President Bill Clinton in many respects put Arkansas on the world’s map. I remember introducing a friend from Arkansas to my host dad in Florence, Italy. He instantly remarked upon hearing where he was from, “Oh Arkansas, Bill Clinton!” Travelers often skip the Natural State, but there are plenty of presidential traces across this part of the country worth exploring. Just as Bill celebrated his 66th birthday, you might consider heading to Arkansas for these Clinton haunts.
Bill Clinton’s Birthplace--Hope: The 42nd president of the United States was born August 19, 1946 in the town of Hope, Arkansas. Today you can tour his childhood home on 117 S. Hervey Street. Bill lived with his widowed mother and parents in the American Foursquare style home for 4 years. Much of the home has been kept as it was when Bill was a boy. The home has also lands on the National Register of Historic Places. If you are in Hope for a while, you can also visit the Hope Visitor Center and Museum. Set up in the restored 1912 railroad depot, the museum also contains exhibits on Hope’s most famous native.
The Historic Clinton Trail--Hot Springs: Arkansas’ Spa City should be your next stop on a Clinton tour. From Hope, Clinton moved to Hot Springs with his mother and stepfather. You can take a peek at the outside of the now private home that he lived in on 1011 Park Avenue. The Historic Clinton Trail in Hot Springs also details other Clinton haunts in town. If you are hungry, you can head to two Clinton hangouts, McClard’s Barbecue or the Polar Bar. McClard’s was considered his favorite barbecue joint while the Polar Bar dished out his prized chili cheeseburger. Other Hot Springs Clinton attractions include his high school, the old Hot Springs High School and the West Mountain Overlook. Clinton used to come with his friends to this sheltered overlook in Hot Springs National Park.
Clinton House Museum--Fayetteville: Bill passed by this home on the way to taking Hillary to the airport. He was teaching at the University of Arkansas Law School in Fayetteville. She remarked how much she liked the one bedroom home in Fayetteville. Bill bought it and proposed. It would go on to be the Clinton House Museum, the first home for the couple. They married in the living room of the 1,800 square feet brick bungalow. The museum holds memorabilia of Clinton’s early political career along with a replica of Hillary’s wedding dress. It also chronicles the president’s time in this corner of northwest Arkansas.
William J. Clinton Presidential Center--Little Rock: Set up in the Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, this massive structure caps off any tour of Clinton’s Arkansas. The buildings houses the largest archival collection in presidential history, all while providing insight into the times in which Clinton led the United States. You can see a full-scale replica of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room. You can also browse through exhibits on all of the stages of Clinton’s life. If you have ever wondered what sort of gifts Clinton amassed from visiting dignitaries and celebrities, the center contains an exhibit on all of those offerings. You can see items like Lance Armstrong’s yellow jersey and an autographed Hank Aaron baseball.
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