Discover Little Rock, Hot Springs, State Parks and the Northwest!
A four-day, five-night trip through Little Rock, Hot Springs and Northwest Arkansas, combining great restaurants, museums and adventure activities.
We discovered diverse adventures in Arkansas, where we filmed for our PBS TV series, Travels with Darley, for the Southern States Road Trip episode. Below was our travel itinerary, which may give you some ideas of new places to uncover in Little Rock, Hot Springs and Northwest Arkansas.
Day 1 Little Rock
A great way to discover a new city is to take a bike tour. We’ve enjoyed discovering Boston, Munich and Brussels this way, so why not Little Rock, Arkansas! Since you’ll start your tour at the River Market, consider having breakfast in the market at Sweet Soul Southern Cuisine or peruse the lively farmers market for fresh finds. This farmers market has been attracting folks to downtown Little Rock since the 1970’s.
Check out them tomatoes! Arkansas Farmers Market We cycled with Bobby’s Bike Hike (400 President Clinton Ave, Little Rock), starting our tour at their shop in the River Market. Our route took us by Clinton Library, Heifer International, MacArthur Park and Quapaw Historic Districts, the Governor’s Mansion and Sims BBQ. Though it was on our list, we didn’t make it to Central High School, the center of the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957, but do recommend you go.
A Historic Hotel of America, Capital Hotel (111 West Markham, Little Rock) dates back to the 1870’s and is an iconic place to stay in Little Rock. Called the front porch of Little Rock, this hotel has been visited by President Ulysses S. Grant and is where Bill Clinton ran many campaigns. The interior is interesting with iconic capitals on the columns in Lobby, set atop a marble floor. The sleek bar at One Eleven at the Capital is also worth checking out and you never know what Little Rock power player you may meet.
Day 2 Little Rock to Hot Springs
Check out the SOMA (Southside Main Street) area of Little Rock by starting at Community Bakery (1200 Main Street, Little Rock) where you can find everything from classic pastries to special occasion cakes, including German chocolate, one of my favorites. This bakery makes hundreds of items from scratch each night and has served as a community gathering place since the 1950’s. On my visit, I saw local regulars and had a pastry I would have thought about eating in Paris, not Little Rock.
Pay a visit to the Esse Purse Museum (1510 S Main St, Little Rock). If you’ve ever wondered what might be lurking in women’s purses, collector Anita Davis has the answers. This museum charts the history of the women’s purse from 1900 to 1999. Displays lay out styles and substances inside by the decade, showcasing what was in fashion and why. Whether you’re a fashionista or a history buff, this museum is a great stop.
Walk across the street from the Esse Purse Museum to Loblolly Ice Cream and Soda Fountain (1510 S Main St, Little Rock), a small business that serves up handcrafted, locally sourced and innovative, seasonal flavors, like Clinton Dreamsicle, Fresh Mint Chip, Rock Town Bourbon Pecan and more.
Next go in depth at the Clinton Presidential Library and Park (1200 President Clinton Ave, Little Rock), a must-see in Little Rock. The 20,000 square foot library and museum space houses everything from family memorabilia to a replica of the Oval Office. Distinctive photos, special gifts from global heads of state and an extensive archive detailing Bill Clinton’s day to day life in office will interest history buffs and those with a fascination for presidential power.
Stay on in Little Rock or depart early afternoon for Hot Springs, where people have been coming for centuries to take advantage of the natural, healing waters. Historic Bathhouse Row is a good place to walk up and down to see the historic bathhouse spas. Make an appointment to cure whatever ails you or drink your cure at Superior Bathhouse. Located on historic Bathhouse Row, Superior is a craft brewery that uses the thermal spring water in its brews.
Day 3 Nature at Lake Ouachita State Park
Travel to Lake Ouachita State Park (5451 Mountain Pine Road, Mountain Pine), about a 35 minute drive from Hot Springs, and hike the Caddo Bend Trail around 40,000-acre Lake Ouachita. Rent a boat in the afternoon and enjoy fishing, swimming, skiing or cruising around to find your own small island on this massive lake.
Spend the night camping out at the park, back in Hot Springs or head onwards like we did to Fayetteville.
Enjoy dinner in Fayatteville at Wood Stone Craft Pizza (557 S School Ave, Fayetteville), where owners source local products, some right in an onsite garden, to make tasty pizzas.
Spend the night in the modern Chancellor Hotel (70 North East Avenue Fayetteville), well located right near Fayetteville’s historic downtown square.
Day 4 Fayetteville & Beyond
Fayatteville is home to the University of Arkansas (Go Razorbacks!) and where Bill Clinton met, courted and married Hillary. Wake up and walk down the street to Little Bread Company (116 N. Block Street, Fayetteville), where locals get their breakfast and coffee.
Drive to Bill and Hillary’s first home together, now the Clinton House Museum (930 West Clinton Drive Fayetteville) which houses a small museum and First Ladies Garden. Roses are a popular choice for many First
Ladies. Built in 1931, the English Tudor style home was the first residence of Bill and Hillary while they taught at the University of Arkansas School of Law. They got married in the living room in 1975 and a replica of Hillary’s dress is on display. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you’re really interested in Clinton history, take a Billgrimage, a tour of Clinton sites around Arkansas. You can get a passport booklet stamped at these sites, from his birthplace to the Little Rock library to this home.
Check out Fayatteville’s downtown square with its historic architecture before descending on Dickson Street, the heart of shops, entertainment and restaurants and the start of the Razorback Greenway Trail.
The Razorback Regional Greenway Trail runs all the way from Fayetteville to Bentonville in Northwest, Arkansas, meaning you can bike from one city to the next, taking the day to enjoy the varied terrain, shops, restaurants and art or making the trip into a biking vacation and staying in bike friendly lodging.
If you like to bike, rent a bike from Phat Tire Bike Shop and start the trail from downtown Dickson Street. Ride through downtown Springdale and end in Bentonville at Crystal Bridges Museum (600 Museum Way, Bentonville). The trail is relatively flat and easy for the novice biker with nice scenic diversity and historic stops along the way.
Whether you biked to Crystal Bridges or drove there, enjoy the architecture and art at this free museum. Works by Warhol, Hopper, Lichtenstein, and more are on display. The building itself is a work of art, designed by architect Moshe Safdie and set amid native Ozark Forest.
Stay & Eat
Continue biking or drive to 21c Museum Hotel (200 NE A St, Bentonville), where you can valet your bike. This unique hotel has an onsite art gallery and a great restaurant, The Hive at 21c. James Beard Award Semi-Finalist for Best Chef South Matthew McClure cooks up “High South” cuisine with tasty dishes like Smoked Pork Belly, Seared Diver Scallops with charred scallions, chanterelles, dill and lemon and hominy grits with mascarpone and parsley.
After Bentonville, we drove on to Springfield and St. Louis, Missouri. Stay tuned for those itineraries.