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What to do in Hillcrest

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Go to Allsopp Park.

Hike, bike, take a trike to this 150-acre park that occupies the hilly ravine that takes a divot out of Hillcrest. The softball field is home to the venerable Hillcrest Girls Softball League, a pavilion includes a stone fireplace, the playground has a bouncy rubber surface and a sandbox to bury toys in. There are two tennis courts, one usually given over to basketball. The creek is one of the main attractions to kids, thanks to crustaceans, and dogs, thanks to a deepish pool where it emerges from the woods. Mountain bikers maintain the trails, birdwatchers come out in force in spring looking for warblers in the willows and some folks just like to park and drink beer.

Go to Knoop Park.

Knoop Park is on a promontory overlooking downtown Little Rock, a site selected by the Little Rock Water Works for its elevation and still the home of the waterworks. A horseshoe-shaped paved path leads from an upper entrance on Hill Road to the midpoint overlook and back to the lower entrance on Ozark Point. It's perfect for birding, bike riding, fireworks watching and strolling and teen-agers have long found it a perfect place to do illicit things after sundown, when the park is, by law, closed.

Experience shopping the way it was before the birth of the big box.

The shopping district of Hillcrest follows the picturesque two-lane that is Kavanaugh Boulevard. Buildings that are closing in on the century mark line the winding road, housing locally-owned stores and restaurants and hair salons, hair salons and more hair salons. If you are having a bad hair day, you sure as hell can fix it in Hillcrest.

But, more amusingly, in Hillcrest one can shop for clothes made by your spiky-haired millennium dress designer at not one but two stores with herpetologically-inspired names, the Box Turtle and the Freckled Frog.

One can dress up one's home as well with a simple stroll down Kavanaugh, at Antiquarius, on the cusp of the Heights, for the 1 percenters; Clement/Sweet Home for the tastefully quirky; Hillcrest Interiors for decorating divas, Haus Werk and the Shoppes on Woodlawn for sophisticated boomers seeking new furnishings made to look old, and Hillcrest Junk for people who only shop on Sunday.

Also along Kavanaugh: Shops selling fine art (Gallery 26), alcohol (Hillcrest Liquor), oriental rugs (Ronaghi), bedding plants (Hocott's), wedding presents (Full Moon), bikes (Spokes) and drugs (Rhea Drug Store). Tats, too (Electric Heart). Groceries, of course (Kroger).

Dine along Kavanaugh.

In a perfect world, a neighborhood will have lots of restaurants and bars easily walked to and, more importantly, from. Like we said, Hillcrest is the perfect neighborhood. There's Eurofood in varying degrees of fanciness (Fernau, Acadia, Vieux Carre, Ciao Baci) and faux Mexican (Canon Grill) and faux Greek (Leo's) and hamburgers (The House) and pizza (U.S. Pizza and Damgoode Pies) and Brazilian (Bossa Nova). (Sadly, the naughty chocolates of the old River City Tea and Coffee are gone; fortunately, the owners of Bossa Nova have opened a Brazilian Baker, Rosalia's.) Diversion serves tapas, but its big draw is the martini in all its incarnations, from dry to chocolate-flavored, and other drink specials from its well-stocked bar.

Dive into pool.

The Hillcrest Fountain is a haven for (mostly) men who like to shoot pool and smoke cigars while drinking copious amounts of foamy beverages. There are rocking chairs out front — a sort of oxygen bar for patrons — and a patio out back for the dating set.

Clean 'em, board 'em, fix 'em.

Hillcrest (aka "Whiskerworld") is not only a place of multiple beauty parlors for people, but for dogs, with two groomers in about three blocks (Dog House Bath and Grooming and Gina's Pet Salon), taking advantage of the fact that there is 1.5 dogs per household in Hillcrest. Happy, healthy pets patronize Hillcrest Animal Clinic, which is to the four-legged as Mayo Clinic is to the two.

A playground for all.

When Pulaski Heights Elementary School is not in session, the neighborhood comes out to climb, slide, balance and kick or bat at balls in the playground and ballfield. At dusk in fall, it's a good place to watch chimney swifts, which circle by the hundreds into PHE's chimney vents.

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