Okay, sure. We get it. “Little” is in our name, but the truth is that there’s nothing little about Little Rock. If anything, we’re an outsized town that’s ready for the spotlight. Don’t believe us? Then check out these six reasons why we are (and you should be!) BIG on Little Rock.
Saying Little Rock is BIG on food is an understatement. We’re home to 10 Arkansas Food Hall of Fame inductees and one of Arkansas’s two James Beard Award-winning restaurants. If that wasn’t enough, we’ve been named “America’s Next Top Foodie Destination” by the Foodie Flashpacker, one of “15 Southern Cities All Food Lovers Should Visit Now” by Southern Living and Food & Wine. Forbes Travel Guide named us a “Top 5 Secret Foodie City,” and the folks over at Bourbon & Boots said we were among the “8 Most Overlooked Foodie Towns in the South.” In short, whether you’ve got a hankering for barbecue, a craving for catfish or a thing for tasting menus, your new favorite restaurant is right here in Little Rock.
And don’t think that our local flavor stops there. With six breweries, two wineries and a nationally renowned distillery, you’ll find something to sip on around every corner. Pick up a copy of your Locally Labeled Passport and see a different side of the city through its numerous tasting rooms.
Ask any Little Rocker you meet and they’re likely to tell you they’re on their way to a festival. Almost every weekend, the city rolls out the red carpet to celebrate a different holiday, food or culture. From food festivals like the Arkansas Cornbread Festival to the World Cheese Dip Championship (the delicacy was invented right here in Central Arkansas), to seasonal events like the South Main Mardi Gras parade, Barkus on Main and the Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday parade, there’s always something to celebrate. Our city’s neighborhoods get in on the action by hosting their own unique events like The Heights’ wall-to-wall chili cook-off Chili Fights in The Heights, or quaint Hillcrest’s annual Hillcrest Harvest Fest. Visit our calendar to see what’s coming up next.
Arkansas’s official state nickname is “The Natural State,” and nowhere else is that more evident than Little Rock. The city’s unique positioning, on the bank of the Arkansas River and at the edge of both the Ouachita Mountains and the Mississippi Delta, means that almost every landscape imaginable is just a short distance away. Little Rock’s abundant parks and greenspaces are the city’s most natural resource, and chief among these is the Arkansas River Trail, a 17-mile loop that lets visitors walk, run, bike and hike on both the north and south sides of the river. Other trails branch off from the loop offering riders the chance to go further west into the mountains or, in the case of the Harper’s Ferry Loop, east into the Delta.
To the city’s west is Pinnacle Mountain State Park, the highest point in Central Arkansas, offering bird’s-eye-views of downtown Little Rock. Nearby is Rattlesnake Ridge, a protected natural area with some of the region’s most exciting climbing, mountain biking and hiking trails. And if you’re the kind of person who prefers their adventures to happen a little closer to sea level, grab your paddle and rent a kayak or canoe to explore downtown Little Rock on the Arkansas River or the quiet wilderness of the Little Maumelle River.
Quite a bit of history has happened in Little Rock since its founding in 1821, and it’s still everywhere you look. You can discover Arkansas’s territorial history at the Historic Arkansas Museum, and explore its early statehood in the Old State House Museum, located in the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River. The far-flung battlefields of World War II are brought here via the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, where both a U.S. Navy tugboat and submarine are available for tours. The struggle for civil rights comes to life at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, made famous by the integration of nine African American students in 1957. See the life and work of our nation’s 42nd president at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, and tour exact replicas of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room.
We might come off like a city of mountain-biking, cheese dip-eating, festival goers (and, well, we kind of are), but that doesn’t mean we don’t like our arts and culture. Little Rock is home to multiple theatres that bring everything from the hits of Broadway to theatrical world premieres to Little Rock. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Arkansas showcase their talents to sold-out audiences and more than 100 sculptures dot downtown Little Rock’s Riverfront Park and beyond. From technicolor murals on some of the city’s biggest buildings and alley doors and walkways, to a network of locally owned and artfully curated art galleries, it’s hard to look at Little Rock and not be inspired.
Learning never stops in Little Rock. Whether it’s about the fight against global poverty and hunger at the world headquarters of Heifer International, or the role that the Little Rock Zoo plays in animal conservation around the world, Little Rock is a city built for the curious. Downtown, the Museum of Discovery chronicles the wonders of the natural world while the Witt Stephens Nature Center allows guests to get up close and personal with what lies beneath the surface of our local waterways. And don’t forget the Little Rock Audubon Center, where our region’s rarest biomes are protected and studied.
So, whether you’re reading this from the opposite side of the globe or even just right down the road, Little Rock is ready and waiting for you to visit. If you’re big on having a good time, you’re going to be big on Little Rock, and Little Rock’s going to be big on you.