Monday, May 11, 2015

3 Ways to Enjoy Little Rock

Arkansas in general has long been plagued by the stereotype of being a breeding pool of red necks. And its capitol city, Little Rock, probably doesn’t have a very substantial reputation at all. But as an Arkansas native and a University of Arkansas at Little Rock graduate, I will gladly attest that there is a lot more going on in this mid-size city than most people realize. Here are just three ways that you can rock at life in The Rock!

Stay Fit

A view from the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge.
No expensive gym membership is necessary to get a regular work out in Little Rock thanks to the Arkansas River Trail System. This 88.5 mile loop is a “tribute to outdoor recreation, conservation, wellness, and the diverse geographies of Central Arkansas." It covers two metropolitan areas, 38 parks, 12 museums, 4 bridges and 5,000+ acres of federal, state, and local parkland in Little Rock and her neighboring cities. 

Walking on the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge.
It’s a great option for getting outside and getting active. My favorite section follows along the Arkansas River on one side with downtown Little Rock on the other, providing both beautiful scenery and easy access to shops and restaurants. ‘Cause, you know...we can’t all be too hardcore to resist stopping by the River Market for ice cream. And there’s no better motivation for exercise than a few hundred fresh calories to work off, right?

And if you go at night, you definitely have to check out the Big Dam Bridge (yes, that is the official name). Spanning 4,200 feet, it’s the longest bridge in the world to be built solely for the use of pedestrians and cyclists and is completely lit up in moving colors after dark.

Stay Sharp

There are a number of museums and galleries throughout the city with free or cheap admission, so a fun and educational family outing is easy to plan.

Personally, my top recommendation is the Historic ArkansasMuseum. Here you’ll find 5 pre-civil war houses right in the middle of downtown Little Rock-including the city’s oldest-that have been preserved as the city grows up around them. The museum galleries are completely free and feature pieces from local artists as well as historic exhibits. The knife gallery, for example, houses knives from all over the world, including several Bowie knives (a.k.a. “Arkansas toothpicks”). Out on the grounds, you can interact with living history characters representing people who actually lived in the houses and can even bring along a picnic if you want to have lunch on the lawn. The museum area is free, and the historic grounds? Kids and seniors can enter for only a dollar a piece, while adult tickets come in at a whopping two dollars and fifty cents.

Science Experiments at the Museum of Discovery.
Taken from their Facebook page.
Of course, if you’re herding around little science enthusiasts, you’ve got to check out the Museum of Discovery. Located right on the river front, its mission is to “ignite a passion for science, technology and math in a dynamic, interactive environment.” 

They host several fun programs, including one for adults only called “Science After Dark.” It takes place during the evening on the last Thursday of every month and, from what I understand, sometimes features adult beverages.

Some "foreign" guests hanging out at the Museum of Discovery.
Taken from their Facebook page.
This museum isn't free, but certainly worth the price if you take your time and enjoy it. Adult admission is $10 while kids, seniors, teachers, active and retired military, and Little Rock city employees all get in for $8. Science After Dark is $5.

And while you’re there, why not walk right down the street and check out The Witt Stephens Jr.Central Arkansas Nature Center? The center aims to educate folks on the Natural State’s many outdoor recreational opportunities provided by its fish and wildlife resources.  The main building includes an exhibit hall and aquariums that are totally free to the public. It's right by the river and is even connected to the Arkansas River Trail. And, on the last Monday evening of every month, some of us local archaeologists and history lovers grace it with our quirky presences for free lectures hosted by the Arkansas Archaeological Society’s Toltec Research Station.

And these are just a few options! There are plenty more to check out, including the Clinton Presidential Center and Park, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Arts Center, Heifer International’s Heifer Village, and more!

Stay in Tune

Now, any local musician will warn you that it is really hard to get famous out of Little Rock. There just isn’t a large enough music scene.

However, if you’re not a musician trying to make it big, you can really benefit from Little Rock’s small-but-persistent music underground.

For one, it's big enough to have multiple venues to choose from but small enough to host a fairly tight-nit community. Many Little Rockians from teens to thirties know where to go for live music and can bond with total strangers over memories at a particular venue. Many of us have enjoyed beer and pizza while listening to some screamo nonsense at Vinos, pushed through the crowd to get closer to the stage at the Rev Room, and at least stood at the edge of a mosh pit at Jaunita’s.

An ode to music outside of the Revolution Music Room.
And, because there aren’t enough people interested in most bands to fill up an auditorium at a hundred bucks a pop, those of us who are interested get to see them at smaller and more intimate venues for way cheaper. For example, Blue October is coming to Juanitas this week and all tickets are $27. They’re going to Austin a few days later and the only tickets still available are $155. I’ve seen some great acts including Matisyahu, Relient K, and the All-American Rejects for less than 30 bucks a ticket (fun fact: I got cussed out by the All-American Rejects' lead vocalist Tyson Ritter after the show for calling him out on his bs).

You can keep up to date on a lot of local venues here.

Of course, not everyone wants to rock out. Those with a more classical taste in music are sure to find entertainment as well! The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra puts on a variety of concerts, sometimes inviting guest singers or performers to join them on stage. As a matter of fact, in October they’ll be teaming up with the circus to provide an entertainment experience that is both audibly and visually exciting! And how outrageous are the prices for such an evening? They start at just $19. AND, thanks to Entergy, you can also get a free ticket for one child from kindergarten to high school as long as you purchase an adult ticket as well.

A performance made possible by the UALR Dept of Music.
Taken from their Facebook page.
If you’re interested in something a little lower profile and less crowded, just check the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s concert schedule. They have things happening pretty regularly throughout the academic year. Of course, students have to perform as part of attaining a degree in the performing arts, but professors sometimes show off their talents as well. You can find anything from solo piano recitals to jazz ensembles...often without an admission fee.   


  1. What did you say to Ritter?!!

    1. He gave this big speech in the middle of the concert about how they are still keep it real and they're so authentic even though they're famous. But then afterword you could buy a "private meet and greet" with the band for like 20 bucks. And a friend of mine bought this $40 watch that granted him two passes, so he gave one to me.

      And then it turned out to just be stand in line with the 100 other people who paid for the "meet and greet," go through the line, get ONE thing autographed and don't take any pictures.

      Sooooo when I got up to him I simply inquired about how he can talk so much shit about keeping it real and then charge that much for something other bands would be happy to do as a basic courtesy to their fans for free.