Long known for its political prowess as Arkansas’ capital, the riverfront city of Little Rock is now showing off a softer side, with an eclectic mix of history and nature that appeals to travelers. Surprisingly, some of the biggest attractions at this offbeat destination are also the free ones. Here are 10 of them to add to your itinerary:
1. Arkansas Governor’s Mansion
There’s no escaping the fact that President Bill Clinton got his start to the White House in this city, so why not embrace it and tour his former home? Eleven governors have set up residence with their families in the circa 1950 Georgian colonial mansion. Tours must be scheduled in advance.
2. Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
The Little Rock Nine were nine African American students who tried to enter an all-white school following the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education. It was at this high school, still open to students, that racial barriers began to crumble during the highly televised event. Ranger-led tours are free of cost, but reservations are required.
3. Historic Arkansas Museum
All things Arkansas are celebrated at this destination that showcases art and artifacts from the state from the past 200 years, including a Knife Gallery highlighting the story behind the bowie knife.
4. The Old Mill
This beloved grist mill — featured in the opening scenes of Gone With The Wind — is a 1933 recreation dedicated to the early days of Arkansas’ pioneers. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s a great photo op and thought to be the only surviving structure from the film.
5. Old State House Museum
Arkansas’ first state capitol from 1836 to 1911 is a Greek Revival-style building and National Historic Landmark, Today, it houses its own museum and is the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi.
6. H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden
This tribute to H.U. Lee, founder of the American Taekwondo Association, is a downtown symbol of the friendship between South Korea and America. Here, a gate handcrafted by South Korean artisans leads to a tranquil garden with educational exhibits saluting the martial arts.
7. Heifer Village
The modern-looking, Platinum LEED-certified headquarters of Heifer International — an organization dedicated to ending world hunger — is an attraction unto itself. Green building tours show off the energy- and water-saving facility, and the neighboring Heifer Village offer interactive exhibits about Heifer’s mission.
8. Clinton Presidential Park Bridge
Located on the grounds of the Clinton Presidential Center, this segment of the 14.2-mile Arkansas River Trail transports walkers and bikers across the river with spectacular aerial views of the 13-acre William E. “Bill” Clark Wetlands. Admission for the Presidential Library, typically $7, is also occasionally free on certain holidays.
9. The Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center
Overlooking the Arkansas River, the Center’s living habitats highlight the varied landscapes, fish, and animals to be found nearby outdoors. Take part in their daily geocaching hunts downtown to discover nature in an urban setting.
10. Riverfront Park
This multi-use 33-acre urban park includes: a sculpture garden; acrose garden with Yoshino Cherry trees; a rock outcropping called Le Petite Roche (that the city is named after); and play area for children with underground tunnels and water features.