and see some of the most beautiful sights. I took up tennis not too long ago and found a very active tennis community here that plays regularly. Sports are easy to get involved with at any level and a great way to socially engage with others and get fit.
Festivals like Wild Wines have made the Zoo a huge part of Little Rock’s foodie culture. How would you describe Little Rock’s dining scene to someone who’s never visited the city before?
Little Rock has an eclectic mix of down-home southern flair and sophisticated urban eating. We sit in the Mid-South so you can get plenty of southern staples in Little Rock: fried chicken, fried catfish, BBQ, slow-cooked greens with ham and all sorts of other delicious veggies. You can also get an Arkansas favorite made several different ways, cheese dip. Little Rock also has a sophisticated side with the evolution of several new dining establishments that offer everything from delicious wood-fired pizza to delectable hand-rolled sushi. I love that Little Rock has several food festivals, too. It made it easy for us to do an event at the Little Rock Zoo that showcased some of the best food in central Arkansas during our annual event, Wild Wines.
If someone hasn’t been to the Little Rock Zoo before, what are some of the “must see” exhibits?
The Little Rock Zoo features 500 animals representing more than 200 different species, many of which are endangered. The Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe habitat is always a crowd favorite because it features underwater viewing of the African penguins who enjoy swimming. Guests can get right up on the glass to see the penguins. Right now, the Zoo has a baby orangutan that is too cute, as well as an adolescent gorilla who is very active. There’s so much to see and do at the Zoo; so it’s hard to pick just one or two things!
The Little Rock Zoo has undergone several upgrades and renovations recently. Can you tell us a little more about the recent improvements at the zoo?
The Zoo has added a new Arkansas Heritage Farm that showcases some of the state’s most-important farm animals. This has become a very popular attraction. We are about to open a new Colobus monkey and serval cat habitat, as well. We just opened the new Blue and You Sensory Garden as well as the Blue and You Nature Play Area. Both of these great areas in the Zoo encourage nature play and active lifestyles. Families are really enjoying these new additions! Our pathways are currently being repaved to make them more ADA-accessible and stroller and wagon-friendly. We’ve added more landscaping and beautification to make the Zoo really look great.
This year, instead of Boo at the Zoo, you’re presenting Shadows at Sixth. What can guests expect from that?
We’re partnering with the Downtown Little Rock Partnership on Shadows At Sixth to offer families a safe alternative to Boo at the Zoo. This drive-through show allows you to stay in your vehicle and experience a family-friendly haunted attraction. The experience showcases some classic haunted Arkansas folktales and culminates at the top with a light experience like no other.
One final question for you … If you were giving someone a tour of Little Rock, where would be some of the can’t-miss places you’d take them?
I love taking people to Two Rivers Park Bridge and the walking trails around it. I also enjoy taking people downtown to eat and to see the progress we’ve made on Main Street and the SoMa neighborhood. When my out of town friends ask for BBQ we go to my favorite, Sim’s Bar-B Que. And, of course, the Little Rock Zoo is always on the list!