Does your soul need to be fed?
In this era of often limited travel budgets due to the pandemic, there is a town that needs to be on your list of places to safely visit. Bentonville, located in northwest Arkansas, is within driving distance of many Texas cities and towns. And, it offers so many opportunities to feed your soul.
Most of the experiences in Bentonville are either free or low cost. That’s because Walmart Headquarters and the Walmart Foundation are both located here. The Walton family has made a commitment to creating a destination that rivals any other in the United State of America.
This gem of a small town rivals Colorado destinations for mountain biking trails, Washington, DC for museums and New York City for restaurants. Regardless of which part of your soul—your head, your heart or your body—you want to feed, Bentonville has experiences for one or all three.
The first stop helps the traveler appreciate all the gems Bentonville has to offer. The Walmart Museum tells the early story of Sam Walton and what an amazing man he was. Now a world leader, Walmart began in 1950 as a five and dime store and the museum is where that store once stood. You will see the 1979 Ford F150 pickup truck that Walton drove until his death in 1992, even though he was a multi-millionaire. Advance reservations needed. Free entry.
A visit to the Scott Family Amazeum will feed the mind of the littles in your family. This is a world class children’s museum with both traveling exhibits and exhibits created in-house. A new exhibit is under construction that will replace the Thomas the Train exhibit. Experiences incorporate art and science. There’s even a real Walmart 18-wheeler truck cab where children can sit in the cab and see what is under the hood. Make reservations to visit. $10/person over 2 years old. Free Wednesday nights.
The crown jewel of not only NW Arkansas but the entire state is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Bringing people, art, and nature together is at the core of Crystal Bridge’s mission, and nature-centric architecture is a key factor. Taking up 2 million square feet of space, there is something for everyone here. Crystal Bridges was made by Walmart heiress Alice Walton who dreamt for years of building a world-class museum of American art in her hometown.
You’ll need at least two hours, and it could take a full day to see it all. Amazingly, entry to the permanent exhibits is free, although reservations are required. Explore the museum before your visit by checking out their virtual tours. Be sure to download the tour app before you go to make your visit more meaningful. A highlight is “After the Last Supper”. Using over 20,000 spools of thread, American artist Devorah Sperber created this monumental work that is the life-sized recreation of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” A viewing sphere, positioned in front of the work, shrinks or condenses the thread spool “pixels” into a recognizable image.
Not to be missed, and the reason for a visit to Bentonville on its own, is the North Forest Lights exhibit, through April 4. Enjoy an enchanted nighttime walk through the woods featuring dynamic, nature-inspired lighting elements, and immersive soundscapes. Five distinct installations bring the soul of the forest to life in a captivating, family-friendly experience. Pro Tip: Dress warm, as it is all outdoors. Purchase tickets in advance as it often sells out.
Bentonville is a cycling mecca, again thanks to the Walton family. Regardless of if you are a beginner or expert, a mountain biker or like to stay on the pavement, there is something for you. If driving from Texas, just throw your bike on the back of your car and make this activity free. There are also many bike shops in town that rent bikes, including electric bikes. Just make sure you have reservations since the rentals go fast.
The main mountain bike trails in town are Slaughter Pen and Coler Mountain Bike Preserve. Bike Bentonville has full information on the vast trail systems you can visit near town. Paved trails run through Bentonville and through the middle of both Slaughter Pen and Coler Mountain. If you don’t bike but like to be outdoors, you can walk the hiker-friendly off-road or paved trails.
Treat yourself to a breakfast out at one of the several Buttered Biscuit locations, a traditional breakfast stop that promises to leave you full until way after lunch. For lunch, Oven & Tap is the place to go. Named for its custom-built wood fired oven and tap wall, it sits just off the downtown Bentonville square. Don’t be surprised when you order a pizza and have plenty left over for another meal. There’s an outdoor patio and they also do carryout.
If you make Crystal Bridges one of your stops, plan to have lunch at Eleven Restaurant, right inside the museum. Tables are spaced out for safety and the menu is affordable. The view is amazing looking out of glass walls onto the museum’s wooded outdoor area.
For an exquisite evening, stop in at The Hive for a cocktail. Try the Hive N Dime for something really special. The Hive part of the 21C Hotel, and you’ll feel you’re inside a beehive thanks to the art on the walls. Follow up with dinner at The Preachers Son in a thoughtfully-restored historic church just steps from the Bentonville City Square. The elegant stained glass windows make this a destination in itself.
Where to Stay
The best Airbnb choice in Bentonville is the “3rd Street ❤️ of historic and market district” house. Everything is simply perfect. Centrally located, it easily sleeps ten, in four super comfortable bedrooms, and has three bathrooms, all remodeled. The den in this mid-century home is spacious. And, there’s no searching in the kitchen as all drawers and cabinets are labeled for convenience.
You’ll be greeted by bottled water in the refrigerator, coffee to get you through the morning and some light pre-packaged snacks in the kitchen. There’s even a separate area with its own small kitchen, washing machine, dryer, sitting area and bathroom.
The back yard is huge and there is plenty of parking in front of the house. Historic downtown and cycling trails are accessible from the house by bike. Plus, you can bring your bikes inside without worrying about messing up the floors as they are wood laminate in most of the house.
If you are not convinced yet that you need a trip to Bentonville, one last fun fact is that there are over 130 pieces of public art to be enjoyed. These pieces vary from murals on the side of buildings to free standing sculptures to neon light pieces around town. Everyone is sure to have a favorite.
Cover Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Photo courtesy Visit Bentonville/@1soulfulginger
Selena Swartzfager is a nonprofit president, an amateur athlete, mountain bike enthusiast, lover of outdoor adventures and life. Her favorite type of travel feeds all three parts of her soul, the head, heart and body. The visit to Bentonville was a bucket list item and she can’t wait to go back. Her favorite piece of public art in Bentonville is Sassy, the female sasquatch made of recycled bike chains.