Introduction to Little Rock, Arkansas
The central Arkansas city of Little Rock is the county seat of Pulaski County and is also the Arkansas state capital. The city, which sits on the south bank of the Arkansas River near the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, is serviced by several major highways including Interstates I-30, I-40, I-430, I-440, I-530; and U.S. Routes 67 and 165. The city is home to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and also to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The University of Arkansas offers online programs where students can earn their degrees in Teaching, Nursing, and Information Systems to name a few. Little Rock was the birthplace of Federal Express, which was created in the city in 1971 by Frederick W. Smith, who moved the franchise 135 miles east to Memphis, Tennessee in 1973.
Little Rock derived its name from the noted La Salle Expedition in 1682 when the landing party arrived at 'La Petite Roche', the "little rock" located on the southern bank of the Arkansas River. By the late 18th century, a settlement consisting of only a handful of families had developed in the vicinity of this landmark. In 1819, the territory of Arkansas was created and two short years later, Little Rock was chosen as its territorial capital. In 1831, the city became incorporated and in 1836, Little Rock was named capital of the newly admitted state of Arkansas. The city experienced various degrees of growth through much of the 20th century. In the late 1950s, Little Rock was thrust into the national spotlight when the U.S. Supreme Court made its landmark ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education case, holding racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. The city once again became a focal point of national attention in 1992 when then-Governor Bill Clinton was elected the nation's 42nd president and held his election night victory celebration at the site of the Old State House in Little Rock.
Points of Interest in Little Rock
Little Rock boasts numerous cultural, historic, and recreational sites for visitors and residents to enjoy. The William J. Clinton Presidential Center, opened in 2004, houses the Clinton presidential library and the offices of the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton School of Public Service. The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, which opened in 2001, is one of the oldest buildings in central Arkansas and was the birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of U.S. forces in the South Pacific during World War II. The Little Rock Zoo, one of Arkansas' great treasures, has grown enormously from its origins in 1926. The facility began with just two animals and today boasts more than 725 animals representing over 200 species. Other notable attractions in the city include the following:
- Arkansas Arboretum: Includes an interpretive trail with flora and tree plantings.
- Old State House Museum: Formerly a state capitol building and now the site of a museum focusing on the state's recent history.
- Arkansas Arts Center: The state's largest art museum.
- Wildwood Center for the Performing Arts: Home of the annual Wildwood Festival, held in June.
- Riverfront Park: Site of the annual Riverfest music festival.
- Arkansas Repertory Theatre: The state's only professional non-profit theatre.
- Arkansas State Capitol: A smaller-scale replica of the U.S. Capitol Building, built in 1911.
- Ballet Arkansas: The state's only professional ballet company.
- Arkansas State Fair
- Arkansas Museum of Discovery
- Pinnacle Mountain State Park
- Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
Although Arkansas does not have any major league professional sports franchises, there are a number of smaller variety pro sports teams in the Little Rock area. The Arkansas Travelers are a minor league baseball team based in the nearby city of North Little Rock. The team plays in the Texas League and is the Class AA affiliate of Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Arkansas Twisters are an arena football team playing in the Af2, the minor league of the Arena Football League. The Twisters play their home games at ALLTEL Arena in North Little Rock. In 2008, Little Rock is slated to host the first and second rounds of regional play in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.