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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Big ideas for bits of free time in Little Rock

Courtesy Little Rock CVB

Find yourself with a little free time in Little Rock before, after or during the SMM Conference? Here are some smart ways to spend it:

Tour by trolley.
The River Rail Electric Streetcar line is cheap — 50 cents per round trip, $2 for a day pass — and it covers quite a bit of ground — 2.5 miles. Hopping on one of the replica trolleys is a good way to get your bearings. Rail hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday.

The trolleys pass almost all of Little Rock’s major attractions, including the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Museum of Discovery, the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center, the Robinson Center Music Hall, the Riverfest Amphitheater, Heifer International’s headquarters and the Clinton Presidential Center.

Take a Big Dam walk.
It’s big, and it’s built on a dam. Hence, the memorable name: the Big Dam Bridge. The world’s longest purpose-built pedestrian and bike bridge opened in 2006. Designed to get locals moving, its 14-foot wide deck welcomes walkers, joggers and bikers.

For those who like to cover more than the $12.5 million bridge’s 4,226-foot span, the bridge is a link between 17 miles of river trail in Little Rock and North Little Rock. It is about six miles from downtown. And if you think you aren’t up to the task, consider this: In 2007, Ruth Lincoln strolled across the bridge on her birthday. She was 110.

See civil rights history. Nine black students made history by entering Central High School in 1957. A museum in a restored service station across the street tells the story of how those brave teens helped move civil rights forward. The museum is open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-4:30 p.m. Sunday.

Meet some farmers for breakfast. On Tuesday, early risers can pop down to greet farmers at the Little Rock Farmers Market in the River Market District.

Booths open at 7 and close around 3 p.m. Night owls will also enjoy the River Market area’s food, drink and entertainment. Boscos Little Rock bakes gourmet pizzas in its brick oven and serves them with Downtown Brown, Famous Flaming Stone and other beers crafted on site. For a sturdier meal, there’s Sonny Williams’ Steak Room, where the motto is “No Skinny Steaks.” Local bands rule and rock at the Rev Room. The decor isn’t all that’s colorful at Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro. Dizzy’s is favored for its roomy covered patio, its quirky staff and its nomadically inspired menu. Its cheese dip won prizes at the World Cheese Dip Championship in Little Rock.

Get some northern exposure. North Little Rock is more than a direction; it is a place with appeal and attractions. The trolley will take you there, across the Arkansas River by way of the Main Street Bridge. North Little Rock is sports central, home to minor-league baseball park Dickey-Stephens Park, and the 18,000-seat Alltel Arena.

It’s no surprise, then, that a number of bars and restaurants — among them Irish pubs, a Northern Italian eatery and a wine bar called Crush — have emerged in the nearby Argenta neighborhood. Considered an arts district, Argenta earned a write-up in the New York Times.

It is home to art galleries, a bead store, a vintage clothing and furniture store and a family-owned pool table store, in business since 1924. Rounding out the attractions are a farmers market that sells only Arkansas products and the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, with guided tours of the historic USS Razorback, the longest-serving submarine in the world.