Family Fun in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, Part 1: Little Rock

The deRosiers are home from another fun-filled whirlwind 10-day trip! We flew to our starting spot (Little Rock, Arkansas) where we rented a car. We drove 644 miles through southwest Arkansas toward Oklahoma City, then south into Texas. We flew home from Dallas. 

As usual, I filled our days with every educational attraction I could find: tours, museums, state and national parks, and more. We ate local specialties and learned as much as we could about the area. We had a great time and I'm so excited to tell you everything we did!

Because I blog about educational travel, I was given admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited during our trip. Some of the attractions we toured are free for everyone, while we paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I recommend without hesitation. If you see any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, restaurant, or hotel enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


Little Rock, Arkansas

Thursday, April 6 was a travel day. It was after midnight (and thus, technically Friday, April 7) when we checked into our hotel for the next three days, the Little Rock DoubleTree. The late hour did not dissuade us from accepting the warm cookies they offered at check-in. Yum!

After a good night's sleep, we were excited to begin exploring Arkansas' capital city. We started at the Clinton Presidential Center, a short walk from our hotel. 

Did you notice the globes? They're part of an exhibit called "Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet." Each of the 26 beautifully decorated globes offers solutions to climate change.  

They're all over the grounds of the Clinton Center. 

Inside, one of the first things you see is the presidential limo used by Bill Clinton. That was really neat. You may remember that my favorite exhibit at The Ford was the presidential cars through the years. A little bit of Cindy trivia: Bill Clinton is the only president I have seen in person. It was 23 years ago (!) during the east coast trip with my students. Clinton's presidential motorcade drove by when we were in New York City and he waved at us. It might have been this very vehicle!

Our family has only visited one other presidential library, which we really liked. However, Steve and I enjoyed the Clinton library so much more because everything on display was something we remembered. Not so for Trevor, who didn't have the personal connection to the exhibits that we old folks did. We had to explain to him who Socks and Buddy were. 

Ah, youth. 

Much of the Clinton Center has exhibits and information about the United States (and its role in the world) from 1993-2001. 

Archived materials stretch from floor to ceiling on each level, with exhibits down the middle and along the outsides. Another part of the museum has a replica of the Oval Office during Clinton's terms. 


There were big binders that contained copies of Pres. Clinton's schedule for every single day of his presidency. I took a picture of what he was doing on my 21st birthday (March 12, 1993). It was a Friday and he started his day at 6:30 am by jogging with Oklahoma Congressman Dave McCurdy. After some briefings, he swore in Attorney General Janet Reno. He spent the rest of the day onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, doing redacted things. It was super interesting to see how much of his schedule is redacted. It varied greatly by day. 

There were displays about gifts Pres. Clinton received, including these adorable portraits drawn by schoolchildren. 

And speaking of school, Bill Clinton's 1st grade report card was on display. As you can see, he was Billy Blythe then. He began using his stepfather's last name (Clinton, obviously) in 1961 when he was 15.

There are so many other interesting things on display. I loved seeing the 8 years of Christmas decorations in the White House along with the Clintons' Christmas cards. There was also a neat display of custom Easter eggs used at the White House, next to a table set with their china pattern. 

We LOVED this video called, "The Final Days." So funny!

The current special exhibit is called "Women's Voices, Women's Votes, Women's Rights." It looks at important women from the past two hundred years who worked to win the vote, expand democracy, and improve human rights and tells their stories through gorgeous art quilts. All the artwork you see in these photos are quilts. Absolutely stunning. 


Trevor bought this cool pencil as a souvenir. 

We had a fantastic time at the Clinton Presidential Center! It was hard to pull ourselves away. We could have easily spent all day seeing and experiencing everything there. Before we left, we took a quick walk across the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, which spans the Arkansas River. 

Unfortunately, we could not walk through the Presidential Park Wetlands (temporarily closed due to flooding), although we got a pretty good view from the bridge. 

Next, we walked a few blocks to the Museum of Discovery. It is a don't-miss Arkansas destination! Founded in 1927, it is one of Arkansas' oldest museums and a premier science center for kids and adults. 

Despite my best efforts, we can't visit all of the attractions in the cities we visit, so I have to pick carefully. When researching Little Rock, I kept hearing such great things about the Museum of Discovery. We've been to other great science museums though - what is unique about this one? A lot! 

First, Tornado Alley Theater. This 7-minute experience lets visitors relive the January 1999 tornado that hit Little Rock's Mansion District. 

Inside, the light changes as you hear and feel the tornado pass by. Actual TV footage of the event is broadcasted as you sit in the basement. 

Little Rock was hit by a devastating tornado less than a week before we visited, so it was particularly important to me to visit Tornado Alley Theater and learn more about tornados' destructive power. You can learn more about how to donate to victims of the recent Arkansas tornados here

The Museum of Discovery is also home to two moon rocks (note to self: add to my list). It's quite interesting how one of them came to be there! It's very unusual for two moon rocks to be displayed side-by-side like this. 

This is Eli. He's 50 years old and (allegedly) quite grumpy. He seemed charming to me. By the way, his cage door stays open 99% of the time and he has access to a very large area. He just likes to hang out in his cage. 

Eli is featured in this A-MAZE-ing exhibit. It's an 1800 square foot maze built out of cardboard. 

We found Eli! 

Visit Little Rock. Seriously. It's a great city. 

This cardboard maze actually has a very interesting story. In February 2021, a record winter storm in Little Rock resulted in burst pipes that destroyed most of the galleries at the Museum of Discovery. COVID had already been a challenge and the flood was positively devastating. But the hardworking and resilient Little Rockers (Rockites? Rockettes?) immediately got to work on some great temporary exhibits, including this one.

You would never guess that this was under water two years ago. 

This two-story play structure was one of the first things installed in the water-damaged area. 

This exhibit challenges you to use a rope to hoist yourself up. The three stations have different pulley arrangements, making the job much easier or more difficult. It's a great way to illustrate mechanical advantage!

This bed of nails was surprisingly comfortable. 

We're way past the days of playing in museum toddler zones, but I had to take photos of the kid zone at the Museum of Discovery. It is enormous, with lots of super cool areas for creative and imaginative play.  

I loved this mock vet's office, with stuffed animal patients and doctor equipment. Steve is pointing at a bunny. I want to emphasize that the only time a rabbit should be in a cage like this is at the vet. Just like a dog or cat, a pet rabbit should have free range in your home

We loved the Museum of Discovery and wish them the best as they continue to rebuild bigger and better. 

We were ready to eat, so we had a late lunch at David's Burgers. This beloved local chain has 10 locations in central Arkansas. 

David's did something I have never seen before. While we were waiting for our burgers, an employee came by and gave us each a pile of HOT french fries to snack on while we waited! Such a great idea. 

Apparently, I was really hungry because I didn't take photos of our food like I normally do. Trust me when I say the burgers were delicious and looked as good as they tasted. The fries were amazing, too! After we finished eating, they offered us samples of their ice cream. Not just us - everyone got samples when they finished. The ice cream was fantastic, also. Definitely go to David's Burgers!

If this already feels like a full day's worth of activities, you're right. You could easily spend a whole day enjoying the Clinton Center and the Museum of Discovery. Only a crazy person (or a travel blogger) would add four more destinations to their day. But that's exactly what we did. I'll tell you about it tomorrow. 

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