The 12 Best Things To Do In Bentonville, Arkansas

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Once known solely as the birthplace of Walmart, Bentonville is making a new name for itself as a Southern hub for the arts and outdoors.

<p>Robbie Caponetto</p>

Robbie Caponetto

When folks travel in the South, Florida, Texas, and the Carolinas draw plenty of visitors. Arkansas, on the other hand, doesn’t get much attention. Outside of its capital of Little Rock, the natural attractions in Hot Springs, and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, few people are aware of all the state has to offer.

In years past, Bentonville, a town of just over 55,000 in the northwest corner of the state, was known for little else than being the birthplace of Walmart. When Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in 2011, there was finally another entity associated with Bentonville. Over the past decade, the town has blossomed into an up-and-coming travel destination. Folks come for the art and outdoor pursuits, most famously world-class mountain biking. Along the way, they discover Bentonville’s growing food scene and vibrant community of small businesses, and eventually they end up falling in love with the town altogether. In fact, our readers voted it one of the South's best cities on the rise for 2024 in our annual South's Best Awards.

If you’re planning a trip, the city’s attractions go far beyond Crystal Bridges (though you should definitely spend a day there). Here are the 12 best things to do in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Where To Take In The Arts

<p>Robbie Caponetto</p>

Robbie Caponetto

Start Your Visit at Crystal Bridges

Set on 120 gorgeous acres of Ozark wilderness, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is not your average art museum. Founded in 2011 by Alice Walton, heiress to the Walmart empire, Crystal Bridges is home to some of the most valuable and important pieces of American art. More than 3,600 pieces make up the accomplished collection that includes works by everyone from Rockwell to Chihuly. But the museum goes far beyond framed pieces. It’s also home to an entire Frank Lloyd-Wright house, transported in its entirety from New Jersey, and there are nature trails, including one that takes visitors to a natural bubbling spring, scattered all over the property.

<p>Robbie Caponetto</p>

Robbie Caponetto

Celebrate Modern Art at The Momentary

Across town, The Momentary continues Bentonville’s story in the arts. The sister facility to Crystal Bridges, housed in a former cheese factory, is dedicated to promoting performance, visual, and culinary arts. Exhibits and events range from indoor and outdoor concerts to performance art shows, contemporary art exhibitions, and pottery and fabric-dyeing classes. The culinary arts are represented through The Momentary’s myriad food and beverage options, including Onyx Coffee Lab, The Momentary Food Truck, The RØDE Bar, and The Tower Bar.

Gilles Mingasson / Contributor / Getty Images The Wal-Mart Museum Storefront
Gilles Mingasson / Contributor / Getty Images The Wal-Mart Museum Storefront

Discover History at The Walmart Museum

While the Walmart Museum and accompanying Walton’s 5-10 (the original five-and-dime where Sam Walton began his empire) are closed for renovations through spring 2024, a visit to Bentonville wouldn’t be complete without learning a little more about Walmart and the Walton family. For that, you’ll want to visit the Walmart Museum Heritage Lab, where you can see some of the museum’s original exhibits like the Wall of Returns and History of the Uniforms, and also get a sneak peek at new exhibits slated for the improved museum. Stop for refreshment at the Spark Café Soda Fountain, a tribute to founder Sam Walton's love of ice cream.

<p>Robbie Caponetto</p>

Robbie Caponetto

Take in the Public Art

Art abounds throughout Bentonville. More than 130 public art displays populate the city, from giant colorful murals and glowing neon signs to free-standing metal sculptures. Check out the city’s public art map, and create your own walking or driving itinerary to see as many works as possible during your stay.

<p>Courtesy of the Museum of Native American History</p>

Courtesy of the Museum of Native American History

Visit the Museum of Native American History

Established in 2006, the Museum of Native American History is dedicated to educating future generations about the lives of the first Americans. The museum houses more than 10,000 Native American artifacts from clothing and tools to decorative pottery and sculpture. In addition to its regular and rotating collections, the museum hosts several educational programs and events throughout the year.

What To Do Outdoors

<p>Getty Images / Wesley Hitt</p>

Getty Images / Wesley Hitt

Breathe in the Fresh Air at Coler Mountain Bike Preserve

Don’t let the name fool you. The stunning, natural Coler Mountain Bike Preserve isn’t just for hardcore cyclists. Anyone can come to run on the trails, stroll the walkways, camp overnight, or just enjoy a cup of coffee at Airship Coffee, a unique open-air cafe in the middle of the preserve that’s only accessible on foot or bike. Serious mountain bikers will be blown away by the 17-plus miles of flow, cross-country, rock, dual slalom, and flyover trails. And they’ll go crazy for the Hub, a 20-foot-tall steel and wood structure at the top of Coler Mountain that launches riders into three downhill runs.

<p>Courtesy of Peel Compton Foundation</p>

Courtesy of Peel Compton Foundation

Spend an Afternoon Outdoors at Osage Park

This urban park about a mile-and-a-half down the road from downtown Bentonville is a treasure trove of outdoor wonder. Osage Park includes a 12-acre wetland ecosystem, which you can explore via wetland boardwalks. You can also try your hand at archery or pickleball, visit pups at the dog park, or grab a bite to eat at the food truck park.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Take to the Skies at Thaden Field

Also known as the Bentonville Municipal Airport (VBT), Thaden Field is unlike any airport you’ve ever traveled through—or likely ever will. The complex houses a flight school, an exhibition hangar with vintage planes, and a full-service restaurant named for Louise Thaden, the decorated female pilot and Bentonville native for which the entire complex is also named. In addition, Thaden Field hosts backcountry flights, where anyone can charter a private flight with a pilot around the scenic Ozarks. If riding shotgun doesn’t fit your fancy, you can earn your pilot's license at Thaden Field's flight school.

Where To Eat And Shop

<p>Robbie Caponetto</p>

Robbie Caponetto

Try the Eats at 8th Street Market

Bentonville’s take on the classic food hall goes far beyond corralling the city’s best restaurants into one building. The community hub known as 8th Street Market brings together entrepreneurs, chefs, and farmers into a unique indoor-outdoor space that serves as a gathering space for locals. In addition to dining options like Co-Op Ramen, Yeyo’s Mexican, and South Market’s many food stalls and trucks, 8th Street is also home to businesses like Cocoon Yoga Lab, Hillfolk textile studio and shop, and Bike Rack Brewing Co.

<p>Robbie Caponetto</p>

Robbie Caponetto

Explore Downtown’s Shops and Restaurants

Colloquially known as the Bentonville Square, the heart of downtown Bentonville has plenty to discover. Pop into local shops and galleries like Art on the Square, Bentonville Provisions for kitchen goods and gifts, and Two Friends Books. Then head to The Preacher’s Son for an eclectic menu of globally inspired eats in a restored church. If you want to set up a home base in the area, book a room at the 21C Museum Hotel

What To Do Nearby

<p>Robbie Caponetto</p>

Robbie Caponetto

Visit a Popular College Town

In the Ozark foothills, Fayetteville is a welcoming college town. Home to the University of Arkansas, it’s also a good spot to rent a bike and explore the area. The Razorback Greenway has 40 miles of trails that connect seven communities, including Bentonville. View sights from the paved greenway, and stop for lunch at one of the restaurants along the way.

Explore Eureka Springs

While there’s more than enough to stay busy in Bentonville, venture out a little further from town for other can’t-miss spots. Head to the quirky town of Eureka Springs, just an hour away, to see the historic downtown featuring a mix of architecture, explore caves and caverns, and shop eclectic boutiques.

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Read the original article on Southern Living.