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Three eady getaways for you and your girls

A wonderful ladies-only weekend is in the bag
when visiting these Southern cities.
By Linda Jarrett

For women who want to ring up a ladies-only weekend this fall, the Southern cities of Little Rock in Arkansas, Shreveport in Louisiana, and Ocean Springs along the coast in Mississippi beckon with great shopping, fine hotels, and cultural offerings.

Ample fun in Arkansas
Looking for a place to rock with your girlfriends? Little Rock, Ark., will fill the bill with great hotels, museums, galleries, restaurants–and shopping.

Two downtown hotels put you in the lap of luxury within walking distance to many restaurants, shops, and attractions. The historical Capital Hotel (AAA Four Diamonds), the “grand dame,” quite possibly has the largest elevator in the state. Legend says that it was built to accommodate President Ulysses S. Grant and his horse during his 1880 visit. But leave the horse at home to enjoy casual dining at the Capital Bar & Grill or go upscale at Ashley’s, which also has a polished AAA Four Diamond rating.

The Peabody Little Rock (AAA Four Diamonds) embodies the tradition of its predecessor, the historical Peabody in Memphis, Tenn., including the famous March of the Peabody Ducks every morning and evening. Relax with a cocktail and piano music in the Atrium Lobby Bar or be pampered in the spa. For dining, there is the romantic Capriccio or the casual Mallard’s Bar.

The shopping event of the season, Holiday House with 250 merchants, will be Nov. 7–10 at the Statehouse Convention Center that’s attached to The Peabody.

While downtown is easy to explore on foot, visitors can tour the area for a $1 fare on the River Rail Electric Streetcar. It also crosses the Arkansas River into North Little Rock.

Browse Little Rock’s Farmers’ Market (open Tuesdays and Saturdays, April–October), located in the River Market Pavilions. Grab a pastry and coffee and watch a chef demo. Find the perfect destination keepsake at Shop the Rock, Little Rock’s favorite souvenir store, that’s also in the River Market area. Sip a latté at Andina Café and Coffee; try a cupcake at the Brown Sugar Bake Shop; or a glass of wine at Zin Urban Wine and Beer Bar.

Listen to blues while enjoying dinner at Cajun’s Wharf. You can sample crab, crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, and more. Planked wood floors and an outside deck overlooking the river make this a perennial favorite.

More options are found in the South Main District. Check out The Green Corner Store, an eco-lifestyle store with handcrafted creations by local artisans. Stop in the Community Bakery for doughnuts and croissants.

Hillcrest and The Heights, divided by Kavanaugh Boulevard, are two older neighborhoods with tree-lined streets. Each neighborhood has its own character. The Heights, considered the more affluent, offers fashionable shopping and dining, while Hillcrest encompasses small bungalows among eclectic shops and restaurants.

In The Heights, have a massage or facial at Caracalla Spa. Nothing is more than $75 at Ember, a good stop for great fashion. Terry’s Finer Foods, operating since the end of World War II, sells meats, cheeses, local produce, and fine wines. The bistro serves gourmet meals on antique dinnerware with original French art hanging throughout the cozy room.

In Hillcrest, The Box Turtle offers clothing, jewelry, toys, and gifts, most crafted by local artists. The Shoppes on Woodlawn has 12 rooms of original art, vintage furniture, holiday decorations, handbags, and more. Hillcrest neighborhood hosts its Harvest Fest on Oct. 15.

SO Restaurant offers seafood and hand-cut meats, plus a huge dessert–a large chocolate bag filled with ice cream and topped with whipped cream and strawberries–that’s hammered open at the table by an eager waiter.

Make time to see the impressive William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. Walk downtown to the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Cox Creative Center, and the Old State House Museum. At the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, relive September 1957 through the story of the Little Rock Nine. A sculpture of the students also stands on the State Capitol grounds.

Northern Louisiana
Lagniappe
Separated by the Red River with a neon-lit bridge, Shreveport-Bossier, La., is where cowboy and Cajun come together, and opportunities for a girl-friendly getaway flourish.

The Eldorado Resort Casino Shreveport (AAA Four Diamonds) offers fine dining, a spa, plus a Swarovski boutique.

At the Remington Suites, a boutique hotel downtown, relax in the spa or venture next door to the Stray Cat bar with an open New Orleans-style courtyard.

For a B&B, the 2439 Fairfield, in the Fairfield Avenue Historic District, ensures a good night’s repose.

Robinson Film Center has a monthly girls night out event, “Heels and Reels,” that includes a film, dinner, and drink specials. Peruse The Shoppes at Bellemead for upscale boutiques. Buttercups, featured on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” in 2011, will satisfy a sweet tooth.

Mix art and wine at Painting With a Twist. Uncork a bottle and follow an art instructor who leads your group in creating a masterpiece.

The Louisiana Boardwalk in Bossier City features a mix of factory outlets and retail. Catch a Broadway show at the Strand Theater, built in 1925 and known as the official State Theater of Louisiana.

At the AAA-rated Superior Steakhouse, you might rub elbows with Hollywood types, such as Anna Paquin and John Goodman. Try the bread pudding that’s made out of Southern Maid Donuts and topped off with house-made vanilla ice cream.

Upcoming events include the Red River Revel Arts Festival, Oct. 6-13.

marvelous Mississippi
Between New Orleans, La., and Mobile, Ala., off Interstate 10 lies Ocean Springs, Miss., a slow-paced town on the Gulf of Mexico. Its size makes the town pedestrian friendly and a great place for a girls’ getaway with its beautiful beaches, bayous, nature trails, and downtown activities.

Also known as one of the most artistic communities on the coast, it is home to nearly 200 art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants, most of which are located along the tree-lined downtown streets.

Stop by the historic L&N Depot Train Station and get a walking map to help you get started.

Shop the open-air market held on Saturdays for produce, plants, baked goods, and cheeses. Pick up a picnic lunch and walk to Fort Maurepas Park, the highest point on the Gulf Coast, to enjoy the ocean breeze.

Dining choices are casual and varied. The Shed, a rustic favorite for barbecue, had a fire earlier this year, but remains open for business and worth the experience. For fried catfish, fried chicken, and homemade biscuits, Aunt Jenny’s, with its bayou view, shouts “comfort food.”

If your girls love Elvis, spend a night in the “Love Me Tender, Love Me Suite” room at Gulf Hills Hotel & Conference Center, the one-time summer home of Elvis Presley. Rumors say he might have left a handkerchief or some signed photographs.

The Bay Bridge between Ocean Springs and Biloxi has a pedestrian/bike lane offering beautiful views of the coast and barrier islands.

Events this fall include Cruisin’ the Coast Ocean Springs, Oct. 11–13; and the Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival, Nov. 3 and 4.

This fall, plan a girlfriend getaway to recharge your spirit and friendships.

Linda Jarrett is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.

Sept/Oct 2012 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO

For more information, contact the:

• Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 844-4781, www.littlerock.com.

• Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce, (228) 875-4424

• Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau, (888) 458-4748, www.shreveport-bossier.org.

To plan a Southern girlfriend getaway, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.

Order free information about Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi through the Free Travel Information Card, found online.


 

More ideas
By Linda Jarrett

Exploring Little Rock is like finding a new treasure. No matter where you start, there is so much more. The town is spread out with easy access to all areas, each with its own little personality–old, new, and in between. The town has embraced its past while keeping up with the present. The downtown area is pedestrian friendly, and if you only had a weekend, you would have more than enough to keep you occupied within walking distance of your hotel.

Restaurants for any taste dot the downtown area. Try Tallulah’s Arkansas Saffron Creole or Jorge’s Muy Caliente Farfelle, a bow-tie pasta in vodka tomato sauce, at the colorful Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro on River Market Avenue. For a true pub atmosphere, drop in Dugan’s Pub, Third and Rock streets, for Bangers and Mash with Guinness Gravy or Dubliner Irish Beef Stew, and a stellar beer selection.

Ten Thousand Villages, 301 President Clinton Ave., one of the world’s largest fair trade organizations, offers hundreds of artisan products from linens and home accessories to bath and body products. Every purchase helps provide income to the artisans and their families.

Located across from the Clinton Presidential Library, Heifer International is a non-profit, humanitarian organization dedicated to ending world hunger by providing livestock, trees, training, and other resources to assist struggling families, towns, and villages around the globe. It’s Heifer Village is a unique museum-like experience that features over 80 inspiring interactive exhibits and restored wetlands. Programs range from one hour up to four hours. Located inside Heifer Village, the large retail space–Shop @ Heifer–is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It offers videos, books, educational toys, world handicrafts, accessories, greeting cards, honey, chocolate, coffee, and Heifer merchandise.

Beyond downtown little rock
Take Kavanaugh Boulevard to The Heights and Hillcrest neighborhoods to browse the many shops and restaurants. Kavanaugh Boulevard itself is a shopping and dining destination, and includes Tulips, a contemporary clothing boutique. Stop in Zaza’s Fine Salad and Wood-Oven Pizza Company and relax on their patio with a prosciutto arugula pizza and spinach mimosa salad. Both are in The Heights neighborhood.

In Hillcrest, Vieux Carre specializes in Cajun/Creole cuisine, offering Blackened Redfish, Muffaletta, and Black-eyed Pea Caviar. There’s a jazz brunch here on Sundays.

For more shopping, travel west on Cantrell Road (Highway 10) to Pleasant Ridge Town Center where you will find Solemates, a shoe store offering a shoe for every foot. Beyond Cotton, with its racks of unique designs, will keep you browsing for awhile. For that one-of-a-kind find for the home, peruse Vesta’s for home décor, accessories, and linens.

While The Promenade at Chenal features the more popular chain stores like Anthropologie, Nike, Apple, and J. Crew, it also has Big Orange Burgers place that serves award-winning truffle garlic herb fries, in addition to delicious hamburgers.

 

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