Small cities can sometimes get a bad rap. And while Little Rock may not have been on the top of our travel bucket list, we were happy to have a reason to visit a new city for Tom’s work. We’ve been twice now, but since we worked full-time during both trips we’re still getting acquainted with Arkansas’ capital city. Of the little (pun intended) that we’ve seen so far, we’ve managed to have a lot of fun. Little Rock is a great reminder that there’s always something worth discovering, even where you least expect it.
First Impressions of Little Rock
Little Rock is definitely one of the quieter cities we’ve visited, but that’s not a bad thing. We’ve been incredibly impressed with the clean streets, the friendly folks and the cute downtown area. Our first stay was in a pretty generic strip-mall part of town, which made exploring a little bit difficult. On our most recent trip we decided to stay right downtown, really enhancing our feel for the area. I was surprised to find that there’s not a super big selection of hotels in the city, but it’s definitely worth paying a little extra to stay closer to the action.
Little Rock’s downtown is very pedestrian-friendly with an pretty river walk area, aptly named the River Market District. There is a ton of green space, public art, views of the Arkansas River and an indoor market with numerous food stalls. We enjoyed waking up before the heat settled in each morning for a stroll across the Junction Bridge and coffees at Nexus Coffee & Creative nearby.
Even though I probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to visit Little Rock, our time spent there has certainly been enjoyable. We’ve already worked out a little system. Tom goes into the office during the day, while I work from the hotel. After quitting time, we head out to explore and, of course, eat. Since we’ve both been working from home full-time, the change of scenery is pretty great to keep us from getting cabin fever.
We quickly found a neighborhood wine bar, Zin, that is right up our alley for a post-work drink. I think finding the best local drinking spot may be our super power. On Wednesdays (or Zinsdays as they call them), they offer wine tastings (5 tastes for $15) and with complimentary snacks. They also have a great selection of wines by the glass. We’ve been twice and will undoubtedly return anytime we’re in Little Rock.
On another evening we went to newly-opened Agasi 7 for rooftop views around sunset. Little Rock’s skyline isn’t huge, but the sunset was still pretty spectacular. Just a reminder that there’s beauty in every destination, if you look for it.
A Sampling of the Little Rock Food Scene
The food selection in Little Rock is pretty diverse for a smaller, Southern city. On our first trip, we joined Tom’s coworkers for dinner at Three Fold Noodles and Dumplings. This cute fast-casual noodle joint gave me serious East Coast vibes, and the food was terrific and super spicy. I would love to see one of these open in OKC! Everything we tried was great, but you can’t miss the pork dumplings or the house-made taro chips.
Although we’ve stayed in chain hotels for both trips (the Homewood Suites downtown is clean, affordable and convenient for remote work FYI), we swooned when we stopped into the historic Capitol Hotel for a date night dinner. This stunning building has been around since the late 1800s and currently features two dining options on either side of its opulent lobby.
One Eleven seems to be one of the ritzier places in Little Rock, helmed by esteemed chef Joël Antunes and is one our list for a future visit. Our first stop, however, was the more casual Capital Bar and Grill. Real talk: I 100% wanted to go to this restaurant because they had banana pudding on the menu. I decided to be a responsible adult and eat real food first (a tasty Cuban sandwich) before digging into my favorite dessert. While not the best banana pudding I’ve ever had, it was pretty damn delicious!
We’re still getting a feel for the Little Rock food scene, but if this sampling is indicative of the whole we can’t wait to keep tasting! We’ll report back on more places once we’ve had another visit or two. In the meantime, I highly recommend giving these two restaurants a shot if you’re in town.
Nature, Nature Everywhere
The best thing about being smack dab in the middle of Arkansas is that you’re surrounded by nature. They don’t call it The Natural State for nothin’! Again, we haven’t had the time we’d like to see all of the nearby outdoor attractions. But there are so many options we will likely never tire of exploring. We did make time on our first visit to stop by Pinnacle Mountain State Park, a mere half hour from downtown Little Rock.
This park is huge, and we only scratched the surface. We stopped off at the Visitor Center for a picnic lunch at the easily-accessible scenic overlook located near the Rocky Valley Trail, next to a peaceful quarry pond. Again, we hope to return on future visits to fully explore this natural oasis.
Little Rock, and Arkansas in general, has been a welcome surprise as we’ve settled into our new lives in Oklahoma. Stay tuned as we consider to explore the rest of The Natural State!