Hotel at a Glance: The Empress of Little Rock
The National Register of Historic Places recognized the Empress of Little Rock as the best example of ornate Victorian architecture in Arkansas. The home's grandiose architectural features display both Queen Anne and gothic influences. There's a 3.5-story corner tower, a 200-foot verandah, and an 8-square-foot stained glass skylight, all constructed from local materials. Since its original completion in 1888 (formerly known as Hornibrook Mansion), The Empress served as a private residence, a women's college, and a boarding house before it was restored to its original floor plan in 1994 and transformed into a B&B.
- Antique furnishings deck out all the guest rooms, which include fireplaces
- Enjoy breakfast by candlelight, which may include baked alaska oranges or cream of apple soup
- High tea is held by appointment only and includes homemade scones, followed by a one-hour historical tour of the home ($20 per person); there are also special "Downton Abbey" group grand high teas held on Sundays ($40 per person)
- Press shout-out: In 2010, Country Almanac Magazine named The Empress the fourth-most romantic B&B in the U.S.
- 'Tis the season: Every December, the B&B sets up elaborate Christmas decorations and serves homemade eggnog in the evenings.
Little Rock, Arkansas: Historic Capital City with Lots of Outdoor Fun
Little Rock, which lies along the southern banks of the Arkansas River, was named one of Outside magazine's best towns in 2013, thanks in part to the Arkansas River Trail System. The trail runs for more than 30 miles along the Arkansas River, with ample room for walkers, joggers, and bikers to enjoy the riverfront on paths that connect 38 parks and six museums. The trail also connects to the River Market, a gigantic outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex in downtown Little Rock.
The entire city of Little Rock could be considered a history museum. It's home to Little Rock Central High School, an early example of the government's role in public-school desegregation. Visitors can learn more about the Little Rock Nine—the first African-American students to attend the formerly all-white high school in 1957—across the street at the National Historic Site Visitor Center. Little Rock is also the hometown of President Clinton and the William J Clinton Presidential Library & Museum, which houses an extensive archive of official records, photographs, and videotapes. Also worth a visit: the city's numerous museums and three state capitol buildings—including the oldest state capitol west of the Mississippi River.
There's plenty for families to do here as well. Kids can play and learn at the Museum of Discovery, which has interactive science and technology exhibits. There's also a zoo just a few miles outside of downtown.