What’s New in Arkansas For 2012

Central Arkansas

Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Walk – Runs from West Markham Street to the Clinton Presidential Library in downtown Little Rock. Names of Five Freedom Riders, sit-in activists and former President Bill Clinton, the initial honorees showcased in sidewalk plaques. New names added annually. West Markham Street.

Arkansas Museum of Discovery – Grand re-opening January 2012. Discover the world of science with over 50,000-sq.-ft of new hands-on exhibits in three dedicated galleries: Amazing You –learn all about your amazing body; Discovery Hall –discover physics, engineering and math; Earth Journeys –explore global earth processes and extreme weather in Arkansas. 500 President Clinton Ave. 501-396-7050. http://www.museumofdiscovery.org

Barton Rock & Roll Museum – A history of the different rock bands who have performed in Little Rock’s Barton Coliseum over the years. Call 501-372-8341 for a personal tour. Located on the Arkansas State Fairgrounds. 2600 Howard St. Arkansasstatefair.com

Cabot Community Theatre and Center Stage Playhouse -- Dramatic, musical and dinner theatre productions, theatrical workshops for children. 204 N. First St. Cabotcommunitytheatre.org/

Clinton Presidential Park Bridge – The renovation of the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, formerly known as the Rock Island Railroad Bridge, into a ramped pedestrian pathway compliments President Clinton’s vision for his Presidential Center. This renovation project closes the loop to the 15-mile Arkansas River Trail, which runs along both the north and south banks of the Arkansas River. Clintonpresidentialcenter.org

Firehouse Hostel & Museum – Restored 1917 Craftsman-style Fire Station Number 2 is now a hostel and museum. Includes historic firefighters' memorabilia, and equipment including a brass pole, 1933 and 1955 fire trucks; programs on fire safety education; 30-bed international hostel; located next to the Arkansas Arts Center in MacArthur Park, downtown Little Rock. 1207 Commerce Street. 501-476-0294. http://firehousehostel.org/

Heifer Trail and Park – A trail and park honoring Richard Butler Sr., a long-time Heifer supporter. The trail includes a sculpture by Allan Houser and leads to a park featuring flora from the Butler farm in McAlmont.

Lantern Theatre – A repurposed downtown storefront in Conway is now a black box performance area for the Conway Community Arts Association. Several presentations held throughout the year. 1021 Van Ronkle. 501-733-6220. Conwayarts.org

Penguin Pointe – This exhibit of South African penguins is one of the largest undertakings of the Little Rock Zoo and the Arkansas Zoological Foundation. The exhibit is said to be one of the best exhibits of its kind in an American zoo featuring both above water and underwater viewing of the penguins. Littlerockzoo.com

Presidential Park Wetlands -– Thirteen acres of wetlands along the Arkansas River adjacent to the Clinton Presidential Library in downtown Little Rock are being preserved. They provide unprecedented public access to conservation, tourism, educational, environmental, and wildlife opportunities. The project features pedestrian trails, an elevated walkway, and two bridges offering spectacular views of the Arkansas River, the channel stream and habitats. Interpretive displays and observation pavilions explain the significance of the area. Clintonpresidentialcenter.org

Scott Heritage Farm – Adjacent to Scott Plantation Settlement, the shareholder-owned farm uses organic methods to grow food; learning and research projects for school and adult groups which explain how food is grown in a sustainable, small acreage area. Also on-site are Glouchester old spot pigs, goats, bees. csalittlerock@yahoo.com. Scottconnections.org/

Two Rivers Bridge – The fourteen-foot-wide pedestrian bridge spans the Little Maumelle River, linking Little Rock's riverside trails with trails in Two Rivers Park. It will eventually provide a route to Pinnacle Mountain State Park and 225 miles of Ouachita wilderness trails. 501-340-6800. Rivertrail.org

Zina and Jewell – Two new elephants donated to the Little Rock Zoo by the Ringling Brothers Center for Elephant Conservation; they replace Mary and Ellen, who both passed away in 2011. #1 Jonesboro Drive. 501-666-2406. Littlerockzoo.com/elephants

 
Arkansas Delta

Arkansas Delta Paddle Trails – Three new water trails have been added to the Arkansas Water Trails – the Arkansas Post Water Trail, the Robe Bayou Water Trail, and the Bayou DeView Water Trail. The Arkansas Water Trails is a program initiated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to highlight The Natural State as prime paddling territory. 501-223-6473. Agfc.com/education/Pages/EducationProgramsAWT.aspx

CrossHeirs Retreat Center – Located in Humphrey, the center features a 14,000-square-foot, 16-bedroom lodge on 280 acres in Arkansas County adjacent to the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area. The facility is available for rental for retreats or duck hunting getaways. A 35-acre lake is also part of the property. 140 Pintail Lane. 501-352-3465. CrossHeirs.org

Delta Gateway MuseumHoused in the historic Kress Building in Blytheville’s Commercial Historic District, this regional heritage museum is slated to open in mid-2012. The facility will showcase broad historical themes in one of the world’s most fertile agricultural regions. Planned exhibitions include the development of cotton, soybean, and rice agriculture and interrelated topics, including the timber industry and swamp drainage; river, rail, and highway transportation; earthquakes, flooding, and flood control; prehistoric Native American culture; and the regional impact of the Air Force base and steel industry. 870-824-2DGM. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Delta-Gateway-Museum/138106126202473

Downtown Monticello Renovations – The historic Ridgeway Hotel and the community’s Civic Center have undergone major improvements in efforts to revitalize the downtown area. The town square now features preserved historic benches and light poles, along with the newly illuminated fountain. New brick sidewalks are handicapped-accessible. 870-367-6741. Montdrewchamber.com

Our Lady of the Lake Church Museum – Located in Lake Village, the church was established in 1866. The museum features photos and documents relating to the Italian immigration to the area, as well as the history of the church, historical photographs of the community, and letters from Italy to some of Lake Village’s earliest settlers. 314 S. Lakeshore Dr. 870-265-5439. http://ourladyofthelake.us

World War II Japanese American Internment Museum – slated to open in McGehee in spring 2012, the museum will be the permanent home of “Against Their Will,” an exhibit that tells the stories of those who were confined at the Jerome and Rohwer internment sites. Inside the McGehee Depot on Railroad St. 870-222-3160. McGeheeChamber.com.

Arkansas Ouachitas

First Ever Hats in Hot Springs Festival – The first ever Hats in Hot Springs festival is June 1-2 in Hot Springs. Everyone in the city is encouraged to wear a hat during this weekend. Famous hats and hats of famous people are also on display at various points around the city during the celebration. Live entertainment and zany competitions are also part of the event. Organizers have stated: “We want a hat for every head and a head for every hat.”

 

Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail – Hot Springs unveils a new trail:  Hot Springs: The Birthplace of Spring Baseball. The trail encompasses a free self-guided tour of more than two dozen locations throughout the city where major league legends played ball, relaxed and enjoyed the city’s attractions. The trail documents sites where Babe Ruth and other legends of the game came in the early years of the 20th Century to get in shape for the coming season. All the sites and players featured have been meticulously documented by a committee of Major League Baseball historians. More names and historic sites will be added to the trail in the future.
 

New Location for Gangster Museum of America – The Gangster Museum of America is in a new location at 501 Central Avenue. The new expanded museum (10,000 square feet) offers more galleries, new additions, and a new gift shop. The museum features classic relics including old roulette tables, vintage slot machines, Owen Madden and Al Capone exhibits, gangster weapons and a documentary in the museum’s theater. 501 Central Avenue. 501-318-1717. Tgmoa.com.

New Track Announcer at Oaklawn Park – When Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs opens for live racing in 2012, fans will be greeted by the sound of a new track announcer for the first time in more than 37 years. Frank Mirahmadi replaces Terry Wallace, who was known as the ‘Voice of Oaklawn’ during his time at the park.  Mirahmadi was selected from a large pool of applicants hailing from across the nation and as far away as Australia. He becomes just the fourth announcer in Oaklawn’s 107-year history. 2705 Central Avenue. 1-800-OAKLAWN. Oaklawn.com.
 
Buckstaff Bathhouse Celebrates 100 Years- Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs National Park, described as "the grandest collection of bathhouses of their kind in the nation," is a National Historic Landmark District with structures dating to the late 1800s. Eight bathhouses make up the Row including the Buckstaff Bathhouse, which has operated continuously since 1912. It is the only bathhouse on the Row that has never closed and it still offers the traditional spa treatment.
 
Designed by Frank W. Gibb and Company, Architects the Buckstaff Bathhouse includes 27,000 square feet on three main floors. Classical in design, it highlights the Edwardian style of classically designed buildings popular during the first decade of the 20th century. Because it has been in
 continuous operation since it opened, it is the only traditional bathing
facility preserved of all the bathhouses, but it has undergone many changes over the years.
 
Colorado marble is used throughout the interior, particularly in the bath halls. All levels can be accessed by stairs or the building’s original elevator, and the ornate interior is reminiscent of the Golden Age of Bathing. Buckstaff Baths operates under a contract with the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. For more details visit buckstaffbaths.com or call 501-623-2308.
 
Arkansas Ozarks
 

21c Museum Hotel - Located on the northeast corner of the city’s town square, 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville will support the renewal of downtown Bentonville and serve as an additional catalyst for culture, entertainment and economic growth. It is slated to open late this year.

Like 21c Louisville, it will be woven into the fabric of downtown, welcoming both visitors and members of the community to experience its rotating exhibitions, participate in its programs and enjoy its culinary offerings. With more than 12,000 square feet of exhibition, meeting and event space, 21c will present curated, rotating exhibitions, dynamic installations and live art events.

The preliminary plan features a five-story contemporary building with an active street level presence. With 130 rooms, including suites, the hotel will offer a spa, fitness center and other amenities. The hotel also will feature a restaurant that supports sustainable agriculture and serves contemporary cuisine showcasing locally grown and produced ingredients. Design Architect Deborah Berke & Partners, who created the cutting-edge 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, will collaborate with Little Rock-based firm Polk Stanly Wilcox and Louisville-based co-developer Poe Companies on the 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville. The property in Bentonville will be designed, constructed, and operated incorporating green practices and using sustainable materials.
 
Arkansas Athletes Outreach Whitaker Sports Center – The new facility is a 43,000 square foot sports center that will accommodate all of AAO’s basketball camps, skills academies, leagues and tournaments. It will also serve as a host site for local, regional and national sporting events. The facility is an expansion of AAO’s original facility located at 1515 Burr Oak Drive just off Interstate 540, Exit 66 Garland/Ark. 112 in Fayetteville. The AAO Sports Center will house five hardwood basketball courts that will also serve as six competitive volleyball courts. The center will also be the nation’s only youth sports complex with a Parisi Speed School. Parisi Speed Schools are nationally recognized as the leader in performance enhancement and agility training. 479-442-9979. Aaoteam.org

Beatles Sculpture – in September 1964, four young men from Liverpool landed at the Walnut Ridge airport to be transported to a nearby vacation spot, with a planned return to the plane two days later. The schedule was to be kept secret, but word leaked out, and when the Fab Four returned to Walnut Ridge on Sunday, most of the town was waiting. This stop made Walnut Ridge the only town in Arkansas that the Beatles visited. In September 2011, the town of Walnut Ridge dedicated a life-size sculpture of the group in the city’s downtown area. The artwork depicts the group as they appear on the Abbey Road album cover. The sculpture is called “The British Invasion of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Highway,” in referrence to Walnut Ridge’s location along the historic Rock ‘N’ Roll Highway 67. 110 SW Second St.

Core Brewing & Distilling CompanyFounder Jesse Core, a Certified Brewer and Beer Judge, is passionate about the craft brewery movement, and created Core Brewing in northwest Arkansas to make a product people can be proud to drink. Arkansas’s newest production brewery, the company opened in 2011 and is committed to making the highest quality beers with the finest fresh natural ingredients.  Its craft beers include ESB, Kölsch, Oatmeal Stout, Black IPA, Premium Pale Ale, and a variety of specialty and seasonal brews. Tours will be available starting in the spring of 2012. The tour lasts approximately one hour and will end in the tasting room. 479-879-2469. CoreBeer.com.

Expansion of First Ladies Garden at Clinton House Museum – Located in Fayetteville, the backyard of this 1930s English-style bungalow that was the first home of Bill and Hillary Clinton is filled with flowers, shrubs and trees associated with the first ladies of the United States. Favorites of Hillary Clinton such as tulips, peonies, hydrangeas and roses are featured. Various wildflowers have been planted in honor of Lady Bird Johnson, who started the country’s highway beautification program. The garden, designed by Daniel Keeley of DK Design, has expanded to encompass the west side of the house. The garden changes seasonally. Additional landscaping, planted by volunteers, in front of the house contains more than 3,000 daffodil bulbs that bloom in the spring. 479-444-0066. Clintonhousemuseum.org.

Fayetteville Underground – Located in Fayetteville, it is a vibrant and thriving non-profit organization that is currently home to 15 artist studios, as well as four galleries. Showcasing the very best in regional art, it has also brought to Northwest Arkansas many national and international exhibitions. In addition to the studio and visiting artists, the Underground’s craft gallery represents more than a dozen regional artisans. Every month the Underground hosts four new exhibitions, with monthly opening night artist receptions that draw in well over a thousand visitors. These receptions are routinely scheduled in conjunction with downtown Fayetteville’s First Thursday art walk. Open Wednesday through Saturday, the venue welcomes approximately 2,000 visitors per month. Maintaining close links to the community, the Underground offers classes, assistance and exhibition space to artists across the Northwest Arkansas region. 479-387-1534. Fayettevilleunderground.com.

Hoot2Scoot – This fun new business provides bike and scooter rentals on an hourly, daily, or nightly basis (Sunset Special).  It opened March 18, 2011, and is located on the corner of Dickson Street and Block Avenue on the south side of the Hathcock Building.  Parking is free while you rent your scooter.  You must park in the Hathcock parking lot. 

This idea sparked after renting scooters in other cool, hip towns while being on vacation.  It is a fun way for people to scoot around Fayetteville and attend Razorback games, events, or just plain sightsee!  479-330-HOOT (4668)  Hoot2Scoot.com  Facebook.com/Hoot2Scoot

Intrigue Theater – If you enjoy movies like “The Illusionist” and “The Prestige,” you must experience Intrigue Theater at the Queen Anne Mansion in Eureka Springs. Travel back in time to the Victorian era and witness an amazing performance of illusion and mentalism starring Sean-Paul and Juliane, and featuring special guests from the other side. Intrigue Theater offers a unique experience reminiscent of 19th Century entertainment. Witness magical demonstrations, feats of astonishing mental capabilities, and elements of spiritualism in a seance, as observed and celebrated in the 19th century. Spirits may make their presence known with whispered answers and unexplained phenomenon. This exclusive and unparalleled two-act production brims with charm and intrigue within the backdrop of the Queen Anne Mansion, a premier destination to see the finest in American architecture, decorative and cultural arts. This tour home recently underwent a complete restoration that showcases intricately carved woodwork, leaded glass windows and period furnishings. Only 44 seats are sold for each show. The duo also makes corporate events unforgettable. 888-71-TICKETS or 800 MANSION. Intriguetheater.com. Thequeenannemansion.com.

Museum of Native American History – A 2,600-square-foot expansion to this Bentonville museum opened November of 2011. It contains new exhibits of Indian history, including a collection of Indian headdresses. The museum provides a glimpse into what life was like for America's first inhabitants. Going back over 14,000 years, up to the modern-day American Indians, these artifacts have been uncovered throughout all of North America. The museum is divided into five different time periods arranged in chronological order. 479-273-2456. http://monah.us.

Trout Nature Center – Housed on the Arkansas State University-Mountain Home campus, the 4,500-square-foot Trout Nature Center is anticipated to open in the first half of 2012. The purpose of the center will be to enhance the joy of trout fishing and strengthen tourism and economic growth for the area. It will serve all individuals interested in trout and their habitat, and will show the impact of minimum flow, hydrology, the history of the White River and why trout made their home here. It will also serve as a location for bioscience research. The trout center will provide for interactive trout-related exhibits including several that explore the realm of virtual reality. The exhibits will spawn interest in the “Trout Tech” and “Trout Eggsperience” programs for children, and the White River System Trout Datacenter for avid fishermen. The virtual reality exhibits will be an avenue to educate children and adults regarding the eco-friendly practices and actions that all should apply when trout fishing. 870-508-6105. Troutnaturecenter.com.

Paul H. “Rocky” Wilmuth Sport Shooting Complex – Located in Batesville, this project was a cooperative effort between the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Independence County and the City of Batesville. The three-field combination skeet/trap range also offers a static archery range. Open to the public. 3600 N. St. Louis St.

Walmart Visitor Center - Following more than 18 months of planning, design and construction, the Walmart Visitor Center held its grand re-opening May 2011. A family-friendly experience in three parts, the Visitor Center features Walton’s 5&10, a world-class exhibit gallery, and the Spark Café’.

From whirly pops to wax lips and sock monkeys, you’ll get a taste of what it was like to shop back in the dime store era at Walton’s 5&10. Listen for the sounds of yesteryear while examining the original floor tiles Sam Walton installed or the tin ceiling covered over in the store’s 1951 remodel.

The exhibit gallery is packed with brand-new interactives and includes such inspiring memorabilia as Sam Walton’s Medal of Freedom and his original office. All artifacts in the exhibit gallery are authentic – no replicas or facsimiles allowed – including, of course, Mr. Sam’s iconic 1979 Ford F150 pickup truck. It’s fun and interesting for both kids and grownups alike.

The Spark Café offers freshly ground and locally roasted coffee or a cool drink after taking in one of the most remarkable stories in global business. Linger inside or out on the wide sidewalks while taking in the beautiful and historic Bentonville Square. 479-273-1329. WalmartStores.com

 
Arkansas River Valley
 

Bass Reeves Statue – A 25-foot work of art honors the illustrious lawman, believed to be the first black U.S. deputy marshal west of the Mississippi. Reeves, born into slavery, served for 32 years under Federal Judge Isaac C. Parker. This larger-than-life monument is fitting for a man whose legendary exploits made him one of the most feared lawman in the Indian Territory. Located in Pendergraft Park in Fort Smith at the foot of the J. Fred Patton/Garrison Avenue Bridge. 479-783-8888.

Bell Park -- Located just off Greenwood’s North Main Street, the park has a beautiful view, walking trails, plus a new rock promenade, disc golf and playgrounds. There are also covered picnic areas and a 6,000-square-foot Community Pavilion featuring 10 full-glass garage doors that can be raised for an open-air atmosphere. An amphitheater adjacent to the Community Pavilion features a natural stone stage. 479-996-6357.
 
Byrd's Adventure Center of the Ozarks Zip Line -- Starts from the top of a 50-foot-bluff overlooking the Mulberry River. Guides take participants across the river from the campground then hike a short trail to the launch point. Those taking part are outfitted with proper equipment then step off the bluff for the 275-foot ride across the river, ending at the campground. 7037 Cass Oark Road. 479-667-4066. www.byrdsadventurecenter.com
 

Drennen-Scott House -- Overlooking the Arkansas River in Van Buren, the original home of the Revolutionary War descendant John Drennen and his family, is now a museum and “working laboratory” for university students as they re-create the century- and- a- half- old home. The historic structure is linked to the Trail of Tears, the Underground Railroad, and the Civil War. 221 N. 3rd. 479-262-6020. Vanburen.org/drennen_scott.php

Fort Chaffee McClure Amphitheatre – The newly renovated McClure Amphitheater is located right off Massard Road across from Cisterna Villa in Chaffee Crossing.  An original Camp Chaffee-era structure built for army training, the outdoor, hillside stadium provides the most beautiful views of the city of Fort Smith in the area.  It will be available by appointment for public events and gatherings.  The county bike trail is being incorporated along the ridge that runs along the amphitheater, offering a perfect resting stop for outdoor enthusiasts. 479-452-4554. Chaffeecrossing.com.

Fort Smith Movie Lounge - Arkansas’s first dine-in movie theater opened Thanksgiving 2011. It features luxury movie screens, upscale dining and bar, and rentable conference-banquet-meeting space for up to 300 people. Movieloungefsm.com

Fort Smith Regional Art Museum -- The new state-of-the art, 16,000-square-foot facility offers traveling exhibitions, permanent collection works, classes for children and adults, artist-led workshops, family days, opening receptions, galas, members-only events, wine tastings, films, concerts, lectures, facility rentals and a museum shop. 1601 Rogers Avenue. 479-784-2787. Fsram.org/

Greenwood Veteran's Memorial – The memorial has granite stones commemorating veterans who have served or are now serving in the United States Armed Forces. Stones are available for purchase. Antique-style decorative lamps light the square. The names of all veterans with a connection to Greenwood will be added to plaques already attached as a free service. Located on the Town Square. 479-996-6357.

Johnson County Historical Society Heritage Center -- Contains records, such as marriages, probate, wills, etc. Cemetery records and obituaries, family records, and histories of towns and communities, some of which no longer exist, are also available. The many historical artifacts accumulated by the society are displayed. Files on the history of Johnson County, schools, churches, mining, railroads, wars and veterans, are being developed. 131 W. Main St. Clarksville. 479-754-3334. Ar-johnsoncohistory.com/

National Recreation Trails Additions – Old Post Mountain Bike Trail near Russellville and Springhill Park Mountain Bike Trail in Barling has been added to the U.S. Department of the Interior National Recreation Trails registry. Old Post has a series of 12 interconnecting loops offering mountain bike enthusiasts more than eight miles of trail for all skill levels. Springhill Park, a 10-mile route with three loops, twists and winds like a spider web. Known as a “fast” trail by experienced mountain bikers, it’s home to monthly races and two annual competitions sanctioned by the International Mountain Biking Association. Americantrails.org/nationalrecreationtrails/.

Neumeier Winery -- A new addition to Arkansas Wine Country, Neumeier’s is best-known for its uniquely dry Muscadine wine. Located high atop Saint Mary’s Mountain in Wiederkehr Village, it offers free tours and tastings by appointment only. Custom pottery by a master artisan is formed and fired on-site. 3406 Hwy. 186. 479-209-1224.

Old Rock Gym – Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1938-1939 native sandstone structure is part of the New Deal Recovery in Arkansas during the Great Depression era. The Greenwood School District's newly restored gym is used for community events and has a working classroom. 300 E. Gary Street. 479-996-6357
 
Arkansas Timberlands
 

Shakespeare in the Park – This new annual event at Historic Washington State Park in Washington hosts performances by the American Shakespeare Center of Staunton, Virginia. Workshops are also provided that cover topics of how to perform Shakespeare on the modern stage. Held in February at the 1940 WPA Gym. 870-983-2684. arkansasstateparks.com.

 

Smackover Ghost Tours – Tour five active haunted buildings. Investigate three of the buildings for yourself using provided equipment, or take a tour of three cemeteries. 870-944-0221. Smackoverarkansasghosttours.com.
 

Convention Center Breaks Ground in Texarkana
- Work has started on the Texarkana, Arkansas Convention Center and Holiday Inn Hotel. The new 100,000 square foot complex will be built over 12 acres  in the Crossroads Business Park.
 
The hotel will feature up to 150 rooms and a full-service restaurant. Construction  is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The privately-funded center will be located off Interstate 30 and along the future Interstate 49 corridor.
 
Railroad Museum in Texarkana- Owned and to be operated by nationally-recognized historian Dr. BeverlyRowe, the museum will officially open May 12, 2012, at the start of RailFest, celebrating Texarkana's founding in 1873-1874.  Memorabilia, murals, and artifacts will be curated by the Texarkana Museum System for a look into Texarkana's past and present.
 
Chateau Sante Opens in Warren- Built as a private residence in the mid 1980s, this retreat sits on 105 acres surrounded by hardwood and pine trees. The residence has been revamped into a retreat and event center. The Chateau has around 12,000 square feet of living space (including a racquetball court and outdoor 25 meter long pool) and hosts the only weight loss camp for teens in the state. Retreats offered range from corporate retreats to yoga.  Chateau Sante is located at 431 Bradley 23 in Warren. For more details ( such as meeting space specs) visit www.chateausante.com.