I watch Little Rock from a streetcar window as the trolley chugs through the streets of downtown, a place that lives up to its title. Arkansas’ capital does not boast a dramatic skyline or even a size that overwhelms. It is truly little, but its heart is certainly large.
The River Rail Electric Streetcars in Little Rock are easy to spot. They stun the eyes in their bright yellow coloring. The clickety-click of the tracks make for a rhythmic sound one could fall asleep to while cruising the streets of the downtown. For $1, I ride the Blue Line, a 3.4 mile loop with 15 stops in downtown and across the Arkansas River in North Little Rock. No local would take this mode of transport to get anywhere in a timely manner. These yellow rides are mostly for the tourists. And while it is the tourist thing to do, the streetcars of Little Rock take me back in time. There is something to be said for traveling by way of a replica vintage trolley.
Little Rock’s roots stem from 1814, but it wouldn’t become the state’s capital until 1836. Set up on the Arkansas River, Little Rock is often called one of America’s most affordable cities. I found that to be true, where you could endlessly ride around town for nothing more than a $1, all while soaking up the details of the city.
I hope off of my streetcar in search of some Little Rock cuisine. Easily the most buzzing area of the city is the River Market. Home to the Ottenheimer Market Hall, the district bursts with life. I enter the hall and spot brighter yellow leading me to Sweet Soul. Ottenheimer Market Hall is home to around 15 merchants. The international bazaar of food offers a little bit of everything, but I want a taste of the south.
I order up a catfish po’boy from Sweet Soul, a stand that embraces southern classics. And after a few bites of catfish and sips of sweet tea, I am transported to the south in its tastiest form.
Just outside the Market Hall, the Saturday Farmers Market takes place. Opened in 1974, you can pick up fresh produce and even handmade arts and crafts. Today a sculpture show occupies part of the space, with some displays proving Little Rock can be tiny or towering above the rest.
Arkansas’s capital contains a laundry list of Clinton attractions, one of which is the Arkansas Capitol. Bill ruled the city as governor just beyond these six bronze doors on the eastern side. They are the building’s glitzy earrings, bought from Tiffany’s of New York in 1910.
The Neoclassical design reeks of democracy, almost just like the nation’s Capitol building in miniature. This is Little Rock afterall. I roam the grounds, filled with a rose garden, a Vietnam War Memorial and perhaps the most moving monument to the Little Rock Nine of Central High. When Little’s Rock’s governor tried to stop nine African American students from attending Central High School in 1957, the federal government had to bring in the army to escort the students to class.
A major civil rights movement and the stomping grounds of one of America’s most well known presidents, Little Rock isn’t small by any means. It is a city whose size might make other capitals laugh. It resides in a state that doesn’t always receive the most attention. And at the same time, Little Rock is colossal. This town provides a taste of the south, where the tea is sweet and the history is great.
Have you been to Little Rock?