This weekend in Little Rock guide is full of the best things to do in Little Rock, Arkansas if you only have two days, including food, historical sights, hikes, and more!
With tons of nature, great local restaurants and businesses, and a less busy feel, Arkansas is truly a hidden gem in the United States. We spent 10 days during the fall of 2020 exploring as much of the state as we could and are already dying to go back!
We spent the first part of our time in the state mountain biking and exploring Bentonville, hiking the Goat Trail to Big Bluff in the Buffalo National River, and visiting the famous Whitaker Point in the Ozark Mountains, before venturing southeast to central Arkansas to explore Little Rock.
Little Rock wasn’t part of our original plan when exploring Arkansas, but after chatting with one of our patrons, Jonathan, who lives in the area, we learned about all of the fun and outdoorsy things to do in Little Rock and decided to add it to the list on our way back to Texas.
While we only had about 48 hours in the city, and 24 of them were spent working, we had a great time checking out the city’s history, going for an incredible hike, and eating delicious local foods (watch our experience!).
And we’re excited to share some of our top tips and favorite spots from our visit to help you plan your own weekend in Little Rock, including when to visit, where to stay, the best places to eat, must-visit activities, and more!
Looking for more things to do in Arkansas? Check out our other guides:
- Hiking the Goat Trail to Big Bluff in the Buffalo National River
- Hiking the Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag in Arkansas
- Things to do in Hot Springs National Park
About Little Rock, Arkansas
Despite its name, Little Rock is the largest city in the state of Arkansas, as well as the state’s capital. But similar to its name, the city is actually named after an actual little rock.
In the 1700s, a French Explorer named Jean-Baptiste Bénard de la Harpe, who was leading a party of travelers, noted a small rock formation on the Arkansas River and referred to it as “La Petite Roche”, which means “the little rock”, and the name stuck around once the area was settled.
The city is now home to just under 200,000 residents, giving it a smaller city feel, and is home to museums, a market, waterfront activities, tons of parks, cool little neighborhoods, historical sights, and so much more!
When to visit Little Rock, Arkansas
Little Rock is a great place to visit year-round! The winters are mild, with the occasional snowfall (the average is 4 inches per year), making it still bearable to be outdoors. However, if you do get too cold, there are some great indoor activities too!
The spring and fall temperatures are about as perfect as you can get, in our opinion. With highs in the 60s-80s, there is no better time to explore all of the beautiful nature near the city.
We visited Little Rock in mid-November and the weather was great, although a little cloudy. The highs were in the 60s-70s and the lows were in the 40s, making it super nice to walk around!
The summers can be hot, with highs in the 90s, but with the Arkansas River, as well as nearby lakes, you can find lots of spots to get on the water to kayak or boat!
Getting to Little Rock, Arkansas
Little Rock is located right in the center of Arkansas and is close to many other major cities in the United States, making it pretty easy to get to no matter your mode of transportation.
Flying to Little Rock
If you plan to fly to Little Rock, the city is home to the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport (LIT), which is located just minutes east of downtown Little Rock. Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, Southwest Airlines, United, and Frontier all fly in and out of LIT and there are nonstop flights from Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Chicago, Phoenix, Orlando, and St. Louis.
Driving to Little Rock
Driving to Little Rock instead? Here is how far the city is from nearby destinations:
- Memphis, Tennessee: 2 hours, 137 miles
- Fort Smith, Arkansas: 2 hours 15 minutes, 160 miles
- Fayetteville, Arkansas: 2 hours 45 minutes, 193 miles
- Shreveport, Louisiana: 3 hours, 213 miles
- Tulsa, Oklahoma: 4 hours, 275 miles
- Dallas, Texas: 4.5 hours, 319 miles
- Nashville, Tennessee: 5 hours, 349 miles
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: 5 hours, 340 miles
- St. Louis, Missouri: 5.5 hours, 347 miles
Getting around Little Rock, Arkansas
During our time in Little Rock we did a combination of walking and driving to get around the city. The downtown area of Little Rock is very walkable and so are some of the neighborhoods around the city.
However, to get to some of the top things to do in Little Rock, you will have to either drive, take an Uber or Lyft, or public transportation.
Despite Little Rock’s smaller city feel, it actually has a pretty decent public transportation system, especially in the downtown area. There are multiple bus routes, as well as a street car that takes you from downtown Little Rock to North Little Rock. You can see the routes and schedule here!
For Uber and Lyft, we’d highly recommend looking at their fare estimator tools (Uber, Lyft) to see how much you’d expect to spend when getting around town. While it would likely be affordable around town, it may get pricey to visit some of the spots outside of the downtown and main city area.
If you want the ultimate freedom getting around, we highly suggest renting a car (if you’re not driving). Rental car prices can be as low as $30/day in Little Rock, which is worth the flexibility of being able to explore on your own schedule. We had no issues parking our van (which is longer than a regular vehicle) downtown or in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown!
Where to Stay in Little Rock, Arkansas
During our visit to Little Rock, we stayed in our self-converted Sprinter van in various Cracker Barrel parking lots around town (the glamorous side of van life 😉), but we’ll assume you’re not traveling in a van and need something a bit more traditional when it comes to lodging.
Below are some of our top suggestions of Airbnbs (our preferred way to stay when not in our van!) and hotels, all convenient to the things to do in this Little Rock guide and located in safe areas.
One thing that we feel is important to note: After our visit, we found out that Little Rock has a higher crime rate than other cities its size. However, we never felt unsafe while in Little Rock and were actually surprised to hear of this stat.
While you should always be careful and alert wherever you are, and things can happen anywhere, the places we are recommending to stay, as well as our suggestions of things to do in Little Rock are totally safe.
If you want to get a true taste of Little Rock, we highly recommend booking an Airbnb! You’ll be able to stay in some of the best neighborhoods in town, where hotels usually aren’t as common, and get a more local experience!
- The Layover: A super nice studio guesthouse located close to SoMa (South Main), a cool little neighborhood with one of our new favorite ice cream shops!
- Skyline Loft: A bright 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom loft with city views.
- Historic Downtown Carriage House: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom carriage house located in the hip SoMa neighborhood.
- Wee Goblin Cottage: This studio cottage is located in the historic Hillcrest neighborhood and even comes with bikes to borrow!
- Baker Cottage: A beautiful 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom cottage in the Argenta Arts District, just north of downtown.
- Mills-Davis House Downtown: WOW, this house is stunning! The upstairs apartment in this house has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and TONS of historic charm!
- Cozy Tiny Home: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom tiny home located close to Hillcrest and downtown.
The majority of the hotels that are convenient to the best things to do in Little Rock are located downtown, but we are including one that is outside of the main city area as well!
- Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown
- Hilton Garden Inn Downtown
- Homewood Suites Downtown
- The Capital Hotel
- The Burgundy by Hilton (Located west of town)
Weekend in Little Rock itinerary
This weekend in Little Rock itinerary is filled with the best things to do in Little Rock, as well as delicious places to eat, if you only have two days to explore!
Looking for even more ideas? Check out the “if you have extra time” section for extra ideas of things to do in Little Rock!
Your first day in Little Rock will be spent exploring the downtown area, including the riverfront, must-eat spots, historical sights, and more!
- Kick off your time in little rock with coffee at Fidel & Co! This shop is in East Village, which is close to the waterfront and has a really cool vibe, as well as some delicious latte options!
- Grab breakfast @ The Corner in downtown Little Rock! This spot was so busy when we walked by it and came very highly recommended to us by a handful of locals. (Note: Closed on Mondays)
- Walk around downtown Little Rock and visit the River Market. During our visit the River Market was closed due to COVID-19, but they typically have a farmers market on Saturdays in the summer, as well as vendors open during the week.
- Continue to explore the downtown Little Rock Area and its riverfront trails and bridges. We recommend walking on Junction Bridge, taking the trail over to the William E. Clark Presidential Park Wetlands, seeing the cool sculptures along the river, and snapping a photo of the “Greetings from Little Rock” frame that sits in front of the Junction Bridge.
- Try an Arkansas speciality for lunch: fried catfish! If you Google “iconic Arkansas food,” fried catfish is on about every list. And it’s so dang good! The batter is so crispy, while the fish is so hot and tender. Even Kathryn, who doesn’t really love fish, loved it!
We suggest grabbing your fried catfish (and southern sides to go with it!) at Soul Fish Cafe or Flying Fish, both of which are downtown. Fun fact: Flying Fish has a wall full of singing Billy the Bass fish that people have given to the restaurant.
- Visit the historic Little Rock Central High School. This school played a significant role in the desegregation of educational institutions in the United States in the 1950s with the Little Rock Nine.
In 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education declared that state laws segregating schools were unconstitutional. And in 1957, nine black students, called the Little Rock Nine, were selected to attend Little Rock Central High School, an all white school.
Their attendance was met with great challenges, as they battled the governor trying to prevent them from entering the school, as well as an uproar from the community and horrible treatment from other students.
However, despite the difficulty, the only senior student among the Little Rock Nine, Ernest Green, graduated from Central High that year and the entire Little Rock Nine have been widely recognized for their role in helping integrate schools nationally. We suggest watching Eyes on the Prize to learn even more about the Little Rock Nine.
Today, the school is now the only operating high school in the US to be designated a National Historic Site. They have a great little museum that you can visit at the Visitors Center from 9 AM-4:30 PM every day.
You can also go on guided tours at 9 AM and 1 PM every day (make sure to reserve in advance!) to learn more about the history of the school and the Little Rock Nine. Pre-COVID, they would take you inside of the school as well!
- Check out the Arkansas State Capitol, which is said to have one of the prettiest capitol grounds in the country! The building is actually a replica of the US Capitol and they have used it in movies as a substitute for the US Capitol.
When visiting the capitol, we suggest walking the grounds, seeing the statues of the Little Rock Nine (located on the north side of the building), and going inside the building. The capitol is open from 7 AM to 5 PM during the week and 10 AM-3 PM on the weekend. The guided tours are unfortunately only available during the week, but you can do a self-guided tour on the weekends!
- Have dinner at Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling (closed Sundays), which is a popular spot for dumplings, noodles, and steamed buns. This is a counter-serve spot, which is our favorite, but has a nice interior and great, authentic food!
- If you’re not ready for the day to end yet, go out for drinks at Lost Forty Brewing or Rock Town Distillery!
For your second day in Little Rock, you’ll venture outside of the main downtown area to a couple different neighborhoods, as well as experience some of the great nature nearby!
- Start the day with coffee and breakfast at Mugs Cafe in the Argenta Arts District, just north of downtown. This is a cool coffee shop with lots of seating and a variety of breakfast options!
- Walk around Argenta Arts District, which is a really cool neighborhood home to murals, sculptures, cute buildings, art studios, and more. When we visited, we even got to see an artist painting a dog mural (pictured above)!
- Venture even more north of Little Rock to The Old Mill, which is an 1880’s-style water mill that is famous for being in the opening scene of “Gone with the Wind!” It’s located in the beautiful T.R. Pugh Memorial Park with sculptures and a short walking loop.
- Walk across the Big Dam Bridge, which is the longest pedestrian and bike bridge in the United States at 4,226 feet long. It is on top of the Murray Dam, which is located on the Arkansas River. This is a super popular local spot to walk, run, and bike, and has some great views!
- After working up a bit of an appetite, head to Big Orange for lunch! This local burger spot is known for having gourmet and unique burgers and delicious fries.
- Spend the rest of the afternoon at Pinnacle Mountain State Park! This was one of our favorite things to do in Little Rock and is a popular spot for both locals and visitors. While you’re here, make sure to hike to the top of Pinnacle Mountain. There are two ways to access the summit, via the West Summit Trail or the East Summit Trail.
The West Summit Trail is 1.5 miles roundtrip and 725 ft of elevation gain, while the East Summit Trail is 1.4 miles roundtrip and 698 ft of elevation gain. The biggest difference between the two is that the West Summit is more like rocky stairs to the top and the East Summit is basically all rock scrambling to the top.
We did the West Summit and while it wasn’t hard necessarily, the ground was covered in fallen leaves, which made the trail slick, and the rocks themselves were slick, so we had to be careful going up and down to not slip and fall.
The views at the top of the summit are incredible! You have 360 degree views of the mountains, city (off in the distance), and Lake Maumelle. It was one of the best rewards vs. effort hikes we have ever done!
Next time we want to take the East Summit Trail to the top and then the West Summit Trail down. There is a base trail that connects the two trailheads, which makes it easy to do both trails and get to and from your car.
If you have more time after your hike, another hike to check out in the park is the Rocky Valley Trail/East Quarry Spur, which is 2.9 miles and 505 ft of elevation gain. This trail features a lake, water views, mountain views, and more!
Something very important to know is that the park gates close one hour after sunset. So if you do a sunset hike like us, make sure to hustle down. We heard some alarms going off as we descended, which we assume were the park’s way of saying “make your way down now!”
- After hiking, freshen up and grab dinner at The Root Cafe (closed Mondays), which is located in one of our favorite areas of Little Rock, SoMa (South Main). This spot uses local ingredients and has an awesome menu with something for everyone, including those with dietary restrictions and vegans!
- End your time in Little Rock in the best possible way, with ice cream at Loblolly Creamery (right across from The Root Cafe)! Holy moly, this is one of the best ice cream shops we have been to in the country! The ice cream flavors are unique, oh so creamy, and full of chunky goodness. And the inside of the shop is super colorful and fun!
If you have extra time…
- Visit the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. While we didn’t have the chance to visit this library and museum, we did walk by the outside and the building is really cool! It costs $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $6 for kids between 6-17 years old to enter and has a variety of displays to check out. Note: the museum is currently closed due to COVID
- Check out the Heifer Village & Urban Farm, which is a really neat, FREE, interactive museum, which educates on issues around the world, such as hunger and poverty, and also has a farm with alpacas, sheep, goats, and more! Note: currently closed due to COVID
- Wander around the historic Hillcrest neighborhood, which is located northwest of downtown.
- Walk or bike at Two Rivers Park, which connects to other trails in the city, like the Big Dam Bridge!
- Rent kayaks and get on the water!
- Visit the Museum of Discovery, which is ranked as one of the top science museums in the US! It costs $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and kids 12 and younger.
- Check out the Historic Arkansas Museum, which is a really cool and FREE museum in downtown Little Rock featuring the oldest home in Little Rock and pre-Civil War buildings.
Another free museum to visit is the Old State House Museum, which is the original Arkansas state capitol building.
Ready to explore Little Rock?
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