Sunday, February 13, 2011
Little Rock, AR
It's a five hour jaunt up I-30 from Fort Worth to Little Rock, but it is a weekend trip that will not disappoint.
Three hours into our drive, just before we crossed the border we made a dinner stop in Texarkana. When we were there in January 2011, most of the roads in Texarkana were under construction making getting around very difficult. Despite the traffic problem a stop at the IronWood Grill is well worth it. They don't take reservations, but on busy nights they do call ahead seating - which you'll need since the wait can be over an hour otherwise. I had some delicious fish tacos (my favorite!) but they have something for everyone on the menu.
You'll start to notice the landscape change once you leave Texarkana and cross into Arkansas - for this Georgia girl it started to look a bit more like home. We stayed in a downtown hotel giving us lots of flexibility to walk to most attractions.
Saturday morning we walked around downtown Little Rock looking for breakfast. The Little Rock River Market has lots of little breakfast options if you are looking for a pastry and coffee to go. I was in the mood for a full sit down breakfast so we headed over to the Capital Hotel for an amazing breakfast that got the morning off to a great start. Even if you don't grab some food here make sure to stop by just to see this grand old hotel.
The Clinton Presidential Library & Museum is located at the end of E Markham St. so a few minutes walk through downtown or down the river takes you right to the museum. The museum will take you a few hours and covers Clinton's years in the presidency. The Clinton Library will make you feel great about being American - maybe its the piped in music that is reminiscent of "The West Wing." The sections on the Clinton Presidency are very well done covering everything from the Economy to Impeachment. The Library does not address anything prior to the Campaign and is smaller then some of the other libraries. (The picture above shows the entirety of the permanent gallery.) The building itself is LEED certified - ask any of the docents and they are happy to tell you about the bamboo and recycled tire flooring. Out of the five presidential libraries we have been to, this is the only one that lets you take a picture in front of the oval office with your personal camera. (The George Bush Sr. Library takes your picture and sells it to you, the rest have had a strict no picture policy.)
After the library, head just across the complex, past the Clinton School of Public Service to Heifer International's Heifer Village. The Village has a lovely visitors center with 30min worth of interactive exhibits and information on sustainable living. There is a small cafe, although on the Saturday we were there it was not running full service lunch. Stop by the desk in front and ask about their LEED Building tour which will take you into their LEED certified platinum headquarters building (don't worry it was built with separate building funds - not through typical donations.) The building is worth seeing as it takes into account its home on a former wetlands and reincorporates that into its design. The tours are free - call or ask at the front desk for times.
After the building tour we walked back into downtown, although you can also ride the shuttle from the Clinton Library to the Clinton Museum Gift Shop if your legs are getting tired, to grab some lunch at the River Market.
After lunch we hopped into our car to see some of what Little Rock has to offer outside of the downtown area. Little Rock Central High School is only 5min (by car) from downtown. The National Historic Cite Visitors Center (across the street from the school) has a comprehensive exhibit on the events surrounding The Little Rock Nine as well as an overview of the Civil Rights Movement. Like me, you've probably studied the events of September 23, 1957 and Brown v. Board of Education, but there is something about standing outside the school, on the same street, that really brings it home. In case you are wondering, Little Rock Central High School is still an active high school, so you can not wonder around inside.
Next, we made our way to the Big Dam Bridge - a pedestrian bridge that connects river trails on both sides of the Arkansas River. Our visit was marked by beautiful weather, so the bridge was packed with runners, bikers and visitors of all ages admiring the bridge. We were in a hurry and didn't make it all the way across, but walked up high enough to get a view of the locks that allow boats to bypass the dam. (We were in a hurry, because we were on our way to mass at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew.)On our next visit we want to rent bikes and bike to the bridge from downtown.
There are plenty of night time activities in downtown Little Rock. We headed off the main drag (just a block or two) for dinner at the Copper Grill. My soup came in this cute little pot and poured out table side, which I really enjoyed. Although dinner was great, we bypassed desert at the restaurant in favor of a little bakery (The Brown Sugar Bakeshop) that we had passed on our way to dinner. Unfortunatly, we found the lights out and the doors locked - but the sign said they were open till 8pm. A woman came to the door holding a piece of cake and told us they had completely sold out, except for this last piece of cake - which she then gave to us along with two forks! We gratefully took the cake, but vowed next time we are in town to grab desert first. As an evening activity we took advantage of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's discounted military tickets and had a chance to see Philip Mann conduct from the fifth row! It was the perfect end to our Little Rock adventure.