Little Rock Arkansas: What’s The Danger?

Little Rock
Little Rock

Finding Adventure by Sea, Land & Sky in Little Rock Arkansas

By Michael P. Heithaus

Trying out the bed of nails at the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock.
Trying out the bed of nails at the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock.

If I told you that Little Rock, Arkansas is a city full of adventure and warning signs, would you believe it?

I certainly wouldn’t have. That’s probably because I’m from Missouri, the “Show Me State.” But now that I’ve experienced it firsthand, I am a firm believer in the city’s dangerous side.

Last year, I gave my family a directive – if you want to go on vacation, it must be inexpensive, drivable (less than seven hours), and someplace we had never visited before (or at least not recently).

We were getting some major construction work done on our house at the time and simply did not have the time or money for anything extravagant.

Little Rock Met His Requirements

Certainly, Little Rock met my requirements – we had never been there, it was only about six hours by car, and it did not raise any red flags on cost. Still, Little Rock sounded so boring. Other than being the state capital of Arkansas and the former home of President Clinton, I knew nothing about the city. And if I knew so little about the city then surely it must be otherwise uninteresting. How wrong I was!

With the USS Razorback.
With the USS Razorback.

Whether it is the sea, land, or sky, Little Rock is a city teeming with adventure for both adults and children. Want to tour a real-life submarine that is still on the water? Little Rock has the USS Razorback. Would you like to experience what it is like to live through an F3 tornado? Visit the Little Rock Museum of Discovery. Like to take perilous hikes? Pinnacle Mountain State Park is the place for you.

Throw in a top-notch zoo, a purse museum, a couple of extraordinary kid-friendly restaurants, a family-friendly fun park, sports, and nationally recognized historical sites, and you have the adventure of a lifetime awaiting in Little Rock.

The submarine in the river.
The submarine in the river.

Little Rock by Sea

Floating proudly on the Arkansas River, the USS Razorback submarine has a history dating back to World War II. Purchased by the City of Northern Little Rock after its decommissioning, the submarine has been meticulously maintained through the years, right down to the lever that will still allow it to make one final descent. A tour of the submarine is like a walk back in time.

But touring the USS Razorback is not like any other tour. I should have known the moment we stepped into the visitors’ center that this was going to be a unique adventure. Warning signs immediately stated, “No children under 5.” “Must be able to climb ladders.” “Must not have any serious physical or heart conditions.” And most importantly, we were warned from the moment the tour began, “DO NOT PULL THE SINK LEVER!”

The signs were no joke. Because the submarine is still floating, there are no doorways to get in. It is a two-story ladder climb in and out, with low ceilings and small passageways at every turn. We made the seemingly unwise decision to bring our five-year-old into the submarine with us. Want to experience a true adventure? Try helping a child not much older than a toddler navigate a two-story ladder in and out of a submarine!

Outside of Central High School in Little Rock, where history was made in 1959. Max Hartshorne photo.
Outside of Central High School in Little Rock, where history was made in 1959. Max Hartshorne photo.


If you prefer to be underground rather than underwater, then the Museum of Discovery may be more your speed. Largely a children’s museum, the museum houses many high-quality hands-on exhibits for children to explore, including a “bed of nails” to lie down on. The whole place is hours of fun for children and adults.

One of the most exciting exhibits is a firsthand experience of the January 1999 F3 tornado that touched down in Little Rock. Before entering the exhibit, warning signs prepare visitors for the emotional and potentially traumatic experience that is forthcoming. The warnings were not without good reason.

First, enter a room with a TV playing the weather newscast of the day. Suddenly the room begins to shake as what sounds like a freight train wails outside. Then darkness as the lights go out and the sound strengthens. Finally, the sound dissipates, the lights begin to come back on, and the TV flickers back on with news of the devastation around the city. It is truly one of the most realistic and unique tornado exhibits you can experience anywhere.


Tired of the land and sea? Experience the sky at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Less than a 25-minute drive from downtown Little Rock, Pinnacle Mountain offers hiking trails, playgrounds, and great spaces for the kids to run around. Although not a mountain in the traditional sense, Pinnacle Mountain rises high above the surrounding landscape and provides generous views for miles.

Warning signs seem to be a theme around Little Rock activities. And Pinnacle Mountain has many. The East and West Summit Trails allow visitors to hike to the top of the mountain. The “easier” of the two trails, the West Summit Trail, abounds with warnings.

The treacherous trail to the top of Pinnacle Mountain.
The treacherous trail to the top of Pinnacle Mountain.

The trail itself is only a mile or so long, and the elevation is just over 1000 feet, but the warnings provide an ominous foreshadowing of the trail ahead. One warning specifically addresses dogs and encourages visitors not to bring them on the trail as doing so could result in their injury or death.

Although the West Summit Trail looks pretty simple at first, it quickly changes into an almost vertical ascent over boulders and rocky terrain where any wrong move could easily result in a sprained or broken ankle. But if one is up for the challenge, the reward is worth the misery.

The top of Pinnacle Mountain affords views of Arkansas that are simply breathtaking. With only a few trees on the rocky soil at the trail’s peak, one can see for many miles in every direction. It is a journey one won’t soon forget.

Little Rock has much to offer beyond its sea, land, and sky adventures. Visit the riverfront and touch the actual “Little Rock” for which the city is named. Have dinner delivered by train at the All Aboard Restaurant and Grill.

Experience history firsthand with the Little Rock Nine National Park Site at Central High School. Watch the government in action at the Arkansas Capitol.

See the penguins at the Zoo. Catch a minor league baseball game with the Arkansas Travelers. Walk across the Arkansas River. Bond with family at the Big Rock Mini Golf & Fun Park. Shop at the ESSE Purse Museum, one of only two purse museums in the world. And end the day with a flight of ice cream at the Loblolly Creamery.

It is safe to say that no matter what you do, you will find adventure in Little Rock, Arkansas. My family sure did, and we cannot wait to go back.

 Michael Heithaus

Michael Heithaus is a former attorney turned stay-at-home dad. He lives with his wife and three children in St. Louis, MO. He enjoys traveling, gardening, and coaching youth sports.

For Additional Information, Contact the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) at or by phone at (501) 376-4781.

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