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.
Arkansas Extended Learning Center culls a massive, seasonal lineup of informative classes, recruiting chefs, artists, athletes, and other professionals to share their wisdom with students of all ages. Pupils can pick up new hobbies such as fly-fishing or digital photography, or sharpen nascent abilities in fields such as cooking and wine-tasting. Otherwise, they can tone up their physiques in fitness and dance classes, discover a new way to communicate in foreign-language workshops, or learn how to cut their way out of a hedge maze during gardening and landscaping tutorials.
Award-winning master brewer Jesse Melton crafts Diamond Bear's brews with creative recipes that honor traditional German beer-purity laws, merging fragrant hops and aged yeast with two-row malted barley and clean, filtered water sourced from Lakes Winona and Maumelle. The resulting beers range from the Southern Blonde or Irish Red to the Paradise porter, which combines chocolate malt with a bevy of hops for the best balance of sweet and bitter since Candy Land went on strike. During the tour, guides lead groups of ale aficionados throughout the facility, instilling information and granting glimpses of the equipment used during each stage of the brewing process. Along the way, guests older than 21 savor individual beer samples, and non-imbibers and underage participants partake of bubbly root beer. All tour-goers depart the malt mecca toting a souvenir Diamond Bear pint glass. Sunday tours begin at 3 p.m., but participants should arrive 15–20 minutes early for pretour cuddling of the brewery's pet yeast and to ensure the tour starts in a timely fashion. Beer is also available for sale on Sundays at the brewery.
Cary and Gina Martin were on a bus tour of Minneapolis–Saint Paul when Cary was struck with a thought: why not bring these types of tours to Little Rock? Gina quickly got on board, and Little Rock Tours and Travel was born. Initially, both Martins kept their jobs in broadcast journalism–Cary was a news anchor and Gina was a reporter, which inspired them to incorporate video clips into the tours. Eventually, Cary and Gina left their day jobs to run their business full time, but this journalistic aspect of the tours remains one of its strongest draws. Little Rock Tours and Travel also plans sightseeing tours, including trips to local casinos and DeGray Lake Resort State Park as well as dinner cruises down the Arkansas River.
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.
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.