Little Rock, located on the south bank of the Arkansas River, smack dab in the middle of the state, is both the capital and the most populous city in Arkansas. As a cultural, economic, transportation, and government hub with a lower than average cost of living, Little Rock continually attracts new residents. In addition to luring new residents for traditional job opportunities and quality of life, Little Rock is a great place to work remotely. According to smartasset.com, as of 2019, Little Rock ranks #11 of ‘Best Cities to Work From Home.’
While the economy and cost of living are attractive draws, Little Rock also appeals to outdoorsy types who love the beautiful geography that provides great hiking, climbing, golf, boating, fishing, and other water-oriented and outside adventures. Little Rock played a role in the development of the South and was a pivotal site of the Civil Rights Movement. ‘The Rock’ is a modern city formed by a diverse and fascinating history.
Living in Little Rock, AR: What to Know Before Moving to Little Rock
According to niche.com, Little Rock’s population of about 199,000 creates the #70 most diverse city in the country. When you consider the greater metropolitan area, the population grows to about 750,000 residents. And these residents appreciate Little Rock’s strategic central location in the South. From here, you’re about a five-hour drive west to Dallas or a two-hour drive east to Memphis.
Pros and Cons of Living in Little Rock
Check out some of the advantages and disadvantages of living in Little Rock.
- Low cost of living
- Highly rated hospitals and doctors
- Benefits that come with Little Rock being a capital city
- Amazing waterfront location on the Arkansas River; fun aquatic activities
- Great hiking and exploring outside of town and north into the Ozarks
- Higher than average crime rate
- Very hot and humid summers
- Poorly rated public schools
- Challenging air travel; very few direct flights into and out of Little Rock
- Property Tax: The average county tax rate is 0.811%. The median home value in Little Rock is $140,800. At that price, you would expect to pay $1,142 in annual property tax.
- Sales Tax: The combined sales tax rate in Little Rock is 9.00 percent, which is higher than the US average of 7.3 percent.
- Income Tax: There are six tax brackets for state income tax. Anyone making at least $37,200 pays a 6.90 percent income tax rate.
As of November 2019, the median home value in Little Rock was $140,800, significantly below the national average of $231,200. However, the median price of homes currently listed is $219,000, and prices are forecast to increase by 1% in 2020.
Forty-four percent of Little Rock residents rent their homes and pay a median rent price of $803 per month, which is considerably lower than the US average of $1,470. In addition to lower than average rent, you can also expect to find a rental with more square footage than in many other US cities.
While home prices are relatively low throughout Little Rock, there are a handful of neighborhoods that are cheaper than others. The most affordable neighborhoods are 65th Street West, Big Dickinson Lake, Central High, East of I-30, Oak Forest, South End, Upper Baseline, and Wakefield.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Little Rock is very affordable. Bestplaces.net rates a city’s cost of living on a US index average of 100. The cost of living index for Little Rock is 82.5. Broken down by item, the cost of housing is 61.9, grocery is 95.8, health is 86.3, utilities is 95.1, and transportation is 83.1.
The median household income is $46,409 compared to the US average of $53,482. If you consult the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, you’ll learn that a family of four would need to earn $6,238 each month and $74,859 annually to live a moderate lifestyle in Little Rock.
Weather & Natural Disasters
Aside from hot, humid summers, most months are fairly pleasant in Little Rock, and seasonal variations are mild. The hottest months are July and August with average highs of 92° and 93° and average lows of 73° and 72°. The coolest months are December and January, with average highs of 52° and 51° and average lows of 34° and 32° respectively.
Thanks to moderate winters, there’s no measurable annual snowfall. However, the city receives an average of 50” of annual rainfall, which keeps rivers and creeks running and foliage leafy green. November and April are the rainiest months.
Natural disaster threats include tornadoes, flooding, and wildfires. The city’s emergency management page provides information about preparing for an emergency. Stay safe, and be sure to check it out!
Economy & Job Market
The unemployment rate in Little Rock is 3.4%, slightly lower than the US average of 3.9%. However, the job market has only grown by 0.1% over the past year. Job growth is expected to increase by 32.2% over the next ten years, just below the US average increase of 33.5%.
Major industries include healthcare, aerospace, banking and finance, technology, advanced manufacturing, education, agriculture, and government.
Many companies are either headquartered in Little Rock or have a large presence in the city. Federal, state, and local government is the major employer, followed by The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Baptist Health, Little Rock Air Force Base, and Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The large international industrial complex at Little Rock’s navigable port contributes to the economy as well. The City of Little Rock has a helpful page for finding work. And also, look into jobs online at sites like indeed.com, simplyhired.com, and others.
Traffic and Transportation
Traffic isn’t a major issue in Little Rock. The one-way commute averages 18.6 minutes, which is lower than the US average of 26.4 minutes. The majority of commuters – 82.5% – drive their cars to work, while 9.9% carpool, 3.7% work from home, and 1.1% take mass transit. Rock Region Metro provides bus service throughout the city. In downtown and North Little Rock, you can also use the Metro Streetcar system.
Two interstate highways and four auxiliary interstates keep traffic moving through and around Little Rock. I-40 runs through North Little Rock to the north, while I-30 comes into Little Rock from the South. I-430 serves as a bypass to Little Rock on the west, and I-440 brings commuters to the eastern part of the city. I-630 runs east-west and connects to the business district, while I-530 serves as a spur route towards Pine Bluff.
Although downtown is fairly walkable, you’ll likely want a car to run errands and commute in Little Rock. The city’s walk score is 32 out of 100. Due to the lack of public transportation options, the city has a transit score of 19, and the bike score is 28.
What to Do
Between its beautiful geography, access to the Ozarks, great amenities, and affordability, there’s no shortage of things to do in Little Rock. Foodies will enjoy the awesome BBQ scene that’s a mélange of influences from Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, and Dallas. When you’re ready to work off some of those calories, the great outdoor options will keep you busy hiking in Little Rock parks and outskirts and playing in the many water activities available in and on the Arkansas River and surrounding lakes.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park offers great hiking of various difficulties. Walking across the Big Dam Bridge gives you great views of the Arkansas River, and you can bike or walk along the Arkansas River Trail. The Junction Bridge has been converted from an old railway bridge to a pedestrian bridge and provides great photo-ops. Maumelle Park is a beautiful spot to enjoy a picnic by the water.
If culture is what you crave, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre puts on plays year-round, and you can also enjoy the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in season. History buffs will want to explore the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, which was the site of forced desegregation in 1957 thanks to Brown vs. The Board of Education. The Arkansas State Capital building is also worth visiting.
Little Rock has several interesting museums. The ESSE Museum tells the tale of the modern woman through the lens of the purse and its contents. MENSA ranks The Museum of Discovery as the 6th best science museum in the US. The William J Clinton Presidential Library is also a must-see. The Little Rock Zoo is home to more than 725 animals and provides fun for the whole family.
While none of the big four sports have teams in Little Rock, the Seattle Mariners affiliate, an AA professional Minor League Baseball team called the Arkansas Travelers, plays in town. Additionally, the Arkansas Razorbacks football team plays in the city about once a year. If you’re a college sports fan, you’ll get your fix with the University of Arkansas Little Rock Trojans sports teams.
Schools and Universities
The Little Rock School District operates the public school system in the city. The city’s top-rated elementary schools are Baker Interdistrict Elementary School, Chenal Elementary School, and Don Roberts Elementary School, all rated 9/10 by GreatSchools.org. Pinnacle View Middle School is the top-rated middle school with a 6/10 rating, and Parkview Magnet High School is the city’s top-rated high school with a 7/10 rating.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock and The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences are both public universities in the University of Arkansas System. Philander Smith College and Strayer University Arkansas are both private four-year colleges located in the city. Arkansas Baptist College and Remington College Little Rock are both private two-year colleges within the city.
Bestplaces.net rates crime on a scale of 100. Little Rock has a very high violent crime rate of 72.1. The average in the US is 22.7. The property crime score is even higher at 95, soaring over the US average of 35.4.
- Electric service: Entergy Arkansas, 425 W Capitol Ave, Little Rock, AR 72201. (800) 386-3749
- Water service: Central Arkansas Water, 221 E Capital Ave, Little Rock, AR 72202. (501) 372-5161
- Gas service: CenterPoint Energy, 401 W Capitol Ave, Little Rock, AR 72201. (800) 992-7552
- Internet/Cable service: DIRECTV, U-verse, Spectrum, Xfinity, dish
Best Neighborhoods in Little Rock, AR
Let’s take a look at the most highly rated neighborhoods in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Heights is the highest rated neighborhood in Little Rock and the state of Arkansas, plus it’s rated the #3 ‘Best Neighborhood to Raise a Family,’ according to niche.com. The trendy Heights neighborhood has a population of about 5,610 residents and is less than a 15-minute drive northwest of downtown.
Developers built Heights on a ridge along the Arkansas River, so many homes typically have lovely river views. The median home price is $380,143; the median rent price is $872. These above-average housing costs are the price you’ll pay to live in Little Rock’s top neighborhood.
Locals enjoy Allsopp Park’s hiking and biking trails, as well as baseball fields and tennis courts. Residents love the convenient and unique shopping and dining offered in local commercial centers. ZAZA Fine Salad + Wood-Oven Pizza, rated four stars on Yelp, is a favorite among the residents of the neighborhood, and Heights Taco & Tamale is a hot spot for Mexican food.
Forest Park Elementary School serves students K-5 and is rated 8/10. Pulaski Heights Middle School has students 6-8 and is rated 4/10. Central High School has a 7/10 rating.
This neighborhood of about 14,605 residents is about a 15-minute drive due west of downtown and is rated #2 ‘Best Neighborhood in Little Rock.’ Rock Creek has a densely populated suburban vibe, and 64% of residents own their homes. The neighborhood is full of large, mostly newer homes that have a median price of $205,200. The median rent price is $634, which is lower than the Little Rock average.
Residents in need of a sushi fix hit up Kiyens, rated 4.5 stars on Yelp. If you’re craving some coffee and a yummy pastry, look no further than Old Mill Bread Bakery & Café, rated 4.5 stars on Yelp.
Baker Interdistrict Elementary School has a 9/10 rating, Joe T Robinson Middle School of Little Rock has a 5/10 rating, and Central High School has a 7/10 rating.
Big Dickinson Lake
This small neighborhood of 956 residents takes its name from the lake at its center. The community features midcentury modern homes that have a very affordable median price of $74,100 and a median rent price of $686. With lower than average housing prices come some higher than average crime rates. If you’re interested in this neighborhood, try to get potential neighbors’ views on crime, and maybe even consider starting a Neighborhood Watch program.
The Kontiki African Restaurant, 4.5 stars on Yelp, is a must-try for ethnic cuisine lovers. You’ll relish the smells and flavors of jollof rice and stew, cassava leaves and rice, and peanut butter soup and rice.
College Station Elementary School serves students K-5 and has a 4/10 rating, Fuller Middle School serves 6-8 grades and has a 3/10 rating, and Wilbur D Mills High School has a 4/10 rating.
According to Niche.com, River Mountain is the #1 ‘Best Neighborhood to Buy a House in Little Rock’ and is about a 15- to 20-minute drive northeast from downtown. The median home value is $259,889, and 73% of the 13,353 residents own their homes. River Mountain has a suburban vibe, and most of the houses have large, tree-filled yards. Homes to the north of the neighborhood may even have a river view.
Delicious Temptations, rated four stars on Yelp, is a popular spot for breakfast and brunch. Fans of Mediterranean food will want to seek out Istanbul Mediterranean, which claims the title of Little Rock’s only Turkish restaurant.
Fulbright Elementary School is rated 5/10, Joe T Robinson Middle School is rated 5/10, and Central High School has a 7/10 rating.
Capital View/Stiff is about a six-minute drive northeast of downtown Little Rock. This neighborhood is rated the #1 ‘Best Place to Raise a Family in Little Rock,’ and the #2 ‘Most Diverse Neighborhood in Little Rock,’ according to niche.com. Capital View/Stiff is a densely populated, suburban-feeling neighborhood of 3,043 residents.
About 55% own their homes where the median home price is $150,520, and the median rent price is $828. Both housing prices are about on par with Little Rock averages. It’s a very family and dog-friendly neighborhood, so if you qualify in one or both of those categories, this will probably be music to your kids’ and dogs’ collective ears.
The Oyster Bar, rated four stars, is a casual place to get your seafood fix, and Stone’s Throw Brewing Stiff Station Taproom, rated five stars on Yelp, is a cozy place for a bite and cold beers with friends.
Pulaski Heights Elementary School is rated 6/10, Pulaski Heights Middle School has a 4/10 rating, and Central High School has a 7/10 rating.
Unlike the suburban feel of many of the other neighborhoods, Downtown, with a population of 6,391, is urban through and through. Many of the older homes have been renovated and restored, and condo living has become very popular with beautiful new buildings popping up in recent years. Many condos have lovely views of the Arkansas River.
The median home price for the Downtown neighborhood is $137,400, and the median rent is $662, both below-average housing prices for Little Rock. Affordable housing and a revitalization project that’s livening up the downtown are reasons why new residents are flocking to the area.
If you’re looking for a great breakfast and brunch spot, look no further than The Root Café, rated 4.5 stars on Yelp. South On Main, rated 3.5 stars, is a place where you can grab a drink and hear some live music.
Schools that serve Downtown are Gibbs Magnet Elementary School with a 7/10 rating, Dunbar Magnet Middle School rated 3/10, and Central High School, rated 7/10.
Just north of the Little Rock Zoo, and a seven-minute drive (3 ½ miles) west of Downtown, Hillcrest is a neighborhood built around Allsopp Park and Knoop Park. Allsopp Park has a great hiking loop, and Knoop Park has beautiful views. The median home value in Hillcrest is $230,450, while the median rent price is $890.
This historic district of 6,212 residents was Little Rock’s first suburb. Here, you’ll find lovely trees and vintage homes with yards. Residents love the restaurants and shopping options. Big Orange, rated 4.5 stars on Yelp, is a favorite spot for a burger, and Ciao Baci, 4.5 stars on Yelp, is a trendy spot for tapas and a glass of wine.
Pulaski Heights Elementary serves grades K-5 and has a 6/10 rating, Pulaski Heights Middle School has a 4/10 rating, and Central High School has a 7/10 rating.
This neighborhood is just over a ten-minute drive southeast of downtown Little Rock and has a population of around 12,652. About 53% of residents own their homes, and the median home price is $107,838; the median rent is $652. The affordable housing costs have attracted many families to John Barrow, particularly a growing Latinx population.
Zangna Thai Cuisine, which scores four stars on Yelp, is a favorite with locals. Be sure to enjoy their homemade coconut ice cream. If you’re searching for a place where you can watch the game while downing some wings and beers, then look no further than The Wing Shack Bar and Grill, which also scores a solid four stars on Yelp.
Schools that serve students in this neighborhood include Western Hills Elementary School, rated 4/10; Henderson Middle School, which has a 2/10 rating; and Parkview Magnet High School, 7/10.
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