Destination: Little Rock, Arkansas
Duration: 45 minutes
Average fare: $260-$300 via Southwest Airlines out of Hobby Airport
What to do: History buffs have no shortage of opportunities here, from the iconic Little Rock Central High School, where the Little Rock Nine were the first to enter after forced desegregation of public schools in 1957, to Bill Clinton's own, 148,000-square foot presidential museum. A visit to the palatial Arkansas State Capitol building should be paired with a tour of the Old State House Museum, the original state capitol and the oldest surviving one west of the Mississippi River.
Outdoors types should set out immediately for Arkansas's first state park, Pinnacle Mountain, where foot trails lead to the eponymous mountain itself, which rises 1,000 feet above the scenic Arkansas River Valley. Within the massive park is the Arkansas Arboretum, a 71-acre site with native flora that cover Arkansas's six major natural divisions, so you can almost take in the entire state at once. A short drive away is the Buffalo National River, one of the few undammed rivers left in the United States, which flows through the Ozark Mountains and offers spectacular canoeing and kayaking opportunities.
Arts and culture buffs should consider a pilgrimage to the magnificent Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the 93,000-square-foot complex built using the accumulated Walmart fortune left to heiress Alice Walton, one of the single wealthiest people in the world. The Arkansas Art Center is no slouch either, with a collection that covers everything from charcoal drawings to contemporary craft, and a constantly rotating line-up of interesting exhibitions.
What to eat and drink: Little Rock possesses the state's oldest distillery, the grain-to-glass Rock Town that makes whiskey, vodka and gin and gives daily tours, as well as an array of breweries such as Stone's Throw and Blue Canoe. The popular Diamond Bear Brewing Co. even boasts its own in-house restaurant, The Ale House, which offers decidedly non-Southern dishes like fried Wisconsin cheese curds and Dutch borrelnootjes, both of which pair perfectly with a pint.
Downtown is home to James Beard-nominated One Eleven, which features modern American cuisine with a Little Rock twist, while the highly walkable Argenta district just across the Arkansas River has become a dining destination in and of itself. Check out the charming Ristorante Capeo for wood-fired pizzas while The Joint Theater and Coffeehouse is widely regarded as the coolest place in town for its custom-roasted coffee and cabaret shows. On Saturdays, the Arkansas-only Argenta Farmers Market is a must; you can take those collard greens and sweet potatoes home with you in a carry-on, after all.