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Little Rock, AR City Guide

by Stephanie

cityguide_littlerock
Stephanie Maxwell is a near-native Arkansan, having moved to Little Rock with her family when she was just three. After college in Mississippi and a post-grad year in London, Stephanie moved back to her hometown, where she writes and edits for an entertainment weekly, Sync, and her local arts and entertainment blog, Off The Record. Today she gives us a glimpse into this Southern city and all of the dining, shopping and sites it has to offer. -Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump…


Somewhere between hectic capital hubbub and slow Southern town lies Little Rock, Arkansas. From the revitalization that’s happening in the city’s downtown areas to the newer developments out west, there is so much to see and do in Little Rock — but the city is best shown off by a local, who knows the capital’s hidden gems in addition to its can’t-misses.

Be sure to check out our Google Map of the following listings!

Little Rock City Guide

Images by Arshia Khan

RIVER MARKET DISTRICT
Many first-time visitors to Little Rock end up in the River Market, and for good reason. The city’s in the midst of its downtown revival, watching old department stores and office buildings find new life as studio apartments, restaurants, and even schools. The accommodation there is convenient and lush. President Clinton Avenue, lined with restaurants, bars, and music venues, is an especially lively place to be on the weekends.

EAT
Bruno’s Little Italy
Owned an operated by the Bruno family, Bruno’s Little Italy‘s Arkansas roots go back to the 1940s. This incarnation of authentic Italian opened in the newly remodeled Mann on Main building in 2013.

Capital Bar and Grill
Looking for Southern home-cooking, slightly elevated? Capital Bar and Grill is known for Southern home-cooked favorites such as fried catfish, a pimento-cheese burger and banana pudding. Across the hotel lobby is the bar’s more upscale other half, One Eleven, if you’re feeling even fancier.

Gus’s Fried Chicken
Well, you didn’t expect to come to the South and avoid fried chicken, did you? Based in Tennessee, Gus’s has made the trip to Arkansas where it’s found a die-hard fan base.

Revolution
Beatles fan? Revolution offers a Sunday Beatles Brunch. Corny? Maybe. But the Octopus’s Garden and $1 mimosas will have you forgetting all about that hangover you have from the piano bars down the street (oops).

Kilwins Little Rock
Though this is a national franchise, Little Rock has only recently been graced by the goodness that is a Kilwins candy apple. Perfect dessert after lunch in the Ottenheimer Market Hall or Stickyz Rock ‘N’ Rock Chicken Shack across the street.

Still hungry? Bray Gourmet (deli), Natchez (reinvented Southern), Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro (award-winning cheese dip! Little Rock loves cheese dip), and EJ’s (sandwiches and homemade chips) are slightly off the beaten path, but offer something a little different if you need a break from the main drag, which can get crowded. Be sure to check websites for hours, as some downtown restaurants are lunch-only.

DRINK
Vino’s
While not technically in the River Market, Vino’s isn’t far. Vino’s has been brewing its own beer since 1993, making it Little Rock’s original brewpub. Try the Pinnacle IPA or Firehouse Pale Ale paired with Vino’s Special, available for lunch and dinner by the slice.

Flying Saucer
Looking for taps on taps on taps? Flying Saucer has just about any beer you could want on tap or bottled. If you’re in town midweek, this is a popular stop for trivia on Tuesdays. (If the ground floor is crowded, head downstairs for dart boards and pool tables.)

Cache
I get it, you had in mind something a little ritzier than pitchers of beer. Then check out Cache, one of downtown Little Rock’s newer gems. The restaurant has a second-floor bar which looks over President Clinton Avenue. Cocktails, etc. etc.

One Eleven at the Capital
One Eleven, mentioned above, is right across the lobby from Capital Bar and Grill in the Capital Hotel. Having just undergone a full revamp and renovation this summer, the restaurant now features a gorgeous bar visible from the lobby. If you want to take your drink outside, head upstairs where you’ll find a second floor patio, cocktail menus and a server dedicated to the area.

Live music fan? Check the schedules for Rev Room, Stickyz, and Juanita’s (and of course Verizon Arena, which is just across the river in North Little Rock).

SHOP
River Market Books and Gifts
This remains one of my absolute favorite places in the city. From basement to third floor is filled with “gently used” books, most priced at less than a fiver. And since the inventory is ever-changing, it makes hunting down your next read all the more engrossing.

Butler Center
The ground floor of this offshoot of the Central Arkansas Library System is a gallery hosting both temporary exhibitions and a retail gallery where you can find artwork and crafts from artisans around the state.

Clinton Museum Store
Don’t be confused that the Clinton Museum Store is not actually on the grounds of the Clinton Presidential Center — the center is just down the street. But it’s worth making a special trip to the store. Not only are there some of the coolest Arkansas-centric gifts, but ol’ Bill himself is known to pop in often when he’s in town.

Fringe Clothing
Looking for boutique shopping in the area? Fringe is your River Market spot, selling modern designs with a bohemian flair. Be sure to check out Fringe Vintage, a range of artful jewelry made from vintage pieces.

DO
Julius Breckling Riverfront Park and the Arkansas River Trail
If you have nice weather to take advantage of, consider a walk along the Arkansas River Trail from Clinton Presidential Park to the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden, which is just over a half-mile. Along the way you’ll see La Petite Roche, the actual “little rock” that, according to local lore, the city is named for, plus the History Pavilion — a look at the region before it was settled — and Peabody Park, a play area for children that includes a splash pad for those hot, humid Arkansas summers.

Clinton Presidential Center
Visiting the Clinton Presidential Center is really a no-brainer. The permanent exhibit includes a replica of the White House Oval Office, display of gifts to the president and first lady (more intriguing than it sounds) and records from Bill’s eight years in office. In addition, the center hosts world-class temporary exhibits. Past examples include a collection of Oscar de la Renta’s designs and Chihuly: The Art of Glass.

Museum of Discovery
If you’ve got little ones, the Museum of Discovery is a must-visit. And, if there are no tots in tow and you’re in town on the last Wednesday of the month, check out the museum’s Science After Dark happy hour for the 21-and-up crowd. Cost is only $5 for nonmembers.

Heifer International
The headquarters Heifer, an international nonprofit organization working to end poverty and hunger, lies in downtown Little Rock. Interactive exhibits inside are fun for kids and informative if you don’t know anything yet about Heifer. But a tour of the offices is also impressive, as the campus utilizes green practices that have achieved the highest rating possible in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. (The internal restaurant, Heifer Cafe, is also delicious, if you visit around lunchtime.)

Historic Arkansas Museum
For those truly curious about the history of Arkansas, Arkansas Historic Museum is the site of several pre-Civil War houses in their original location, restored to their original condition. In addition to a collection of Arkansas artifacts and art, several galleries are dedicated to contemporary exhibits.

STAY
The Capital Hotel
Built in 1872, the Capital Hotel is a beloved fixture in Little Rock history and downtown class. Since it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, all renovations reflect the historic integrity of the structure, which creates the feeling of traveling back in time to the Old South when you walk through those lobby doors. But despite its historic charm, the Capital’s 94 rooms reflect modern, refined luxury. The location is also ideal, within walking distance of all of the River Market’s main attractions.

Marriott Little Rock
Attached to the Statehouse Convention Center, the Marriott Little Rock has received a major overhaul in recent years since its days as a local outpost of the Peabody, famous for its resident ducks (and whose home location is in Memphis, Tennessee). The recent renovations have left the place looking sleek and contemporary. The hotel’s restaurant, now called Heritage Grille Steak and Fin, also received a redo. Right across the street from Capital Hotel, this location is also within walking distance of all of the River Market district’s main attractions.

Little Rock City Guide

SOUTH MAIN
South of the River Market, the part of downtown Little Rock known as South Main is experiencing a revival of its own. Here, the feel is less capital city and sparkly nightlife, more slow, Southern living with a focus on local. SoMa is also a center for arts in the city, with murals, public sculpture, and the offices of the “Southern magazine of good writing” all located here, within a mile of the state’s center for the visual arts.

EAT
The Root Cafe
Focused on farm-sourced food and feeding the local economy, The Root is an anchor and example of life in SoMa. The place is open Tuesday through Sunday for breakfast and lunch (with brunch on Sundays) and is popular for salads, burgers and its spicy banh mi. A map inside pinpoints exactly which farms The Root gets its food from and where in Arkansas those farms are.

Boulevard Bread Co.
Though the flagship location of Boulevard is in the Heights, this is where the bread for all four Little Rock locations of the bakery is baked. The menu is Southern deli with a European feel. Be sure to check the cooler for a slice of their awesome carrot cake.

Loblolly Creamery
Located inside the Green Corner Store, Loblolly ice cream and sodas — a must-try in the area — are served from behind an authentic old soda fountain counter. In addition to small-batch ice cream, this team has branched out to do ice cream sandwiches, phosphate sodas, milkshakes, kombucha and more.

Community Bakery
Make Community Bakery your stop for a quick sugar rush — whether its your morning donut fix or an afternoon petit four — and grab a window seat to people-watch in SoMa.

DRINK
South on Main
South on Main is the restaurant and event venue of Oxford American magazine. The creative menu of refined Southern cuisine is one thing (think kale salad with duck confit, rabbit boudoir), but the spot is worth a visit for the drinks alone. The cocktail menu includes classics like the Old Fashioned or Mint Julep, as well as originals, such as the Kudzu Fizz — a concoction of gin, cucumber water, yellow chartreuse, egg white, lemon, sugar and Pechaud’s.

Midtown Billiards
If South on Main is SoMa’s overachieving newcomer, its down-the-block neighbor, Midtown, is the slightly disheveled older sibling. Midtown is one of the city’s few late-night clubs, open until 5 a.m., and the inside is filled with pool tables, bathroom graffiti, rowdy regulars and smoke. But don’t let the gritty exterior intimidate you: Midtown was named one of Esquire’s Best Bars in America in 2004.

Stone’s Throw Brewing Co.
Arkansas has a growing home- and craft-brew scene, and Stone’s Throw, in the MacArthur Park Historic District just east of South Main, is proof of that. The atmosphere in the nanobrewery’s tiny tasting room is laid-back and cozy, with board games on hand and certain nights dedicated to pub trivia.

SHOP
The Green Corner Store
The corner shop housing Loblolly Creamery, The Green Corner Store, offers much more by the way of locally made and sourced clothing, accessories, bath products, home goods and more. There’s even a section in the back that stocks kid and baby items. Bonus points for play on words: The owner’s last name is Green.

Moxy Modern Mercantile
On the same block is Moxy, a haven for those who love all things retro. Stock ranges from one-of-a-kind vintage furniture to modern gifts and homewares. This is also a good place to rifle through vinyl.

Sweet Home Furnishings
If you’re into vintage, run across the street to Chris Clement’s Sweet Home Furnishings, a well-curated collection of truly unique antiques. Examples include those grotesque medical illustrations, midcentury chairs, and globes on globes on globes.

DO
Esse Purse Museum
A trip to SoMa wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Esse Purse Museum, which pays homage to a century of handbags and the women who carried them. The museum is comprised of the personal collection of Anita Davis, the woman responsible for much of the livelihood of the area. The exhibit is beautifully done, as is the connecting gift store.

The Bernice Garden
Another of Davis’ legacies to the neighborhood, The Bernice Garden comes alive on Sundays from April to November for the Bernice Garden Farmers’ Market. Yearround, the pavilion features an annually rotating selection of sculpture and a host of other special events, from the South Main Vintage Market (monthly from April to October) to the annual Arkansas Cornbread Festival.

Arkansas Arts Center
Back on the north side of Interstate 630, the Arkansas Arts Center‘s world-class permanent collection includes contemporary craft in addition to drawings, paintings and prints. The center is also home to a children’s theater and an art school, offering art classes and workshops for both kids and adults.

MacArthur Park
Besides being a nice place for a quiet retreat from the city, MacArthur Park — the city’s oldest municipal park — is home to the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, future Firehouse Hostel and Museum, and the MacArthur Unleashed Dog Park.

Central High
About a mile and a half west of MacArthur Park and SoMa is Little Rock Central High School. Sound familiar? This is the school that made history books when it was integrated in 1957. When nine black students were met with protests and violent mobs when they arrived for their first day at the previously all-white school in September 1957, President Eisenhower got involved the very next day, sending 1,200 US Army troops to escort the “Little Rock Nine” to school. The bravery of those nine students is memorialized several places throughout the city, including through the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site and Visitor Center.

Little Rock City Guide

HILLCREST/ STIFFT STATION
To experience Little Rock like a local, head west to Hillcrest, the city’s first “suburb,” just about 4 miles from the heart of downtown. The neighborhood has the feel of a small town, with Kavanaugh Boulevard acting as a mini Main Street packed with charming local restaurants, bars, shops, and homes. Nearby Stifft Station is so named because of its utility at one time as a stop on the streetcar trolley that once ran through the neighborhood. On your way from downtown via Third and Markham streets, keep your eyes peeled to the left for the Arkansas State Capital and “Testaments,” artist John Deering’s sculptural dedication to the Little Rock Nine.

EAT
Acadia
For Creole-influenced fine dining in a beautiful location, a seat on the patio at award-winning Acadia is ideal. Though a meal here can get pretty pricey ($18.75 for smoked Gouda mac ‘n’ cheese, anyone?), on certain nights the restaurant offers a multiple course prix fixe, which makes for an affordable date night.

Cafe Bossa Nova
This authentic Brazilian eatery has been a neighborhood favorite since it opened in 2002. People go crazy for Bossa Nova‘s Brazilian-style cheese bread, which is also served next door at the restaurant’s sister restaurant, Rosalia’s Family Bakery.

Kemuri
In the mood for sushi? Kemuri specializes in what it calls a “new Asian” cuisine that focuses around seafood, sushi, and robata, a type of Japanese fire-grilled dish. Though it’s only been open a matter of weeks, people are already saying this is a place where both atmosphere and presentation match the quality of the food.

Damgoode Pies
Little Rock locals have a lot of opinions about their pizza. And though there are plenty of favorites in the area, I say everyone needs to try the “stuffy” variety at Damgoode at least once. The toppings are inside the pizza — mind-blowing, I know.

Mylo Coffee
Hillcrest loves its coffee places — on the same fifth-of-a-mile stretch of Kavanaugh, you’ll also find River City Coffee and Rosalia’s (mentioned above). But Mylo gets listed here because of its excellent pour-over coffee, flaky pastries, and farm-fresh lunch menu.

Still hungry? In Hillcrest, check out U.S. Pizza for cheap beer and excellent thin crust; Leo’s Greek Castle for gyros in an adorably tiny restaurant; and So for seafood fondue. Or you can always head to Stifft Station for a fried oyster po’boy at The Oyster Bar.

DRINK
Ciao Baci
This is one of many businesses in Hillcrest housed in an old Craftsman Bungalow. And, like being in someone’s home, Ciao Baci feels intimate, and — you might be catching on to a trend — it has a fantastic patio. Popular house drinks are the red sangria and “naughty lemonade.”

Afterthought Bistro & Bar
Afterthought promises live music every night of the week. That can mean anything from a guy with a guitar playing mellow jazz to a 12-piece band that has people moving tables and chairs to make room for dancing.

The Fountain
With a reputation as something of a bro bar, The Fountain has pool tables and shuffleboard for those looking for something more to do than hold a drink and gab. It’s a popular spot for watching sports or convening after a Razorbacks game. (Tip: Sit outside unless you want to leave smelling like an ash tray.)

The White Water Tavern
No bar in Little Rock is quite as legendary as The White Water Tavern. This Stifft Station hangout is where everyone from Americana greats to local garage bands takes the stage under twinkly lights, an Arkansas flag and a hanging canoe. Expect a crowd that’s part hipster and part dad rocker.

SHOP
Box Turtle
An artisan boutique housed in an old Craftsman Bungalow, Box Turtle is filled with local art, designer clothing, handmade jewelry, and a myriad other treasures. Reese Witherspoon stopped in here recently (and Bossa Nova, in fact) when she was in Little Rock for the filming of Mud.

E.Leigh’s
Erin Holbaum’s once-small boutique has blown up since she opened her flagship Hillcrest store in 2011 — E. Leigh’s now boasts locations in Fayetteville and Conway and just announced its first out-of-state spot in Texas.

Haus Werk
Haus Werk is one of those stores where you can lose hours going through the mix of eclectic furniture, clothing, home goods, and accessories.

DO
Allsopp Park
On a pretty day, take the time to get lost in hilly, shady Allsopp Park, where trails are suitable for walkers, runners, cyclists, and families.

Hillcrest Farmers Market
No matter the season, Hillcrest Farmers Market is open every Saturday morning of the year. Farmers branch out in the colder months, with many offering jams, honeys, and other preserves, and food trucks, including local favorite The Southern Gourmasian, often set up to take advantage of crowds.

Gallery 26
Need a little art break? The walls at Gallery 26 are packed floor to ceiling with local artists’ work.

First Thursday of the month? Galleries and shops stay open late for Hillcrest Shop ‘N’ Sip the first Thursday of every month.

Little Rock City Guide

THE HEIGHTS
Though almost close enough to bleed over into one another, the Heights and Hillcrest have two distinct feels to them. While in Hillcrest you’ll see lots of bikers and people walking their dogs, in the Heights, you might catch a quartet of kids bustling down the street in a golf cart. This is where the Country Club of Little Rock lives, and, as expected, some of the pricier spots in town.

EAT
Zaza Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co.
Although the Neopolitian-style pie at Zaza is great, if you’re in the mood to get your greens, go for the order-at-the-counter salad option. This isn’t any ordinary salad bar — regular menu items include sesame ahi tuna and Baja shrimp. Oh, and there’s gelato.

Cheers
Cheers brings the Cajun and Creole spice of Southern Lousiana to the Heights. Any seafood dish here is excellent, and the atmosphere, with it’s intimate setting and high ceilings, is worth any slight claustrophobia.

LePops
Save room for dessert! The people behind LePops do gourmet popsicles that come in artisan flavors such as cucumber jalapeno and peach with Earl Grey tea. Grab one post-lunch and take it with you to window shop down the block.

Still hungry? U.S. Pizza and Boulevard both have locations in the Heights. Burges has made a name for itself with smoked-turkey spread and fried catfish. Sushi Cafe is one of the most popular sushi spots in Little Rock, and its sister restaurant, Oishi Hibachi + Thai Cuisine, is just down the street. And for reliable Italian, head to Cafe Prego.

DRINK
By the Glass
Long day of playing tourist? You deserve a glass (or bottle) of wine. By the Glass also has an extensive beer list in case anyone in your party is vino-averse.

Baja Grill
Sure, you might be actually coming here for the cheese dip and tacos, but what’s Mexican food without a margarita? Baja Grill actually started as a food truck in nearby Benton, but the place was so popular that owners decided to go brick-and-mortar and relocate to the big city — and add alcohol.

SHOP
Proposals
What started as a wedding dress boutique is now a one-stop shop for everything from formalwear to trendy tailgate attire. Proposals carries brands such as Kendra Scott, Bella Dahl, and Ellen Hunter. (For more fabulous women’s clothing, check out Southern Accented, Tulips and Steamroller Blues, all located along that strip of road.)

The Social Type
Papyrophiles, beware: You might just like this shop a little too much. In addition to custom wedding invites, The Social Type is well-stocked with adorable greeting cards and stationery accessories, all hard to resist.

The Painted Pig
Based around paint-your-own pottery, The Painted Pig is now a DIY studio offering glass fusion, mosaics, and make-your-own silvery jewelry. And if you’re not in town long enough to see your pottery or glass piece fired and ready, they ship. (Full disclosure, my family owns the studio!)

Wordsworth Books & Co.
This quaint bookshop is the largest independent bookstore in the state (and probably one of the few left). Wordsworth has a wonderful children’s books section and a wide selection of signed first editions.

Still have more money to spend? Visit Domestic Domestic for Pinterest-worthy homewards, Eggshells Kitchen Co. for kitchen goods, and The White Goat for French-inspired decor and gifts. And on the third Thursday of the month, shops stay open late for Happy Hour in the Heights.

Little Rock City Guide

RIVERDALE
Riverdale always seems to be in a state of flux. New restaurant openings show promise that there is more in store for this growing part of Little Rock, and neighboring parks are some of the city’s most popular green spaces.

EAT
Maddie’s Place
The places doing Southern Louisianan food in this town are doing it right. And Maddie’s is one of those places. Never tried fried alligator? Get it here. Plus shrimp ’n’ grits, Andouille sausage jambalaya, and red beans and rice.

Brave New Restaurant
You gotta love this place for the play on Aldous Huxley. With award-winning chef Peter Brave at the helm, Brave New has a very relaxed and easy atmosphere while still offering some of the best dining in the city.

Loca Luna / Red Door
Depending on which day of the weekend you’re brunching, head to one of these Mark Abernathy creations for quality Southern dining with a side of Champagne. Red Door is open 9 am to 2 pm Saturdays, and Loca Luna is open 10 am to 2:30 pm Sundays. Oh, and they share a parking lot, so if you forget which one you’re headed to, no biggie.

Pizza Cafe
Haven’t had enough pizza yet? Cool, neither has Little Rock. And besides great pies, Pizza Cafe does pitchers and has a patio big enough for a larger crew.

DRINK
The Fold
This tacos and tapas bar is one of the more Instagrammable stops in the capital city. Housed in an old service station and covered in succulents (planted in cans!) and with a motorcycle hanging from the ceiling, The Fold is a place you just have to see. But while you’re there, grab a Mezcal Mule to sip while you ‘gram.

Cajun’s Wharf
While past a certain point in the night, this spot turns into Cougarville, grabbing a drink on the back patio before the crowd arrives is one of the more serene spots to overlook the Arkansas River — you’ll really forget you’re in the hubbub of a capital city with that view of the North Little Rock bluffs. Go ahead, order the sugar-packed Play De Do, Cajun Wharf‘s signature drink.

Town Pump
Town Pump is Riverdale’s local dive. Expect karaoke, Jell-O shots, and shuffleboard. A steady crowd always shows up for the laid-back atmosphere and dependable pub grub.

SHOP
Cynthia East Fabrics
Though they mainly deal in fabrics by the bolt, Cynthia East has a range of ready-to-buy gifts and funky home accessories.

Bear Hill Interiors
The show room at Bear Hill Interiors will leave you completely inspired. The look is contemporary yet classic, and the gorgeous Boston ivy taking over outdoors is something to see in itself.

Fabulous Finds
Got the itch for a little antiquing? Fabulous Finds might not be much to look at from the outside, wedged as it is between a pool hall and Sonic Drive-Thru, but once inside, you’ll see where the antiques mall gets its somewhat-cheesy name.

DO
Murray Park and The Big Dam Bridge
About 2 1/2 miles northwest on Rebsamen Park Road from the dining and shopping district of Riverdale is Murray Park. This area is a popular spot for runners, cyclists, dog-walkers, stroller-pushers, and even rollerbladers, and the parks include pavilions, playgrounds, soccer fields, volleyball nets, and a dog park. About a mile farther is The Big Dam Bridge, one of the Little Rock outdoors scene’s proudest accomplishments. The pedestrian bridge — the longest of its kind in North America — connects Little Rock to North Little Rock for a total of 15 miles of riverside trails and 70,000 acres of land.

Little Rock City Guide

ARGENTA
North of Little Rock and the Arkansas River is, predictably, North Little Rock. And while the city has its own shops, restaurants and things to do, there’s one part of town that keeps drawing Little Rock locals and visitors to the north side of the river. Argenta Arts District is in historic downtown North Little Rock, and the strip along Main Street has become a hub for arts, theater, and innovation.

EAT
Mugs Cafe
Mugs is the exact neighborhood coffee shop and cafe that you wish you had within walking distance of your house. In addition to coffee, Mugs does breakfast and lunch right, with interesting coffee house menu items like roasted-pork tenderloin tacos and cranberry-turkey sliders on the menu.

Ristorante Capeo
The fine-dining staple in Argenta is run by brothers Brian and Eric Isaac. For a classy date, spend the afternoon moseying through the galleries at neighboring Greg Thompson Fine Art and Argenta Gallery and end the evening with Italian at Capeo.

DRINK
Crush Wine Bar
This neat little wine bar is tucked away on Main Street. The inside is dark and intimate, but the back patio, open-air and lit with twinkle lights, makes for a perfect happy hour location. And even though Crush is a wine bar, expect a great craft beer selection.

Cregeen’s Irish Pub
The name here doesn’t leave much to the imagination: Head to Cregeen’s if you’re feeling a Guinness, pub food and a little bit rowdier of a crowd.

SHOP
Bourbon and Boots
Though most of the world of Bourbon & Boots takes place on the interwebs, the online slingers of Southern goods has gone brick-and-mortar with a quaint storefront at their Argenta offices. Check out the website once and you’ll be lost for hours down a rabbit hole of hand-stamped spoons and vintage road maps.

Argenta Bead Co.
Even if you have no intention of stringing together any baubles, take a moment to walk through Argenta Bead Co.‘s immense, wall-to-wall collection of beads.

Galaxy
Through the constant change of Argenta, one place has stayed somewhat the same — walking into Galaxy is a bit like walking back in time to another decade. Housed in an old department store space, Galaxy offers an eclectic mix of office furniture and retro goods.

DO
Comedy at The Joint
Serving all at once as a coffee shop, bar, and performance venue, The Joint is somewhat of a triple threat. Tuesday is when comedian newbies cut their teeth on stand-up at an open mic night, and Friday and Saturday is when the bar’s resident improv and sketch trio, The Main Thing, performs their original comedy.

Diamond Bear Brewing Co.
Within a mile of Argenta is the new incarnation of Arkansas’ first craft brewery, Diamond Bear Brewing Co. The new facility offers tours (which includes free samples!) and has a restaurant attached, too. Go for the Diamond Bear Pale Ale or Presidential IPA.

Arkansas Travelers Baseball Game
For some 20-plus weeks out of the year, droves of locals head to Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock to cheer on “the Travs“, the minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. Even if you’re not into baseball, the park offers a gorgeous view of the capital city across the river, and you can’t leave Arkansas without a photo with Otey the Swamp Possum, can you?

STAY
Baker House Bed & Breakfast
For a cozier feel than a downtown Little Rock hotel, Baker House has five suites available right on Main Street in Argenta. The Victorian-style home, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, is within walking distance from all of the attractions along Main Street.

Need more art? On the third Friday of every month, shops and galleries in Argenta stay open late for Argenta Art Walk.

HEAD WEST: MIDTOWN AND WEST LITTLE ROCK
Little Rock has grown to the west, with the city’s western-most stretches being the newest residential developments and lots of big-box shopping. But there’s a lot to see and do in between, and it’s not all chains. These suggestions span from Midtown to Chenal and Highway 10.

EAT
Local Lime
If you’re going west, you might as well go all the way and hit up The Promenade for the only J. Crew within state lines. After a day of shopping, what’s best? A Texas Two Step margarita from Local Lime, that’s what. Local Lime is one in a trio of eateries under the belt of local restaurant group Yellow Rocket Concepts. And most call these the best tacos (and margaritas!) in town.

The Pantry
The Pantry specializes in Euro-eats — think brats, schnitzel and Shepherd’s pie. Though its located a little off the beaten path, the restaurant’s reputation has grown so much that it is also opening a second location in town.

Trio’s
Taking the in-laws out to brunch? Impress them with a trip to Trio’s, a Little Rock classic that’s still fairly centrally located.

Arkansas Burger Co.
An otherwise all-American burger spot, but with a handful of Greek options thrown in as well. Not sure if the burgers, the fries or the cheese dip is most popular at Arkansas Burger Co.

DRINK
Big Orange
Another Yellow Rocket baby, Big Orange is a must-visit in Little Rock, whether it’s for one of their mouth-watering gourmet burgers or a cocktail from the bar. With one location in Chenal and another in Midtown, a visit can be convenient no matter where you’re staying. And Big Orange gets extra points for adorable decor.

Grumpy’s Too
If you’re west of Mississippi Avenue and just need a dive to dip into for a Jack and Coke, Grumpy’s is a good place to get a glimpse at the grimier side of Arkansas. Don’t expect any special treatment or drinks menu. This is a beer-and-liquor type of joint.

SHOP
The Good Earth Garden Center
This is one of my favorite unexpected places to find gifts in Little Rock. Yes, Good Earth is a nursery and garden store first, but there’s a whole home and gift area that has some pretty cool finds. Oh, and last I checked, they have a couple of monkeys there named Abu and Yogi. No big deal.

The Promenade at Chenal
Once you move west in Little Rock, local shops are fewer and farther between. But that doesn’t mean The Promenade is to be skipped over. If you need your Anthro fix, this is the place, and you can fuel up on caffeine around the corner at local coffee shop Cafe Brunelle.

Pleasant Ridge Town Center
Not quite as far west at The Promenade, Pleasant Ridge is packed with more locally owned businesses. Scarlet is an absolute must for street-style rocker chic. Vesta’s is fun for poking around pillows, throws, conversation-starter jewelry and cowboy boots you probably don’t need. Plus, if you’re toting tots, The Toggery around the corner offers distractions by way of toys, and the center has plenty of of restaurants for when the crew gets fussy.

DO
Pinnacle Mountain State Park
West Little Rock’s greatest treasure is its spacious outdoors. Pinnacle Mountain State Park is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Little Rock, and has a trail for every skill level, whether it’s a flat, shady hike around the base of the mountain or a boulder-filled climb up the east summit. (The west summit is the most popular — it’s totally walkable with places to rest along the way.) Plus, there’s plenty of green space for frisbee or cornhole and a playground, too.

Two Rivers Park
At Two Rivers Park, a bridge connects the mainland to a little peninsula in the Arkansas River filled with trails, trees, and wildlife — you’ll see deer if you’re lucky! There’s plenty of room to roam and take a picnic here, and the entrance to the park is within walking distance of The Big Dam Bridge, too.

NOTABLE LOCALS

Mary Steenburgen (from NLR), actress
Joey Lauren Adams (from NLR), actress
Bonnie Montgomery, Americana singer-songwriter
Stephano, painter and owner of Stephano’s Fine Art Gallery
Graham Gordy, screenwriter and playwright
Burt Taggart, musician, owns local record label Max recordings, and is an architect/interior designer with Taggart Design Group
Epiphany, hip-hop artist and entrepreneur
Korto Momolu, fashion designer (Project Runway runner up)
Mark Thiedeman, filmmaker
John Kushmaul, painter
Eliza Borne, managing editor of Oxford American
Sally Mengal and Rachel Moore, founders of Loblolly Creamery, a local, small-batch ice cream company
Sarah Orsborn, blogger (has been featured on Huff Post and national parenting blogs)
Jeff Nichols, screenwriter and director (Mud)
Christie Turk, screenprinter (Roll & Tumble Press)
Kevin Delaney, science educator, appeared on Late Show with Jimmy Fallon for a science series
Beth Ditto, lead singer of The Gossip

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Comments

  • Kind of getting the impression there isn’t anyplace worth visiting in North Little Rock, outside of Argenta. That’s kind of uh, elitist.

    • Drew

      I’m sorry if you feel some places are missing. Feel free to add your favorite spots in the comments here. This list includes over 50 suggestions and covers a wide range of neighborhoods and location types, so I don’t think the term elitist is accurate here.

      Grace

  • I love love love Little Rock, and I’m always so glad to see all its amazing businesses, restaurants and entrepreneurs highlighted to those who may not know about what gem this place is. Great job, Stephanie!

    And Drew, North Little Rock is an entirely different city, and since this is a Little Rock city guide, I think the idea was to touch on a few things that NLR has to offer without delving too deep. I sensed zero elitism here.

  • I’ve always wanted to go to Little Rock…I just love the name!! Gentleman prefers blondes is one of my favourite films and I remember the song that Marilyn and Jane Russell sung which names checks it!!

  • Little Rock native here. Thank you for featuring our fine city. This list is incredibly thorough. Well done, Stephanie. Beautiful food photography, but I’d prefer to see city scenes and outdoor shots that create a sense of place. There’s so much natural beauty – in what we call The Natural State – even smack dab in the middle of downtown Little Rock; I think that’s what makes it a special spot, our location on the Arkansas River and how beautiful it is here.

  • Sad to see South on Main missing as somewhere to eat in South Main. It’s a delicious restaurant featuring everything from local food to local music…Definitely a must while south of Main.

  • Great City Guide! I live in and love Little Rock! Seeing all if these great places listed makes me appreciate my city even more. A small correction: on South Main the antiques store is Sweet Home/clement, co-owned by the amazing John Keller Bell and the talented Chris Clement. A must-see!

  • We love visiting Little Rock! It’s an undiscovered gem, in my opinion. Bookmarking this for our next visit!

  • And don’t forget about Reinvented Vintage in the Breckenridge Village Shopping Center! This quirky little store has vintage painted furniture, amazing soaps, candles, jewelry and other unique gifts. It also features the work of several local artists! And for the DIY-type, take one of their informative furniture painting classes and learn how to use their exclusive lines of specialty furniture paints!

  • This is great Thanks! My husband and I made a quick trip into Little Rock to see Jeff Nichols brother, Ben Nichols play a solo show down in the River Market back in September- We got there in the evening and left before 8:00 the next morning so we didn’t get to do much. And I really wanted to. We’re going back next month to see Ben’s band Lucero play and I’m going to be saving this for that trip.

  • What a pleasent surprise to open my DS email to find an article about ARKANSAS! Lots of my personal favorites on that list—Bruno’s is the best! I’m glad to see I still have some haunts to explore.

  • Terry’s Finer Foods definitely needs to be added to this list! Love seeing stories about Little Rock!

  • The Garland House is a pretty amazing place in Little Rock too… It’s ran by the guys living in the house and features wonderful art, music, literature, publications and food. It’s all free and most of the shows spill out onto the front yard. They’ve had shows with local talents like (musicians) Isaac Alexander, Bonnie Montegomery, Sea Nanners, Mandy Mcbryde, (artists) Phillip Huddleston, Michael Inscoe, Caleb Pritchett, Stephen Cefalo, Vincent Griffin, Heather Cantebury, the list could go on. Also, worth checking out is the gallery Good Weather in NLR, owned and operated by Haynes Riley. So many good things in central Arkansas!

  • Agreed on Terry’s Finer Foods….a grocery store, bistro and fine dining ….same location. Food is beyond good. I have lived here 40 years–thank you for the wonderful recommendations! Ditto on Bruno’s!

  • Thank you for writing about Arkansas! May I put in a request for a “city guide” to Northwest Arkansas? The area is changing so quickly and there are many wonderful surprises to be uncovered: Tusk & Trotter–the food is so good it reminds me of Portland, OR; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art–they have a fab new exhibit of unknown current American artists; Pratt Place Inn–a luxury boutique hotel no one would expect to find in Arkansas.

  • Hi,

    I just wanted to give a quick thanks! Thank you so much for posting this detailed guide to Little Rock from a localist’s perspective. It is both accurate & full of many many things to explore in the city and it’s surroundings. However, it truly saddens me that some people feel the need to criticize your write-up…so unethical for them to do such! It is very sad to me that they have the time to express their opinions (which is JUST that…an opinion) on a great post like this one! You have done a Great job here & I have found your guide to be quite useful when visiting Little Rock; as someone who lives only 3 hrs south & loves to explore the local side of different small towns!

    Fondly,

    Sarah Beth

  • So happy to see this guide! I have visited Little Rock several times over the past few years and have totally fallen in love with the city. It has a unique vibe, friendly people, and so much to do. Box Turtle is my favorite store anywhere!

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