Home of famous William J. Clinton Presidential Center & Park, Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Arkansas River Trail & Big Dam Bridge and many other activities to do in Little Rock on Memorial Day. We've compiled some of the best activities to do in Little Rock on this Memorial Day holiday.
One of the attractions that forever changed the landscape of Little Rock is the Clinton Presidential Center & Park, home to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. The modern and rectangular building on the Arkansas River is designed to echo the former President's "Bridge to the 21st Century" mantra that he focused on during his presidency.
The multi-building facility has an archival research facility and a museum. There are interactive exhibits and more than one million photos, artifacts, presidential itineraries, and gifts that Clinton received as president on display throughout the three floors of the complex.
You should plan to spend two to three hours in the center with a must-see list that includes the Great Hall, which is the best place to see the architectural details of the building, and the full-scale replica White House rooms of the Cabinet Room and Oval office. Each features the exact details of those rooms in the White House during Bill Clinton's presidency down to the Resolute Desk in the Oval office.
The grounds outside the Clinton Presidential Center are worth walking to see the sculptures, fountains, and restored wetlands to support local wildlife. Stop by the Cafe 42 Grille for lunch after your tour, and wrap up your visit on Memorial Day with a walk across the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge just outside the facility.
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site was the center of school desegregation in 1957 after the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. Nine African-American teenagers, historically referred to as the Little Rock Nine, became the focal point of the desegregation debate when they tried to enter Little Rock Central High School as it was legalized.
The nine students walking into school, escorted by the U.S. Army, became a pivotal moment in Civil Rights history. Little Rock Central High is still an active school, and the only way to tour this historic site is by reserving a ranger-led tour ahead of time.
On Memorial Day, you can walk around the outside on your own to admire the towering architecture, and appreciate the significant events that happened on the steps of the school that made an impact on every public school in the United States.
A run, walk, or bike ride along the Arkansas River Trail, which runs through Little Rock, is a great way to experience some of the best sites and attractions in the city, and soak in some of the scenic outdoors that surround it. The Arkansas River Trail is a 15.6-mile loop that is popular with runners and bicyclists, and connects multiple pedestrian bridges and more than 23 attractions and parks. It also connects to more than 70 miles of additional trails.
When the weather is nice on Memorial Day, you can use the trail as your map to visit Riverfront Park, the Clinton Presidential Center, Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden, and the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, as well as other tourist attractions.
There are multiple pedestrian bridges along the Arkansas River Trail that cross the Arkansas River, and you should try to experience them while in Little Rock. The Big Dam Bridge is the longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge in the world and connects Little Rock to North Little Rock on the opposite banks of the River. One of the best times to visit is at sunset, when a rainbow of colors reflects off the river 90 feet below the bridge.
Another must-experience is the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, the Rock Island Railroad Bridge that was built in 1899 and repurposed into a pedestrian walkway. It provides a great view of downtown, the Arkansas River, and the Clinton Presidential Center. It is especially pretty at night, when it is illuminated in color.
The heart of the River Market District is the year-round market space offering 10,000 square feet of shops, stalls, and tables that sell food and unique products. The market hall is an open concept building with food stalls, coffee vendors, groceries, and take-out options.
The River Market District offers more than just shopping. There are art galleries nearby with changing exhibits; the River Market Entertainment District; and Riverfront Park, which has more than 30 acres of green space and art.
While you are in the walkable district, plan a ride on the Rock Region METRO Streetcar, a vintage electric streetcar that offers free rides downtown during Memorial Day visit.
The River Market has easy access to the scenic Arkansas River Trail for walking or biking. Special events occur at the River Market District throughout the year, ranging from big-name concerts to Fourth of July fireworks over the river.
Based on the design of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, the Arkansas State Capitol is made of white marble and granite. The front entrance doors for the State Capitol are made of bronze, and the cupola is covered in 24-karat gold leaf. Visitors on Memorial Day can explore the building on a scheduled tour.
Popular public areas of the capitol include the Governor's Reception Room, the Old Supreme Court Chamber, and a glistening rotunda. Permanent and rotating exhibits can be found throughout the building, and the landscaped grounds outside feature walking paths and commemorative statues.
One of the most powerful bronze sculptures to look for is one commemorating the Little Rock Nine, the brave students who played a significant role in the desegregation of city schools in 1857. The sculptures feature plaques with quotes from each of the nine.
Just over 15 miles northwest of downtown Little Rock, Pinnacle Mountain is the best place to visit on Memorial Day for a little outdoor fun. The mountain stands well over a thousand feet above the surrounding river valley.
Two hiking trails that lead to the summit provide unbeatable views, and miles of other multi-use trails wind through the nearly 2,500 acres of state park property.
Other popular activities and amenities at this day-use state park include interpretive programs, boat launches, and picnic sites. Camping is not available at Pinnacle Mountain, but more than 100 campsites can be found in Maumelle Park less than five miles away.
The ESSE Purse Museum in Little Rock is a unique and engaging museum that features women's history through handbags. The exhibits are categorized by decade and highlight the social and pop culture scene of each era, along with how women's handbags evolved to reflect the culture and needs of that time.
The collection belongs to owner Anita Davis, who honors women of all backgrounds and her love of art, history, and of course, handbags. There are no two alike, and each reflects a unique moment in time. From dainty designer beaded handbags to novelty bags of pop culture brands, each has a place in women's history.
The museum's name, "ESSE," means essence and conveys the importance of women's handbags as not just totes for personal items, but as a personal extension of themselves. You cannot leave the museum on Memorial Day visit without spending time in the ESSE store, where you might just head home with a conversational piece on your arm.
As the original state capitol of Arkansas, the Old State House was designed by Gideon Shryock and is one of the best examples of Doric architecture in the southern states. The building commenced in 1833 and was completed in 1842 with some alterations done in 1885.
The Old State House Museum sits in the center of Little Rock and is an easy stop on your way through the River Market District. It is free to visit on Memorial Day and is one way to learn about important historical events, like a fatal duel between legislators and the Arkansas vote to secede from the United States.
The museum exhibits include artifacts related to decorative arts, inaugural gowns of governors' wives, and historical displays relating to the politics of the state.