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Archive for the ‘The Empress of Little Rock’ Category

Fun things to do on Labor Day in Arkansas

July 13th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

The ‘Dog Days of Summer’ are here, but there are plenty of cool ways to spend the Arkansas Labor Day weekend.

How do you stay cool on Labor Day? It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that electric fans first began appearing in homes. Before that, many inefficient methods were used: from the Romans who used their own aqueduct systems to circulate cool water through the walls, to an Emperor who imported snow from the mountains and built a pile outside of his bluff drive

In 1888, James H. Hornibrook would have packed up his family and headed to the mountains and you can too! Labor Day weekend is approaching soon. It has been named Legacy Week for all Arkansas State Parks. Arkansas is home to 52 state parks and three national forests! Spend the weekend exploring Petit Jean -Arkansas’ first State Park since 1923. You could also take the short drive to Hot Springs National Park  to experience the 20th Annual Hot Springs Blues Festival and end the day at Lake Catherine Marina with a Full Moon Kayak tour.

The Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park in Scott will be hosting activities to honor the founders of this unique site that was the cultural center of the Plum Bayou tribes. Stop in the neighboring community of Keo and sample a piece of pie at the (almost) famous Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets.


Coconut Creme from Charlotte’s is the perfect treat on a HOT Labor Day weekend!

If the outdoors isn’t appealing to you, take advantage of one of our many packages at The Empress. Relax and unwind in one of our spa suites while enjoying award winning service and cuisine. Book early and take advantage of a third night for just $99!*

Take advantage of all the fun activities in Arkansas before Summer is gone!


*Guest must book through and mention the deal in the notes

Outlets of Little Rock has first Sidewalk Sale

May 29th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

shoppingOutlets of Little Rock, Arkansas’ only outlet shopping center, has announced the center’s first Sidewalk Sale to be held Memorial Day Weekend, May 27- 30!  Guests of the Empress are a short drive away from the center, so book your room now for an all access pass to savings! The overall mall wide clearance event will present shoppers with unparalleled values. The mall will be open from 10am to 9pm on Friday and Saturday and 11am to 6pm on Sunday. Some of the offerings over the Sidewalk Sale weekend will include special savings from Gymboree, Book Warehouse, Limited Outlet, Corky’s, Go! Games & Calendars, Fragrance Outlet, Brooks Brothers and Banana Republic, among others.

Want to know more about the Outlets?  They offer real brands at unreal savings. Save up to 70 percent off on America’s most desired brands at Outlets of Little Rock, a project of New England Development. Located at the intersection of I-30 and I-430, this open-air lifestyle destination features some of the most popular brand names. Visit to find out more and for a full list of stores!

Upcoming attractions include Arkansas’s first Dave and Buster’s Restaurant!  This adult playland is sure to be a hit, and we cannot wait to hear fun stories from guests about nights spent playing games and winning prizes for their sweetheart.  Shop until your heart’s content and then play the night away at the Outlets of Little Rock!

Le Pops makes amazing popsicles in Little Rock

May 27th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

22126240621_f23763e913_zLe Pops is a hidden treasure that we love to share with guests of The Empress.  Located in The Heights, a neighborhood known for it’s cool, independently owned shops and restaurants, this gourmet popsicle shop uses fresh Arkansas produce to create really tasty popsicles in a variety of flavors. On a recent visit, salted caramel, cherry creme fraiche, Mayan chocolate and raspberry mango were just some of the flavors. I choose strawberry, having recently visited the Little Rock Farmers Market and knowing just how good those Arkansas berries can be. Hand dipped in chocolate, it was divine.

We love sharing recipes for great treats we find around the city, and with summer approaching, we were happy when owner Laurie Harrison shared the below special Le Pops recipe for strawberry basil popsicles. Enjoy!


2 pounds strawberries (local berries are best)

12 ounces sugar

12 ounces water

36 grams basil


Combine sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat. Add the basil and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain, pressing on the basil to get as much delicious syrup as possible. Cool completely. Blend with the strawberries. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. To unmold, run cool water over the molds to loosen the popsicles.

Experiment with other herbs. Chocolate mint is particularly delicious. You may need to adjust the amount of herb. Le Pops uses locally grown produce and herbs for their iced lollies.

After picking your pop, you can also ask it be hand dipped in white, milk or dark chocolate.

The Kinsey Collection on African American History in Little Rock

May 23rd, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair


The impressive Kinsey Collection includes authentic and rare art, original artifacts, books, documents, etc., that tell a more complete story of the black experience in America. The collection has received national acclaim, is a favorite of black celebrities, and has been featured at the DuSable Museum of African American History, the American Pavilion of Epcot Center at Walt Disney World and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

About The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection

With education as a goal, The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection has been on national tour since 2007, and has been seen by over 5 million visitors. The collection has exhibited in 18 cities, at notable institutions such as the California African American Museum, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati), The DuSable Museum of African American History (Chicago), The Norton Museum of Art (West Palm Beach), and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. In 2012-2014, The Kinsey Collection was on national tour sponsored by Wells Fargo, exhibiting at MOAD (San Francisco), the Gantt Center (Charlotte), the Reginald F. Lewis Museum (Baltimore), the Atlanta History Center and Houston Museum of African American Culture. Currently, a portion of the collection is on display at Epcot, Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida until 2018, where it is expected to be seen by 15-20 million visitors. The collection has been cited in 3 national awards including the President’s National Award for Museum and Library Services.

The Kinsey Collection is unique is that it is where art and history intersect, telling the African American story of achievement and contribution through authentic documents, manuscripts, books, letters and artifacts from 1595 to the present as well as 2 and 3 dimensional artworks from the 19th, 20th, and 21st century. Examples of some historical objects are: a 1595 baptism from 1595, a first edition copy of Phillis Wheatley’s book of poetry from 1773, an early draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, letters form Malcolm X to Alex Haley, and so much more. On the arts side, the exhibit contains paintings and sculpture from Romare Bearden, Richmond Barthe, Alma Thomas, Elizabeth Catlett, Norman Lewis, Merton Simpson, John Biggers, Charles White, Lois Mailou Jones, Sargent Johnson, James Wells, Artis Lane, and Eldzier Cortor  to name very few.

Arkansas Literary Festival

April 15th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Prestigious award-winners, screenwriters, comedians, an expert witness, artists, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet are among the diverse roster of presenters who will be providing sessions at the thirteenth annual Arkansas Literary Festival, April 14-17, 2016.


This year’s Festival authors have won an impressive number and variety of distinguished awards and fellowships including: Pulitzer Prize, James Beard Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Hugo Award, Coretta Scott King Award, Will Eisner Comic Industry Award, National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, Dashiell Hammett Prize, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Houghton Mifflen Literary Fellowship, Arkansas Arts Council Fellowship.

Each year, several of the attending authors have not visited Little Rock, Arkansas, or even the South. Many say they are pleasantly surprised by the Festival and by the city. Some choose to write about their experience and feature Little Rock in their social media and blog posts.
Presenters come from a wide range of backgrounds including: journalist, documentary filmmaker, economist, editor, microbiologist, national bank examiner, essayist, photographer, sports reporter, psychological examiner, musician, actress, reporter, and professor. One is co-producing Keanu Reeves’ new television show and writing an adaptation of his own book for Warner Bros. and Bradley Cooper.
Special events for adults during the Festival include a cocktail reception with the authors, a tour of the Governor’s Mansion gardens with a wine and cheese reception, an escape room, and Readers’ Map launch party. Panels and sessions include genres and topics such as barbecue, Monopoly, female rocket scientists, travel, graphic novels, science fiction, classic literature, and a story told in playing cards.
Children’s special events include a session by Nikki Grimes, activity hour, concert by the Kinders, and a play based on How the Camel Got His Hump. Festival sessions for children will take place at both the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center, 4800 10th Street, and the Youth Services Department at the Main Library, 100 Rock Street. Special events for teens include North Little Rock High School Readers Theater and a teen poetry competition.

Jewish Food and Cultural Festival in Little Rock

April 7th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Food Festival Bakery

At the ever-popular Ask-the-Rabbi booth, visitors can learn about Judaism itself, from Jewish holidays to life-cycle customs. At a replica of the Western Wall, visitors can leave a note of prayer, just as people do at the actual wall in Jerusalem. Judaica, jewelry, and other gift items created by local Jewish artists will be on display and for sale. Inflatables and other activities will be available for kids.

Entertainment throughout the day will include contemporary and traditional Jewish music by local and regional musicians. Visitors are invited to bring a bag of non-perishable food items to donate to the Arkansas Foodbank. Proceeds from the festival go to benefit Jewish Federation of Arkansas’s work in the community, which includes allocations to Jewish and non-Jewish charitable organizations, financial assistance to Jews in need, scholarships and other resources for Jewish children and families, and funds to support charitable work in Israel. Tzedakah Boxes (boxes for charity) will be located throughout the stadium for people to deposit tickets they purchased but did not use; proceeds from the boxes will be divided among local charities that Jewish Federation of Arkansas supports.

Contact Information for the Jewish Food and Cultural Festival:

Marianne Tettlebaum

Loblolly Creamery goes Nautical

March 30th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair


“We have had a great time with the mobile food truck over the past few years, and we have looked into adding a second truck for some time now,” owner Sally Mengel tells us. “I have also been intrigued about having a floating food truck for a while, so we decided to put the two together and do a boat. It operates just like our food truck, only no wheels.”

To celebrate the launch they are unveiling the boat to the public this Friday from 12-2 at the soda fountain inside the Green Corner Store. The boat will be parked nearby for tours before it sets sail. Along with the first look Loblolly will have ice cream floats, a special saltwater ice cream flavor, and giveaways for everyone who comes out.

Mengel says they will aim to hit some of the major water hot spots around the state this summer. Included in the list is Greers Ferry Lake, Buffalo River, Arkansas River, Lake Hamilton, and Lake Ouachita. The boat will rotate around, but will make an effort to hit key events such as Riverfest, 4th of July, and Labor Day weekend.

“The summer experience in Arkansas for most people includes some time on our beautiful lakes and rivers. It also involves eating ice cream,” Mengel continues. “We have looked for ways before to combine the two, but short of driving our truck into the water it was not possible. The boat gives us extra mobility to share our fresh, local made ice cream with everyone.”

The 35 foot two deck “party barge” pontoon boat, still wrapping up the final modifications, will feature solar power to the freezers on board similar to Loblolly’s food truck. They plan to keep an existing slide on the boat for easy access off. They will include tables and chairs to seat as many as 40, with tie up spots for boats and jet skis. The boat will have all the standard amenities of their soda fountain including 12 ice cream flavors, a grab and go freezer, house made sodas, milkshakes, floats, and more.

Loblolly hopes that as the summer progresses they will be able to offer local craft beers as well depending on the local liquor laws of the locations.

Dubbed the SS Loblolly, they hope to hit Riverfest weekend on the Arkansas River as the first outing. The full schedule of events will be posted on the Loblolly Facebook page as the summer nears. Rumor is Matthew Lowman will dress up as Captain Jack Sparrow to drive the boat. Loblolly does recommend waiting 30 minutes after eating your ice cream to swim again.

Rock City Ramble Bicycle Scavenger Hunt

March 19th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair


Join Bobby’s Bike Hike and the Little Rock River Market for tscavenger bikehe 3rd annual Rock City Ramble!, a city-wide bicycle scavenger hunt. Clues will be hidden around downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock for teams on bicycles for a fun and interactive competition (via a provided map) to find the clues. For the competition, there will be three divisions: a competitive division, a family division, and an all new Locally Labeled division!

“What’s a Locally Labeled division?,” you ask. The Locally Labeled division will take participants on an adventure to our local breweries, distillery, and craft food establishments.

If you don’t have access to a bike, it isn’t a problem, you can rent one at Bobby’s Bike Hike for a discounted rate. The winners can look forward to being rewarded with accolades and prizes. Cyclists are invited to  feel free to sign up as an individual or with a team (individuals will be grouped together as a team). Teams can be various sizes, from 2 to 5 member teams.

The Empress is a great place to stay for this fun and active event in Little Rock this spring (Sunday, April 10, starting at 11 am) and we hope to be your bicycling headquarters.  We offer covered bicycle storage!

Check Bobby’s Facebook page for more events!

Easter Sunrise Service in Little Rock

March 11th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair


Celebrate Easter Sunrise Service  Sunday, March 27th at 7:00 a.m. at the First Security Amphitheater in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.  Every year, thousands gather on the banks of the Arkansas River and proclaim the good news that Christ is risen.

The service will also be broadcast live on KATV Channel 7.

The Annual Community Easter Sunrise Service is an ecumenical worship service sponsored by Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church.

Want some history on the event?  In 1989, Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church utilized the newly built Amphitheater on the banks of the Arkansas River to provide an ecumenical community-wide Easter Sunrise Service. Long time PHUMC member, Swann Kohler, was the founding coordinator of this new service. Then Little Rock mayor Buddy Villines, Audrey Crites, Skip Rutherford and the late Tom Williams were the first participants. Beautiful music was offered by the combined choirs of Pulaski Heights UMC and Philander Smith College Choir. In the last 26 years many members of our community have participated in worship, including a US President, our congressmen and women, Arkansas Governors and other state officials, actors, athletes and TV personalities, students and clergy, dance teams and orchestras, brass ensembles, many soloists and school choirs from our county and city. The Gospel has been proclaimed and prayers have been offered. Offerings have been gathered to help local charities do good work in our community and around the state. Over 100 volunteers, plus monetary contributions of so many, make this event possible.

Special guests of this years’ service will be:

  • Rev. Carissa Rogers,  Pastor of Quapaw Quarter UMC
  • Rev. William Robinson, Pastor of First Baptist Church, NLR
  • Kevin Scanlon, Former Arkansas Razorback Football Team
  • Mallory Brooks, Channel 4 News Anchorperson
  • Eric Gilmore, Director of Immerse Arkansas

We hope to see you at The Empress this Easter weekend!

Purse-onas exhibit at Esse Purse Museum

March 3rd, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

ESSE Purse Museum is pleased to showcase the Purse-onas photo exhibit by  JasonTravis , which features photo portraits of people of all ages above a photo of each person’s bag or purse and its contents, offering an intimate look into the lives of others.

In conjunction with the exhibit’s opening, ESSE will resume “The ESSE Purse Project,” an online exhibit of visitors’ and other willing participants’ purses/briefcases/backpacks and their contents.

The beautiful photos by Jason Travis seem tailor-made for the purse museum’s permanent exhibit, “What’s Inside: A Century of Women and Handbags.” The permanent exhibit focuses on the 20th-century American woman and her development, as shown through handbags and their contents. Travis’ photos (and “The ESSE Purse Project’) bring the concept into the current decade – and include men.

Purse-onas and ESSE go together as well as your mother’s matching purse and shoes. Don’t miss the chance to see them together!

Purse-onas by Jason Travis runs Wednesday, Jan. 13, through Sunday, March 13. ESSE Purse Museum & Store is open from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. everyday but Monday.

The Esse Purse Museum is only blocks from The Empress and is the only purse museum in North America!  Check out the museum, and then head next door for lunch at The Root Cafe or across the street for ice cream at The Green Corner Store.  Soma is the place to be this spring!