Things to Do in NWA: Bentonville Favorites + Fayetteville, Eureka Springs AND MORE!
Northwest Arkansas (NWA) is getting to be a hopping place! Call it the Walmart effect, but this whole area is a testament to what can happen when a tremendous amount of money funds a master plan.
Throw in the natural beauty of the Ozarks and you’ve got the perfect storm for a region that’s becoming one of the quickest growing areas in the US.
So what exactly are we talking about? These days, the northwest corner of Arkansas seemingly revolves around the (used to be) tiny town of Bentonville.
To the south, you’ve got Fayetteville. Home of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville has long been the area’s cultural hub.
And you can’t forget about Eureka Springs. This quaint Victorian inspired mountain town has been bringing in visitors for ages.
Things to Do in NWA
Since I like not terribly far away in Tulsa, OK, I’ve made it a goal to spend a bit more time in the NWA area. There’s always something going on!
I’ll use this post as a collection of all the cool places I find out about so I can share them with you:
Let’s start with Bentonville. It’s the place in NWA that I’ve spent the most time. We run over here pretty often for the day (or an overnight trip) because there’s always something going on.
Here are some things I’ve found to spend some time:
This is the big attraction in Bentonville and it’s done on such a high level that it’s really made the whole area a destination.
The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was opened in 2011 initially with the personal collection of arts patron Alice Walton (yes, that Walton) and it’s now home to one of the most impressive American art collections…anywhere.
Yes, the art is amazing, but honestly, the museum itself is almost the main feature here. Or it at least holds pulls its own weight ; )
The museum is built on 120 acres of wooded land not far from downtown and of course it’s connected to NWA’s extensive trail system. There are over five miles of walking trails on the property that feature art experiences.
One of my favorite features is a Frank Lloyd Wright home that was purchased by the museum and relocated onto the grounds.
The main museum is always free, but you’ll pay extra for special exhibitions (and there are always good ones).
And like any good art museum worth its salt, the gift shop here is FABULOUS.
Bentonville’s “downtown” square is the gathering place for the whole community. It’s completely charming, full of restaurants and shops, and usually always landscaped and decorated for the season. It’s the Ozark version of Stars Hollow.
There are a ton of bike/outdoor shops and cute boutiques, but don’t miss Once Upon a Time Books! They have a great collection of used and vintage books.
The Walmart Museum
When in Rome, right? The Walmart Museum is housed in the original Walton’s 5&10 on the square and there’s a super cute soda fountain inside.
This is the place to know everything you’d ever want to know about how Walmart started and Sam Walton himself. It’s free to enter.
This redesigned warehouse is a contemporary art space that hosts exhibits daily (10AM-6PM/8PM on the weekends, closed Mondays). It’s a satellite location of Crystal Bridges that focuses on contemporary visual and performing arts. It’s usually kind of dead unless there’s an event going on so if you’re planning a trip there I would definitely check the calendar first.
The Onyx Coffee Lab has a really cool space here. It’s all pink and they use a conveyor belt to bring your order out.
There’s a fun little gift shop and gallery space inside that you can just wander around.
Also, the rooftop Tower Bar is supposed to be THE place to be in Bentonville in the evenings. I haven’t been yet!
Concert at the Walmart AMP
The Walmart AMP in between Bentonville and Rogers is a great place to see a concert. And they get some pretty big names too! We saw the Dixie Chicks here and it was a blast. There is some assigned seating in the lower bowl, but general admission is just a large grassy area and you just sit wherever you can find a spot.
Where to Eat in Bentonville
The Preacher’s Son: This is my favorite spot for a nice dinner in Bentonville. It’s in a restored church plus there’s a rooftop bar and a basement speakeasy.
Onyx Coffee Lab: Onyx seems like the hub of activity around the square. Everybody comes and goes from here.
They’ve got a really cute outpost at the Momentary too!
Ozark Mountain Bagel Co: When you need something a little more than just coffee.
Buttered Biscuit: THE place to come for a good southern style breakfast!
Table Mesa Bistro: Upscale Mexican food.
Tavola Trattoria: A great spot for Italian food.
Where to Stay in Bentonville
Museum 21C Hotel: This is the best place to stay if you want to be right downtown in Bentonville. It has a chic/luxe/modern vibe and a fun restaurant on site. They also have complimentary bike valet services including a wash station and storage.
I’ve also stayed at the Courtyard Bentonville Rogers Promenade which is a super convenient location if you’re going to a concert at the Walmart AMP.
Mountain Biking in Bentonville
Okay, I’ve touched on all of the “cultural” things to do in and around Bentonville, but what I haven’t covered yet is the MOUNTAIN BIKING. And this is by far the best example for the whole “if you have enough money, you can make anything happen” argument. Walmart has pumped an untold amount of money (for sure tens of millions, possibly hundreds at this point) into making Bentonville the “Mountain Biking Capital of the World.” And by gosh, they’ve about done it.
Now I’ll be clear…I know next to nothing about mountain biking, but people who are pros are pretty impressed with this place.
The urban trails, wilderness/mountain trails, bike parks, and greenways that connect this entire area of NWA (from Bella Vista down to Fayetteville) are absolutely insane. And they’ve got plans to keep going possibly all the way to Little Rock.
Whether you’re a casual rider, a family with kids, or seasoned professionals, this is the place you want to come.
Like I said, it’s a little overwhelming to me and I don’t know much about this world, but I appreciate that it’s a big deal and I’m going to make it a point to get on the trails soon! Maybe even with a guided tour.
Pea Ridge National Military Park
Just about 20 minutes east of Bentonville (on the way to Eureka Springs), you’ll find the historic Civil War battlefield called Pea Ridge.
The Battle of Pea Ridge was fought on March 7-8, 1862 and was considered to be the most important Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi River. It was key in determining the fate of Missouri. I haven’t been here yet, but it’s at the top of my list for my next NWA adventure.
This isn’t technically in NWA (it’s in Lampe, MO), but it’s sooooo close and I love it sooooo much that I have to include it here.
Let’s continue on with our “if you have enough money, you can build anything” theme as we pass over the Missouri state line.
The Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is the showpiece of the Johnny Morris Conservation Foundation (Bass Pro) and it’s exactly what you’d expect it to be…over the top magnificent.
After hearing about this place for years, I finally made the trip this year for the PEAK DOGWOOD BLOOM. And WOW.
This 10,000 acre natural playground has been handled just right…it’s been left largely untouched with just a few world class amenities added.
You could easily spend a full day here.
There are 6.5 miles of paved trails plus 9 miles of nature trails that you can hike or bike (rentals on site).
There’s trout fishing (of course), horseback riding and plenty of educational programs.
Don’t miss the treehouse built by Treehouse Masters! And be sure to sign up for one of the tram tours in advance because they sell out (and that’s the only way to see the bison).
Lunch at the Mill and Canyon Grill restaurant is VERY good. We loved the trout cakes and the burger was great.
And of course there’s a full fledge gift shop.
As you can see, you can easily spend a full day here. It’s $20/person to enter.
Stay tuned for more updates on Fayetteville and Eureka Springs!