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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Little Rock: The Cultural Heart of Arkansas

The past several years have seen Little Rock bloom into the cultural heart of Arkansas.

The capital of Arkansas, with a population of 700,000, Little Rock is bursting at the seams with local culture and flavor. It’s now undergoing a massive revitalization and rebranding effort with the new slogan “a historic intermission with a Southern accent” highlighting the town’s flair. Little Rock has won many accolades in the past few years, including the No. 15 spot on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Livable Cities in 2009.

John Mayner, vice president and director of marketing and communications at the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, sees the town as a hidden gem that’s finally getting recognition.

“When people get here, when they can see, touch and taste the town, they’re blown away,” Mayner said.

Little Rock is easy to reach in a variety of ways. The Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport is only a 10-minute drive from the city center, and the vibrant downtown area is great for pedestrians. Visitors can walk, bike, take a Segway tour or ride the River Rail Trolley downtown to take part in a burgeoning artisanal craft and food scene, live music, festivals and the artistic Creative Corridor on Main Street.

Among Little Rock’s most distinctive attractions are the three bridges that span the Arkansas River at Julius Breckling Riverfront Park and connect Little Rock and North Little Rock. These bridges are illuminated by LED lights during the evening and play short light shows.

The Creative Corridor features numerous sites, including the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. River Market Pavilion is home to Ottenheimer Market Hall, where guests can find an international selection of foods, the oldest farmers market in the state and First Security Amphitheater, an outdoor concert venue with a capacity of nearly 8,000 people.

History is an enormous part of Little Rock culture. The Old State House Museum of Arkansas History is a Greek Revival building and the oldest standing state capitol west of the Mississippi. The William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and has been the catalyst for Little Rock’s major revitalization, is located within Riverfront Park and is one of 13 presidential libraries in the country. Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site served as a flashpoint during the civil rights movement and features exhibits on the desegregation crisis of 1957.

Meeting venues are plentiful, many at the major attraction sites. The Statehouse Convention Center is conveniently located in the heart of downtown and is adjacent to the Creative Corridor and Ottenheimer Market Hall, and it just completed extensive upgrades this year. The Robinson Center, an iconic home to the performing arts that was built in 1935, recently began a top-to-bottom reimagining. The two-year renovation will result in a multipurpose home for the arts with additional meeting space, a connection to a DoubleTree hotel, a new ballroom and additional meeting space.

Intimately connected with the town of Little Rock, North Little Rock sports its own attractions. Located directly across the Arkansas River from Little Rock, North Little Rock has charm all its own.

Downtown’s Argenta Historic District is brimming with dining, arts, entertainment, art walks, festivals and farmers markets. The walkable area has an artistic interest for everyone and is a great place to peruse art galleries, antiques shopping and fresh food of all kinds. A fun way to see the area is by taking the River Rail Trolley, which links downtown North Little Rock to Little Rock’s River Market Pavilion and Clinton Presidential Center and Park.

An interesting venue for off-site events is Burns Park, which boasts a pre-Civil War log cabin, a fishing pier, a 36-hole golf course and an archery range, among other attractions. The park’s Hospital House and Pavilions are frequently used for reunions.


Spotlight on Little Rock

Primary meeting facilities: Statehouse Convention Center

Other meeting properties: Robinson Center

Largest meeting space: Statehouse Convention Center (220,000 square feet)

Total hotel rooms: 11,000

CVB website: