5/52: Attend LANTERNS! Outdoor Winter Festival

I lived out-of-state during last year's Wildwood Park for the Arts' annual lantern festival, so I was excited when my friend Whitney suggested a double date to this year's event. Tickets were purchased and a plan was made to attend on Saturday night.

Mexico--Wildwood style!

Mexico--Wildwood style!

The festival celebrates the first full moon of the lunar year and showcases several geographical locations around the planet with food, beverages and live entertainment.

The event started at 6 p.m. and we arrived about an hour later. Wildwood Park was packed full of couples and families, all strolling around the property which was decorated with thousands of luminaries and decor inspired by each of the represented countries. At check-in, we reviewed the menu of offerings from each station and each couple decided to purchase $30 in Wildbucks.

First stop: Asia. The menu looked tasty -- hot and sour soup, honey sesame chicken, vegetable fried rice, and red curry chicken. We waited in line for about 15 minutes and were surprised to find that the only food offered was sushi from Kroger (at $1/roll) and miso soup ($3). Hmmm. Well, it was the first station so we gave them the benefit of the doubt. We passed on the sushi, but enjoyed the warm goodness of the soup and watched a young guy do a cool taekwondo routine with nunchucks (nunchucks, y'all!).

Next up: New Orleans. We were pretty hungry by this point so we immediately got in line for red beans and rice ($4). The person right before us literally got the last bean in sight. The volunteer manning the station was unsure if there would be more beans coming, so we forewent the option of having our palms read and moved on.

Our spirits were lifted by the site of giant turkey legs. We located Shakespeare's England and got in line. A little worried we'd wait in another long line only to find out there was no food left, I snuck toward the servers just in time to hear that they had three turkey legs left. Since we were about 45 people back, we abandoned post.

Well, surely Mexico would not disappoint! We headed toward the lively sounds of Mariachi music and eagerly anticipated the chips, salsa, guacamole we were sure to enjoy shortly. We danced the cha-cha in line and looked forward to finally enjoying some food. Sadly, they were out of chips, so we drowned our sorrows in Dos Equis ($3) and tequila shots ($4). 

I'm not going to lie, at this point we were pretty disgruntled with the entire thing. We had pre-purchased tickets, so surely the event planners had a general idea of how many people would be in attendance. I worked in non-profit marketing/event planning for the first three years of my Big Girl Career (and know what a difficult and sometimes thankless job it can be), so I tried to be lenient. 

Whitney in stocks = totally worth the $10 price of admission.

Whitney in stocks = totally worth the $10 price of admission.

After a brief trip to the moon, we saw a few carnivores with turkey legs in hand. Maybe they had restocked?? We high-tailed it back to England and finally got our paws on a turkey leg ($8). We stuck around for a few minutes to watch some performers engage the crowd in a round of Shakespearean Mad Libs, and I grabbed the last bag of shortbread cookies ($2 for 3) in the building. 

At 8:45 p.m., we decided to skip Jamaica and Rome, handed our remaining $4 in Wildbucks to some kid, and made the decision to head to Local Lime for an actual dinner (which was fantastic). 

Let me just say that I love Wildwood Park and the wonderful programs and services it provides to our community. The grounds are beautiful and I would highly encourage you to tour them during the day. Admission is free during non-events and is open daily until 5 p.m. 

As for the LANTERNS! event, maybe we'll give it another shot next year, BUT! we'll be sure not to arrive hungry.

Regardless, it was a fun night out with good friends--and good friends can save almost any questionable situation.

LANTERNS! OUTDOOR WINTER FESTIVAL | WILDWOOD PARK FOR THE ARTS | 20919 DENNY ROAD, LITTLE ROCK, AR 72223 | WILDWOODPARK.ORG

4/52: Boogie to Mulehead

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Hubs had heard me preach about my love of the band Mulehead for quite a while before I moved him to Little Rock. What's not to love? Clever/catchy tunes, witty banter from frontman Kevin Kerby, top notch instrumentation from Brent LaBeau, Geoff Curran and David Raymond…and the dancing. I live a pretty sedentary life, but I can’t help but shake my booty when Mulehead is on stage.

So when I heard they were going to start playing together again, I was pumped. The first chance we got, we headed to the White Water Tavern to see them play. Curt was already a fan of Slobberbone, whose lead singer was opening that night, so it was a no-brainer.

In addition to my old faves (Punk Rock Party, Cheap Red Wine, Crooked Spine, yada yada.), they introduced some new songs that did not disappoint. 

The only downside of the night was some overly-enthusiastic fan who was grinding on the ladies and booty-smacking everyone standing near the stage. To that guy: thanks, dude. You made Curt grumpy so we left before they played Black and White TV.

Unforgivable. 

MULEHEAD | FACEBOOK | LISTEN HERE.

3/52: Explore the River Market

One of Little Rock's most prominent hot spots is the River Market District. While we had spent quite a few evenings in the area, hubs and I had never devoted many daylight hours to it. 

Photo by @danieljroda

Photo by @danieljroda

Of course, we decided to do this on one of those days that the icy wind was whipping off the Arkansas River, but we forged onward.

First things first: food. We have sampled our fair share of River Market eats (hello, Gus's, Stickyz and Flying Fish!), so we actually started a few blocks away at Vino's Brewpub. Curt enjoyed his first Vino's calzone with an in-house brew and I was reunited with my beloved margherita pizza. 

We proceeded downtown and had our first encounter with one of those new parking meters. No comment.

Our first stop was Paper Scissors Little Rock. Shop girl Macy Madison put out the all-call for unused coats to donate to some folks who are down on their luck, and we had a bag full. I took the opportunity to point out all the gifts I’d be happy to receive (Curt: I still have my eye on one of those super soft T-shirts from Populus Clothing. Nudge nudge.).

Since Curt was indulging my girly side, we stopped by Fringe Clothing for a little window shopping (Curt: I’ll take anything.).

Next up, the Cox Creative Center. I knew Curt would love this place, and I was right. We warmed up with some coffee while we perused River Market Books and Gifts. We spent about an hour looking at the gently used books and were on our way.

(I still regret that we didn't pick up the coffee table book on lady bodybuilders. It was quite a find and I knew exactly who to gift it to.)

And this is where I admit to being a weenie. I had promised Curt a pint (or three) at the Flying Saucer, but it was sooo cold (and I needed my Saturday nap…and it’s not like we don’t have beer at home, right?). We headed home with excellent intentions of making another River Market date on a much warmer day. It’s gonna happen, y’all. I've really got to get that coffee table book!

RIVER MARKET DISTRICT | RIVER MARKET AVENUE, LITTLE ROCK, AR 72201 | RIVERMARKET.INFO

2/52: Walk the Big Dam Bridge

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We love our bridges in Little Rock, don't we? From President Clinton's Bridge to the 21st Century to the River Lights in the Rock, we Little Rockers will totally cross a bridge when we come to it.

So when the winter weather held off last weekend, we made a beeline past Murray Park toward that Big Dam Bridge. In addition to the hub's first walk across the Arkansas River, he also noticed the beautiful bluffs overlooking the Riverdale area for the first time. And....he may have had his very first trip to Waffle House. 

It was a banner day.

BIG DAMN BRIDGE | 7700 REBSAMEN PARK ROAD, LITTLE ROCK, AR 72207 | BIGDAMBRIDGE.COM

1/52: Eat at South on Main

I was still living in Memphis when I heard the first rumblings about South on Main. Knowing I'd soon return to The Natural State, I impatiently monitored (stalked?) Instagram and Facebook for the progress of what I was sure would be an outstanding dining experience.

Chef Matthew Bell's staff did not disappoint. The food--amazing. The atmosphere--spot on. The service--first class. The cocktails--delicious. Not only did we make this one of our first stops in Little Rock, but it's become one of our most frequent. 

SOUTH ON MAIN; 1304 SOUTH MAIN ST | LITTLE ROCK, AR 72202; LUNCH: M-F 11AM-3PM | DINNER: T-S 5PM-10PM; 501.244.9660 | southonmain.com

These are 52 of my favorite things.

As part of my husband's first year as an Arkansan, I am introducing him to my favorite things in Little Rock--one week at a time.