Park It Right Here!
Get the family outside this summer at these kid-friendly, state and city parks
By Dwain Hebda
Arkansas is known for its outdoor culture, whether it’s hiking up the side of a mountain or lounging on the grass in one of Central Arkansas’s green spaces. The following is just a sample of the many area state and city parks just waiting to be explored this summer.
Big Dam Bridge/Rebsamen Park
7600 Rebsamen Park Road, Little Rock
Little Rock’s iconic Big Dam Bridge is literally unlike anywhere else in North America; at 4,226 feet, it’s the longest non-repurposed pedestrian/bike bridge on the continent. It’s also the place central Arkansans go for an evening stroll or ride that beats the summer heat, as temps across the bridge are generally much cooler than at street level. It’s also pet friendly and just down the road from Rebsamen Park’s many outdoor attractions. Gather the family for an old-fashioned picnic at one of the pavilions, let your four-legged family members romp in the dog park, or launch your boat into the Arkansas River from the free slip. The paved walking/running/bike trail alongside the park is hopping all day long, too.
Interstate 40, Exit 150 (West Military Drive), North Little Rock
Among city parks in Central Arkansas, Burns Park is the granddaddy of them all. At 1,700 acres, Burns Park is the largest urban municipal park in the state with a slate of attractions to match. Baseball, softball and soccer fields, playgrounds, Bonzai BMX track, an archery range and miles of trails just begin to tell the story of what’s available here. There’s also a seasonal amusement park and the city's first and, thus far, only all-inclusive playground, One Heart Playground, dedicated last fall. And if that’s not enough, how about some disc golf, horseback riding, fishing from a dock or paddling a canoe across Victory Lake. The fact is, if you can’t find it in Burns Park, you probably don’t need to be doing it at all.
Lake Catherine State Park
1200 Catherine Park Road, Hot Springs
At just under 2,000 acres of Ouachita Mountain splendor, Lake Catherine in Hot Springs is just the ticket for a family to decompress and reconnect around a crackling campfire or out on the water. Multiple cabins are available, including a fully-accessible cabin with its own fully-accessible fishing pier and boat dock. There’s also 70 campsites, rent-a-yurt and rent-a-camp facilities available. Hikers have their pick of four trails from 2.5 miles to 4 miles in length, or take in a guided tour, hike or horseback ride to learn about the unique features of the environment. While you’re there, don’t miss Falls Creek Falls for the perfect photo souvenir of your visit.
North Shore Riverwalk Park
100 Poplar St., North Little Rock
There’s a lot to see along the northern banks of the Arkansas River. As you stroll, run or bike the paved pathways, which are part of the Arkansas River Trail, you’ll encounter the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, the only place in the world featuring two floating Naval vessels that bookend World War II— the tugboat Hoga which served at Pearl Harbor and USS Razorback submarine. Visitors can tour the submarine and will soon be able to tour the tug, as well as visit the museum itself. Once you’ve got your sea legs, catch the summertime tradition of Arkansas Travelers baseball at nearby Dickey Stephens Park.
3800 Lakeshore Drive, North Little Rock
For a little film history and plenty of natural beauty, check out North Little Rock’s Old Mill. Amid the beautifully manicured grounds stands the mill itself, a historic re-creation of an 1880s water-powered grist mill. Besides being a favorite spot for family pictures, the site is also famous for having been used in the opening scenes of the movie “Gone With the Wind.” In fact, it is believed to be the only structure featured in the movie left standing.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park
11901 Pinnacle Valley Road, Little Rock
Generations of Little Rock families have come to this neighborhood mountain park for rest and recreation. Spanning nearly 2,400 acres, the park features a variety of habitat from upland peaks to Big Maumelle River bottomlands. The mountain itself rises more than a thousand feet over the river valley and two trails take hikers to the summit for an unparalleled view. There’s also eight miles of single track mountain biking. Down below, you’ll also find the Arkansas Arboretum, a 71-acre site exhibiting native flora, complete with 0.6-mile barrier-free, interpretive trail. Pinnacle Mountain State Park is day-use only, so come early to experience all it has to offer.
400 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock
Not to be outdone by its neighbor to the north, Little Rock’s Riverfront Park is a sparkling gem in the heart of the city. Stretching 11 blocks on the south shore of the Arkansas River, the park provides 33 aces of green space and attractions, with the amenities of the city just a few steps away. Walk the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, a former Rock Island Railroad bridge, or the handicap-accessible Junction Bridge to get a bird’s eye view of the river. Stroll through the sculpture garden or visit La Petit Roche Plaza to see the rock outcropping that gave the city its name. Nearby, find the Rivermarket Farmer’s Market, Museum of Discovery or Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center. And don’t miss the Peabody Splash Park to take the edge off a sultry Arkansas summer day.
Woolly Hollow State Park
82 Woolly Hollow Road, Greenbrier
Get away from it all with a trip to Woolly Hollow State Park on the shores of Lake Bennett. Here you’ll find canoes, kayaks, pedal boats and fishing boats for rent (bring your own bait and tackle). Equally popular is the 10-mile single track hiking/mountain bike trail which can be divided into two loops or covered in its entirety. The park features a launch ramp, snack bar, bathhouse with hot showers, 30 Class AAA campsites, 10 tent sites without hookups, picnic area, standard pavilion and gift shop. Woolly Cabin, the log home of the area’s first settlers, offers visitors a historic perspective of the park.
War Memorial Park
5110 W. Markham St., Little Rock
No tour of Central Arkansas’s parks would be complete without a visit to War Memorial Park, the emerald oasis in Little Rock’s bustling Midtown region. Here, families can enjoy a picnic pavilion and fishing lake as well as playground and splash pad. Also located in the park is Little Rock Zoo, walking trails and nearby, the $12 million, 30,000-square-foot Hilary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center. In addition to a collection of 21,000 books and digital media, the facility boasts a 165-seat theatre and extensive gardens featuring native plants, all contributing to hands-on learning and enrichment for children of all ages.