Little Rock Is The Place To Be This October

The SMA Annual Meeting will be held in Little Rock, Arkansas, October 18-22, 2022. In addition to the educational sessions and networking for which the conference is known, Little Rock is a pretty cool place to explore. “Little” may be in the name, but there is plenty to do in Little Rock. The city has a population of more than 200,000 and a metro area of more than 750,000. It mixes classic Southern hospitality with just the right amount of hipness. In addition to historic and cultural sites, there is a full menu of culinary choices. The foodscape mashes up Southern classics, soul food, and barbecue with fine dining, chef-driven innovation, and ethnic eateries along with down-to-earth diners and more. Crafty drinking and nightlife is also part of the Little Rock experience. The River Market Entertainment District is just steps from our headquarters hotel. It is hopping with bars, restaurants, and live music. There, patrons 21-plus can carry beverages in cups in public from place to place. The city is in the thick of the craft beer scene with microbreweries ranging from family-friendly to hipster hangouts. Here’s a sampling of some area attractions. (Psst… don’t miss the Clinton Presidential Library if you’d like your photo taken behind the desk in the Oval Office.)

William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum

With its on-site museum, restaurant, and iconic bridge, this is a highlight of any visit to Little Rock. Guests can explore the political career of our nation’s 42nd president, including memorabilia from his first political campaigns in Arkansas and full-size, exact replicas of the White House’s Oval Office and Cabinet Room.

In September 1957, this school was at the center of international attention when the governor ordered the National Guard to prevent nine Black students – The Little Rock Nine – from attending this all-white school. President Eisenhower later federalized the National Guard and sent troops to escort the students to class. It’s now the only functioning high school in the National Park System. One can explore the visitor center and take free Ranger-led school tours (call ahead for tour reservations.)

At 33 acres, this 11-block-long park acts as Little Rock’s front lawn, providing ample room for strolling along the Arkansas Riverbank and admiring the park’s 100+ works of public art. Concerts are regularly held at the park’s amphitheater while children’s play areas and splash pads dot the landscape. The park is right outside the Marriott Hotel, our headquarters hotel.

One of only two purse museums in the world, ESSE honors and celebrates the 20th-century American woman while exploring concepts of art, history, and femineity through the lens of women’s handbags and their contents. Through purses, you’ll learn about the evolving position of women in society.

Pinnacle Mountain State Park

Climb to the top of Little Rock at one of Arkansas’s most visited state parks. For those looking for an adventure closer to sea level, the park is also home to world-class mountain biking trails, paddle boat rentals, hiking trails, and Little Maumelle River kayaking. One of the most Instagramable locations n Little Rock.

Rock Town Distillery was the first distillery to open in Arkansas since Prohibition…well, the first legal one, at least. They’ve gone on to garner national and international acclaim for their artisanal line of whiskeys, gins, and vodkas. Tastings and behind-the-scenes tours are offered daily.

Arkansas State Fair

The Arkansas State Fair will be held October 14-23, 2022, and the fairgrounds are only 10 minutes from our conference hotel. The Arkansas State Fair attracts about 450,000 attendees. The largest entertainment event in the state offers a diverse program at the Arkansas State Fair Complex, which includes the Barton Coliseum, Hall of Industry, an impressive midway and lots of other venues. The family-oriented fair provides lots of fun and educational opportunities for all ages, with an emphasis on agriculture, livestock, technology, and arts.

The musical entertainment of the Arkansas State Fair offers something for every taste. There are many free events that gather thousands of fairgoers. Famous headliners on the Main Stage present classic rock, country, alternative, and R&B acts. Previous headliners of the fair include The Charlie Daniels Band, P.O.D., Ginuwine, Joe Nichols, Stokley, Pop Evil, Mark Chesnutt, Ralph Tresvant, and many others.

The admission is $10, but advance purchases offer lower prices. Children, seniors, and group visitors enjoy discounted tickets. The admission includes free concerts on the Main Stage. Rides require separate tickets. Organizers also provide free shuttle services. Fairgoers can park in the designated parking lots Friday evening or get on a shuttle to the fair gates, to have a hassle-free family weekend.

Grab your helmet and pedal on. Little Rock is home to more than 1,200 miles of cycling trails, so be sure to bring your bike (or rent one when you get here!). There’s a trail for every rider, from heart-pounding downhills and state-of-the-art freerides to scenic routes that span from the delta to the mountains. Here are maps to help you find the right trail for you.