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What to do in downtown Little Rock

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Arkansas Arts Center image

See fine art.

The Arkansas Arts Center, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has six galleries, a museum school and a children's theater, set in the fine MacArthur Park. It has made a name for itself nationally with its wide collection of works on paper and contemporary crafts. There are 5,509 works in the collection on paper, ranging from Old Master drawings dating to the 1550s to work by contemporary American masters .

Go to the theater.

We're consistently stunned by the quality of the productions at the Arkansas Repertory Theater, which just renovated to add seats and other amenities. Recent productions of "Hairspray" and "A Christmas Carol" were Broadway-caliber, hands down. If you've never been to The Rep, go. If you've been, go back. Seriously.

Shop for "military supplies."

Since 1870, Little Rock has gone to Bennett's Military Supplies for medals, patches, camouflaged anything/everything, bumper stickers, jackets, hunting coveralls, boots, motorcycle leathers, tents, wool socks, uniforms, rain gear, knives, swords, backpacks, ammo cans, duffle bags, sleeping bags, hats, foot lockers and Airsoft weapons and ammunition.

Eat well.

Lee Richardson, the state's best chef, works at Ashley's, the state's best restaurant, housed in the Capital, the state's best hotel. The Stephens family's investment in only the best kitchen equipment, room furnishings and other important infrastructure components combines with an unparalleled focus on customer service to elevate the Capital and everything associated with it. The lobby and elevators are tourist attractions themselves, and it's hard to think of a more perfect setting for a business lunch or after-dinner drink than the stately Capital Bar and Grill.

Hear the music of youth.

The bands that play at Downtown Music, a record store-turned-club, aren't ones we know but clearly appeal to teens and young adults based on the size of the crowds that throng the nearby streets and parking lots.

Have a whiskey.

The Peabody Hotel is a convention hot spot but there are still plenty of reasons for locals to happen in — from a martini at the lobby bar to a great steak at Capriccio. But the biggest draw — especially for the cigar and/or other tobacco smoker — is Mallard's on the ground floor, a quintessential leather/mahogany-appointed bar of the old-school variety.

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