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Archive for the ‘The Empress of Little Rock’ Category

Holiday Events at The Empress on KATV this Saturday

November 22nd, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

The Empress of Little Rock in Christmas Snow

The Empress looks beautiful draped in Christmas snow and boughs of holly!

We are decking the halls for the holidays at The Empress!  Next week, the owner of The Empress,  Sharon Welch-Blair will be visiting with the morning crew on KATV Channel 7.  The segment will air after Thanksgiving on the Saturday morning show. Sharon will talk about all of The Empress’ holiday plans including the 2nd annual Christmas Grand High Tea and our New Year’s Eve  bash. She’ll be making our delicious tea blend on air and showing off our new teapots! See our tea recipe below and be sure to watch!

white teapot with burgundy Empress logo

Empress teapots make great holiday gifts for the tea lover in your life. They retail for just $29.99.

wooden sleigh on porch of Empress

Our 1860’s wooden sleigh is the pride of the porch during the holiday season!

The Christmas Grand High Tea is the public’s first opportunity to see The Empress in her finest holiday garb. We use only quality Douglas and mixed fir wreaths and boughs. The Empress staff spends three days making sure each of our decorations are sure to delight. One item that continues to wow our guests is our fully restored wooden sleigh. Hand made and painted in the 1860’s, our sleigh has all it’s original parts. It also includes the red, hand-tufted velvet driver’s seat and cushions. The sleigh has been used in many local parades.

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Start the new year off in luxury! We still have a few rooms available for New Year’s Eve. We have been throwing the classiest New Year’s Eve bash in town for quite some time, and this year will be no exception! Come dressed in your furs and tuxedos and relax in our formal dining room while the house chef prepares a four course offering-each paired with a unique libation! After dinner, retire to the parlors where pianist Jeff Long will entertain guests with his large repertoire of musical selections. You’ll keep dancing until the champagne toast at midnight! Call us today!

Empress Special Tea

2 1/2 quarts water (4 cups =  1 quart)

7 raspberry zinger tea bags

2 cinnamon sticks

4-6 cloves

4 slices orange

Seeds from 1 pomegranate

Place all dry ingredients into water and bring to boil. Continue boiling for 30 minutes

Reduce heat and cover. Simmer ingredients for approximately 2 hours

Pour tea through strainer to remove dry ingredients

Serve and enjoy!



13 Places in Arkansas ‘Made of Dreams’

November 9th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

We’ve all been scrolling through our news feed on Facebook when suddenly we come across one of those lists. The lists that you just have to click through because they have a catchy headline that entices you. One such producer of those lists is BuzzFeed. Anyone can post a “list” on BuzzFeed. Their help section suggests posting “cool, funny, interesting stuff that you’ve found online or made yourself that you think has a strong chance of going viral and being shared by other people.” One such list posted recently by Arkansas State Tourism  features 13 places in Arkansas that are “made of dreams”. The Empress of Little Rock is #6!

The list claims that The Empress is both rustic and elegant and could be mistaken for a Yorkshire Estate! While our story doesn’t date back to ‘Merry Old England’, we do have quite a distinguished history!

We certainly appreciate the shout out-particularly with so much competition in our beautiful state!

So What’s on The List?

 yurt overlooking fall foliageNumber one on the list was the new Yurts available for rental at Petit Jean State Park. Yurts are for people who want the experience of being outdoors in a tent, but need more space and to feel like they have a solid roof above- think tepee. The yurts are round, high walled tents with electricity, screened windows, and doors with locks. The ones at Petit Jean can sleep up to six people but yurts vary in size. At only $55 per night, they are an unbeatable bargain!

Places in Arkansas: The Crescent Hotel in background with fall foliage and trolley in front

Another amazing location is Eureka Springs which is home to the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa. Like The Empress, this house has a haunted legacy. You can read more about The Crescent Hotel  and other places in Arkansas on their blog. If you haven’t visited Arkansas, Autumn is one of the best times! Check out the rest of the list to plan your stay.

The Empress offers plenty of seasonal packages that you can see here! We hope to see you in each of these Arkansas treasures soon!

Robinson Center Debuts Second Act

November 5th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Amidst the Great Depression, the Public Works Administration sought and gained approval (and funds) for what would become one of Little Rock’s most beloved landmarks. Construction of the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium began in December of 1937 and was completed in January of 1940. Known as the Robinson Center Music Hall since 1973, the auditorium is home to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and hosts countless acts each year. The doors officially closed on July 1, 2014 to begin a $70M renovation project. With the ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled just days away on November 10, Little Rock residents can’t wait to see what improvements have been made!

Looking Toward the Future

robinsonAccording to the Robinson Center Facebook page, much of the outside structure has remained the same, while the inside has a complete makeover. Many are excited to see the new lobby. The older facilities were not equipped to handle the number of guests that visit the center. The new addition will not just be large, but beautiful. It includes a glass lobby that overlooks the river as seen in the rendition below. 
computer generated rendition of new Robinson center with glass lobby overlooking the river.
A complete list of the upcoming season events, beginning with the ASO, can be found here on the Little Rock Convention and Visitor’s Bureau homepage.

Much excitement is in store for visitors to Robinson’s ‘Second Act’ including Elf: The Musical, the Moscow Ballet and Eagle’s artist Don Henley.

Other notable performers from the hall’s past include Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Mae West and Louis Armstrong. With such a strong history and an anticipated bright future, Robinson Center should continue to foster a love of the arts in Little Rock and build a legacy of pride for the downtown area.

Halloween at The Empress of Little Rock!

October 31st, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Halloween is the best time of year to visit one of Little Rock’s real haunted houses! The Hornibrook Mansion (now known as The Empress of Little Rock) has always been the subject of much speculation. When it comes to whether or not it is haunted, visitors draw their own conclusions.

Mr. James H. Hornibrook, who was the original owner of the house, died of an apoplectic stroke outside the front gate at the age of 49. The house has also been the site of a boarding house for women during WWII, a nursing home, and a private residence for Colonel Asbury Fowler. You can read the complete history of the mansion and it’s hauntings here!

Each year, staff at The Empress hand out candy to neighborhood children trick-or-treating at the mansion. They also play host to Haunted Tours of Little Rock which brings a group through each Friday night in October.

Halloween isn’t the only time we celebrate at The Empress! Christmas and New Years Eve are always a favorite as well. Mark your calendars now to attend Christmas in the Quarter. Our annual Christmas Grand High Tea takes place Sunday, December 4 at 3 PM. The ‘Downton Abbey’ New Year’s Eve gala is a formal affair. Dine on a scrumptious four course meal paired with wines chosen by our exclusive Sommelier. Dance your way into 2017 while sipping champagne as live musicians play into the evening. Call 501-374-7966 for more details!


Top Places for Sunday Brunch in Little Rock?

October 7th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Here at The Empress, we’d like to think we are a bit of an authority on both beds AND breakfasts! So, it should come as no surprise that we have the scoop on the best restaurants for Sunday brunch in Little Rock. Of course, we’d love for you to stay with us, but when you leave, please check out these local faves and let us know what you think!

Biggest Brunch Menu in Little Rock

Chef Abernathy and the crew at Loca Luna have had a longstanding Sunday Brunch that has been  voted “Best Brunch” by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Arkansas Times, AY Magazine, At Home in Arkansas, and Sync Weekly. The “Champagne Brunch” boasts plenty of breakfast specialty items as well as their salads, sandwiches and brick oven pizzas!

Best New Brunch in Little Rock

Raduno is the new kid on the block of SOMA, but they’ve been doing brunch for a while now and not just pizzas! You can also get lemon ricotta pancakes, French Toast and Lox among other selections. The menu is limited, but perfect for this new Main Street staple. They’ve also just added a great patio for enjoying the fall weather!Sunday Brunch sandwich board outside on sidewalk of Raduno


Best Brunch in Little Rock You Didn’t Know About

B-Side cafe is the “alter ego” of Lilly’s Dim Sum. Only open Saturday and Sunday from 8-2PM, It is difficult to get a seat in this “secret” restaurant. Come inside the Lilly’s Dim Sum location in Market Street Shopping Center off Rodney Parham and you will find an eclectic mix of folks from after church diners, to just got out of bed teenagers. The Menu is just large enough with selections like Farmer’s Hash (add the two poached eggs!), Biscuit Mountain (get the bacon bridge), and Bacon Wrapped French Toast Kebabs.


 Local Favorite

Just down the street from The Empress is The Root Cafe. For local foodies, it doesn’t get much better than this. Sustainable practices, local food and community serving are all things that describe this tiny Main Street start up. Since 2009 The Root has continued to make good on the promise of sourcing from local farmers and list what ingredients they buy right on their website. With grants they have received from HLN TV and Chase bank, they may be opening soon for dinner. Right now it’s breakfast that is the standout. The Biscuits and Gravy are much talked about and it’s the only place in town to get a Tofu Scramble.


‘Sunday Best’ Brunch

Looking to do brunch in more posh setting? Cache restaurant in the Rivermarket has you covered. Chic and modern decor and open air kitchen are both featured in this busy downtown eatery. Cache has been serving brunch for over a year now, but it is still considered one of the areas best kept secrets. There is no menu posted on their website, however, a quick glance at their facebook page shows rave reviews for their Sunday brunch. Classic items like omelettes and Eggs Benedict are served alongside French-press coffee. Cache oozes atmosphere which makes it a MUST on our list.




2016 Arkansas State Fair Coming Soon to Little Rock

September 29th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

State fair ride as seen at night
One of the biggest crowd producing events of the year is only 15 days away! The Arkansas State Fair begins October 14 with competitive events, live entertainment, livestock and everyone’s favorite- the food!

The current Arkansas State Fair has been a tradition since 1938. Several incarnations, both before and after, were held on both sides of the river and in many different locations. In 1945 The Arkansas Livestock Show Association accepted an offer of several acres from the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. This land on Roosevelt Road would be the permanent home. Today the State Fairgrounds Complex consists of 135 acres North, East and South of Roosevelt. Read more about the history here.1948 black and white Arkansas State Fair advertisement

This year boasts a stellar entertainment line-up including 80’s pop sensation Rick Springfield and Country music legend Clint Black. The much anticipated bull riding competition on Saturday, culminates with the crowning of the Arkansas State Fair Rodeo Queen.

Want to know what crazy food will be featured this year? Usually, Arkansas State Fair fare consists of anything and everything deep fried and on a stick. The official food guide hasn’t been revealed yet, but take a peak at last year’s roundup courtesy of our friend Kat Robinson of Tie Dye Travels.

Stay with us!

There is still time to reserve a room at The Empress of Little Rock, where you can relax in luxury in between those funnel cakes and foot-longs.  Book a third night in one of our spa suites for just $99 so you can play all weekend long! We are only five minutes away from the fairgrounds and the rest that Little Rock has to offer.

The Empress Takes Part in Arkansas Halloween Events

September 22nd, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Arkansas Halloween festivities will be taking place all over town throughout the month of October. Grab your ghouls and goblins and check out some of these spooktacular events!

school children play in front of the military-museum

MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History

Coming to Little Rock on October 8th is the 6th annual Arkansas Paranormal Expo. Vendors and speakers on all subjects of the supernatural including UFOs and “Bigfoot”, will be showcased at The MacArthur Museum of Military History on East Ninth Street in Little Rock. The mission of the organizers is to help preserve this building as it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur. This has grown to be a popular community event and is just $10 for a weekend pass.

Little Rock history comes alive October 11 for Tales of the Crypt at Mount Holly Cemetery. Each year Parkview High School students dress in period clothing and recite monologues from the gravesides of famous Arkansans buried in the “Westminster Abbey of Little Rock”. If you aren’t familiar with the cemetery and its historical relevance, you can visit the grounds any day and see the burial sites of  15 state Supreme Court justices, four Confederate generals, seven United States senators and 22 Little Rock mayors. There are two Pulitzer Prize recipients, as well as military heroes, including David O. Dodd, a 17-year-old boy executed for being a “Confederate spy,” and often referred to as the “Boy Martyr of the Confederacy.” Read more about events at Mount Holly here! Watch a sneak peak of Tales of The Crypt on vimeo.

The Empress Bed and Breakfast at dusk

The Empress

More Haunting History

An Arkansas Halloween wouldn’t be complete without a haunted house! Each year, local author and tour guide Linda Howell gives guests the opportunity to get up close and personal with a few of Arkansas’ most famous haunts. The Empress of Little Rock  luxury hotel and B&B will be featured on the tour. Visit the website to reserve your spot! The first tour of the season takes place Friday, October 14th.

Empress Claims Spot on “100 Things to Do in Little Rock…”

September 7th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

picture of book cover of 100 things to do in Little Rock before you Die

Anderson is a former basketball player for the Lady Razorbacks and holds a Masters Degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

If you live or work in Little Rock, you might already know the 100 things to do in Little Rock and you already know what a progressive city we are. With the Clinton Library, the headquarters for Heifer International, and a host of boutiques, museums, unique restaurants and nightlife, it’s no wonder Little Rock was named one of the top cities for economic growth in 2016. Local author Celia Anderson has written a book called “100 Things to Do in Little Rock Before You Die” which is a compilation list that highlights all of the amazing sights and eclectic history this town has to offer.

100 Things to Do in Little Rock… was written in the hopes that people from around the world who visit the city could benefit from a sort of “field guide”.  Anderson works as a National Sales Director for the Little rock Conventions and Visitors Bureau.

guests for Wounded Warrior project embibled in one of the 100 things to do in little and sit at tea with table layed with lighted Candelabra, crystal, silver, china

Grand High Tea for the Wounded Warrior Project

Number 50 on this vast list is “Sip Tea at The Empress”. The Empress of Little Rock is the only place in town that still holds a traditional Grand High Tea. Teas are held on Sundays at 3 PM by reservation at just $40 per person. Grand High Tea includes specialty hot tea, house made scones and finger sandwiches served in our formal dining room with a distinctly Victorian ambiance of music and candlelight.  Of course, The Empress also offers a Tea and Tour package which provides guests with a historical view of The Empress. Read more about our teas and get our scone recipe here! The Empress also offers two special holiday teas each year for Mother’s Day and Christmas. Reserve your spot early as seating is limited!

Period Pieces Bring Joy to Guests of The Empress

August 22nd, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

The Empress of Little Rock is a magnificent structure on its own. James Hornibrook spared no cost building what was to be the finest residence at the time in Arkansas. Much care has gone into selecting period pieces to complete the opulence of the house, from the Renaissance Revival half tester bed in our  Hornibrook Suite, to our square Steinway that resides in the Lady’s Parlor.

Guests enjoy the Steinway at The Empress

The Empress of Little Rock – weekend guest playing our piano

Our Steinway, numbered 30143, was built in 1874. It has an African Mahogany veneer and although it’s never been fully restored, it plays amazingly well. We tune the piano regularly and welcome our guests to play.

Steinway & Sons, also known as Steinway, is an American and German piano company, founded in 1853 in Manhattan, New York City, by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg (later known as Henry E. Steinway). The company has a factory in Queens, New York City which supplies the Americas and a factory in Hamburg, Germany which builds pianos for the rest of the world. The company is not only known for making pianos of high quality, but for inventions within the area of piano development. Steinway has been granted 126 patents in piano making; the first in 1857.

In 1853, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg founded Steinway & Sons in the Manhattan district of New York City. The first piano made was given the number 483 because Steinweg had built 482 pianos in Germany. Number 483 was sold to a New York family for $500, and is now on display at a German museum in the town in which he began his career.

During World War II, the Steinway factory in Queens received orders from the Allied Armies. Steinway built 2,436 special models called the Victory Vertical or G.I. Piano. It was a small piano that four men could lift, painted olive drab, gray, or blue, designed to be carried aboard ships or dropped by parachute from an airplane to bring music to the soldiers.

The factory in Hamburg sold very few pianos during World War II. No more than a hundred pianos per year left the factory. In the later years of the war, the company was ordered to give up all the prepared and dried wood their lumber yard held for war production. In an air raid over Hamburg, several Allied bombs hit the factory and nearly destroyed it. After the war, Steinway restored the Hamburg factory. Eventually, the post-war cultural revival boosted demand for entertainment and piano production was increased at the Hamburg and Queens factories, going from 2,000 in 1947 to 4,000 pianos a year by the 1960s.

In 1988, the company made its 500,000th piano. The piano was designed by artist Wendell Castle. The names of the 832 pianists and 90 ensembles on the Steinway Artist roster of 1987 are written on the piano.

Steinway also maintains a worldwide “piano bank” from which performing pianists, especially Steinway Artists, can select a piano for use in a certain concert, recording, or tour. The bank is a way to provide performing artists with a Steinway preference, a pool of pianos with various characteristics to choose from. Performing artists choose a piano for use at a certain venue after trying some of the pianos of the “piano bank”.

The “piano bank” consists of approximately 300 pianos valued collectively at $15 million in 2002.

The Empress piano is worth about 20K but would be worth around 40K if fully restored.


Big Dam Bridge 100 brings more bikers to Arkansas!

August 12th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

It was just last week that 40,000 Motorcyclists rolled in to The Natural State for the 39th National Bikers Round Up. The event started in 1977 and is held in a different state each year. Bikers from all over the United States travel for food, music and camaraderie. Next month another type of cyclist will ride into Little Rock; bicyclists participating in the Big Dam Bridge 100.

The Big Dam Bridge 100 is an annual cycling tour that attracts bicyclists from around our state, but also the world. The Tour has different route options from 10 to 100 miles long. The “Big Dam Bridge” stretches 4226 feet across the Big Dam BridgeArkansas River between Little Rock and North Little Rock. It is the longest bridge built for pedestrian and bicycle traffic in North America which makes this event so popular. Last year nearly 3,000 cyclists participated in the event. There will be a finish line block party in the Argenta District of downtown North Little Rock.main street food

If you aren’t pushing pedals, you can stroll down to the 6th annual Main Street Food Truck Festival. This event gets bigger and better each year! Last year there were over 40 food trucks and 25,000 people in attendance. Besides the amazing and innovative food you’ll taste at the festival, there are multiple beer gardens, street performers and this year, some special guests: the Budweiser Clydesdales! Admission is free but proceeds from sales benefit the Downtown Little Rock Partnership.

With all of these great reasons to visit Little Rock, why stay anywhere else but The Empress? We are conveniently located just blocks from all the fun.  If you are participating in the BDB100, end the day with a relaxing soak in one of our Spa Suites. Let us put together a package just for you today!