Located smack dab in the middle of the state, Little Rock is a perfect combination of southern comfort, metropolitan, rich history, and granola-crunchy. From the esteemed Clinton Presidential Center and Library to the Historic Arkansas homes and live country music heard in bars and restaurants downtown, this small-scale southern city is a unique hub for southern culture and urban living.
What Makes Little Rock Unique?
When you first enter downtown Little Rock, it’s hard not to notice one of the most prominent sights in the center of the city. The words LITTLE ROCK RIVER MARKET are boldly displayed at the top of the river market building near the bandstand along the river. From the antique-looking trolley cars that run through the center of the city to the bright display of the river lights in the rock, this Arkansan city is unlike the cities I’ve lived in and have traveled to in the past. There’s a quaintness and comfort that shines through the city from the old-time brick buildings, wonderfully outdated and retro nightclubs, and home-cooked, southern-style restaurants. It’s a perfect blend of southern and urban living without the chaos and craziness of a northeastern metropolis.
Getting a Bite to Eat
From the All-American Flying Saucer Draught Emporium where you can choose from over 200 global beers to the vegetarian, vegan, and local eatery, The Root – there are dozens of unique and delectable places to eat. As a vegetarian down south, I thought I’d never come across a vegetarian and vegan inspired restaurant but in Little Rock I was thankfully able to find that. A lot of the restaurants in the SoMa (Southside Main Street) area are all local, organic, vegan/vegetarian, and free-range and will make any southern hippie feel at home. Of course, if you’re looking for deep-south style cooking where you can enjoy some BBQ and fried food, there are plenty of options for that too!
With our 42nd President being a native Arkansan, The Clinton Presidential Center should be on your list of top things to do when visiting the city. The Clinton Center includes various exhibitions of his presidency, early political career, Hillary and Chelsea’s careers in politics and public service, and the legacy and impact of his presidency on our nation. After touring the center, I recommend walking down the Clinton Walkway Bridge over the Arkansas River and then journeying downtown to explore the shops, restaurants, art galleries, local museums and historic sites. Central High School, where the Little Rock Nine event happened during the Civil Rights Movement is definitely not something that’s considered a “tourist attraction” by any means, but it’s a powerful experience and a recommended place to see where you can reflect on our country’s struggle with racial integration in education.
Neighborhoods to Visit
As I mentioned before, SoMa is by far my favorite area of Little Rock. For those of you who are familiar with northeastern cities, it reminds me of Jamaica Plain in Massachusetts or funky parts of Philadelphia where going green, supporting local farmers, and being socially conscious are the core principles of the people who live there. Those philosophies are present in SoMa and you can tell just by walking down the street, stopping in their corner stores, and talking to the neighbors of the area. For someone who’s from the urban northeast and hold very similar ideals, it was heartening to be an environment like SoMa.
So, if you’re planning a trip down south and looking for a city to spend some time in, I would highly recommend spending a day in Little Rock, Arkansas. Not only will you experience a funky, comforting southern vibe but you’ll also immerse yourself in a unique culture that is quite different from the major cities of our nation. I promise, you won’t be disappointed! Give a southern city a try!