ARKANSAS

 LITTLE ROCK • HOT SPRINGS •
HEIFER RANCH • OZARKS

• LITTLE ROCK

 WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT

 — Little Rock BBQ — Opinion is divided as to the best Little Rock barbeque. Lots of folks like Whole Hog, which offers taste-tests of six different sauces, but if you’re hankering for something traditional, go to Sims, where they slather the meat with a perfect mix of mustard, vinegar and brown sugar. Don’t forget to order a side of fries. www.simsbarbeque-ar.com

WHERE TO STAY

 — The Empress of Little Rock — You definitely feel like royalty as you drive up to The Empress of Little Rock, a bed-and-breakfast that’s housed in a magnificent turreted Victorian home. The owners wanted to establish a Downton Abbey feel with modern amenities, and they definitely succeeded. Mary would have loved this place. www.theempress.com

 WHAT TO SEE

 — Central High School — In 1957 Central High School was the center of a major Civil Rights demonstration as nine African-American students walked up the steps of the all-white school. Today it’s both a National Historic site and a top-ranked, racially-integrated high school. Tours are given daily. www.nps.gov/chsc

• HOT SPRINGS

 WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT

 — The Ohio Club — Gangsters ate here, sports stars gambled here, and Mae West sang here in what is the oldest bar in Arkansas. Today people from all over the world come for the history, the music (live bands play every night of the week) and yes, the amazing hamburgers. www.theohioclub.com

— McClard’s — Bill Clinton isn’t the only one who likes McClard’s. Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones, former house speaker Newt Gingrich, /Academy Award Winner F. Murray Abraham and rock star Joe Perry are also fans. Enjoy the barbecue and then, for a Clinton souvenir that will make it past TSA, pick up a jar of their special seasoning. Perhaps in honor of Clinton, it contains 0 calories and only 4% sodium. www.mclards.com

 — Stubby’s — Rivaling McClard’s for the title of best Hot Springs’ barbeque, Stubby’s advertises its homemade sauces come three ways: traditional, healthy and sassy. www.stubbysbbq.com

— The Purple Cow — There’s Buddy Holly music in the background, a mural of James Dean, Elvis, Marilyn and Babe Ruth on the wall, and old-fashioned sodas, huge salads and terrific burgers on the tables. A local mini-chain with four Arkansas locations (two in Little Rock, one in Hot Springs and one in Conway), everything is served with big portions of Southern hospitality. This is Arkansas Retro at its best. www.purplecowlr.com

WHAT TO SEE

 — Al Capone’s Suite — Here’s your chance to live it up Capone-style. The Arlington Hotel was Capone’s Hot Spring’s headquarters, and now his suite is available for overnight stays. Make your reservations far in advance; the room is in high demand. Of course, if it’s already booked, you can settle for the presidential suite, which isn’t nearly as popular! www.arlingtonhotel.com

— Babe Ruth’s Gym — To see how Babe Ruth’s gym differs from your spa, stop by the old Fordyce Bathhouse and get your exercise by walking up to the third floor. The Fordyce, once the largest bath on Bathhouse Row, now serves as the Hot Springs National Park’s Visitor Center. Tours are available and well worthwhile. www.nps.gov/hosp/planyourvisit/fordyce.htm

— Tour Clinton’s Hot Spots

If you want to see more than the historic sites and trendy galleries in downtown Hot Springs, pick up a brochure at the Visitor Center and drive to the outskirts of town where the young Bill Clinton went to school, bowled, danced and watched movies.

But this is more than a way to see the places that influenced a future president. It’s also a way to see how real people — as opposed to the gangsters and movie stars — lived in the past and how many Arkansans live today. Hint: Be sure to stop at Bailey’s Dairy Treat, the former Polar Bar. It’s as popular now as it was back when it was one of Clinton’s favorite hang-out.

HEIFER RANCH

 WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT

 Big Star Grocery — Lunch is served at the ranch, but you’re on your own for dinner, and unless you’re into long drives, that means you’ll be eating in Perryville, which is about two miles away. Choices are limited to Mustang Sally’s, known for burgers and fries; a few fast food places; and Big Star Grocery, which is a market store coupled with a deli center. Big Star’s deli features a sandwich that’s better, bigger and less expensive than the one sold by Subway, which is twelve miles further south in Morriltown. We topped it off with a Sonic milkshake and were good-to-go till morning.

WHERE TO STAY

Heifer Ranch — The Ranch is mostly set up for group travel, meaning that small rooms open onto a shared central room that has amenities like tables, coffee and a refrigerator. The few rooms that are set aside for singletons and couples are clean but small and spartan. There’s air conditioning but not much else — no space, no TV, no breakfast, no ice cubes. For ice, you have to drive to Perryville.

WHAT TO DO

Petit Jean State Park — It’s only a thirty-minute drive from Heifer Ranch to Petit Jean State Park, where you’ll find hiking trails as well as a lovely lodge with restaurant and sleeping accommodations. www.PetitJeanStatePark.com

• OZARKS

 WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT

 — In Eureka Springs

 Ermilio’s — Hardly unknown, Ermilio’s wins “Best Restaurant awards not only for Eureka Springs but for the best Italian restaurant in the entire state. First choose your sauce, then pick your pasta, then stuff your stomach.  www.ermilios.com

 The Mud Street Cafe — Locals as well as visitors like to wake up to Mud Street breakfast. They’re known for eggs, breads and superior coffee. Open only for breakfast and lunch.  www.mudstreetcafe.com

WHAT TO DO

 — Off Road Adventures — If you want to zoom from Little Rock to a Eureka Springs, take I-40 west to Exit 36 and head north on I-23 toward Huntsville. It’s a 200-mile drive that will take you about four hours. But if you want to see “the real Ozarks”, get off I-40 a bit sooner, on Exit 81, and head north on Arkansas Highway 7. This route leads through Jasper where you can stop at the Cliff House for lunch and a great photo op. At that point, head to Highway 74, which will lead you across the Buffalo River, through a lovely pastoral valley, and into delightful small towns.
It’s best to ask the locals for directions; your GPS might not work. Most important, allow time to get lost. That’s half the fun.

 — Photo Ops in Eureka Springs — Eureka Springs, filled with hilly, winding streets and Victorian architecture, is a photographer’s paradise. Wander along Spring Street, one of the top spots for photo ops, and be sure to stop by the Palace Hotel, which is noted as much for its sign as for its history. www.eurekasprings.com

— Day Trip to Bentonville — It only takes an hour to drive from Eureka Springs to Bentonvile, where you can enjoy fried olives at Tavola Trattoria or homemade pork rinds at Tusk and Trotter.
Follow the food with a walk to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, founded by Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton. A nice touch: general admission is sponsored by Walmart. www.bentonvilleusa.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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