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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.

Riverfest 2015 is quickly approaching!

May 14th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair












Riverfest Fast Facts:
Dates: May 23-25
Entertainment lineup
Admission: $40 ($20 in advance until May 15, $25 online); buy tickets online.

Shuttle Info from Riverfest (shuttles are the best way to get to the fest)
For just $4 ($3 with a non-perishable food item to benefit the Arkansas Foodbank) roundtrip, you can ride the Riverfest Shuttle from Riverfest bus stops located in Little Rock on the east side of War Memorial Stadium/AT&T Field at the corner of West Markham and Fair Park (near the Little Rock Zoo) or in North Litte Rock at the parking lot at Lakewood Middle School, 2300 Lakeview Road (behind Target on McCain).

The War Memorial shuttle will deliver and pick up at the Main Gateway in Little Rock; the North Little Rock shuttle will deliver and pick up at the Clinton Presidential Center Gateway at 3rd and Kumpuris. There is no charge for the return trip. Most shuttles are wheelchair accessible.

2015 Headliners:
Sheryl Crow,  Gaelic Storm, Better than Ezra, Bone Thugs’n’Harmony, Macy Gray and Galactic, Jake Owen.  See the entire lineup.

About Riverfest:
Where can you choose between dozens of bands, eat great food, peruse art, watch fireworks and entertain the kids for $40 or less? Arkansas’s Riverfest of course! Celebrate the summer every year on Memorial Day weekend.

The reason most people go to Riverfest is the music. Riverfest has 6 stages, and sometimes headline acts compete on stages on different ends of the festival. It’s always hard to decide which one to see. They also have a stages for kids and a cultural stage.

Riverfest has food for all tastes. You can get festival favorites like funnel cakes, polish sausage, corn dogs, chicken on a stick and pizza and less traditional eats like egg rolls, jalapeno burgers, catfish, gyros and Yarnell’s ice cream.

Local artists and national artist come together to show their work at Riverfest. Not only will they display their art, several will construct their art before your eyes. Caricaturists, potters and painters will be on hand to demonstrate their craft. Jewelers, crafters, painters, potters, toy craftsman, glass blowers, and more will have their wares on display for purchase.

There will be many demonstrations and activities for children & families. Two stages are set up specifically for family friendly entertainment. Clowns will be roaming the fest (some with balloon animals) and there are normally areas specially designated for kids to play.

Wonderful Waterfalls of Arkansas

May 12th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Arkansas’ nickname of the “Natural State” might grab the attention of hikers in search of solitude, but it’s the hidden wilderness waterfalls that truly draw wilderness lovers. Whether sprinkling, cascading or thundering, waterfalls accent the bluff lines throughout northwest Arkansas’ forests. Nature photographer, hiker, spelunker and trail advocate Tim Ernst lists no fewer than 134 waterfalls in his “Arkansas Waterfall Guidebook.” This means there’s something for everyone, but a few waterfalls stand out for their unique characteristics.

Lost Valley Waterfalls


With bluffs stretching to the sky below and mazes of boulders dotting the landscape, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve hiked into the “Land of the Lost” while exploring Lost Valley. A moderately easy hiking trail leads to Lower Eden Falls, arguably one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Arkansas. During high water, it’s hard to hear yourself talk over the thunderous rush of water as it spirals past fern-covered ledges and pours along the base of Cobb Cave. The hike also provides views of Middle Eden falls, a smaller waterfall cascading beneath a natural rock bridge, and a series of falls dubbed Armadillo Falls if you’re willing to hike a bit off the path. Better yet, a slightly more strenuous hike to Eden Falls Cave will lead you to an underground waterfall that pours almost magically from the cave’s rock ceiling. This remains one of the few underground waterfalls open to recreational caving.

Hemmed In Hollow


The hike to Hemmed in Hollow is not for the faint of heart, but visitors claim this difficult hike is worth the exertion. Those who brave the steep and rocky five-mile round-trip hike are reworded with the tallest waterfall in existence between the Appalachian and Rocky mountains. The waterfall has been reported to plummet between 210 and 220 feet – few people would likely squabble over the difference. Another beauty, Diamond Falls hides just around the corner from Hemmed in Hollow Falls. Both falls have received five-star beauty ratings from Tim Ernst.

Glory Hole

glory hole

Glory Hole almost qualifies as an underground waterfall, although you won’t have to go spelunking to view this beauty. Glory Hole is one mile off Highway 16 near the town of Deer, a short but strenuous hike. This leads to a waterfall that plunges more than 30 feet through a large opening in a cliff-side grotto. What’s best, you can view this waterfall from above or below if you are willing to add a short side-trek.

Cedar Falls

cedar falls

Although the Arkansas River Valley isn’t bursting with as many waterfalls as the Arkansas Ozarks, the region still boats a handful of nice falls. One favorite of locals and tourists is Cedar Falls, located at the base of a forest pathway constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and maintained by Petit Jean State Park. This 95-foot waterfall received a beauty rating of 5 – the highest ranking possible – from Tim Ernst. Don’t expect to have the place to yourself, but the scattered boulders and rocks provide ample room for your own space, privacy and perhaps a picnic. If you don’t care to picnic, you can rest and replenish after your hike at the restaurant and lodge that sits at the entrance to the Cedar Valley Trail. As an extra bonus, you can view the fall from a wide, well-constructed boardwalk above. The boardwalk is wheelchair-friendly, making Cedar Falls one of the few magnificent waterfalls in Arkansas that is accessible to anyone.