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Be Our Guest

Little Rock and Jackson throw out the welcome mat to your holiday guests with outstanding shopping, lodging, and activities.
BY LINDA JARRETT

While it is nice for some to be “Home for the Holidays,” others prefer “Over the River and Through the Woods.” In Little Rock, Ark., and Jackson, Miss., holiday guests will have memorable experiences. And travelers in town for the holidays will not have to tote gifts to their hosts. Both cities have an abundance of shops offering traditional and quirky finds.

empress

Above: The Empress of Little Rock is a AAA Four Diamond bed and breakfast. Linda Jarrett

Below: The Mississippi Museum of Art will present an 18th century nativity display with more than 150 figures. Mississippi Museum of Art

nativity

Shop Little Rock

If you’re visiting family or friends in Arkansas’s capital, know that the River Market located downtown is packed with shops, like The Freckled Frog, offering Arkansas handcrafted items from candles to clothing, and Ten Thousand Villages, a fair-trade shop with gifts handmade by disadvantaged artisans from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.

In addition to having an extensive gallery displaying local and regional art, the Historic Arkansas Museum Store features contemporary crafts, quilts, and jewelry. You’ll find Little Rock memorabilia and souvenirs at Shop the Rock and The Clinton Museum Store. Tempt that holiday sweet tooth by popping into Kilwin’s for delicious chocolates, fudge, and caramel apples made on the premises. Find that special tie or shirt at Barakat Bespoke, a custom men’s boutique.

Close to downtown is the Southside Main Street district (SoMa). Anchored by Community Bakery, which moved to the area in 1952, the neighborhood was revitalized by a community effort, resulting in charming stores lining South Main Street.

The Green Corner Store, Arkansas’s first and only eco-lifestyle retail store, sells environmentally friendly goods for people, pets, and the planet. The Holiday Pop-Up Shop brings together local artisans to display an array of pottery, jewelry, knitwear, and more.

The Esse Purse Museum carries hundreds of one-of-a-kind purses (think cats and cars, to name just two themes) and includes a museum displaying the evolution of the 20th-century woman through the bags she carried. It is one of three purse museums in the world, and the only one in the United States. MOXY Modern Mercantile is a modern incarnation of the general store, with vintage-inspired gifts.

Known as “the Heart of Little Rock,” the Hillcrest District was established in the late 19th century and includes shops like Box Turtle, an artist-driven boutique carrying artisan jewelry, women’s clothing, candles, quirky toys, and many one-of-a-kind items.

A small bean-to-bar chocolate factory, Izard Chocolates brings beans from all over the world to make chocolate bars, truffles, salted caramels, and other goodies wrapped in Italian papers – the perfect gift for the discerning chocolate lover.

A five-minute drive from Hillcrest is The Heights, another neighborhood shopping area with more boutiques and gift stores, like Eggshells, which offers a variety of kitchen necessities and gourmet food items, and E. Leigh’s, for high-quality clothing, handbags, and accessories for the fashion-forward woman.

Lodging and dining in the Rock Rather than bunking with relatives, a bed-and-breakfast is the perfect place to relax and wrap gifts.

The Empress of Little Rock, a AAA Four Diamond property known as “the Grand Dame of the Ozarks” for its elaborate and detailed Gothic Queen Anne architecture, was built in 1888 and features nine rooms furnished in period décor.

Robinwood Bed and Breakfast provides a quiet place to relax, or visitors can stroll through the architecturally diverse neighborhood. Rosemont Inn and Cottages and Rosehaven Cottage Cabins feature both guest rooms and cottages. All are located in the Quapaw Quarter Historic District within walking distance of SoMa and minutes away from the River Market.

The Capital Hotel, a AAA Four Diamond hotel built in 1872, boasts an enormous tree in the spacious lobby and offers a variety of activities, including story time with Santa, afternoon teas, and choral performances.

Samantha’s Tap Room and Grill downtown has 32 beers and 20 wines on tap, and local items such as fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce, and bacon-wrapped quail breast.

Trio’s Restaurant has been serving a happy clientele since 1986, and while its menu changes with the seasons, it is known for its voodoo pasta and Thai-style shrimp curry.

Holiday happenings in the Rock

In addition to shopping and eating, the holidays are a time to enjoy family traditions. Here are a few to consider:

• The Arkansas Repertory Theatre will present A Christmas Story from Nov. 30–Dec. 25.
• The Robinson Center, which opened in the fall after a $70 million renovation, will host the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Home for the Holidays Dec. 16–18; Ballet Arkansas will present The Nutcracker Dec. 9–11; the Moscow Ballet will perform The Great Russian Nutcracker on Dec. 22.
• Downtown bridges, illuminated with thousands of lights, will display “River Lights in the Rock” from dusk until dawn, with short shows on the hour from 7–11 p.m. and a special show on New Year’s Eve.
Make merry in Mississippi

Those traveling to Jackson, Miss., for the holidays will find many interesting shopping and dining opportunities.

Banner Hall, located off Interstate 55, has a multitude of shops for any holiday list, including Bliss, a distinctive boutique with gifts for everyone from babies to brides, men and women, and even the family pet. Fresh Ink features exquisite paper and special pens that make writing an art.

For book lovers, Lemuria features a wide selection of best sellers, biographies, and nonfiction, as well as first-edition signed books by Mississippi authors, such as John Grisham, Eudora Welty, and William Faulkner.

Stop in Broad Street Bakery for tantalizing pastries like blackberry-vanilla scones and their old-fashioned caramel cake, plus soups, sandwiches, wraps, and salads.

Fondren, the neighborhood originally home to the Mississippi Lunatic Asylum, is now a hip shopping area where most of the buildings are a mix of styles from the 1930s to the 1960s. Shoppers will find quaint boutiques and restaurants along Duling Avenue and State Street (U.S. Highway 51).

Duling School, built in 1928, now houses shops such as Joan Hawkins Art and Interiors with decorative accessories made by local craftsmen. Across the street from the school, Brent’s Drugs is Jackson’s oldest soda fountain and was one of the settings for the movie The Help. Try the burgers, egg and olive sandwiches, steak and eggs, and milkshakes here.

Next door is Interiors Market with antiques, jewelry, and regional artwork, and GLO/Anthony Ritter Designs with artwork by local artists, along with home fixtures.

For the lady on your list, the Treehouse offers vintage Chanel jewelry and handbags.

Capital accommodations and dining

Saltine provides oysters prepared in a variety of ways, or diners can choose from other selections, including alligator and andouille gumbo, or Gulf shrimp and grits.

At the Iron Horse Grill, enjoy the true Mississippi music experience while dining on stuffed delta catfish, grilled redfish, steaks, and chops.

For authentic soul food, Bully’s Restaurant is the place to find chitterlings, oxtails, turkey wings, and meatloaf, plus tomatoes and okra, yams, and greens.

Palette Café, located in the Mississippi Museum of Art, has Chef Nick Wallace, who blends his Mississippi family-farm origins with French techniques, resulting in an extraordinary experience. Menu selections change depending on local seasonal items.

The Fairview Inn (AAA Four Diamonds), a spacious 1908 Colonial Revival mansion, features luxurious rooms and spa facilities for your post-shopping pleasure. Mick Jagger, Matthew McConaughey, and Renée Zellweger are a few of the celebrities who have graced their doors.

The building that houses The Old Capitol Inn (AAA Three Diamonds), a boutique hotel in the downtown area, close to the Fondren District, was built in 1952 as a YWCA and converted to a bed and breakfast in 1996.

Holiday happenings in Jackson

Experience the holidays the Southern way starting with a tour of the governor’s mansion adorned in seasonal decorations. Other options include:

• The Mississippi Children’s Museum’s holiday spectacular that’s offered every December. Guests can travel with the Holiday Historian Passport, hear readings of The Polar Express, and more.

• The Mississippi Puppetry Guild performs Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! beginning Dec. 9 at the Belhaven University Center for the Arts.

• The New Stage Theatre will feature A Christmas Story, The Musical on its main stage Dec. 2–22.

• Visit Trustmark Grand Hall in the Mississippi Museum of Art from Dec. 6–Jan. 1, 2017, to see “Bethlehem Tree: Younger Foundation Crèche Collection,” a magnificent nativity display with more than 150 authentic and rare 18th-century figures.

This year, make a memorable holiday with friends and family in Little Rock and Jackson.

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

November/December 2016 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO

For more information, contact the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, littlerock.com or (800) 844-4781. Contact the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 354-7695 or visitjackson.com.

To visit Little Rock or Jackson, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTik® Travel Planners and TourBook® guides.


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