Traveling to Little Rock: lively things for all the senses [classic article]

There’s a new cultural vibe in Little Rock. It includes indie artists of all stripes and upwardly mobile young professionals involved in local events. Little Rock is a crossroads between the South and Southwest, as well as between historic culture and vibrant modernity. With so many of its attractions, hotels and restaurants located along the Arkansas River, everything is amazingly accessible. Little Rock is also home to a burgeoning culinary scene.

What to do

For just $1, hop on the River Rail historic streetcar. The Blue Line runs 7 days a week, while the Green Line runs 6 days. Drivers often have lots of inside information about all the stops and sights.

Plan for next Fall’s Arkansas Cornbread Fest in the urban Bernice Garden. The fest is in a competition format with sampling and voting by festival attendees. Local environmentally conscious businesses host lots of live music.

The Old State House Museum will challenge your ideas of what a historic museum is. It features exhibits on everything from Civil War battle flags to moonshiners to Black Oak Arkansas.

Enjoy live bands – including blues, soul and country – along with fresh chicken fingers at the renowned venue-restaurant Stickyz Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicken Shack.

Historic Arkansas Museum has many exhibits from Arkansas’ earliest days, including artifacts of Native Americans, slavery, commerce and art. The amazing gift shop features items made in Arkansas.

The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum displays many items from the President’s two terms in office, including his official limousine, state gifts that were given to him, as well as a full scale model of the Oval Office. In addition, the museum hosts visiting exhibits of a fun nature, like tricked out motorcycles and creations made out of Legos.

Where to stay

The Peabody is a branch location of the historic Memphis hotel. Twice a day, a duck master in the lobby corrals the famous and very cute ducks to and from their own apartment. Service at the 4-star hotel is attentive and top-notch. It has an escalator direct to the Little Rock Convention Center. If you’re with the whole family, friends, or just have business to conduct, the exquisitely appointed Presidential Suite/duplex will make everything easier and more luxurious.

The Capital Hotel is a gem of a boutique hotel, able to cater to VIP needs. Along with a beautiful façade and lobby, is boasts the award-winning, elegant Ashley’s, an elegant restaurant using the finest of Arkansas’ ingredients for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the rare Arkansas Black Apple on their pancakes!

For a chic, late-night drink and snack, head to the Capital Bar and Grill. Many things are made in-house, including the charcuterie. For cocktails, try the Southern Comfortable. It’s served in a frosted silver julep cup with Square One Botanical, Yellow Chartreuse, Berentzen Pear, lemon juice and pecan soda. The pecan soda is made from the nectar in which they cook their spiced pecans. The drink is garnished with an edible flower. Instead of a bread course, the bar serves mini rice bread muffins. Think corn bread, but rice. Arkansas is the largest grower of rice in the world.

Opening next year is the Firehouse Hostel and Museum in a historic firehouse. It will have 30 beds, indoor and outdoor dining, bicycle use and internet access.

Where to eat

Copper Grill has a casual but sophisticated atmosphere that fits the bill whether you’re out with family or on a date. The menu includes familiar Southern and bistro favorites made special by being crafted from scratch using the freshest local ingredients. They also have an award-winning wine selection.

Cajun’s Wharf, with a view of the Arkansas River, has two sides to it. The “restaurant” side features all kinds of seafood prepared with a Cajun/Southern flair. The “bar” side serves casual pub fare. The bar is where you can listen to lots of indie musicians, including local legend from Black Oak Arkansas, Andy Tanas.

42, the restaurant in the Clinton Museum and Library, serves casual fare like salads and paninis on weekdays. On Sunday, the brunch buffet (a steal at $24.99, including beverage) is cutting-edge and beautifully displayed. It’s meant as a showcase to educate diners on the capabilities of the chef and to entice them to hold catered affairs there. The seafood, produce, and herbs are the freshest available. The charcuterie, baked goods and candies are made in-house. They also pick a different country’s cuisine to feature on the third Thursday of every month. For $2, visitors to the museum can enjoy the coffee bar with freshly whipped cream and all the fixin’s for a gourmet coffee.

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