Thanks to The Gauntlet, butterflies fill visitors' stomachs long before they even enter Magic Springs and Crystal Falls Water and Theme Park. The coaster looms high over the parking lot—forming a bright yellow web out of some 2,200 feet of steel track. Then, shrieks echo as riders plunge down a 110-foot drop and rocket through five inverted loops before finally planting their feet back on solid ground. And that's just the beginning.
Sprawling across the grounds are dozens of other attractions that cater to all levels of thrill-seeker. While the X-Coaster dangles riders and inspires avant-garde hair styles with its slowed-down loop, the family-friendly Big Bad John takes others on a runaway train ride through the forest. Elsewhere, a kiddie airplane ride and a carousel delight tiny visitors, and everyone can break to eat at the Lakeside Ice Cream Parlor.
The instructors at Green Haven Horse Stables guide riders of all skill levels on the path to proper horsemanship with private and group lessons as well as summer camps for children. Each lesson focuses on safety and building self-confidence, which are of the utmost importance when commanding a steed to jump over fences or ride through an airport security checkpoint. Riders may choose to ride in the styles of English, hunter jumping, Western, or dressage, with intermediate and above dressage lessons conducted by a certified USDF judge. At summer camps, children ages 6–14 receive a proper introduction to horses, spending a full week learning the subtleties of equitation and participating in fun-filled games and activities.
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.
At Arkansas Skatium, visitors don ice or roller skates to indulge in family-friendly, frictionless fun atop spacious rinks. During group ice-skating classes, certified instructors show bladers aged 5 and older the fundamentals of gliding before letting them fan across the ice to work through new maneuvers. When the clock strikes 10 p.m., the rink morphs into a broomball stadium where up to 25 athletes take to the ice for sneaker-clad fun.
Arkansas Skatium's snack bar vends sodas, cappuccinos, pizza, and funnel cake to those tuckered out from eight-wheeled and single-bladed maneuvers. The ProShop sells all manner of gliding gear and houses a repair shop for skates dulled by nervous biting before hockey games.
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 Museum of Discovery crams 25,000 square feet of exhibit space with a plethora of displays on world history, culture, and natural science. Features include a rare, uncursed mummy coffin, painstakingly crafted around 600 BC, as well as an animal collection of 51 species including birds of prey, a European ferret, an alligator, and a rare breed of unicorn-Jabberwocky. Permanent exhibits include Passport to the World, which guides visitors on a sweeping cultural tour with authentic artifacts, artworks, and local knowledge that help define the featured nation. Energy illustrates how coal and nuclear power keep homes lit and cell phones charged while guests use their bodies to ignite light bulbs that could illuminate living rooms, dusty attics, and even dustier Lite-Brite consoles.