Little Rock Is Big on Faith 

Arkansas’ capital has authentic Southern hospitality, exuding a certain charm that maintains its popularity among faith-based groups. Here are five ways it’s attracting new groups. 

Little Rock Is Big on Faith 

“We’re in the Bible Belt, but Little Rock has proven to be very inclusive for every denomination,” says Adam Berrios, vice president of sales and service at the Little Rock CVB. “If there’s a religious faction that exists, we’ve held something for them.”

Everyone from Jehovah’s Witnesses and Catholic dioceses to United Methodist Church and AME have held events in Little Rock. Men Perfecting Men Conference, Fresh Grounded Faith and the Arkansas International Camp Meeting are some recent religious events held in the city. 

Little Rock’s community reflects and embraces faith-based groups—it’s rooted in its Southern hospitality. The city is an ideal location for accessibility and affordability, especially when compared to direct competitors in the region. Events can definitely be a big fish in a small pond here.

Berrios says his biggest challenge is that faith-based planners don’t know Little Rock that well. “It’s an educational process on our story and what we are,” he explains. 

Cities take on the traits of their people, he says. And the citizens of Little Rock are genuine, prideful and welcoming. “What makes a destination distinct is the people who live there and create the culture. There’s more diversity and culture than [planners] would think,” says Berrios. “They don’t realize that until they step foot here.” 

That sounds like an invitation. Indeed, Berrios and the CVB have set out to get planners intrigued. Here’s how:

Little Rock Is Big on Faith 

1. Inspirational Programming

For a recent faith-based FAM trip hosted by Connect Faith, the group of planners kicked off the event by touring Little Rock Central High School. The National Historic Site and National Park is still a working high school. However, it’s best known for its pivotal role in the desegregation of schools, a major part in the Civil Rights Movement. Elizabeth Eckford, one of the original Little Rock Nine, joined the group for dinner, told her personal story and signed her book for attendees.

Planners then enjoyed dinner at 42 Bar and Table inside the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. It’s both a restaurant and event space that can hold up to 1,000 people for an event. “There are only 15 of these libraries in the country,” says Berrios. “It’s probably our primary attraction in Little Rock.”

2. History Lessons

There are special moments of religious history throughout Little Rock. In 2021, a historical marker was dedicated to Charles Harrison Mason. Bishop Mason was at the intersection of Eighth and Gaines streets when the name Church of God and Christ was revealed to him. It became the largest African American pentecostal denomination of the 20th century. 

The Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail is an inspiring series of stops that celebrate the Freedom Riders of the 1960s who fought for desegregation of the city’s bus terminals. The trail also commemorates college students who protested with sit-in demonstrations to help bring about change to civil rights.   

Attendees can also tour St. Andrew's Cathedral, which has been operational since the early 19th century. The city has an incredible array of religious monuments. 

3. Accessibility and Affordability

Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport is close to downtown and an inexpensive commute for faith-based attendees interested in the 7,200 guest rooms in the area. Downtown Little Rock is the convention district and has 2,000 rooms all within walking distance or a short commute.  

It’s also centrally located at the intersection of five highways with 40% of the country within less than a day’s drive. It’s one connection away from 300 destinations. 

One of the most helpful elements of planning in this city is the Little Rock CVB manages and operates the Statehouse Convention Center, Arkansas’s first facility with a Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accreditation. “Everyone [at the convention center] works in our organization,” shares Berrios, “as well as the Robinson Center, which is a performing arts center with 2,200 seats.”

The CVB manages and operates all the meeting facilities of scale in Little Rock, as well as three parking garages downtown. The CVB also operates a food hall, outdoor pavilions and an outdoor music amphitheater.

Little Rock Is Big on Faith 

4. Religious Festivals

Each April, the free Jewish Food and Cultural Festival in Little Rock brings people together to share their traditions and cuisine with the community. Attendees can try traditional Jewish foods, as well as enjoy entertainment and art created by local Jewish artists. 

When summer arrives, Juneteenth has been celebrated at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center since 2009. It’s a day to engage in community experiences that help others understand the cultural importance of this date to the African American community.

The city also hosts Greek and Italian festivals, as well as others that celebrate the food traditions and religions of these great nations. From Greek Orthodox to Catholic elements of their culture, the community is united around food and fellowship.

5. Cool Venues and Off-Site Spaces

A replica of the original 1913 building the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is a museum dedicated to celebrating the history of African Americans in Arkansas. The building takes its name from a Black fraternal organization founded in Little Rock in 1883. The stunning auditorium on the third floor seats 400. It has a regal wraparound balcony and stage that can host all kinds of events, meetings and award ceremonies. 
 
The newest, most impactful and compelling development in Arkansas is the opening of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in April 2023. It will be an inspiring array of visual and performing arts and educational experiences with cultural and diverse artistic perspectives. It has an innovative roofline with a grand atrium. It will be an ideal off-site venue option for receptions and dinners. “It’s our newest, shiniest toy,” says Berrios.  

Photos courtesy of the Little Rock CVB