Downtown Little Rock is bordered on the south by I-630, the I-30 on the east, the State Capitol area to the west and to the north by the Arkansas River. Ever-bustling, Little Rock continues to grow beyond these borders.
If you are in downtown Little Rock, then you are close to what is becoming the most popular spot in town. The historic
The city of Little Rock has done its best to keep the momentum going. From May through September, you'll find Big Downtown Thursdays, a sort of public happy hour held each week. Memorial Day weekend's annual Riverfest features a carnival-type atmosphere and fireworks, and takes place in
Just a short way from the River Market is the Quapaw Quarter, which is known for its section of restored 19th-century homes and its business district. Most of the homes are privately owned, so access is mainly limited to walking and driving tours. However, many of the quarter's homes are opened for tours at various points in the year under the direction of the Landmarks Trust Association.
The Annual Quapaw Quarter Spring Tour takes place in May, while December brings the Christmas Open House. Other historic landmarks are open to the public for tours at various points throughout the year, including the
North Little Rock
The city just north of the river, North Little Rock, has its own personality and is not to be outdone by its bigger cousin. Formerly known as Argenta, this municipality has preserved its own local history. The
The Argenta Historic District is a large area that includes city hall, several churches and a military post. North Little Rock is also the site of the newly built
West Little Rock
West Little Rock is the fastest growing area of the city. The easiest route here from downtown is to take I-630 west until the interstate ends and runs into Shackleford Road. West Little Rock is the part of suburbia where large numbers of new upper-middle class homes are being built and where a wide variety of restaurants, shops like
The area west of downtown along Markham Street is known as the
The Heights is a trendy, upscale area on the north-central side of town with its own particular flavor, almost as if it were a mini-village in itself. Here you will find quaint gift shops, exclusive boutiques, restaurants like
University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), the home of the Trojans, is spread over an area west of downtown. The Trojan basketball team plays at North UALR's
Little Rock has something to offer every traveler, from fine luxury accommodations and unique antebellum comforts to the thrifty convenience of modern chains.
If your aim is to stay in the lap of luxury, look no further than downtown's elegant Capital Hotel, which has been in operation for more than 100 years. For another stab at luxury, try the Peabody Little Rock, with its glass elevators and spectacular view of the Arkansas River, or the Doubletree Little Rock, which offers downtown convenience along with such amenities as a fitness center and a pool. All three hotels are within easy walking distance of the River Market.
North Little Rock
In North Little Rock, meanwhile, the Wyndham Riverfront Little Rock is the place to come for the ultimate comfort. Go all out here and enjoy the Presidential Suite and its private hot tub. Simply Home Inn & Suites is just a few minutes from downtown, and offers guests a fresh, complimentary breakfast. Select suites come with a whirlpool.
West Little Rock
Those looking to get down to business in West Little Rock will find plenty of options. The Courtyard Little Rock West offers all of the conveniences expected from the Marriott name. The Comfort Inn has rooms that come with microwave and refrigerator. Ramada Limited & Suites provides a range of amenities with the business traveler in mind. Many area hotels offer suites, including the Residence Inn. La Quinta Inns & Suites is located next to many popular shops and restaurants. Extended StayAmerica's suites include full kitchens, perfect for those in town for long periods or families on a budget.
The Days Inn offers comfortable rooms at great prices and free transportation to the airport, saving you the hassle. Close to the airport, the Holiday Inn Little Rock Airport offers all that you'd expect from this chain, with business facilities, a pool and Boston's Restaurant and Sports Bar. Many budget hotel chain mainstays in the world of accommodations are located in this area as well.
The Markham House Suites is a simple place to stay near the University of Arkansas at Little Rock that will not break your budget. On the south side of town are several other hotels close and convenient to the university and the nearby medical center, like the Clarion Hotel Medical Center.
If you are looking for a good meal in Little Rock, the only problem you will have is narrowing down your choices. Whether you seek fine dining or good old-fashioned Southern barbecue, you are sure to enjoy the many options that Little Rock has to offer.
Perhaps the most famous of the area's establishments is Juanita's, a favorite of President Clinton. If you are in the River Market area, there are plenty of choices. Stop at Big on Tokyo and try the Japanese Hibachi-grilled lunch special. You can also take home ingredients from the restaurant's grocery store and try a little Japanese cooking yourself. For a fine dining fix, say for a special occasion, try Ashley's at the Capital, where you can treat your loved ones or business associates to food from a first-rate continental menu. Your Mama's Good Food offers cafeteria-style dining with Southern portions of staples such as chicken-fried steak and meatloaf. Cotham's in the City serves great hamburgers with all the Southern fixings.
North Little Rock
North Little Rock also is home to a great array of food options. Try Georgia's Gyros if Mediterranean cooking is up your alley. A trip to the South would not be complete without sampling some of the region's famous down-home specialties such as barbecue, assorted greens, cornmeal concoctions and melt-in-your-mouth smoked meats. The Whole Hog Cafe is one of Little Rock's favorite BBQ joint, paying tribute to both typical Southern cuisine as well as the pride of Arkansas, the Razorbacks (also known as the Hogs). Acadia Restaurant is an excellent choice for high-quality modern American cuisine in a classic and elegant setting, perfect for special occasions or simply treating yourself. For classic, home-style Italian dishes Ciao is a great option just several blocks from City Hall.
West Little Rock
El Porton serves up Mexican specialties in a family-friendly atmosphere. Offering Mexican cuisine, this local legend boasts some of the city's best fajitas. Star of India boasts hefty portions of the flavors of the far east. Try Far East Asian Cuisine & Bar if you are in the mood for Chinese and sample a variety of Americanized as well as traditional dishes. For sushi and other Japanese specialties, Sky Modern Japanese Restaurant is a trendy and popular destination. And the Butcher Shop's name speaks for itself: steaks are made to order here, and you can even cook your own if you so choose. They also serve a killer Prime Rib.
Can't-miss taste treats in the Hillcrest/Heights area include Cheers In the Heights with its fun and colorful decor, great patio and menu of Southern favorites. Overlooking the river, Cajun's Wharf serves great seafood supplemented by live music and a beautiful patio over the Arkansas River. Also try La Hacienda for south of the border favorites and Margaritas.
Explorer Hernando de Soto first crossed the Mississippi River into what is now Arkansas in 1541. Since he did not find the fabled gold he was seeking, the Spanish who were backing him soon lost interest in the area.
Years later, in 1722, French explorer Bernard de La Harpe brought attention to the area again, making note of rock formations on the banks of the Arkansas River that he referred to as La Petite Roche and La Grande Roche ("Little Rock" and "Big Rock," respectively). The area of the little rock, near a Quapaw Indian settlement, turned out to be a convenient area for crossing the Arkansas River. La Harpe built his trading post at this point on the river. The big rock, a little further upstream, later became the site of an Army post. Today, the little rock can be seen downtown in Riverfront Park.
A trapper named William Lewis built his cabin—the first permanent home in Little Rock—at the post in 1812. When Arkansas became a territory in 1819, the capital was at Arkansas Post, a site down river. Two years later, it was moved to the bustling area of Little Rock. Incorporated as a city in 1831, Little Rock became the state capital when Arkansas was admitted into the union in 1836.
The territorial history of the city and the state is interpreted via the living history portrayals and displays at the Historic Arkansas Museum. This complex of buildings includes the territorial capital building, where the government met before Arkansas was made a state. Arkansas is unique in that it is the only state capital with three capital buildings still standing. The second is now known as the Old State House Museum, which is where the state's first governor was sworn into office in 1836. This building was the seat of state government until 1911. The present capital building was only partially completed when the general assembly started sessions there in 1911, and was fully completed in 1916.
Little Rock was at the center of a tug-of-war between the Union and Confederacy during the American Civil War. Anti-Union forces seized the Federal arsenal in Little Rock in February of 1861, and in May of that same year, Arkansas seceded from the Union. The Confederate state government moved to Washington, Arkansas, in 1863, after Little Rock was taken over by the Union. During the time when the Confederates were in Washington, the Union had its own state government functioning in Little Rock under the direction of Isaac Murphy. It was truly a divided state. More than 10,000 federal loyalists fought in the northern part of the state against the Confederate army.
Arkansas was readmitted to the Union in 1868, but only after a completely new Northern Republican government replaced the Murphy government. In 1874, a month-long struggle known as the Brooks-Baxter War erupted over a gubernatorial election, which ended only when President Grant ruled that Elisha Baxter was indeed the rightful governor. However, because this rule favored businesses, agricultural interests were suffering. After this debacle, Democrat Augustus H. Garland won the next election. Jeff Davis was elected Governor in 1900 on the promise of redressing the wrongs done to the agricultural community. This turn of events became known as the Agrarian Revolt.
By the 1880s, Little Rock was the center of a sinewy network of railroad lines. Much later, in 1969, the city's economy received a great boost when a series of locks and dams were opened on the Arkansas River, effectively making the city into a river port. Even today, Little Rock is the chief market center for the state, especially in terms of agriculture, lumber and bauxite.
What many consider one of the defining scenes of the civil rights movement played out in Little Rock in 1957, when nine African-American students attempted to attend Little Rock Central High School under a 1954 Supreme Court ruling against racial segregation. When the Arkansas governor called out troops in order to prevent these students from attending the school, President Eisenhower stepped in to prevent the state from interfering, and federal troops replaced the state troops. This event is now commemorated at the Central High School National Historic Site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Little Rock rose to center stage in 1992 with the election of William Jefferson Clinton as the 42nd president of the United States. The former governor was a lifelong resident of Arkansas and a four-term governor of the state. The William J. Clinton Presidential Center is the Arkansan president's legacy in his home state.