Located in the northwest corner of Arkansas, Bentonville used to be a sleepy little town. Then Sam Walton got the great idea of helping people save money and live better, opening a five-and-dime called Walton’s on the square and beginning a chain of stores worldwide called Walmart that would change retail history.
His vision also transformed both Bentonville and the region, with Walmart attracting businesses that support the global conglomerate and producing the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport with daily flights to 15 destinations.
Today, Bentonville attracts art lovers to the massive Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (call ahead to confirm hours due to coronavirus closings) and the new Momentary, Crystal Bridges’ satellite contemporary art space. Outdoors enthusiasts visit for the regional miles of established biking and nature trails. The culinary scene continues to evolve and attract acclaim and accommodations run the gamut. And beyond the modern attractions lies historic sites and Native American history, not to mention the incredible story of Sam Walton.
Arts patron Alice Walton founded Crystal Bridges Museum of Art to showcase five centuries of American art, along with traveling exhibits. The building, designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, is as much a piece of art as the masterworks inside. Best of all, admission is free to the museum and grounds are open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information and to view their schedule of events, visit crystalbridges.org.
This past February, Crystal Bridges opened a satellite art space in downtown Bentonville called The Momentary. The decommissioned cheese factory has been transformed into a multidisciplinary space for contemporary visual and performing arts, culinary events and festivals. Like its mother property, admission is free and there are numerous dining opportunities, including the Tower Bar serving up cocktails with a lovely view of Bentonville.
There are over 40 miles of bike trails within the city limits of Bentonville, a city that’s focused on becoming a destination for mountain bikers and cyclists. Biking trails stretch out into the region from Bentonville, so the city also serves as a hub for those wanting to tackle the Ozark Mountain landscape. Trails are designed for all ages and skills as well. Visit Bike Bentonville at visitbentonville.com/bike for more information.
Visit Crystal Bridges for its unique architecture and American artwork but don’t miss the trails and grounds surrounding the buildings. There are more than four miles of nature trails that wind through the 120 acres filled with streams, waterfalls, unique landscaping and outdoor sculptures. Special architectural pieces to enjoy along the trails include Buckminster Fuller’s “Fly’s Eye Dome” on the North lawn, the Frank Lloyd Wright House and “The Way of Color,” where visitors gather for the sunrise and sunset experiences daily.
The Museum of Native American History showcases artifacts dating as far back as the Paleo Period, an exquisite collection of native pottery and holds events including storytime and arts workshops. Admission is free.
There’s a culinary vibe happening in Bentonville these days, from the James Beard Award-finalist restaurant The Preacher’s Son to Yeyo’s Mexican restaurant, which evolved from a family farm to food truck to brick-and-mortar space. Rafael Rios of Yeyo was nominated this year for a Beard Award for “Best Chef – South.” New to town is Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food, part of NorthWest Arkansas Community College, that teaches cooking to individuals as well as students with an emphasis on culinary nutrition and artisanal food.