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Historic Arkansas Independence Day

June 30th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Celebrate Independence Day as it was celebrated on the Arkansas frontier at the Historic Arkansas Museum. The afternoon activities include an old-time patriotic parade, 19th century music and encounters with people from the past.

Cheer “huzzah” during a reading of the Declaration of Independence and sign your own copy in the print shop. Watch out for Red Coats! This year marks the 240th anniversary of the start of the revolution, and in commemoration, history lovers are invited to watch a reenactment of two battles and a duel on the lawn near the farmstead.

Children can walk on stilts and play other pioneer games, and they’ll be invited to take up brooms and wooden rakes to train with the militia. They will also have the opportunity to create flags, streamers and signs to use in the parade and then enjoy free watermelon and ice-cold lemonade!

Join locals and visitors alike at the Historic Arkansas Museum for an afternoon of old-fashioned fun! The fun starts at 1:00 p.m. with the parade at 3:00 p.m.  All activities are free and open to the public.

The Empress is your perfect headquarters for Independence Day fun.  Join us in the morning for a patriotic brunch on the Empress grounds with all of our guests, friends, family and neighbors from the historic Quapaw Quarter Neighborhood.  Afterwards you can enjoy 4th of July past at the Historic Arkansas Museum, then walk a few blocks to the Rivermarket for Pops on the River with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and fireworks over the Arkansas River.  Independence Day is an exciting holiday, and we would love to share it with you!

Little Rock Arts Scene

June 26th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

With temperatures soaring to record highs, our guests have been wanting to know…”What is there to do in Little Rock that includes AIR CONDITIONING!”  So to be helpful, we have put together a list of our museums and exhibits that will keep you inside and cool, all the while seeing some fun and amazing arts and culture!

On Exhibit
9th & Commerce, MacArthur Park
54th Annual Young Arkansas Artists Exhibition. T hru July 26. 
30 Americans. Thru June 21.
A Humble Hum: Rhythm of the Potter’s Wheel. Thru June 21.
Paul Signac Drawings and Watercolors: The James T. Dyke Collection. Thru July 19.
Art in Context. Ongoing.

ASI Building, 401 President Clinton Avenue
White River Memoirs. Thru July 25.
Arkansas Printmakers Exhibition. Thru June 27.
Christ Church Arts
509 Scott Street

The Plein Air Painters of Arkansas. Painters include Victoria Harvey, Clarence Cash, Tom Herrin, Greg Lahti, Sean LeCrone, John Wooldrige and Diana Shearon. Thru June 30.

1200 President Clinton Avenue
Dinosaurs Around the World, produced by Imagine Exhibitions. Thru October 18.
Super Summer Saturdays start June 20!
120 River Market
Esse Purse Museum
1510 South Main, SoMa
What’s Inside: A History of Women and Handbags, 1900-1999.
Pyramid Place, 221 W. 2nd
WPA (Works Progress Administration) & Art from the Great Depression (1930s-1940s) 
Greg Lahti
200 E. Third
We Walk in Two Worlds: The Caddo, Osage and Quapaw in Arkansas
History of the Bowie Knife
Arkansas Made: Arkansas Made Gallery
MacArthur Park, 503 E. 9th Street, free admission
Waging Modern Warfare: General Wesley K. Clark
Vietnam, America’s Conflict
Undaunted Courage, Proven Loyalty: Japanese American Soldiers in World War II
501 W. 9th Street
Freedom! Oh, Freedom! Thru December 31. 
500 President Clinton Avenue
Mindbender Mansion . Thru September 7.  
300 W. Markham Street
Different Spokes. Thru February 2016.
Ongoing: Arkansas First Ladies’ Gowns; Pillars of Power; On the Stump: Arkansas Politics, 1819-1919; First Families of Arkansas; As Long as Life Shall Last: The Legacy of Arkansas Women.
602 President Clinton Avenue
Jim Blote Wildlife Photography. Thru June.
Arkansas Wildlife Federation Kids Traveling Art Exhibit. Thru June.
Fish feeding every Wednesday, 2 p.m.
Alligator feeding every Friday, 2 p.m.

Pops on the River

June 25th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

4th lrPops on the River, presented by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and sponsored by Landers FIAT, will take place Saturday, July 4, in downtown Little Rock. In its 32nd year, the annual event has expanded to include more activities, additional hours, bigger fireworks show and a larger event site. This free community event is the largest Fourth of July event in the state as more than 30,000 are drawn downtown to the events surrounding Pops on the River.

Pops has continued to grow these last three decades in no small part because it has held true to its roots and continues to focus on a family-friendly environment complete with fantastic food, fireworks, Salute to the Troops program (presented by CHI St. Vincent), and music by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (sponsored by Delta Dental). It is a heralded community event that many remember for years to come.

Pops on the River will begin at noon in the River Market area of downtown Little Rock with free activities for kids in the Kid’s Pavilion (sponsored by Arkansas Children’s Hospital), a classic car show, a marketplace for shopping, food trucks and entertainment for all ages.

New this year is theMilitary Appreciation Program where all military (active or retired) can receive special discounts and promotions at the event and after the event. Check in at the main gate once you arrive.

Entertainment inside the First Security Amphitheater will include the Oh Say! Can you Sing? contest, live music by various local artists and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Music Director Philip Man will conduct this year’s performance. Fireworks will begin at approximately 9:30 p.m. and are shot off the Main Street Bridge.

The event is free to the public and a portion of proceeds benefit a local charity. This year’s benefiting charity is Easter Seals of Arkansas. Pops on the River is also sponsored in part by the Little Rock Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Chick-fil-A of Central Arkansas, Arkansas Flag and Banner and Landers FIAT.

Free! in the Rock

June 17th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

We get it. Sometimes you want to go to a nice brunch at a nice restaurant, and sometimes you’d rather not spend a dime on your downtime.

Some of our guests come prepared to shell out big dollars and the trendiest restaurant in town and then spend time at the mall and the cute boutiques in the heights.  Others want to explore the great outdoors and the wonderful things offered on a more frugal budget.

Whatever mood you find yourself in, Little Rock is always ready with great things to do. Here are some of the best free (or next to free) activities in the “the rock”.

Quapaw Quarter

History buffs will love the lineup of Little Rock’s most historic homes and mansions in the Quapaw Quarter, many on the National Register of Historic Places. Stroll the neighborhood or take the annual spring tour of homes.

Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center

Let your kids expand their minds at the state-of-the-art Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center complete with a computer lab, teaching kitchen, 165-seat theater and community room — in addition to a collection of more than 21,000 books, CDs and DVDs.


Riverfront Park

With high-rises on one side and the Arkansas River on the other, Riverfront Park offers 33 acres of wetlands to stroll, a sculpture garden and a splash pad for cooling off on steamy summer afternoons.


Heifer International

Tour one of the most famous nonprofit charity’s breathtaking LEED Platinum building with interactive exhibits describing how individuals can help bring an end to hunger, poverty and environmental issues. Heifer International Headquarters also has a café and fair trade shop.


The Little Rock

Where did Little Rock get its name? Visit Riverfront Park’s La Petite Roche. The rock outcropping you’ll find is what early explorers dubbed “Little Rock.” They did so, not to name the city, but to help distinguish it from the “Big Rock” they found upstream. Nevertheless, the name stuck.

Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center

What’s a trip to the Natural State without a little nature? Explore the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center and join in on geocashing adventures and alligator feedings, or get outfitted to enjoy some top-notch fishing.


Pinnacle Mountain

The best view in central Arkansas is free. You just have to hike Pinnacle Mountain for it. Don’t worry. It’s one of the most popular activities in Little Rock. The state park boasts eight hiking trails in total, with two leading to the summit (a 1,011-foot peak).


Clinton Presidential Center

A building that refuses to be ignored, the Clinton Presidential Center houses a museum, presidential archives and full-scale replicas of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room. Visit for free on Presidents’ Day, July 4, the Saturday before President Clinton’s birthday (Aug. 19) and the Saturday before the library’s opening anniversary (Nov. 18). On Veteran’s Day, all active and retired military, and their families, get in free.

Visit Little Rock, Tour the Empress

June 15th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

We are so lucky to be located in Little Rock, the capitol of Arkansas.  The city is full of world-class attractions and breathtaking scenery.  Whether you came to Arkansas to eat, to shop, to bike, to site-see, to hike, to find a waterfall or to sleep in a Victorian mansion, Little Rock is the perfect place for you.

The Empress is proud to be a part of this beautiful spot in the middle of Arkansas and we are also proud to be one of  it’s most celebrated historical sites.  The Historic Hornibrook Mansion tour is offered daily at 11:30 and 3:00 and will take you on a walk through the past in this amazing Victorian mansion.  We are also on the Ghost Tour trail, and invite all Ghost Tour participants up into our haunted card room.  Want something a bit more sedate?  Our Grand High Tea and Tour includes 3 courses of gourmet food (tea sandwiches, scones, and desserts) along with our famous recipe hot tea as well as lemon curd and clotted cream.  Finish up with a brief tour of the mansion and a visit to the gift shop for a souvenir or two!

Whatever brings you to Little Rock, we hope that you make the Empress your home away from home and the base for all of your expeditions.  We can’t wait to see you!

Summers are Better with a Southern Accent

June 10th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Do you love all of the fun things there are in and around the capitol city for exciting summer outings?  Then you should definitely take advantage of Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau’s “Summers are Better with a Southern Accent” contest.  “How do I do that?” you ask.  Simple.  Since Summer in Little Rock is perfect for making memories and visiting the city’s most-popular attractions, the Convention  and Visitors Bureau thought it’d be fun to hear what you love to do in Little Rock!

Share your favorite Little Rock family fun activity in the comments on their facebook post here to be entered in the first round of our “Summers are Better with a Southern Accent” Family Fun Sweepstakes! Up for grabs are passes to the Little Rock Zoo, Museum of Discovery, B&B Chenal 9 Theatre Plus IMAX, Heifer International, The Promenade at Chenal and much more! Good Luck!

And don’t forget to book your stay at The Empress for a great hub to all of your Little Rock fun!

Civil War and Central High…a fascinating history…

May 31st, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Are you a Civil War buff?  Then now is the perfect time for a mid-week stay at the Empress to attend a fascinating lecture in Little Rock that is sure to satisfy your hunger for history!

Arkansas in 1865 was preparing for the end of the Civil War.  The Confederate citizens of the area dealt with hunger lawlessness and despair.  At the same time, the state’s African American population was seeing the dawn of a new age of freedom.  Join Mark Christ, community outreach director for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and a leading authority on Civil War Arkansas and examine this fascinating moment in Arkansas History.  This lecture takes place at the Old State House Museum on June 2, 2015, from 12:00-1:00 pm.  Attendees are encouraged to bring a lunch to enjoy during this event, and soft drinks and water will be provided.

If you are interested in the history of the African American in Arkansas, this would be a perfect event to combine with a visit to the historic Central High School, home of the Little Rock Nine. The Little Rock Nine were a group of nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Their enrollment was followed by the Little Rock Crisis, in which the students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Orval Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas. They then attended after the intervention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, 347 U.S. 483, on May 17, 1954. Tied to the 14th Amendment, the decision declared all laws establishing segregated schools to be unconstitutional, and it called for the desegregation of all schools throughout the nation.[1] After the decision, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) attempted to register black students in previously all-white schools in cities throughout the South. In Little Rock, the capital city of Arkansas, the Little Rock School Board agreed to comply with the high court’s ruling. Virgil Blossom, the Superintendent of Schools, submitted a plan of gradual integration to the school board on May 24, 1955, which the board unanimously approved. The plan would be implemented during the fall of the 1957 school year, which would begin in September 1957.

If you enjoy your vacation with a bit of education, The Empress is the perfect home base for a tour around Arkansas’s historic capitol city, with a fascinating history all it’s own.  Join us today!!!

Dinosaurs arrive in Little Rock

May 30th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

The Clinton Presidential Center presents Dinosaurs Around the World from April 25, 2015, to October 18, 2015.Dinosaurs Around the World takes you back in time on a dinosaur adventure and a tour of an Earth very different from today – a time before the continents as we know them existed, when lush landscapes covered Africa and greenery was the norm in Antarctica! With 13 life-sized animatronics, a multi-layered narrative, fossils, authentic casts, cutting-edge research and immersive design elements, you’ll experience the Age of Reptiles as it comes to life!
Dinosaurs Around the World invites you to grab your prehistoric passport to Pangea and discover how continental splits driven by plate tectonics, land bridges revealed after sea level fluctuations, and new landforms created by volcanic activity allowed dinosaurs to disperse to all corners of the globe. These left each of the seven continents with its own unique selection of these giant reptiles. During their 172 million year reign, dinosaurs adapted into a variety of forms including enormous long-necked herbivores, the mighty T. rex, and more
In addition to advanced animatronics, Dinosaurs Around the World also features information about the geologic time scale, geology, geography, and climatology. The exhibition questions how the dinosaurs lived on each continent, how they interacted with each other, how geography impacted their behavior and diets, and what the continents were really like at the time.
The exhibit also features an area that chronicles the accomplishments of four U.S. Presidents who worked to preserve the fossil-rich areas in North America where dinosaurs once roamed. Exhibit artifacts include items from the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harry S. Truman. This display includes a dinosaur skull replica on loan from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, an area that President Clinton designated as a national monument in 1996.
- See more here

Meet the Empress Family:Deborah

May 18th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Deborah, our evening innkeeper, has been delighting guests since 2007.  During the holidays, weekends and evenings, her friendly smile and hospitable nature leaves guests raving (and returning for more!)  Deborah’s attention to every tiny detail of the check-in and concierge process guarantees that guests are seldom left with questions.
Randy, Deborah’s husband, is also a part of the Empress family.  He donates  his time and manpower to our yearly Independence Day celebration AND the occasional weekend handyman task.
We hope that all of our guests have had a chance to meet Deborah, our weekend superstar (and if you haven’t, you have one more reason to visit)

Movies in the Park 2015

May 16th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

movies in the park

One of our favorite things to do in the summer is back – Movies in the Park! The outdoor free movie night at the First Security Amphitheater is a local favorite and attracts watchers in droves every year. It kicks off on June 3 and we’re having a very hard time being patient after seeing this season’s lineup.

The diverse range of blockbuster movies are shown at dusk at the Riverfront Amphitheater in the River Market. Bring your own chairs or blankets, or get there early to snag one of the theater seats, just don’t forget the bug spray, because you ARE on the riverbank.

Here’s the 2015 schedule:

  • June 3: Divergent (PG 13)
  • June 10: Ghostbusters (PG)
  • June 17: The Proposal (PG 13)
  • June 24: Oz the Great & Powerful (PG)
  • July 1: Sherlock Holmes (PG 13)
  • July 8: Despicable Me (PG)
  • July 15: Momma Mia (PG)
  • July 22: The Goonies (PG)
  • July 29: Iron Man 3 (PG 13)

Families, pets and picnic baskets (but no glass containers) are all invited to enjoy the movies under the stars. Check out all the upcoming River Market events and information this season here.  You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter for updates.