Drive through Anytown, USA and you are bound to notice some local color: a someone famous slept here sign, Home of the World’s Largest something or-other, or the world’s capital of something. So what do you get when you visit Little Rock, Arkansas? The Little Rock neighborhoods create a rich patina of cultural, heritage, and community pride that blend together to create the epitome of Southern charm.
Let’s take a look at the Little Rock neighborhoods to find the one that speaks to your travel style.
If you are in downtown Little Rock, you are close to what is perhaps the most popular spot in town – the historic downtown River Market District. This area has been part of a revitalization of the riverfront for over the past decade.
The River Market includes an outdoor farmers’ market, with all types of fresh, local produce being offered on Tuesdays and Saturdays, late April through October, and an indoor market where shopkeepers offer everything from gourmet coffee to fresh sushi. The area has become a center of activity, which is continually fueled by the addition of new restaurants, hot local bars and unique shops.
Events like Arvest River Market on Ice, the annual Riverfest (in the Riverfront Park adjacent to River Market), and Cruisin’ in the Rock bring people down to the area. These events boast live music, great food and a carnival-like atmosphere.
Just a short distance from the River Market is the area of restored 19th-century homes around MacArthur Park and the governor’s mansion known as the Quapaw Quarter. This area is nine square miles of beautiful antebellum and Victorian homes included in the central business district. This site is famous for the preservation of these historic homes.
Most of the homes are privately owned, so access is limited mainly to walking and driving tours. However, twice a year, many homes in the quarter are opened for tours under the direction of the Quapaw Quarter Association. There is the Annual Quapaw Quarter Spring Tour the first weekend in May and the Christmas Open House the first weekend in December.
The Villa Marre, dating from 1881, now a private residence, was the home used as the Sugarbaker Design Studio on the TV show Designing Women. The Empress Bed and Breakfast, Trapnall Hall, Old State House Museum and the Little Rock Visitor Information Center at Historic Curran Hall are open for tours and are available for special occasion rentals.
Hillcrest and Heights Neighborhoods
The area west of downtown along Markham Street is known as the Hillcrest Historic District. This is a National Register of Historic Places collection, being one of the earliest residential areas of the city, featuring beautiful turn of the century homes and cottages dating back to the early part of the 20th century.
The Heights is a trendy, upscale area on the northwest side of town with its own particular flavor. Here you will find quaint gift shops, exclusive boutiques, restaurants, cafes and antique shops, mixed into a residential neighborhood. This is north of Hillcrest and dates from the 1920s and 1930s. Many of the houses overlook the Arkansas River, built high up on the bluffs – hence the name. You’ll find leafy, well kept lawns, small cottages, interesting shops and peaceful streets.
This scenic area is home to the headquarters of Verizon Corporation, as well as apartments, condos and luxurious modern housing. It also has some of the city’s most popular restaurants and nightspots. It’s on the river so it has beautiful views and is just a few miles west of downtown. There’s also a harbor here in case you have a spare yacht you want to launch. Many residents of this neighborhood do.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, home of the UALR Trojans, is located in an area west of downtown. The Arkansas Razorbacks play at War Memorial Stadium, and, housed on the campus south of there, you will find the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Planetarium, the art gallery in the Fine Arts Building, and the Stella Boyle Smith Auditorium. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is the home of Arkansas’ only academic medical center, with clinics covering every medical specialty and a staff of more than 1,100 doctors.
North Little Rock
North Little Rock is a separate city with its own personality. Formerly known as Argenta, this municipality has preserved its own local history.
The Old Mill, famous for being the backdrop to the opening credits in Gone With the Wind, is open for tours. The Argenta Historic District is a large area that includes city hall, churches, and a military post. North Little Rock is also the site of Verizon Arena and hosts conventions, concerts, rodeos, and performances of all kinds.There are many smaller neighborhoods. Each area of town has its little bustling corner, and civic pride is evident in the growth and vitality of North Little Rock.
West Little Rock
If you drive west on Interstate 630 from the downtown area, you’ll soon find yourself on Chenal Parkway. After crossing Shackleford Road, you are greeted by a seemingly endless string of restaurants, hotels and shops, all the way to Chenal Valley, one of the newest residential developments in the city.
The Chenal Country Club and Pleasant Valley Country Club are located here, and are beautiful, top-rated golf courses in the area.
Bowman Road, Bowman Curve and West Markham, all in West Little Rock, offer more shopping, dining and entertainment. Arkansas Hwy. 10 takes you to Lake Maumelle and Pinnacle Mountain State Park, two of Little Rock’s most popular outdoor recreation areas.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (via TravMedia)
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Mary Jo Manzanares is a founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine proving informational and inspirational travel recommendations for curious Baby Boomer travelers. She has been a speaker at various industry events and has a personal travel blog at Traveling with MJ. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Mary Jo’s top travel destinations are Italy, Portugal, and the Caribbean.