what’s new in Arkansas below. This statewide guide is packed with up-to-date information on the latest and greatest spots that have recently opened.
Robinson Center, Little Rock
The reopening of the newly renovated Robinson Auditorium, which has been billed as its “second act,” is the biggest recent development in the cultural life of Central Arkansas. The $70 million upgrade included acoustical and technological enhancements, a grand ballroom and patio overlooking the Arkansas River, new conference spaces and expanded lobbies and public facilities, all wrapped up in a LEED-certified package that maintains the historical significance of the original structure. This renovation to the home of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Arkansas and Celebrity Attractions opens up a world of entertainment possibilities for the state and makes the center nationally competitive and capable of hosting any Broadway production. The newly renovated Robinson Center will also henceforth be home to the Miss Arkansas Pageant, which has been held in Hot Springs for the past 58 years.
CONTACT: 426 West Markham St, Little Rock, 501-370-3224.
Firehouse Hostel and Museum, Little Rock
International travelers and lovers of unique, budget travel can now stay at the capital city’s first hostel, the Firehouse Hostel and Museum, located inside—you guessed it—a restored historic firehouse in MacArthur Park. The 1917 Craftsman style building once house Little Rock Fire Station #2, and the charmingly restored property is filled with artifacts from firefighting history. Located in the heart of Little Rock in MacArthur Park, this hostel is close to all downtown attractions, including museums, galleries, shops, restaurants, and the vibrant SoMa and River Market districts.
CONTACT: 1201 Commerce St., Little Rock, 501-476-0294, www.FirehouseHostel.org
Craft beer, Little Rock & North Little Rock
The craft beer boom continues at a clip, with four additional breweries and taprooms having opened in Little Rock and North Little Rock, plus one new way to experience them—without getting behind the wheel. New breweries include Rebel Kettle and Buffalo Brewing Co. in Little Rock and Flyway and the Springdale-based Core taproom in North Little Rock. Add those to nearly a dozen others already in Central Arkansas, and you’ve got the makings for a great brew tour. This is where the newly opened Arkansas Brews Cruise comes in. Founded in North Carolina and with locations in some of the bigger beer markets of the country (Denver, Nashville, Bend and New Orleans, to name a few), this van tour takes beer-lovers to several local breweries, offering education and tastings at every stop.
Dave and Buster’s, Little Rock
What began 40 years ago as two Little Rock establishments—a restaurant and a nearby grown-up play space—has now returned to its hometown after merging to build one of the country’s most popular arcade restaurants. Dave and Buster’s first opened in Dallas in 1982 (with Dave’s name coming first as the result of a winning coin toss) and now has nearly 100 current and soon-to-open locations across the nation—including one outside the continental U.S., in Hawaii. The recently opened Little Rock location is the duo’s first and only in their home state of Arkansas.
CONTACT: 10900 Bass Pro Parkway, Little Rock, 501-777-3800, www.DaveAndBusters.com/little-rock
Northwest & North Central Arkansas
Back 40 Mountain Bike Trail, Bella Vista
The Back 40 single track mountain bike trail in Bella Vista is a 40-mile trail system. The Back 40 Loop is the main trail within that system that circles the east side of the city. There isn’t really a starting point for the loop, but rather four trailheads for access — Buckingham Trailhead, Lake Ann Trailhead, Bear Hollow Trailhead, and Blowing Springs Park. The trails embrace the city’s hilly topography of bluffs, waterfalls, and deep wooded areas.
Additionally, the Back 40 is the first of a multi-phase project that plans for a total of 150 miles of natural-surface trail through the City of Bella Vista’s 45 square miles. The construction of the trail system is by NWA Trailblazers and has been fully funded by a $3 million grant to that organization from the Walton Family Foundation.
CONTACT: 479-876-1255, www.BellaVistaAR.gov
Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food, Bentonville
Brightwater is a world-class food learning and cultural center. Through its uniquely holistic programming, The Center offers academic and career training in cuisine and the culinary arts, food systems and service, traditional and artisanal food crafts, and entrepreneurial development.
CONTACT: 479-899-6925, www.Brightwater.org
Darby Legacy Monument, Fort Smith
A 12 ft. bronze statue of WWII General William Darby, with him riding on his 1942 Harley Davidson motorcycle, is located in Fort Smith's Cisterna Park at the corner of North 10th street and Garrison Avenue.
CONTACT: 479-783-8888, 10th & Garrison, www.DarbyLegacyProject.com
Downtown Murals, Fort Smith
A result of the Unexpected Festivals held in September, the annual 10-day festival of murals is lead by a team of world-renowned international artists who add modern vibrancy to the historic walls of Fort Smith's downtown area. Artist lineup will vary, each year, adding beautiful works of art that represent cultures from all around the globe.
CONTACT: 479-783-8888, www.646Downtown.com
Lake Atalanta, Rogers
Lake Atalanta is a reservoir along Prairie Creek in Rogers. Used primarily for recreation, it was built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration. Today, Lake Atalanta is surrounded by the second oldest park in Rogers. The park contains a playground, picnic area, fishing piers,and walking trail. Just below the dam is a second city park, Lake Atalanta Dam Site, constructed in 1987. Lake Atalanta is part of the "Family and Community Fishing Program" for Arkansas.
Melba Theatre, Batesville
The newly renovated Melba Theater is now open for business once again and is celebrating 76 years. Located on Main Street Batesville, the Melba Theater is a single-screen movie theater that seats around 400. The Theater also features live events and private parties. Regular movie ticket prices are $4.
CONTACT: 870-569-8002, www.MelbaTheater.org
Walton Arts Center expansion, Fayetteville
The Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville celebrated the grand reopening of its newly renovated facility on Nov. 19. The grand reopening celebration kicks off WAC’s 25th anniversary season.
The new expanded atrium will allow patrons to share the excitement, the insights and the beauty of what has happened on stage with one another. The new atrium transforms the relationship between Walton Arts Center, Dickson Street and the entertainment district with glass walls beckoning people inside. There are also now additional restrooms; a designated Starr Concierge Counter for patrons to easily access food, beverages and merchandise; the capacity to host seated dinners for 300 guests for weddings, corporate events and other gatherings downtown.
The Starr Theatre has also been renovated for bigger shows. Increased accessibility and amenities include updated technology and accommodations allowing the building to meet the production needs of 21st century shows, and increased accessibility will make the aged facility a friendlier destination for patrons.
Big River Crossing, West Memphis
Pedestrians and bicyclists can enjoy the Big River Crossing in West Memphis, which officially opened in fall of 2016. Featuring stunning views of the Mississippi River, the Big River Crossing connects downtown West Memphis to downtown Memphis. The $17.5 million dollar boardwalk is built alongside the historic Harahan Bridge and is the longest public pedestrian bridge along the Mississippi River.
Walnut Ridge Heritage Walk
Downtown Walnut Ridge is reclaiming the town’s rich history with a walking tour that takes visitors back in time with a series of plaques, large photographs and detailed descriptions of Walnut Ridge’s past. The Walnut Ridge Heritage Walk includes landmark structures of the past and present and present information about early leaders, merchants and cultural figures.
CONTACT: Downtown Walnut Ridge Network, 870-886-6638, firstname.lastname@example.org
Downtown Entertainment Park, Newport
Spring 2017 brings the opening of the new Downtown Entertainment Park in Newport. The park will offer an outdoor music venue, a Veteran’s Walk, a Public Servant’s Walk, a stunning fountain, and become the location for community outdoor movies.
Hampson Archeological Museum State Park, Wilson
In Wilson, the new home of Hampson Archeological Museum State Park is expected to open in fall 2017. The exterior of the building will be Tudor in style to match the architecture of the historic downtown square. The museum will be a moder facility with over 8,400 square feet with over 2,300 square feet of interactive exhibits, many featuring artifacts that have not been seen by the public for over 50 years.
CONTACT: Hampson Archeological Museum State Park, 870-655-8622, email@example.com
Camper cabins at Lake Ouachita State Park, Mountain Pine
Four new camper cabins have been added to the lineup at Lake Ouachita State Park. Camper cabins include heating and air conditioning, a queen bed, bunk bed ( guests bring own linens), a bench dining table, and a screened-in porch outfitted with deck chairs to enjoy the view from the campground.
CONTACT: 501-767-9366, www.ArkansasStateParks.com/LakeOuachita
El Dorado Entertainment District
A new Arts and Entertainment District is in the works in El Dorado. The multi-phase project is expected to provide venues to showcase artistic outlets like touring Broadway shows, musicians, traveling art exhibits, a farm-to-table restaurant, and outdoor festivals.
CONTACT: 870-863-4547, www.ElDoFest.com
Islet Cove Paddle Trail, Bismarck
A sign at DeGray Lake Resort State Park’s marina marks the access point for the 3-mile trail, which is a flatwater paddle on the lake. Eight numbered, yellow markers along the lakeshore correspond to a brochure developed by park interpreters that highlights points of interest and history of the area. The brochure is available at the park’s marina, lodge and visitor center. The trail is part of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Arkansas Water Trails program.
CONTACT: 501-256-4262, www.DeGray.com
The Hotel Hot Springs & Spa, Hot Springs
The Austin Convention Hotel & Spa, which is now under new ownership, underwent a full renovation project and is now the Hotel Hot Springs & Spa. Renovations that have been completed or are in the works include newly remodeled guest rooms, a new and enlarged spa with hot springs thermal mineral water, a new lobby bar, fitness center, pool, renovated meeting space, shuttle service to attractions and the Inside Track Grill & Sports Lounge.
CONTACT: 501-623-6600, www.HotelHotSprings.org
Hot Springs Village Discovery Center, Hot Springs Village
An avenue to learn about the activities and events available at Hot Springs Village. Located in downtown Hot Springs in the historic Wade Building. The center is a point of entry for those wishing to visit Hot Springs Village or learn more about it. While there, people can schedule outings, learn about community programs and events and how to participate in them, or get information on lots or home purchases. Of note, a guest pass is needed for visitors to gain access to Hot Springs Village.
CONTACT: 501-922-5510, www.ExploreTheVillage.com
Monument at Hot Springs National Park
A new memorial to Hot Springs National Park Ranger James Alexander Cary, who in 1927 became the first National Park Service ranger killed in the line of duty when he was shot by bootleggers, is now at Hot Springs National Park.The monument is a park ranger hat and is located on the lawn of the park's administration building on Bathhouse Row.
CONTACT: 501-620-6715, www.NPS.gov/hosp/index.htm
Red Light Roastery, Hot Springs
This craft coffee roastery is the first small batch roastery of its kind in Hot Springs. It also serves as a coffee shop.
CONTACT: 501- 609-9357, www.RedLightRoastery.com
Renovation of the Thompson Building, Hot Springs
The five-story Thompson Building, considered a gem of the Central Avenue Historic District of downtown Hot Springs, is being renovated into a boutique hotel.
CONTACT: 501-321-2835, www.HotSprings.org
Visitor Center at Logoly State Park, McNeil
Logoly State Park near Magnolia, the state’s first environmental education state park, has a new 7,161-square-foot visitors center. Most of Logoly’s 368 acres comprise a State Natural Area that includes a unique collection of plant species native to the western Gulf Coastal Plain.
CONTACT: 870-695-3561, www.ArkansasStateParks.com/Logoly