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Total Solar Eclipse in Little Rock, Arkansas


A total solar eclipse is very rare, so we decided to book our trip a year in advance. We stayed just a few steps from the river and the nightlife.

 

We started our visit at the Old State House Museum, the original state capitol building of Arkansas and the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River. The front entrance was the site of President Bill Clinton's presidential campaign announcement on October 3, 1991, and the site of his election night celebrations in both of his campaigns for the presidency on November 3, 1992, and November 5, 1996. Afterwards we walked along the Arkansas river and had a great lunch at Platinum BBQ, located in the River Market neighborhood. The River Market is the center of activities in downtown Little Rock.

 

Afterwards we visited the Historic Arkansas Museum, which had a lot of activities related to the upcoming eclipse. On its grounds are some of the oldest buildings in the state. Unlike other museums that just have artifacts on display, this museum has both exhibits with local artifacts and historic buildings. Each building we visited had patrons in their historic costumes.

 

We took a taxi to the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, a very modern building, whose most recent expansion and renovation was designed by famous architecture firm Studio Gang. The museum had been reopened following a four-year, $150-plus million renovations.   Some of the paintings were on loan from private collectors. We viewed paintings from Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and Gustave Courbet.

 


Our last stop of the day was at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. The desegregation of the High School gained national attention on September 3, 1957, when Governor Orval Faubus mobilized the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African American students from integrating the high school. The next day, President Eisenhower ordered the 1,200-man 327th Airborne Battle Group of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division to escort the nine students into the school. The site is still a working high school today. You can take photos of the front façade and tour the exhibits at the Visitor Center.


We had dinner at Samantha's Tap Room & Wood Grill.  They have 20 wines available on tap, so if you order a bottle, they pour your 25 ounces from the tap in a decanter. A little bit odd, but besides that the food and atmosphere were quite good.

 


The next morning we had breakfast @ the Corner, a local hangout. You have to queue for half an hour to order your food, then they seat you at a table. The food was average to good, but it's rather pricey for that type of set-up. We had prebooked our tickets for our visit at the Bill Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. The museum features interactive exhibits, including replicas of the Oval Office and the White House Cabinet Room. The organization of the exhibits within the main building was inspired by the famous Long Room in the Old Library at Trinity College in Dublin, which Clinton first saw when he was a Rhodes Scholar. The Clinton Presidential Park occupies nearly 30 acres of land and is located on the riverfront next to the museum. There is also an area where President Clinton could be buried if he chooses.

From there we took a taxi to the Arkansas State Capitol. Designed in the Neoclassical style, the Arkansas State Capitol building was built over a century ago as a replica of the US Capitol. We were there on a Sunday and were able to view the main rooms (House, Senate, and Supreme Court). Our last stop of the day was at the Old Mill, a historic re-creation of an 1880’s water-powered mill that was used in the opening scenes of the classic movie “Gone With The Wind”. There is a beautiful park surrounding the mill, so you can take great photos (see top photo).

We had dinner downtown at the Capital Bar & Grill, located inside the 5-star Capital Hotel. It was very busy, but they found us a table. We enjoyed our food and the ambiance.

 


Monday April 8th was eclipse day. We started at Big Bad Breakfast where we had a very good experience. We took a taxi to the Little Rock Zoo. They had special entertainment for the eclipse, and we had purchased tickets in advance. We visited the zoo during the morning. It opened in 1926 and is home to more than 725 animals. We decided to watch the eclipse from the Great Apes section where a baby Orangutan was just a couple of months old. It got very dark for a few minutes during the total eclipse, which brought a lot of excitement to the crowd.  


We had dinner at Benihana, which is all the time a lot of fun. The restaurant is in North Little Rock inside the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel.



We were very pleased to have chosen Little Rock as a viewing location for the eclipse. The weather was superb for three days. We enjoyed our long weekend in this charming city. People are very friendly and there are interesting sites to visit.   

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