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Rolling in Little Rock


The replica of the Oval Office at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum.
Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News September 2014

Little Rock, Ark., may not be the first place that comes to mind when looking for a fall travel stop, but this southern city is a wheelchair-accessible and very affordable destination.

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“If you haven’t been to Little Rock in the last [several] years, you are in for a surprise,” says Gretchen Hall, president and CEO of the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau. The Clinton Presidential Library revitalized the former warehouse district, spurred new development and is attracting more tourists each year.

Our first evening in Little Rock was amazingly wheelchair-friendly. Always a magnet for politicians and business travelers, now the capital city is a hip destination for leisure travelers.

Take the Trolley

The best place to begin your Little Rock visit is by touring aboard the River Rail Electric Streetcar.

The trolleys look vintage, but every one is wheelchair-accessible. The driver pushes a button and a wheelchair lift pops out of the steps. Aboard the streetcar, a long bench seat folds up and out of the way so a wheelchair user can fit easily.

Two lines take passengers either through downtown (green line) or across the Arkansas River to North Little Rock (blue line). Trolleys stop at major attractions along the 2.5 miles of track, including The Clinton Presidential Library.

The cost for a ride is $1 or $2 for an all-day pass (exact change is required). A three-day pass provides unlimited rides for $5.

For more information, visit cat.org/river-rail.

Presidents & Lions

There is never enough space to get into all of the things to see and do in any place we visit, but these are a few places you shouldn’t miss.

The William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum

What better place to begin a tour of Little Rock than with its best known attraction.

Documents, photos, videos and an interactive station tell the story of the 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton (clintonlibrary.gov).

A highlight of the museum is the replica of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room. An attentive group of volunteers are eager to share their knowledge of Clinton and things to do and see in Little Rock.

If the weather is nice, explore the grounds, which feature more than 700 indigenous trees.

Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center

The indoor nature center with ceiling-high windows looks out on dozens of birds fighting for a place on the feeders. Live catfish swim inside a toddler-high aquarium.

Visitors can also enjoy educational programs, learn about the state’s recreation options and explore the center’s trails (centralarkansasnaturecenter.com).

Junction Bridge Pedestrian Walkway

Forty feet above the Arkansas River, the Junction Bridge is a wheelchair-accessible structure linking Little Rock to North Little Rock.

Formerly used to carry trains across the river, it’s now a 17-foot-wide walkway with an elevator and benches. The Junction Bridge is part of the Arkansas River Trail, an ambitious project that will eventually link 24 miles of trails.

River Market District

Overlooking the Arkansas River, downtown Little Rock’s River Market District (rivermarket.info) is a mix of shops, dining, nightlife, entertainment, parks, playgrounds and an amphitheater.

We bought bagels from the Boulevard Bread Company and lingered in the market where a vendor was sewing handmade purses. The Little Rock Farmer’s Market is open from 7 a.m. to 3 .m. every Saturday through Oct. 25,. The market is held under two open-air covered pavilions.

Little Rock Zoo

Nearly 700 animals are housed in the 33-acre Little Rock Zoo (littlerockzoo.com).

The hilly terrain is lushly landscaped with native plants and vegetation from around the world. The winding paths are easy to maneuver in a power wheelchair. The zoo has several programs that allow visitors to have close encounters with the animals.

Breakfast with the Animals is a special program held one Saturday each month through October. Advance reservations are required. On our visit, we toured with the “Carnivore Keeper” and stood a few feet from lions, jaguars, tigers and leopards.

Presidential Hotel

The “Grand Dame” of downtown Little Rock is the Capital Hotel (capitalhotel.com). The 94-room property is more than a century old and has hosted both President Ulysses S. Grant and President Clinton.

Our king-size room with 14-foot ceilings had plenty of room to maneuver a power chair. The only area of the hotel that isn’t wheelchair-accessible is the second-floor exterior balcony. The second-floor mezzanine is a quiet place to read the newspaper.

Two on-site restaurants and room service provide dining options. The upscale restaurant Ashley’s is an elegant choice for a special occasion dinner (reservations recommended).

The hotel’s Capital Bar and Grill is a more casual choice with an affordable and hefty menu.

For more information on visiting Little Rock, visit littlerock.com.

Jim and Barbara Twardowski cover the travel industry and specialize in accessible and boomer travel, luxury accommodations, culinary/cultural offerings and destinations.

 

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Rolling in Little Rock

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