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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Little Rock: Worth a look for presidential history, culture

Before Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, Little Rock, Ark., wasn't known for much to travelers.

Sure, it's the big city (along with Memphis and Dallas) to Arkansans (I should know, I lived about 30 minutes north of Little Rock until age 14). We shopped there, went to the hospital there, attended minor league baseball games there and even took school field trips to the zoo and museum there.

Unless you're a regional traveler who lives no more than a couple hours from Arkansas' state capital, though, there really wasn't much reason to visit. 

But things began to change, particularly in Little Rock's Downtown, in the early 1990s when work began to create River Market, which opened in 1996. Revitalization efforts have continued with a 2.5-mile trolley (pictured above passing the River Market) that began operation in 2004, the opening of Verizon Arena in 1999 just across the river in Downtown North Little Rock and, the biggest of all, the opening of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum in 2004.

Clinton Library

The five-story main building, which as you can see resembles a mobile home, houses the museum. The center features a number of exhibits on Clinton's time as president and serves as a good overview of world and domestic history from the 1990s.

Today, the heart of Downtown Little Rock along the southern banks of the Arkansas River is centered on Markham Street/President Clinton Avenue and its art galleries, a number of restaurants and the Clinton-related sites. The River Rail connects all the major sites in Little Rock and, via the Main Street Bridge, loops Downtown North Little Rock.

Anchoring Markham Street is the River Market, which features two open-air pavilions, a 10,000-seat amphitheatre, an indoor bazaar, shops and a farmers market.

Little Rock's Rosemont Inn

Little Rock is worth a look, particularly for a weekend getaway. Lodging options abound from upscale hotels to quaint bed-and-breakfast inns. We've stayed in the Rosemont Inn & Cottages, a bed-and-breakfast inn just a couple miles south of the river. 

Arkansas tends to be the punchline of jokes, but is, in fact, a state filled with beauty and a number of great outdoors activities, several of which can be found just outside Little Rock.

1 comment:

  1. We've been meaning to make a weekend trip to Little Rock to check out the Clinton Library and River Market. It may be a little while for us, but I do intend to get there someday!