With 50,000 residents, the Ozark Mountain-adjacent town of Bentonville, Arkansas might not be a household name on its own, though one of its biggest names might be. You’ll find the beginnings of the Walmart Corporation right here in Northwest Arkansas. Even if that isn’t a draw for you, this scenic area is certainly one worth visiting.
Despite its size, Bentonville Arkansas is easy to get to by plane or a drive over from a series of metropolitan areas, like Dallas, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, and even St. Louis. Those treks range from around three hours to just shy of six, so a long weekend or longer stay is easily doable in Bentonville.
Ready to learn more? Here are 14 things to do in Bentonville AR that you don’t want to miss!
CRYSTAL BRIDGES MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
“The mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature,” according to the museum’s website.
Opened in 2011, this world-class free museum celebrates all things art, along with the beauty the Ozarks region has to offer. The name “Crystal Bridges” is derived from a nearby natural spring, combined with the bridge, which was built by well-known architect, Moshe Safdie.
The collection at Crystal Bridges currently showcases over 500 years worth of American artwork, which includes highlighting underrepresented artists. Some of the work seen here includes Marsden Hartley’s “Hall of the Mountain King,” Charles Willson Peale’s “George Washington” portrait, John Singer Sargent’s “Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife,” Louise Bourgeois’ “Maman,” and Edmonia Lewis’ “The Old Arrow Maker,” among many others.
Throughout the year, Crystal Bridges highlights different artistic modes or themes through a series of temporary exhibits. Since opening in 2011, those exhibits have run the gamut from topics such as American Encounters: Thomas Cole and the Narrative Landscape to Changing Perspectives of Native Americans.
In addition to the museum itself, there are pieces outside to peruse as well. Besides Crystal Bridges, their satellite location, The Momentary, is a contemporary art space for visual, performing and culinary arts in downtown Bentonville. This space is a way to expand the museum’s offerings to the general public, in addition to being a place for festivals, performances and other public programming.
THE WALMART MUSEUM
Opened in 1990, The Walmart Museum showcases the history of the Walmart Corporation and founder Sam Walton. Originally referred to as the Walmart Visitor Center, it grew to become a way to show visitors the history of the Walton family and how the store grew into a major corporation.
The museum can be found on Main Street and encompasses the original Walton’s 5 & 10 store, as well as The Spark Cafe soda fountain. Take a self-guided tour of the exhibits, and learn all about this American institution.
DOWNTOWN & BENTONVILLE TOWN SQUARE
Downtown Bentonville is filled with things to do, see and eat! Art museums, eateries, local shops, and more abound here, so make time to really explore all that this area has to offer.
8th Street Market is a particular favorite. This food hub is all about building community, and visitors here will love supporting the amazing small to midsize local farmers found here. Find yummy eats and drinks at places like Coop Ramen, Bike Rack Brewing Co., Markham & Fitz, and Yeyo’s, among others.
Located in the heart of the Market District, this area not only has delicious food, but classes, events and other items for sale here too. Check out Hillfolk for gorgeous textile work, or take a class at Cocoon Yoga Lab!
While you’re enjoying downtown Bentonville, you can grab some ethically-sourced coffee over at Airship before wandering to Black Street Records to jam out. Depending on the time of year, you might want to hang out longer to check out the various farmers markets, the art market, Art and Culinary Week, or even the Christmas parade!
THE PREACHER’S SON
Aptly named, The Preacher’s Son is a dining experience housed within a restored, historic church in Bentonville. You’ll find it near the Town Square.
Chef Neal Grey curates a sustainable dinner paired with an exquisite wine list. Don’t forget to check out the speakeasy-esque Undercroft. This cocktail bar can be found underneath the church.
Have you ever had drinks in a church basement? It’s time! Dining here is one of the best things to do in Bentonville AR!
SCOTT FAMILY AMAZEUM
Not often do you encounter a children’s museum that doesn’t refer to itself as such. The Scott Family Amazeum is a whole other experience. At a staggering 50,000 square feet, this hands-on exhibit center is far from your run of the mill children’s museum.
With partners like Hershey and Nickelodeon, even less museum-inclined kiddos won’t be able to resist! The Amazeum even has sensory-friendly programs in place to make their space more inclusive to a variety of children and families.
With 15 experiences to enjoy, there is a ton for families to do while they’re here. With areas like the Nickelodeon Play Lab, Mills Lift, Load & Haul, the 3M Tinkering Lab, Studio Grow, the Outdoor Playscape and Emerging Explorers, there is a lot to learn at the Amazeum. Parents may even discover things they never knew!
MUSEUM OF NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY
The Museum of Native American History (MONAH) is a means of educating visitors about the lives of First Americans, also known as Native Americans. MONAH houses over 10,000 pieces of Native American artifacts, which includes a substantial collection from founder David Bogle of the Cherokee Nation, who provided MONAH’s first pieces.
Artifacts at MONAH date back 14,000 years to showcase the lives of the Indigenous people of the Americas. The museum’s collection is split into six main time periods: Paleo (12,000 to 8,000 BC), Archaic (8,000 BC to 1,000 BC), Woodlands (1,000 BC to 900 AD), Mississippian (900 AD to 1450 AD), Historic (1650 AD – 1900 AD) and Pre-Columbian, which shows the migration of ancient people.
Each year MONAH also hosts their Native American Cultural Celebration (NACC), with a new theme each year.
The Museum of Native American History is free to visit.
SLAUGHTER PEN TRAILS
According to OZ Trails, Bentonville is The Mountain Biking Capital of the World. As such, biking visitors should know about one of the favorite sets of trail systems in the town: Slaughter Pen Trails. Don’t let the name scare you, there are trails here for beginners up to experts. All told, Slaughter Pen makes up over 23 miles of trail here. Some even have log riders, drops, and jumps.
Because Bentonville is so biker friendly, many trails lead to shops or food stops along the way. Visit Bentonville suggests hitting up Blu Fish House for some post-ride catfish or Oven & Tap for some pizza to replenish your fuel. Visit Bentonville also mentions that A Street is where a lot of bikers end up, which means there are plenty of bike-friendly options to make a quick (or not so quick) stop on your adventure.
COLER MOUNTAIN BIKE PRESERVE
In the same vein, visitors interested in mountain biking need to check out Coler Mountain Bike Preserve. Besides having over 17 miles of biking trails, Coler is also a spot where campers can take up shelter for the night. They even have spots for campervans too!
If you end up needing gear while you’re in town, Bentonville has you covered. You can find outfitters like Gearhead Outfitters or Gearhead Experience Center, among many other spots if you need them.
21C MUSEUM HOTEL & ART GALLERY
Just off of Bentonville’s Town Square, you’ll find 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville. With just over 100 rooms, this unique spot serves as both an accommodation, as well as museum experience. 21C locations can be found all over the United States, providing unique experiences for guests all over. This particular hotel also houses The Hive restaurant with chef Matthew McClure.
Exhibitions and galleries at 21c locations rotate, so even if you’ve been here before, you probably won’t see the same art this time around. But you’ll happily encounter the permanent pieces, like “A Sudden Gust of Wine” or “Buzzkill,” no matter how many times you drop in.
Embrace the local horticulture at Compton Gardens and Arboretum. At six acres, this part of downtown Bentonville shows off all the natural beauty the Ozarks area has to offer.
Visitors are welcome to walk the gardens or take to the trails by bike to see more art along their journey. Compton Gardens and Arboretum is free to visit daily, from sunrise to sundown.
THE PEEL MUSEUM AND BOTANICAL GARDENS
Also under the umbrella of the Peel Compton Foundation, The Peel Museum and Botanical Gardens preserve the history of the area. Housed within the Peel Family home, the museum curates a collection of pieces dating back to the 1800s, which extends into the properties’ seven Victorian-inspired gardens. Those gardens include the estate’s Heirloom Apple Orchard and Rose Garden, in addition to seasonal gardens or displays.
The home also preserves the legacy of Col. Samuel West Peel, who was the first native Arkansan elected to Congress.
A beloved tradition also comes alive at the Peel Museum each year. Christmas at the Peel Museum brings the home to life in splendid holiday decor each December. Throughout the seasonal festivities, visitors can also enjoy live performances, snacks and libations as well.
Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright built the Bachman-Wilson House in 1954 for a couple living in New Jersey, but the home was purchased by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and moved to their Bentonville home.
Through the museum, tours are available to see the home. Self-guided tours are free, while guided tours can be purchased for a small fee. Visitors can see the house most days of the week except Tuesdays. Audio tours are available for the house in both English and Spanish.
The house is a prime example of Wright’s iconic Usonian architectural style. That phrase was coined by Wright to showcase a uniquely American style of architecture, which he created during the throes of the Great Depression, per the museum. The museum adds that the acquisition was initiated when the former owners were concerned that repeat flooding at the home’s original location threatened its survival.
Bentonville is home to galleries for sure, however, many of the town’s most iconic pieces are actually public art. In fact, Visit Bentonville has mapped out the 100 pieces for visitors to find during their stay in town. The majority of the works are murals, though some, like “Atomic Star,” are neon, and others, like “Heartland,” are sculptures.
Visit Bentonville suggests utilizing the neon art for cool sunset images, and that Launch Intention, found at Osage Park, encourages visitors to touch it for some cool “action shots.”
If you want to learn more about the area’s history, why not check out Bella Vista Historical Museum? This museum is free to visit Wednesday through Sundays in the afternoon.
At 3,000 square feet, Bella Vista is full of artifacts dating back to the pre-settler, Indigenous people who lived on the land, to current day. Learn about the area’s famous underground nightclub or how a summer resort became a town of 30,000 people.
In addition to the museum itself, the historical society also hosts historic site tours, as well as cemetery tours too. Both happen at various points throughout a month, so do check the website before venturing out.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO ARKANSAS
- YOUR ARKANSAS VACATION
- HOT SPRINGS: 21 Amazing Things To Do In Hot Springs, Arkansas
- EUREKA SPRINGS: 16 Best Things To Do In Eureka Springs, Arkansas
- LITTLE ROCK: 14 Amazing Things To Do In Little Rock, Arkansas
- FAYETTEVILLE: 13 Awesome & Fun Things To Do In Fayetteville AR
WHERE TO STAY IN BENTONVILLE AR
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