A Day in the "Rock"

Trip Start Jul 20, 2012
Trip End Jul 30, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hampton Inn & Suites Little Rock - Downtown
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of United States  , Arkansas
Sunday, July 29, 2012

Me and the kids slept in this morning after a late night for me last night. The sleep at the Downtown Memphis Residence Inn was peaceful. The occasional streetcar going past our window was not a big disturbance and was rather chill to hear.
After rising and getting dressed we began our next round of packing and loading (or should I say stuffing) the car. A few minutes past noon we were loaded up and--after a few last photos I took of the hotel and Main St.--I had the car shifted into drive. As we departed downtown Memphis and turned onto Interstate 40 we headed across the picturesque Hernando Desoto Bridge. We couldn't help but see the mammoth "Welcome to Arkansas" sign hung on the bridge; yep, we're on our way to Little Rock.

We arrived at Little Rock after 3pm, and the heat continued to follow us. One hundred plus degrees again and it's been that way since we hit the road nine days ago.

In Little Rock, we headed straight to the Little Rock Museum of Discovery making this the eight museum we've visited during our trip (wow!). This science museum was located in downtown Little Rock and was not much different than many of the other science museums we've gone to in the past. It was relatively newer, but smaller than the majority of the others. There were a couple of notable exhibits, however. My favorite was the Earth Journeys exhibit which featured a cool "Tornado Alley Theater" - a room made to look like a house basement in which you experienced the simulation of going through a tornado. That was well done. Also, in that exhibit were some nice interactive learning tools on climate change and the environment.

We only had about 1 1/2 hours in the museum but that's all we needed. After a short & rushed stop in the museum "Explore Store", we then headed to check into our hotel.

For our one and only night in Little Rock I took advantage of my hotel points and booked a room in the Hampton Inn, Little Rock - Downtown, the "newest hotel in Little Rock." This was a nice and clean hotel just steps from the River Market District - an entertainment area in downtown.

Being practically brand new, the hotel was spotless and refreshing. Not that the historic hotels in Kansas City or Memphis were dirty, but there's a freshness you can see and smell when your around something new such as this place. Unlike our previous hotel stays on this trip, we only had a single room in this hotel as that was all my points allowed. But it was a large room, double-queen bed room so we didn't feel that cramped (and it was only one night).

After unloading the cars (which is getting to be a frustrating exercise) and getting settled in the room, I surveyed everyone on food choices and we voted for pizza. Not far from the hotel in the River Market area was a restaurant called Gusano's - the self proclaimed "best Chicago-style deep dish pizza in the world." I'm sure some restaurants in the Windy City may have a disagreement about that, but it was decent pizza. 

The River Market area is a booming, touristy stretch of restaurants and shops centered along President Clinton Blvd. And this area even has a bright yellow street car--called the River Rail Trolley--that goes through the heart of the district. 
We found a spot to park and headed into Gusano's which was somewhat empty upon our arrival around 6:30 but the crowd filled in during our time there. While we waited for the pizza we got to watch some of the Olympics swimming and diving competitions one of the various large screen TVs in the restaurant. That was a good vibe.

Now that we were full, we headed out to burn off some calories. Since I was too late in getting us a reservation for a star observation cruise I was interested in going to in Pinnacle Park on the outskirts of town, I instead drove to the Riverfront Park along the Arkansas River. This park featured a curving walking trail and a "wellness walk" along the river. And we arrived at a good moment-right as the sun was setting. This made for some splendid picture opportunities. We took in the stunning view of the sinking sun glistening off the water while the occasional speed boat would rush by creating ripples in the river. If the temperature was several degrees cooler the evening would of been perfect. But even so, it was a special time we shared along the river.

We strolled further along the walk and came to a park called the Peabody Park a "state-of-the-art" newly-opened kids park that had some interesting features that captured the kids fancy. The park was multi-leveled and had features such as small rock climbing walls including some with rope climbing; small and large tunnels; and a fountain spray pad to play in/on (unfortunate for the kids, it was turned off).

While the kids ran and played through the park, Laneshia and I strolled a few yards away to a covered pavilion area which had various historical pictures and structures detailing the history of Little Rock. Included here was a gargantuan wood-carved Indian head statue. From the history plaques I learned why this area was called Little Rock as well as the native American background in the area, how the area was settled and how the city played a role in the Civil War. 

Also near here was a eye-catching pedestrian bridge called the Junction Bridge that linked Little Rock and North Little Rock which was across the river. As much as I wanted to stroll across it, it was getting late and we didn't have much energy to do so - so we passed on the opportunity and headed back to the hotel. 

As this was the last night of our vacation, we decided to give the kids one more round in the pool and of course they took advantage of it. It's funny that you can travel hundreds of miles to new and exciting cities but one of the things that excites kids most about traveling is the hotel swimming pool. Laneshia joined them in the water but I played the sideline and instead lounged in a chair watching as Laneshia practiced her swimming.

After the hot day, the evening was mild enough to be enjoyable. We were the only folks at the pool so the kids had the run of the place as they splashed around for about an hour. 

After the pool they dried off then we headed upstairs to prepare for bed. Aria had to suffer getting her hair washed, dried and combed (she hates that). We watched a DVD of the old sitcom Mama's Family (I like the corny classics) and then some more of the Olympics before it was lights out. 

 Tomorrow we head back to Texas and conclude our Mid-America Family Vacation.




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