Don't Miss These 8 Things to Do in Bentonville, Arkansas

disclaimer: this post is sponsored by Crystal Bridges in partnership with Soapbox Influence. As always all opinions are 100% my own. I wouldn't tell you about something I didn't love. Promise.

I've got to admit, Northwest Arkansas has not been high on my must travel list. Fine, it hasn't been on the list at all, but after a quick visit this past weekend, every single objection I might have had to visiting has gone out the window. Part of me wants to convince you that you should go for a visit, the other part of me wants me to keep all of this goodness a secret so that people don't flock there in droves. Bentonville is the fastest growing city in Arkansas so I'm pretty sure the secret is out, so I guess there is no reason not to tell you about this cute little town that should be making it to the top of your must travel list.
northwest Arkansas town square
I made the mistake of calling Bentonville a sleepy little town when I shared a serene picture I snapped of the empty downtown streets in my Instagram stories. I was quickly corrected by a local who told me that Bentonville, AK is anything but sleepy. The downtown area that is normally hip and happening just happened to get blanketed in about an inch of snow and ice that was slippery as snot. Signs hung on the windows of storefronts that said "closed due to inclement weather" and boutique shops I popped into were having flash sales because of the snow. It was like I got my own private tour of Bentonville and look forward to returning once the snow melts and the town has woken up. In the meantime, here are 8 things you aren't going to want to miss on your visit to Bentonville, Arkansas.
family at crystal bridges art museum

Visiting Bentonville, Arkansas
northwest Arkansas visit

How to Get to Bentonville, Arkansas

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport {XNA} has 40 flights a day to 15 destinations. While I couldn't get a direct flight from Seattle, it was an easy flight for me to DFW before heading on my way. I chuckled a bit when I looked at the notes of my requested Uber after I had landed. It told me to meet in front of the main terminal. Funny, it's also the only terminal! 
A quick 20-minute ride from the airport to my hotel in Bentonville had me gazing at plenty of wide open spaces and wandering past lots of Walmarts. 
If Seattle is known for a Starbucks on every corner, Bentonville is known for its ability to throw a stone and hit a Walmart in any direction. Bentonville is the home of Walmart so it's no surprise.

Where to Stay in Bentonville, Arkansas

When I pick a place to stay, my ideal location is walking distance to everything. You can't get more ideal than the 21C Museum Hotel located just off the town square in downtown Bentonville. This quirky boutique hotel allows you to be a part of a museum experience. The whole first floor is a contemporary art museum with carefully curated exhibitions. That's not where the art stops though. My absolute favorite part about my whole experience staying at the 21C Museum Hotel was the penguins, a little interactive art installation that sets this whole hotel apart from the rest.
21c hotels

Why Are There Penguins at the 21C Hotel?

What started out as a limited time museum exhibition at the founding hotel in Louisville, KY has turned into an interactive encounter that puts this hotel in a class of its own. The penguins were created to raise awareness about environmental issues but have turned into, in my opinion, the best thing about this boutique hotel experience. These 4-foot tall penguins are now at every 21C Hotel location {each location has a signature color}. 

the hive restaurant with penguin

Want a penguin in your room? No problem! Dining alone? Not anymore! There are no rules for the penguins, other than they have to stay on hotel property. Guests and hotel staff alike can move them around the hotel and into The Hive restaurant, surprising and delighting guests at every turn. 

What to Do in Bentonville, Arkansas

1. Visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

crystal bridges museum
What if I told you that one of America's best {and newest} art museums was located in Bentonville, Arkansas. Stifle your chuckle, it's true. Crystal Bridges was founded by the Walton Family Foundation with Alice Walton leading the charge. The museum never has an admission fee due to the generous sponsorship by WalMart {though there are occasional fees for special exhibits}, not only that, but the museum also covers the fees to bring school children in covering bus transportation, substitute teacher fees, and lunch costs. The museum wants to make art accessible for all and it's evident. 
The building itself is a work of art. Crystal Bridges is nestled in the dense Ozark forest and two bridges spanning the spring-fed ponds give the museum its name. Sculpture and walking trails link the museum to the downtown Bentonville area so everything feels fluid.
crystal bridges men of steel women of wonder
I was impressed by the permanent art collection that was on display but even more impressed with the carefully curated exhibition Men of Steel, Women of Wonder developed by Crystal Bridges own assistant curator that will be coming February 9-April 22 {admission is $12 for adults}. Two of the most popular superheroes, Superman and Wonder Woman inspire artists responses as they dig deeper into how we all connect to superheroes. Those artists dig into complex issues like social justice, national identity, American values, and humanity. It's going to be an exhibit you won't want to miss.

2. Visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Bachman-Wilson Home

frank lloyd wright house
I feel like I have always been familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright but I've never stepped on the property of one of his homes. Arguably one of the most notable American architects his designs were made to complement nature, not compete with it. While the home wasn't originally built in Arkansas, it has been relocated to the most perfect spot on the grounds of Crystal Bridges Museum. Admission is free, though you do need a ticket as space is limited.

3. Walk {or bike} the Art Trails

crystal bridges trails
The trails and grounds of Crystal Bridges Art Museum are as much a part of the museum experience as what's inside. Start by downloading the free outdoor app that will give you interactive trail maps, art and plant guides, and audio-tour information about the grounds. There are more than four miles of paved trails that wind around outdoor sculptures, by natural springs and native plants. The 21C Museum Hotel has complimentary bikes and the Crystal Bridges trailhead is just down the road.

4. Visit the Walmart Museum

This is another free museum worth the stop inside. Take a self-guided tour around the museum that is housed in the store where it all began. I was inspired by Sam Walton's 10 rules for building a business and found that Sam and I share a love for ice cream, which leads me to my next suggestion...

5. Eat Ice Cream at The Spark Cafe Soda Fountain

ice cream cone at 50's diner
The Walmart museum tour ends inside The Spark Cafe where you can get an old-fashioned soda fountain experience with equally old-fashioned prices. For under a dollar you can get a hand-scooped ice cream cone and enjoy your treat in the 50's style diner. If you want to really try something authentic, Sam Walton's favorite flavor was Butter Pecan. 

Fun fact: The spark is what they call the six-pointed burst in the Walmart logo

6. Wake Up with Onyx Coffee Lab

coffee art and avocado toast at onyx coffee lab
This coffee lover would be remiss if I didn't mention Onyx Coffee Lab. Not only did I feel like my coolness factor got elevated 100% when I walked in the doors, but I also had the best mocha made with Ecuadorian chocolate and black salt. The avocado toast with pickled onion was pretty great too. Keep your eyes on their social accounts for information on coffee tastings, classes, and events. 

7. Shop and Eat Your Way Around the Bentonville Town Square

the hive restaurant drink
I'm a big fan of shopping and eating local when I'm in an area. I think it really helps you get a feel for the one-of-a-kind flare an area gives off. The Bentonville Town Square is no different. With restaurants like The Hive and Pressroom sourcing local ingredients and flavors, you can get a real taste for the area. Enjoy a cocktail at Scotch & Soda and then drop into a few of the local boutique shops for some retail therapy. I loved shopping at Remedy Road, a local boutique that is on a mission to sell beautiful products and support the artisans behind them. Each of the brands they carry is committed to making an impact on the world around them and I'm all about supporting that.

8. Visit the Local Walmart

After I stopped in at the Walmart museum, I learned that Washington State where I reside was one of the very last states to get this megastore. It doesn't have the same history where I come from like it does in Bentonville, which is why I recommend a stop into the downtown Bentonville Neighborhood Market. I heard a local say that their local Walmart's are nicer than any Target and they were right. It's worth getting a feel for what this local megastore feels like in its hometown.
bentonville arkansas map
I'm not sure you need to take my word for it, you just need to book a trip. I know I'm not even scratching the surface! Move Bentonville, Arkansas high up your list of must-see places and get there quick. You aren't going to want to miss the Men of Steel, Women of Wonder exhibit at Crystal Bridges happening February 9-April 22, just in time for spring break travel!
Have you been to Bentonville, Arkansas? What did I miss? 

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disclaimer: this post is sponsored by Crystal Bridges in partnership with Soapbox Influence. As always all opinions are 100% my own. I wouldn't tell you about something I didn't love. Promise.


Dara @ Not In Jersey said...

We went to Bentonville last year in January and really liked it! We also enjoyed the children's museum that is next to the art museum!

Jennifer said...

We loved Bentonville - it is so charming and family-friendly! This is a great summary of what it has to offer <3

An Trieu said...

I haven't been to Arkansas, but it's on my list! noted all of your recommendation! :x

Sarvan said...

Tour like is always a special thing be it with anyone friends, families or anyone else. So what ever you plan do it with perfection so that there is no chaos at the end. You should Plan for a destination which has peace and serenity so that you can relax your holidays at the fullest.

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