Northwest Arkansas usually gets all the outdoor credit, but if you haven’t been to Little Rock, you’re missing out on something. Aside from the 1,200 miles of biking trails in the metro area alone, the restaurants and cultural scene are world class. If you’re looking to explore a city where you can go out and learn something new, read on.
Cycling and going out
If you love cycling, you love Little Rock. Whether you are an avid or advanced cyclist or just starting out on a bike and want to work out, there is a trail around Little Rock for you. Start with an easy walk along the Arkansas River Trail, a beautiful, beginner-friendly loop that runs along both sides of the river. The sides are connected by the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge and the Big Dam Bridge, which is the longest bridge for cyclists and pedestrians in the country. At the end of September, the Grand Barrage Bridge 100 passes through here, offering 15 to 105 mile long cycle paths through challenging mountain scenery and rolling hills.
Dustin Smith, a resident and cyclist of Little Rock, also recommends Pinnacle Mountain State Park. He says that although you can go there from the city, it looks like the countryside and it is rarely crowded. “People are very friendly, and drivers generally know cyclists will be on these roads, so as an experienced cyclist he feels safe riding them,” he says.
Do not hesitate to come any time of the year, even when it is snowing in your part of the country. The weather in Little Rock is generally quite mild year round despite being in the Ouachita Mountains, so you can hike the trails in any season. Also allow time to venture out a bit further out of town if you want to hike the gravel trails of the Ouachita National Forest and Lake Winona, about an hour and a half away. “It’s an amazing natural place,” says Smith.
If cycling isn’t for you, don’t worry. You can rent SUPs and kayaks at Rock Town River Outfitters downtown, along the Arkansas River. It also offers expert guided tours of the nearby little Maumelle River if you have time to explore a bit more.
Little Rock has an impressive food scene, so make sure you have a good appetite to go to as many local restaurants as possible. For an early morning caffeine boost, Smith recommends having a coffee at Fidel & Cie. For lunch, he will send you to Root coffee, which offers excellent burgers, cookies and gravy, and a hearty brunch for the toughest adventures. After the ride you will want to spend Lost 40 brewing for a locally brewed pint (or two). “It’s very affordable and it’s kind of a hidden gem,” Smith says of Little Rock. “If you are new here and have never been there, there is an adventure around every corner.”
Around the city
Black residents of Little Rock fought hard during the civil rights movement, and since, to bring about change that reverberated across the country. Take time to browse the self-guided Civil Rights Tour to learn about the Little Rock Nine – the high school students who fought to desegregate education in 1957 – and visit historic places like Little Rock Central High National Historic Site. School and the Daisy Bates House Museum, where the editors of the Arkansas State Press facilitated meetings between the Nine and the NAACP legal team.
As you stroll through the city, keep an eye out for the countless murals and over 100 sculptures. Check a fresco map before you go take a look at these magnificent works, but be sure to allow time to wander aimlessly as well. At the end of 2022, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts will reopen in a beautiful, award-winning new building in MacArthur Park. It will house more than 14,000 works by artists from all over the world and you will also have the opportunity to create your own masterpieces. The new arts center will have workshops for printmaking, ceramics, painting, metallurgy and other art forms that will allow adults and children to create and create.
The downtown area is easily biked if you stay north of Interstate 630, close to the Arkansas River, Smith says, and there’s plenty of parking so you can travel effortlessly with your bikes. Stay stylish Capital hotel, whose five-star rooms sometimes cost less than $ 200 a night. It’s only a short walk to scenic Riverfront Park and the Arkansas River Trail, where you can take an easy evening stroll, the perfect way to end a trip to this handy capital.
Little Rock, Arkansas, is home to over 1,200 miles of mountain, gravel, and road biking trails, making it the epicenter of Arkansas’ arts, food, and cycling cultures. Visitors can follow the Civil Rights Pioneer Trail at historic Central High School and explore modern American history at the Clinton Presidential Library.