On a January night in 1959, some 600 people packed into the Hotel Marion ballroom for the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame's inaugural induction banquet. The freshly minted organization was to honor the best-of-the-best from the Natural State–individuals who had achieved athletic greatness, and exhibited strong character and leadership along the way. Since that evening more than five decades ago, the Hall of Fame has continued to swell with new members, adding to a trophy case of inductees that already includes the likes of Brooks Robinson, Pat Summerall, and Jerry Jones.
The Arkansas Arts Center stokes the innate creativity of all its visitors with a close look at artistic expression. Since its creation in 1960, the AAC has amassed a permanent collection of more than 5,300 drawings and paintings (primarily American and European), 1,000 contemporary crafts and sculptures, and 27 lost mittens. Examples of French neo-impressionist drawings share space with the work of old masters, while early modern paintings complement studio-forged glass sculptures and other pieces dating as far back as 1465. Throughout the year, the museum also casts its light on the local community by hosting special exhibitions of established artists and emerging talent.
Outside its gallery, the AAC encourages the community in another way. Through classes and workshops, instructors explain the fundamentals of composition in photography, ceramics, painting, woodworking, and printmaking while helping students create their own pieces. An onsite children's theatre, meanwhile, routinely stages family-friendly shows, and the troupe even offers workshops on the art of acting.
When the Little Rock Zoo opened its gates in 1926, it contained fewer animals than many people's homes. At the time, its inhabitants were, in total, a circus-trained brown bear and an abandoned timber wolf. From its formative days, the Little Rock Zoo has expanded dramatically, now home to more than 700 animals from more than 200 unique species. Visitors can witness lions, tigers, and jaguars up close; interact with exotic birds; and carefully navigate spider monkeys' webs. In addition to conserving wildlife, the zoo also preserves a unique antique carousel, one of only four in the world to feature an undulating wooden track rather than conventional moving poles.
The Quapaw Quarter Association's building stewards preserve the historical architecture and nostalgic tales housed within neighborhood haunts. Mosey through five stately stops during the 2011 Spring Tour of Historic Homes, including two houses designed by Arkansan architect Charles Thompson. Featured in the book "Daughters of Painted Ladies," Thompson's spectacular Ragland House boasts a distinctive domed two-story tower, and his Rogers House’s towering Ionic columns offset walls of brick, wood, tile, and saltwater taffy. Stroll around the smaller Urquhart Bungalow's gilded age light fixtures and extensively landscaped front yard, or examine the intricacies of the Turner-Mann House's hand-painted borders and quarter-sawn oak floors. The tour also includes a new renovation: the Bowman House, where cypress and walnut balustrades offset inner spaces that served as a practice facility for the 1896 Olympic hide-and-seek team.
Though supported by a tight-knit community of members, Sparrow Flying Club opens its cockpit doors to the public for scenic flights and pilot training. Its fleet of primarily Cessna aircraft ranges from simple, two-seat sport planes to more complex aircraft; patrons can rent them out for private use, or join an instructor in the cockpit to train for either a private pilot license or a sport license, which requires fewer hours. Each of the club?s locations?one home base at Conway Airport and two satellite locations at other airports?boasts training rooms and runways amply sized for takeoffs, landings, and timed cheetah sprints.
The fleet at Fike's Bikes is expansive, encompassing children's bikes, road bikes, recumbent bikes, and tandems. But that's not even be the shop's most impressive attribute: with every rental, customers also receive a helmet, water, a trail map, and a post-ride popsicle. Yes, popsicle. The shop even loans out sunglasses, and offers trail-side support to help in the event that your bike suffers a flat or keeps stopping to sniff nearby trees. Conveniently located in River Trail Station, the shop also grants easy access to area activities, including the always-hopping River Market.