As a self proclaimed Southern Ambassador, I’m embarrassed to admit that just a few years ago, I knew very little about the state of Arkansas. Any knowledge I had was from driving through on a road trip.
That’s why when I was invited to visit Bentonville on a get-to-know us trip with the Visit Bentonville team, I jumped at the opportunity to learn a little more about this part of the Natural State.
What I discovered is a charming small town with a big-hearted community offering tons of big city activities. Let’s chat about a few of the many reasons why you should visit Bentonville.
Why You Should Visit Bentonville, Arkansas
Reason #1: Location
With an adorable town square and a mixture of plenty of things to do, Bentonville is ideal for couples, families, a girl’s trip or anyone looking for a fun, outdoorsy vacation or getaway. Even solo travelers won’t get bored.
Bentonville’s location is not only incredibly convenient but it’s surrounded by the beauty of the Ozarks. Within just a couple of hours are an abundance of state parks, conservation areas and other charming mountain towns.
Just 215 miles from Little Rock, 209 miles from Kansas City and 219 miles from Oklahoma City, Bentonville is situated perfectly for an Arkansas road trip or makes a nice detour on a cross-country interstate road trip.
Bonus: Did you know that Arkansas also has a wine trail? Yep! And you could easily incorporate it into a visit or road trip to Bentonville.
Reason #2: Unique Restaurants
You may know Bentonville as the home of the corporate offices of Walmart. One of the advantages of having a Fortune 500 company in town is that vendors come from all over the world to handle business. That means there’s a lot of diversity.
You can see that first-hand in Bentonville’s restaurants. Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Greek and Salvadorian – these are just a few of the different cuisines you’ll see You want ramen? You got it. Have a taste for arepas? You can get them too.
For a Southern town of less than fifty thousand, there are tons of food choices that many larger cities don’t even have.
Two of the restaurants at which I had the pleasure of dining, The Preacher’s Son and The Hive, turned out to be two of the best meals I’ve ever had. Who wouldn’t enjoy eating a meal in a church built in 1904 that’s now a restaurant?
Or a restaurant in a hotel that has it’s own museum and serves cotton candy for dessert? If those aren’t reasons to visit Bentonville, then I don’t know what is.
Reason #3 to Visit Bentonville: Community Spaces
Bentonville further fosters an atmosphere of community by creating spaces where people can actually get together and enjoy where they live. One of those spaces is the 8th Street Market.
Housed in what was once a Tyson Chicken plant – which let me just say is a brilliant repurpose of a building – there’s now a food hub with restaurants, shops, and even a brewery, all under one roof.
Reason #4: World Class Museums
Just like the restaurant scene, there’s no lack of diversity in the arts in Bentonville either. They pride themselves on their world class museums. Here’s a few of my favorites.
Crystal Bridges – a Museum of American Art – is the vision of Sam Walton’s daughter Alice. Since it’s opening, the museum has redefined what’s considered art. Not afraid to take chances with exhibitions, a visitor to Crystal Bridges knows they are in for something special as soon as they see “Yield” by Roxy Paine and “Maman” by Louise Bourgeois outside.
From the placement of the museum buildings in a wooded area to the water that surrounds the museum, the setting is simply amazing. Visitors can enjoy walking trails, unique sculptures and an entire Frank Lloyd Wright house that was moved piece by piece from New Jersey, all before you even step inside.
In the museum, there are works from famous artists like John Singer Sargent, Jackson Pollack and Andy Warhol – all in the same room. A true combination of art and nature, pieces are strategically placed to draw your eye outward the surrounding forest to give your vision a rest.
Like a lot of things in Bentonville, visiting the Museum of Native American History was a pleasant surprise. The facility showcases artifacts and pieces from indigenous groups across North and South America through 14,000 years of Native American history.
And it’s all done in a fun informative way. Kids will love the huge mammoth skeleton from Siberia, named “Tuskers”, that guards the door. Outside, there’s even a real teepee.
A few of the displays are interactive and just in case you want to know what you would have looked like in full tribal makeup, there’s a place for you to see that too.
Another fun museum – The Amazeum is perfect for kids, but with 50k square feet of exhibits, play areas and learning spaces, there’s enough to keep adults entertained as well.
Part museum, part science experiment, there are an abundance of activities, educational programs and things to climb on. Take time to enjoy the murals and the generally happy vibe of the place. Of course, it’s Bentonville, so you know there’s a small kid sized Walmart to play in, too.
Last but not least, the Walmart Museum is a must stop when visiting Bentonville. Sam Walton opened his first Walton’s 5-10 in 1950, right downtown on the Bentonville Square. Even though he isn’t originally from Bentonville, it’s where he created his business and watched his family grow up.
Besides all things Walmart, the tour, offers a glimpse into Mr. Walton’s personal life. His office – just as it was on his last day there – his old truck that he drove every day and stories about his beloved dogs make this tour even more special.
One of the things that actually made his stores a success was Mr. Walton’s love of ice cream. He loved that treat so much, when everyone else in town was giving away popcorn at their retail stores, Mr. Walton gave away ice cream and his customers loved it.
To keep that tradition going, The Spark Cafe, in the museum is designed to like a vintage ice cream shop with Mr. Walton’s favorite flavor, butter pecan. There’s even a special Walmart “Spark” flavor, named after the bright yellow spark in the logo.
Reason #5 Why You Should Visit Bentonville: Outdoor Spaces
Bentonville has definitely used its location in the Ozarks to the fullest by of the creating plenty of outdoor spots.
As the Mountain Biking Capital of the World, there’s hundreds of miles of trails through a variety of terrain. Many trails showcase art and and conveniently connect nature with downtown.
Additionally, there are multiple parks in the area. Osage Park is an urban park full of recreational adventures. Osage offers an exciting destination for visitors of all ages and abilities. Try your hand at archery or pickle ball or just stroll the boardwalks and explore the park’s 12 acres of wetlands.
Fishing and boating can also be enjoyed in the nearby lakes and rivers and Climb Bentonville, the only of it’s kind, has has climbing and fitness facilities available for the community.
Reason #6: Aviation
I love unique stories and the learning about the background of places. One of the most exciting reasons why you should visit Bentonville is to find out more about the town’s little piece of aviation history.
Surprisingly, Bentonville was home to a true aviation wonder named Louise Thaden. A record setting friend to Amelia Earhart, Ms. Thaden was the first woman to win a National Air Race in 1936. A huge feat especially at that time.
Bentonville paid homage to Ms. Thaden by naming their small aircraft airfield after her. Thaden Field is the gateway to even more Arkansas adventure, offering scenic flights and remote fishing trips.
Additionally, The Fieldhouse at Thaden Field is a flight school, a FAA knowledge testing center and a place for pilots to hang out. It’s also open to the public so you can learn about Ms. Thaden and see the exhibition hangar with informative displays and interesting information.
While you are there – grab a bite to eat at the cafe called, you guessed it – Louise.
Reason #7: Community
Perhaps one of the best reasons you should visit Bentonville, is the one thing I’ve mentioned throughout this article – the community. After all, a community is only as good as it’s people and people are what make a destination worth visiting.
Time and time again, during my visit, I was amazed at how nice and helpful people were. I was in awe of the planning and effort the city of Bentonville puts into creating a thriving, happy community. At the same time, as they plan for the future, they still honor their past.
Quick Guide to Bentonville
Bentonville is located in the perfect location. Nestled in the northwest corner of Arkansas, in the Ozarks, Bentonville is approximately 215 miles from Little Rock and 209 miles from Kansas City.
Flights into this area arrive at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA). The airport serves the greater Bentonville area, Springdale, Fayetteville, – where the University of Arkansas is located – and Rogers, Arkansas.
Where to stay in Bentonville?
There’s plenty of nice, affordable places to stay in Bentonville. Downtown, near the square, 21 c Hotel is an uber cool hotel with a small museum on-site and The Hive restaurant I mentioned previously.
The Hilton Garden Inn is another great option. Even though it’s not downtown, it’s still convenient to many of the touristy sights. The suites are roomy and are perfect for families with children. With an on-site restaurant, indoor pool, fitness center and pet friendly, it’s the perfect choice. Plus it has free parking.
Getting Around Bentonville
Driving and getting around Bentonville is easy. If you stay downtown, you can even ditch the car and walk practically everywhere.
How much time do you need to visit Bentonville?
To see everything mentioned here, at least three days would be good. However, there’s so much more to do in the area. A family could easily spend a week based in the Bentonville area and include some day trips to nearby towns, state parks and even a national forest and have plenty to do.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Bentonville
Thank you to Visit Bentonville for inviting me to get to know a little bit about the northwest corner of Arkansas and see for myself just how special it is. Even though I was hosted by them, all the experiences and opinions are my own.
Sometimes we just need a little help to see an overlooked place. Bentonville wasn’t on my radar before but it certainly is now. I can’t wait to visit again and see what else they have planned. Hope you’ll visit too.
See you on the road!
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