International Tour Management Institute (ITMI)

The Premier Training Institute for Tour & Travel Professionals Since 1976

10 Reasons Arkansas is a Diamond in the Rough

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itmi symposium 2017 little rock arkansas

Have you heard the news? ITMI Symposium & Reunion 2017 is coming to Little Rock, Arkansas!

            We're stoked. You should be, too. Why? Well, first of all, Little Rock is unlike any Symposium location we've visited in the event's amazing 30-year history. Its unique blend of history, culture, philanthropy, activities, and culinary delights make it a perfect place for tour professionals to dialogue about the most important issues facing the travel industry today.

            There are countless reasons you'll fall in love with Little Rock and the entire state of Arkansas. We narrowed our list down to 10 just to leave a little to your imagination.

            Civil rights history: It might come as a surprise to some that Arkansas is home to a rich civil rights heritage. The Little Rock Nine was a group of nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The Little Rock Nine changed the face of the civil rights movement when they walked into Little Rock Central High School in 1957 after Brown vs. The Board Of Education ruling deemed segregation unconstitutional.

And the 1961 Little Rock Freedom Riders, a group of five black and white activist volunteers, spent their summer testing adherence to a recent Supreme Court decision requiring desegregation of bus stations. They were met with dangerous resistance along the way, but persevered and ensured that equality laws would be followed. Their story and countless other are told along the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail.

            Ending world hunger and poverty: Little Rock is home to Heifer International, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering needy communities through sustainable agriculture and commerce. Heifer provides them with farm animals and teaches them how they can be leveraged to provide not only food, but also a steady income source that can be used to build schools and other institutions essential to self-sufficiency. Since 1944, the organization has assisted 20.7 million families in over 125 countries.

            Educational tours: Being that it's such a major hub of humanitarian innovation, it's no surprise that Little Rock and the entire state of Arkansas are student group tour magnets. The Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail, Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, Crater of Diamonds, and the Clinton Center all make for entertaining and educational trips. In addition, the Arkansas Museum of Discovery in Little Rock fuels students' excitement for science through interactive exhibits and lessons. It is home to Guinness World Records musical bi-polar Tesla coil that can produce 200,000 volts of electricity. 

            Riverwalk: There are few lovelier places for a stroll than the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, a 32-acre urban waterfront experience. It is symbolic of the city's tireless efforts to revitalize a once-blighted downtown district and continue to improve it for generations to come. Visitors can enjoy the picturesque Arkansas River during riverboat rides that run from May through October. There are also a half dozen fabulous restaurants to check out in addition to a beautiful bridge honoring local veterans.

            Pearl Harbor hero: During Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, this mighty tugboat saved several lives and damaged vessels by hauling them out of harm's way. This important craft was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989, and today is stationed with the legendary USS Razorback Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, which is also home to the legendary USS Razorback submarine. The Hoga is currently undergoing renovation and is expected to be open for tours sometime in the near future.

            Hot culinary scene: From food trucks to fine dining, Little Rock is brimming with culinary excellence. Here you can find amazing takes on all-American classics like burgers and barbecue as well as ethnic options galore - Japanese, Mexican, Southern cuisine, you name it. For dinner and a show, be sure to check out South on Main, founded by acting power couple Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen. Feast on mouth-watering steak and seafood while enjoying music, literary readings, film screenings, and much more.

            Game on: Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot springs is the place where locals and visitors love to let the good times roll. The home of the world-famous Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn has been a major draw since 1904. In addition to racing and gaming galore, this premier attraction features awesome live music and countless other fun events. Baggo championships, anyone? You'll also find plenty of casual and upscale eateries that feature popular local cuisine as well as the pub-style grub we all know and love.

            Diamond hunting: You might have thought we were just being cute with that whole diamond-in-the-rough thing. Well, guess what? In Arkansas, you can actually hunt for diamonds - and they're yours to keep! Crater of Diamonds State Park in Pike County features the world's only diamond-bearing site accessible to the public. visitors search for these and various other types of gemstones, including amethyst, agate, and jasper as well as a host of different minerals. A gift shop and cafe also are onsite.

            The Clinton legacy: Arkansas' favorite son has left a lasting impact on his native state in numerous ways. Little Rock is home to the Clinton Presidential Center, which includes the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. The site is also the headquarters of the family's philanthropic organization, the Clinton Foundation, which works to raise awareness of climate change, economic development, global health, and issues surrounding girls and women through strategic campaigns and partnerships.  

            Culture & Entertainment: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, welcomes all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. We explore the unfolding story of America by actively collecting, exhibiting, interpreting, and preserving outstanding works that illuminate our heritage and artistic possibilities. And this calls for a drum roll. When Symposium 2017 descends upon Little Rock, it will be held at the legendary Robinson Center, originally built as a municipal auditorium in 1939. Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, and the Beach Boys are among the greats who have graced its stage. Since July 2014, the Robinson has been closed for extensive renovations. It is scheduled to reopen in fall 2016. A few months later, it will be the host venue of the greatest Symposium to date. We can't wait to see you there!