This was all of our first time in Arkansas, so we weren’t sure what to expect! We had, used our Passport America Membership for the first time, (got us 50% off for a grand total of $11 a night to stay) to book a few night stay at Downtown Riverfront RV Park in North Little Rock, which is just across the river from the city. This was also our first venture into the heart of a city with our RV, that by this time we had nicknamed “Irv”. We had come a long way, he was a member of the family now. The RV park was gated and had security and felt safe and nice and had a great view of the city with two bridges on each side of us that lit up and changed colors at night. It was quite a place to park the RV for $11 a night!
We spent our first day in Little Rock by walking across the William J Clinton bridge. Right on the other side of that bridge is the William J Clinton Presidential Library which is a cool building architecturally and we hear he and Hillary spend a good bit of time in the Penthouse above the museum. On this trip, we have not ventured into the presidential museums, besides Lincoln’s, because they each cost and for now we have a zoo pass, science center, and children’s museum pass that gets us into many museums and zoos for free or half price, so that keeps us busy at this time. When the kid’s get older we may get the Time Travelers Membership to visit more historical museums across the country!
We quickly found Little Rock to be a walkable (and bikable) city with the many miles long Arkansas River Trail that extended across the riverside right next to the city. I took the kids for a walk and were headed to the Museum of Discovery that is included in our ASTC membership, when we stumbled on the free Central Arkansas Nature Center where the kids did a fun scavenger hunt to find the preserved animals in the center. Tyler loved this!
We walked into the main street of the city from here, where we could smell the aroma of burgers and fries and Tyler saw the sign for David’s Burgers and said “Let’s go there!”. So we did! The people there were over the top friendly and especially kind to our kids. I got the kids some kids meals, and afterwards, they allowed the kids to come behind the counter to make their own ice cream cones! It was a fun place to eat. Right through the door was the River Market Hall that was a food court of sorts with many more choices to eat at! We had some birthday cake ice cream at a food vendor in there on another day, and it was sooo good!
Next, we headed down the road to the Museum of Discovery. This museum was pretty small, but nice, well kept, and had the most interactive exhibits on the first floor that I have seen in one place like that. The kids had a great time in, Discovery Hall, the room to the right of the entry, because the exhibits were very much like games. Older kids could learn a lot at this museum! Our kids mostly just enjoyed the games! I have made a deal with them though that they need to be able to tell me one thing they learned from each museum we go to. I am hanging onto the hope that they will, but for now we learn a lot at each museum and it is at the least a fun day out for the kids. Being a science nerd, I myself loved the Amazing You exhibit that gave a lot of fun facts about the human body and was also extremely interactive. There was a room to grow play room on this floor also. The next floor down was a Tornado Alley Theater, which was a small room where it felt like you were in a scary basement, and watched a small TV that covered the news of a tornado that went through the area and caused destruction in the area in 1999. While the video was playing it made it feel like there was a tornado going on outside, which I would think would be a little scary for the kids, but ours were find with it. There were other exhibits on this floor showing some animals and information about the earth and weather.
The next day, we hopped in our car, and headed an hour west to Hot Springs National Park. This was an extremely interesting area, and a National Park like no other! None the less, this was our first National Park experience, so we were pretty excited! On one side of the street are shops and restaurants, on the other side of the street is Bath House Row, a place full of history and one of the major attractions in Hot Springs! We went into the bath house that now serves as the visitor center and got the kids their Junior Ranger Badges. We also took a self-guided tour of that bath house as the guide said the tour would be 1-1.5 hours long, and we knew we wouldn’t be able to hang in there for that with the kids. It was cool to see what the bath house was like so we do recommend taking a walk through this one! We also went behind the bath houses up the steps for a short hike and to see a couple of the hot springs back there.
A couple of the bath houses are still in operation, one with a traditional bath experience, and one with thermal pools and David and I paid $20 each to take turns in the pools in the bath house that all had differing temperatures just for the experience of it. It was relaxing, though we each spent only about an hour in there since our time was limited. While David was in the thermal pools, I took the kids to the bath house on the end that had food and Root Beer Floats. The Root Beer is made with water from the Hot Springs. It was about 90 degrees on our visit to hot springs, so I got an iced tea, the kids had their first ever Root Beer Floats, and we shared a tasty soft pretzel, all while enjoying the AC. Next we headed over to the gift shop that was located at the other end of Bath House Row in the bath house. We also filled up a jug with hot springs water as is customary to do here. The water is a hot 143 degrees, though, so a glass jug seems best to use! We saw a lady filling up a class jug with tea bags in it to make some iced tea…genius!!
That afternoon, we headed back to Little Rock, and looked for a place where the kids could have fun and cool down. We ended up at Riverfront Park where there was a super fun splash park that has a waterfall that turns on occasionally. This park was really cool because it was on the trail and had lots of great statues and a fun playground with underground tunnels there too! There was also an amphitheater with history about the area.
The next day was a Saturday, and we headed to the Riverfront Market Farmer’s Market. There was a lot going on in the city that day, there was a race, picnic in the park, and some activities going on outside of the Museum of Discovery. Little Rock had a lot going on! I had heard that riding cardboard boxes was a fun thing to do on the hills next to the William Clinton Library, and there happened to be boxes at the top of the hill, so David and Ty had fun for a minute sledding down hills on boxes. We enjoyed the farmer’s market and the kids especially enjoyed an area where they could paint a picture that the nice man laminated for them. They wanted to come back again. We decided to hop onto the Street Car nearby, as it was free for that month, and we are so happy that we did. It definitely would have been worth the few dollars that it would have otherwise cost! The driver of the streetcar gave us a tour of the city that was fun and educational and it was a memorable experience to ride in the streetcar. It also goes across one of the bridges near our RV park, so we got a free lift across the bridge too!
After this we took a drive to the Heights area, and ate at Heights Tacos, which was a super trendy and tasty restaurant. We took a little stroll and got some cupcakes at the shop down the road too!
Our next stop was at Little Rock Central High School, which is a National Historic Site with so much history of injustice and perseverance that had the attention of our nation in 1957. Our visit there was to the History Center that was diagonally across the street from the high school. There were movies there and plaques that taught us a lot about what that time was like for the “The Little Rock Nine”, nine African American students who integrated into the school and the ugliness they faced there. It made me sad to think about what they went through and how people had treated them and I hoped in that moment that the angry people in the photos had a chance to see those pictures later, to get a look at how awful they looked in that moment, and that they had a change of heart. I prayed for changes of hearts and unity in our country now also. While we were there, a group was practicing for a play that was about that time at the high school, and it made it all a little more real and added to our memory of our experience at Little Rock Central High. We would have loved to have toured the school, but we were there on a weekend and they only do tours on the weekdays with 24 hour in advance reservations (it is still a fully functioning school).
North of Little Rock is the picturesque “Old Mill” that is featured for a split second in the opening credits for “Gone with the Wind”. I heard this was an attraction in the area, so we headed there. The kids fell asleep, so I was the only one to go in. I was so happy I did. Even though there were lots of other tourists there, it felt like stepping into the pages of a storybook. It was very serene there and with all of the trees, water, quirky bridge, and flowers, it felt almost like a dream.
Little Rock was fun and surprising. We were happy we made this stop and we had some memorable and impactful experiences there!