A Barrier Breaker
In addition to the River Market, Little Rock has numerous sites and attractions that will appeal to history buffs. One of the most moving is Central High School, which garnered national attention as the site of a standoff over racial integration during the 1957-1958 school year. Nine African-American students braved angry mobs, National Guard troops and media scrutiny to attend Central High, which had been an all-white school until the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.
Today, a visit to the school gives groups a fascinating look at issues of race and segregation, as well as the courageous young people who broke barriers in Little Rock.
“In 2007, Central High became a national park, and now we have a marvelous visitors center, with National Park Service rangers leading tours,” Malton-Mages said. “And Central High School is still operational. There are 2,600 students of every nationality attending.”
Other historic stops around the city include the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion and the Old State Capitol, the oldest standing capitol west of the Mississippi River.
A Diverse Region
In addition to offering numerous tourism experiences in the city proper, Little Rock makes a great jumping-off point for explorations of other places around central Arkansas. Groups will find a number of interesting places to visit within a short drive, beginning with the Heifer Ranch, another facility associated with Heifer International.
“Heifer Ranch is an hour and 20 minutes away from downtown,” Malton-Mages said. “Visitors see where the animals originally came from, and there’s a global village there that you can tour in a hay wagon. Guides show them what different areas of the world are like, and they see what Heifer is doing there and how they’ve transformed full communities.”
Another great option is a visit to Pinnacle Mountain State Park, just 25 minutes outside of the city, where adventurers can take numerous hiking trails that lead to lakes and mountain overlooks. Park staff can put together special programs for groups that include bird-watching, guided nature hikes and nighttime astronomy workshops.
Finally, there’s a chance to strike it rich at Crater of Diamonds State Park. About an hour and a half’s drive away from Little Rock, the park is the only diamond mine of its kind open to the public.
“For just $7, you can go in there and dig for diamonds,” Mayner said. “If you find one there, it’s yours. Someone found a four-carat canary diamond there just a few weeks ago.”
Little Rock Convention
and Visitors Bureau