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Travel Advice From Our Creative Director

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Arkansas – Where History Runs Deep And Culture Abounds 

The South is not all the same. However, there is a common deep sense of pride and desire for progression that I have found while traveling south of the Mason-Dixon Line. From rolling hills of lush green to smiling faces from full stomachs, Arkansas, the land and it’s people, are charming and inviting.

To be fair, there was some hesitation to attempt this journey. After all, (Arkansas was a Confederate State) this is a place that many have fled from in search for freedoms and liberties once denied. There is no way I, the son of school principal and descendent of slaves, could deny the scars placed on my ancestral legacy as I boarded the plane at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

In the week leading up to my trip, I shared with many friends and family that I was headed to Arkansas and my first stop was going to be in Little Rock. “Why on Earth would you go there” was often the response. Some didn’t even bother to utter a word, just eye rolls and shoulder shrugs. Regardless of what they said or didn’t say, I was not going to cancel my trip. The chance to walk in the footsteps of history was far too enticing. The added frequent flyer miles didn’t hurt either.

I slept most of the flight. That always happens when luck provides an empty row and a window seat. With a few eye blinks before I knew it we had landed in Little Rock. The heat greeted my exit from the plane with a faint breeze. I hit the ground running. There was a lot of ground to cover and very little time in my 3-day visit to cover all on my to-do list.

My first destination was Little Rock Central High School. Talk about heavy! This is the place that on September 30th 1957, nine African-Americans, known to history as the Little Rock Nine, were denied entrance to the school by an angry mob and school officials. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had to order troops in to escort the students safely inside the school. The structure is beautiful and looks just as grand as it does in all the pictures and documentaries I have seen. What is also inspiring is that the school is still an active school. The students are full of passion and desire to learn. I had a chance to sit and speak to a few of them about being in this atmosphere and learning in such a significant place in American history. Education is something that is taken for granted in this country. However, seeing the students of all races and ethnic backgrounds working together and filling the halls with laughter and friendship cements why it was so important for those nine children to enter.

Next up on my journey was the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. Quantia Fletcher, Assistant Director and Jennelle Primm, Director of Public Programs, gave me a tour of the space and an oral history of the Mosaic Templars. The organization was founded in 1882 and played a significant role in African-American culture in Little Rock. From life insurance to economic support the organization helped the community grow and prosper until the Great Depression.

Day one was rounded out at the Clinton Presidential Center. Though, not necessarily a place of African-American history, President Clinton has deep roots in Arkansas as well as the Black community. The structure is awesome and sits on over 30 acres of land. There is even a replica of the Oval Office from the Clinton Years in the White House on the third floor. There are photos on the President and many of the world leaders he met while in office cascading every wall. Gifts from foreign dignitaries are on display also.

My visit flew by faster than I expected. I fell in love with Arkansas in just three days. With my personal destinations checked off my list, I spent the rest of the days crisscrossing between Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Bentonville. There were so many amazing people that I met that helped affirm that Arkansas has moved forward. History is still respected. However rather than a crutch, it is the fuel to move forward. Without moving forward the cultural advances would be overshadowed and unnoticed. From art to fine dining, Arkansas has it all. Following are a few places to eat, visit and lodge while planning your trip to this amazing place.

WHO TO CONTACT BEFORE YOU GO:

Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
Tourism Division
1 Capitol Mall
Little Rock, AR
(402) 471 1558
www.VisitNebraska.gov

Bentonville Convention & Visitor Bureau
104 E. Central
Bentonville, AR 72712
(479) 271- 9153
www.bentonville.org

WHERE TO EAT- Little Rock

Crush Wine Bar
318 N. Main Street
North little Rock, AR 72114
(501) 374-9463

Ristorante Capeo
425 Main Street
North little Rock, AR 72114
(501) 376-3463
www.capeo.us

Starving Artist Café
411 Main Street
Argenta Arts District
North Little Rock, AR 72114
(501) 372- 7976
www.starvingartist.net

WHERE TO EAT- Bentonville

Eleven
Crystal Bridges Museum of America Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR 72712
(479) 418- 5700

The Hive
21c Museum Hotel Bentonville
200 NE A Street
Bentonville, AR 72712
(479) 286-6500
www.21cMuseumHotels.com

Tusk & Trotter
110 SE A Street
Bentonville, AR 72712
(479) 268-4494
www.tuskandtrotter.com

ATTRACTIONS-Little Rock

Clinton Presidential Center
William J. Clinton Foundation
1200 Presidential Clinton Ave
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 374- 4242
www.clintonpresidentialcenter.org

Hearne Fine Art
1001 Wright Avenue, Suite C
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 372- 6822
www.hearnefineart.com

Little Rock Center High School National Historic Site
National Park Service
2120 Daisy Gatson Bates Drive
Little Rock, AR 72202
(501) 374- 1957

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
Department of Arkansas Heritage
501 W. Ninth Street
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 683- 3593
www.mosaictemplarscenter.com

ATTRACTIONS- Bentonville

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR 72712
(479) 418- 5700
ww.Crystalbridges.org

Walmart Visitor Center
105 North Main Street
Bentonville, AR 72712
(479) 204- 6565

WHERE TO STAY: Little Rock

Capital Hotel
111 W. Markham Street
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 374-7474
www.captialhotel.com

Double Tree Hotel Little Rock
424 W. Markham Street
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 372- 4371
www.doubletreer.com

Embassy Suites Little Rock
11301 Financial Centre Parkway
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 312- 9000
www.embassysuites.hilton.com/LittleRock

Holiday Inn Presidential
600 Interstate 30
Little Rock, AR 72202
(501) 375-2100
www.hipresidential.com

Little Rock Marriot
3 Statehouse Plaza
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 906-4000

WHERE TO STAY: North Little Rock

Holiday Inn North Little Rock
120 W Pershing Blvd
North little Rock, AR 72114
(501) 758-1851

Holiday Inn Express
4306 McCain Blvd
North Little Rock, AR 72117
(501) 945-4800
www.hiexpress.com

Wyndham Riverfront
2 Riverfront Drive
North Little Rock, AR 72114
www.wyndham.com

WHERE TO STAY- Bentonville

21c Museum Hotel
200 NE A Street
Bentonville, AR 72712
(479) 286-6500
www.21cMuseumHotels.com

 

– Words by De’Von Johnson

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