Little Rock isn’t just the capital of Arkansas; it’s also a great weekend getaway or even longer vacation. It’s just a few hours from Memphis and was the perfect fall break destination for me and my six kids. And with so many free or relatively cheap outdoor activities, it was also a very affordable place to visit.
1. Climb a mountain. Pinnacle Mountain sits more than 1,000 feet above the Arkansas River Valley in Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Park facilities include picnic tables, playgrounds, a boat launch, biking trails and 13 different hiking trails. The major attraction of the park, however, is the hike up Pinnacle Mountain. There are two trails up the mountain, the family-friendly West Summit Trail and the more challenging East Summit Trail. But don’t let “family-friendly” fool you. Neither trail is stroller or handicap accessible and even the West Summit requires hiking on uneven terrain.
For the more adventurous, take the East Summit Trail to the top. At first, the East Summit seems like a normal hiking trail, consisting of a dirt path and a few downed trees as obstacles. However, once you reach about the halfway point, you are faced with a wall of boulders. You will be climbing up and over the rocks to reach the top. My older kids took turns helping the younger kids make their way over the boulders. Both trails have points where it’s possible to sit and rest before continuing your hike. Whichever trail you take, the view from the top is simply amazing.
2. Saddle up at Chief Whitehorse Trail Rides. Chief Whitehorse offers guided horseback rides through Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Even if you’ve never ridden a horse before, Chief Whitehorse guides will help you throughout the one-hour scenic ride through the park. The staff here is super friendly and the horses are very well trained. Our guide even gave my kids bananas to feed to their horses for a treat at the end of our ride.
3. Visit the Museum of Discovery. If you are a fan of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, you’ve seen science expert Kevin Delaney. Delaney is the director of visitor experience at Museum of Discovery. Museum of Discovery, located at River Market in downtown Little Rock, is also a Smithsonian Affiliate. The museum features 90 interactive science and technology exhibits with rotating featured exhibits. Each of my children aged 9 through 18 enjoyed the museum. For preschool-aged kids, there is the Room To Grow, which is a hands-on area designed especially for those aged six and under.
4. Stickyz Rock N Roll Chicken Shack. I know, you’ve eaten too many chicken fingers already on your travels. But, trust me, these are not your usual fast food chicken fingers. Located almost directly across from Museum of Discovery, my family happened upon this place by accident. We were hungry and getting cranky. Stickyz is a funky little restaurant with neon colors and oddly shaped tables and chairs. The menu offers more than just chicken fingers, but really you’re going to want to order the chicken fingers that come in flavors like hard garlic, jalapeño/ginger, voodoo and lemon pepper. Original recipe chicken fingers are also available if you don’t want to try one of the other ten flavors. An assortment of homemade sauces is available for dipping. Stickyz offers live music on nights and weekends. There are age restrictions for the shows, but it was a very family-friendly atmosphere when we were there for lunch.
5. After lunch, cross the river to the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum. Climb inside the USS Razorback, the longest-serving United States submarine responsible for rescuing American pilots shot down during World War II. I decided to stay outside the sub and enjoy the sunshine along the riverbank while my boys took the guided tour of the submarine. They enjoyed climbing through the submarine as much as listening to the old war stories told by the World War II veteran volunteers.
6. Take a stroll through River Market. The River Market area is where you’ll find antique stores, souvenir shops, restaurants, candy stores and the Ottenheimer Market Hall for even more specialty goods and food. The day we visited, First Security Amphitheater hosted a BMX bike demonstration that held my older boys’ attention for quite a long time.
7. Walk or bike across the Big Dam Bridge. Yes, that’s really its name. This 4,226 foot bridge is built 90 feet above the Arkansas River and is the longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge in the world. The bridge also provides access to the Clinton Presidential Center.
8. Visit the Splash Park. Kids, no matter how old they are, just can’t stay away from water. So good thing Peabody Splash Park is designed to let them have fun and get wet. The underground tunnels, climbing stones and splash pad provided a nice place for us to take a break from our sightseeing. The younger kids could run around and burn off some steam while the older kids acted like they were too cool for the splash pad. Of course, they eventually ended up just as soaked as everyone else.
9. The Arkansas State Fair is a good old-fashioned state fair like you remember from your younger days. Our Fall break visit to Little Rock just happened to coincide with the final weekend of the fair. Our hotel had discount admission coupons, so off we went to the fair one evening. Cold lemonade, hot corn dogs and dizzying rides soon had us all on stimulation overload. But the fairgrounds were clean and the staff was friendly and helpful.
10. By this point of the weekend we were worn out and never did make it to Clinton Presidential Center and Park. I was hoping to visit the Clinton Library to see a full-size scale replica of the oval office and the 110-foot historical timeline. It is definitely on the schedule for our next trip to Little Rock.