I spent most of this weekend in Little Rock, Arkansas for a family wedding. We arrived Friday evening, attended the wedding Saturday night, and left Sunday morning. While this left not a whole lot of time to explore the city, I honestly feel like this all the time needed to see the city. That being said, however, the city actually far exceeded my (admittedly very low) expectations. According to Wikipedia,the population of Little Rock is 193,524, making it the 118th largest city in the US (hahaha). Also bear in mind that it was a cold and rainy weekend right after New Year’s, which may have impacted some of what I experienced.
Some of the city was off limits because of the timing of my visit. The current capital building of Arkansas is only accessible during business hours, and I had been specifically warned against visiting the zoo in January (few animals out and visible). Both of these are probably attractions that I would have enjoyed. The Friday night of our arrival we ate dinner in the restaurant of one of the many nice hotels of Little Rock, where the live jazz was great, the atmosphere pretty nice, and the food exceedingly mediocre. It was after 9pm by the time we finished, and I am not interested in night life, so I called it an early night.
I began Saturday with walking around the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden. This has a nice little collection, and includes pieces spread out over a nice stretch of the walk along the Arkansas River. I was impressed by quite a few pieces in the collection. I then visited the Arkansas Art Center, the main part of which is an art museum. The museum had several very nice special collections as well as a respectable standing collection. It had drawings or sketches by several major artists instead of the typical full paintings, which was interesting to see. It also had an exhibit of art for sale, which was a cool idea that offered a large selection of pieces in a wide variety of styles. Afterwards I visited the main branch of the Arkansas public library, which is an impressive 132,000 square feet. Visiting libraries is a personal favorite of mine, and this one was quite a nice library. It has 5 floors, with a floor dedicated each to fiction, reference and magazines/newspapers, children, teens, and nonfiction. There is art scattered throughout the building and I found a Christmas tree made out of green reference books that was very cool. Lunch was at a bakery of little note in the River Market, the stretch of downtown Little Rock along the river.
I followed lunch by exploring this area, and found several respectable art galleries and an awesome used bookstore and cafe. I also stopped in the Stephens Nature Center, which had some fun animals but was much too centered on hunting for my taste. I decided not to visit the Clinton Presidential Library because I do not think it would be something I would find interesting. I had read about a ‘creative corridor’ in one of the visitor magazines at our hotel, and walked up Main St. in hopes of finding it. Main Street, sadly, had nothing. It was so desolate. Construction everywhere, many places out of business, no people, and nothing of interest. The supposed location of the creative corridor had nothing either. I wandered around a bit more and found a few interesting looking churches and buildings, but none were open. I had heard good things about a handbag museum, but that turned out to be 17 blocks away from my hotel, and I did not want to wander off that far. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped in the Old State House Museum. This building used to be the capital building for the state and was turned into a museum when the new one opened. As I had expected, this was not something that interested me at all, though they had a nicely decorated Christmas tree still up.
At this point I had another hour to spare, but was cold and tired, did not want to walk around a seemingly dead city any more, and could find no other attractions to visit. I called it a day and curled up with a book for awhile. In general, Little Rock seems like a sad litle city in need of some love. However, there is a lot of really great art easily accessible, and the River Market is a very nice area. Definitely not a place to ever seek out in a visit, though, or one where I would ever want to live.