It should be noted that I lived in Little Rock for six years while my husband was in residency and fellowship. My first two children were born there, and I have a lot of very fond memories. It’s a great little city: clean, easy to navigate, PLUS there is so much fun stuff to do there with kids! It’s a two hour drive from downtown Memphis to downtown Little Rock, perfect for a quick getaway with your family!
Things to Do:
Splash pads: Little Rock has three splash pads that are free and available to the public any time. The water is always running, but is controlled by a button (they are kind of hidden on rocks, so keep your eyes peeled if you are the only one there). Two are downtown in the River Market area: one is for all ages; one is meant for 2 and under. There is a really neat sculpture garden between these two. The third splash pad is at War Memorial Park, right across the street from the zoo. It is the biggest splash pad, with a cave at one end. Through (or around) the cave are swings, slides, and climbing toys.
Museum of Discovery: This amazing science museum is right in the heart of downtown Little Rock and was recently named the 6th best science museum in the country. There is so much to do with kids of all ages. With over 90 hands-on exhibits plus a really fun room for the 6 and under crowd, you could spend a whole day here with your kids. Plus, you get in for free with a Pink Palace membership! **If you are a Jimmy Fallon fan, you will recognize museum director Kevin. He does all of the science demonstrations on The Tonight Show!
Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center: This tiny (and free!) nature center is right around the corner from the Museum of Discovery. We would often do both. The main attraction of the center is the large, close to the ground, open fish tanks. The tanks are divided by the regions in Arkansas and feature fish from that habitat. They also offer a weekly story time. And a short walk outside takes you to a boardwalk over a wetland, right next to the Arkansas River.
William J. Clinton Presidential Library: While not specifically geared to kids, they do have visiting exhibits that are often kid friendly. One glorious summer, they had life-sized dinosaurs that moved and roared. I’m pretty sure we went to see them 10 times. It would be a nice place to take older kids (teenagers). There is a scale model of the oval office, you can sit in the President’s chair at the cabinet table, and learn a lot about what was going on the the world and in the country during the Clinton administration. The restaurant there is also amazing.
Heifer International: Heifer International is an organization that teaches sustainable farming practices in third world countries. The organization bases itself on the philosophy that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; but teach a man to fish and feed him for life. The headquarters are in downtown Little Rock, near the Clinton Library. On the bottom floor is an interactive museum. It’s fun, but small. Don’t expect to spend a whole day here. But it’s an amazing organization doing really great work around the world. Definitely worth checking out!
Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center: So much more than just a children’s library, this place is awesome! It’s on six acres that includes a nature walk, greenhouse, and garden outside (if you’re there at the right time of year, the produce is set up at the front and you can just grab what you want for free!). There’s a theater space, kitchen where they do cooking demonstrations and lessons, bee hives, computer labs, and multi-purpose rooms where the librarians do story times. It’s a really unique, amazing place.
Little Rock Zoo: I get that you probably aren’t planning a trip from Memphis to Little Rock for the zoo, because our zoo is AMAZING, but I still thought I’d mention it. You get half off admission with a membership to the Memphis Zoo. And it’s a great zoo for the five and under crowd. It’s small, so you can see all of it in just a few hours, there’s a new, interactive farm area, a zoo train, and two nice playgrounds.
West Little Rock:
Third Realm Extreme Air Sports and Altitude Trampoline Park: Need to get some energy out before heading back to Memphis? There are two really fun trampoline parks in Little Rock! Both also offer “toddler times” (kids under 6 only).
The Wonder Place: This is a great little place for smaller children (think kindergarten and below). There’s an art room, a grocery store, a few climbing structures, a train table, and a water play area. I will warn you, you have to pay for kids AND adults. But like the trampoline parks for big kids, it would be a fun place to go for an hour or two to burn off some energy before getting in the car for a long ride home.
Pinnacle Mountain: This state park is located JUST west of Little Rock (seriously, it’s 20 minutes from downtown). There are two trails that lead to the summit, which has gorgeous views of the surrounding area. There is also an amazing playground at the base of the mountain and a couple of other walking trails that are flat and paved, perfect for strollers if you are still in the baby years. If you are an outdoorsy family, this is a really fun place to check out.
Where to Eat:
Purple Cow: There are two location in Little Rock of this quirky diner. The kids will love the purple ice cream and milkshakes (they have boozy milkshakes for the 21 and over crowd as well!). With a giant kids menu, this is a great place for families.
Flying Fish: Yes, the same one that is in Memphis. BUT, it is located right across the street from the Museum of Discovery and right down the road from the Clinton Library. Plus, the kids meals come in little boats, so…
The River Market: Kind of like a really nice food court, the River Market has several, mostly ethnic food options in one building. With plenty of seating in the center, a Farmers Market right outside on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the spring and summer, and just down the road from the Museum of Discovery, this would be a great place to go if your kids want to eat different things.
All Aboard: The kids get train conductor hats and crayons with coloring sheets plus there are train tracks running about the dining area that delivers the food to your table. What more could your train-loving kid ask for? Plus, the food is actually good!
US Pizza: With locations all over the city and a patio at every location, US Pizza is a really great lunch or dinner option when traveling with family.
The Root: Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this local restaurant is super fun for kids. There are toys for playing inside plus a really fun patio with little slides and outdoor toys. Everything is grown on site or locally sourced. It’s really yummy!!