by Jon Crawford
(above photo: Villa Marre, the exterior used for the house in the ‘90s sitcom, Designing Women)
Little Rock, Arkansas is not on most top ten lists of must-see gay destinations, but this laid back locale may just surprise you. The newly revived SoMa district boasts the historic Community Bakery, dating back to 1947, as well as the M2 art gallery, which represents many LGBTQIA+ artists. Further down Main Street is Sweet Home Furnishings and clement, where you can take home some quirky vintage treasures before hanging a left one block over to see the Villa Marre. This iconic 1880’s home is the exterior of Sugarbaker & Associates from the 80’s televisions show Designing Women.
Continue your fashion fun with one of only three purse museums in the world at Esse Purse Museum & Store, just a block away. If you’d rather lighten your wallet in the pursuit of good grub, the nearby restaurants have some of the best food in town. The Root Cafe is a community favorite with vegan options and locally sourced ingredients. South On Main,
is a tad more formal, where Chef Matthew Bell reimagines Southern flavors in a venue that showcases excellent live performances.
For those of us wanting to get our steps in, try the Big Dam Bridge, which at 4,000 feet is the longest pedestrian and bike bridge in North America (that was never used for trains or motorized vehicles). It spans the Arkansas River and connecting to 40+ miles of the Arkansas River Trail. Bike rentals are available at the RiverMarket near the Clinton Presidential Center, on the trail. If getting high is more your thing, try Pinnacle Mountain State Park with over 2,000 acres to explore and hike to an elevation of just over 1,000 feet.
Rather dance your steps away? Discovery, opened by the first Miss Gay America winner Norman Jones, is a long-standing staple, with a popular disco Saturday nights and drag shows. Trinity, located next door, is a Friday night hot spot. Both clubs have a more mainstream crowd than Club Sway, about three miles away which is largely LGBTQIA+ with video screens, sound systems, theme parties, and drag shows.Sway is open both Friday and Saturday nights. For drinks and conversation in a laid back setting, the 610 Bar is your spot. The bear and leather crowd may want to venture over the bridge to the Chaps Dive Bar in North Little Rock which is more like Little Rock’s gay Cheers.
Want to Netflix and chill? Don’t do that. Get out and watch a flick with the Arkansas Cinema Society. They offer year-round programming, with filmmakers often in attendance. If you need a pick me up, stop by one of two barista approved coffee shops, Mylos or the Meteor, to get a serious cup of coffee or tea, and plan new adventures in this fellow riverside city. While it may not be the San Francisco of the South, Little Rock is an often overlooked gem that offers many relaxing ways to spend a weekend.
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