Keen on a vacation in the Ozarks? Northwest Arkansas, a region brimming with natural beauty, cultural richness, and a plethora of activities, beckons travelers to explore its multifaceted attractions. From Bentonville's mountain biking trails to Fayetteville's historic charm, this region promises a unique blend of experiences that cater to adventurers, art enthusiasts, foodies, and families alike. Let's dive into why publications like The Wall Street Journal call Bentonville "the capital of cool." Of course, coolness is conferred to its immediate neighbors Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale too.
Bentonville Town Square, a historic downtown area, is full of boutique stores, sophisticated eateries, interesting architecture, and public art. It pulses with life throughout the year, with regular events like First Fridays. The farmers' markets in agricultural regions are the best, and you can expect mouthwatering fresh produce. Sign up for one of the many races that pass through the city center. If you're looking for more sedate entertainment, try a workshop at The Improv Lab, do a morning sesh at Yoga Story, or enjoy the live music at Meteor Guitar Gallery. In winter, little ones can peruse the kids' shelves at Bentonville Public Library or go ice skating at Lawrence Plaza.
Mountain bikers know all about Bentonville, the global capital of the sport, and the perfect place for a riding vacation. Before hitting the world-class paths on the Oz Trails network, you can stock up on equipment or rent from Phat Tire Bike Shop. Head for The Ledger, the world's first bikeable building, where you'll pedal for almost a mile, glimpsing art en route to the top. There are loads of parking spots around town.
Just half an hour away from Bentonville, Fayetteville is a college town with lots to offer visitors. Dickson Street is close to the University of Arkansas campus, so it's suitably lively and brims with youthful energy. Between Arkansas Ave and St Charles Ave, you'll find bars, cafes, and clubs. Fayetteville is also home to George Dombek's gallery and Art Ventures, and some of its buildings date back to the 18th century. Cyclists of all abilities are welcome here too—Razorback Greenway and Centennial Park thrill young and old.
Funded by Walmart heiress Alice Walton, the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art has helped make Bentonville a desirable location for culture connoisseurs. Architect Moshe Safdie designed a stunning building in a forested setting that's as inspiring as its contents. The museum's permanent collection features artworks from big names like Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell and from the Colonial era to contemporary times. You can walk or cycle the sculpture-dotted nature trails for a couple of hours before taking in the impressive pieces—you'll see plenty of wildlife, including deer, armadillos, and chipmunks. Dine at the eatery when you feel peckish.
One of the best ways to see "America's Victorian Village" is on the Eureka Trolley's red route, which moves through pretty, tree-lined Spring Street. You'll see street art, scenic views, and the Victorian architecture this town is known for: the possibly haunted Crescent Hotel, Rosalie House, Kerens House, Tatman House, Floyd House, and Carnegie Public Library. Art residences and galleries make Eureka Springs an LGBT-friendly aesthete magnet too. Arts lovers can wander through Wilson and Wilson or catch a show at The Aud or the Opera of the Ozarks.
"Frost Fest" is a Yeti-themed winter craft beer and microbrewery festival with more than alcohol on the menu. Food trucks, live art, and music performances round out this shindig for folks 21 and older. If you're not much of a drinker, you might be intrigued by the "Ragnar Trail Arkansas", a team endurance running event. The relay format allows participants to chill out around campfires and socialize. Then there's downtown's "Lights of the Ozarks," a free festive season experience to give you all the magical holiday feels.
When it comes to natural attractions and parks, visitors and residents are spoiled for choice in the Ozark Highlands. The Ramble is Fayetteville's newest park, smack-dab in town. It features wheelchair-accessible trails, soft surface paths, the paved multi-use trails of the Razorback Greenway, and Tanglewood Branch's stepping stones and amphitheater. At Hobbs State Park Conservation Area, you can do it all—camp, hike, fish, and go horseback riding. The Karst Loop is popular among cyclists, and there's an outdoor shooting range. Near Rogers, you'll find Beaver Lake, which is renowned for bass fishing and a bunch of other water-based activities. Work up an appetite before gobbling up a picnic.
Bentonville's diverse culinary options, from local delicacies to international cuisines, has garnered attention in recent years. Southern Living listed Conifer as one of its top new restaurants in the South for its great food and service. You'd do well to check out The Preacher's Son, which is in a gorgeous space influenced by John Ruskin's Seven Lamps manifesto and serves farm-to-table fare. The speakeasy, Undercroft, is in the basement. If it's bougie pizza, fried chicken, and mac and cheese you're after, you'll find much to love on Oven and Tap's menu.
There are award-winning theaters and live music venues galore in Fayetteville. George's Majestic Lounge is a highlight. Open for close to a century, the lounge showcases bands and artists with tremendous talent. Expect great acoustics for a range of genres and daily performances. Other venues to look out for include the Walton Arts Center, TheaterSquared, Symphony of Northwest Arkansas (SoNA), and Prairie Street Live for outdoor concerts. In Bentonville, The Momentary and Arend Arts Center are favorites.
All aboard! The Arkansas and Missouri Railroad (A&M) has its headquarters in Springdale and offers visitors to the region a chance to go on a historic train journey through the Boston mountains. Vintage rail cars accommodate passengers as the train passes by breathtaking vistas. It's a memorable day excursion for the whole family.
Spend a pleasant morning or afternoon at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, a not-for-profit organization in Fayetteville. It's a charming wedding and concert venue with a butterfly house packed with various types of native beauties. The annual firefly festival is beloved. Feed the chickens and stretch your legs solo or with company.
Bentonville is famous for two main things: mountain biking and being the home of Walmart. Yup, folks. This is where it all began in 1962. Well, technically it was six miles away in Rogers, but that's beside the point. Today, the town is still Walmart HQ. If you're in the area, the Walmart Musem is a free attraction where you can learn all about this mega brand's history.
The Walton Arts Center is just one example of how Walmart's founding family has invested in their hometown. Opened in 1992, it's one of the state's most important performing arts venues. The center's Broadway Series brings spectacular theatrical productions to eager local thespians. "To Kill a Mockingbird", "Disney's Aladdin," "Jagged Little Pill," and "Les Misérables" have been on the roster.
The plant-based dining scene in Fayetteville will leave vegetarians, vegans, and the health-conscious smiling from ear to ear. Seasonal ingredients and robust flavors are par for the first, second, and third courses. Check out Petra Cafe for a Mediterranean lunch, vibey Hammontree's for faux fromage, easy breezy Mamaka Bowls for wholesome beach food, and Zanzibar Kitchen for East African fare.
Game Day weekends in Fayetteville are buzzing, and there's tons to do before and after watching the Hogs play, from tailgating to feasting at spots like Herman's Ribhouse. Take selfies with the large-scale murals or catch a show. Come win or lose, you can celebrate or drown your sorrows on Dickson Street.