Bentonville, Arkansas, is just minutes across the Missouri State Line in Northwest Arkansas. The moment you enter the city limits, you’ll notice bicyclists headed off to the numerous bike trails in the area.
Bentonville is known as the Mountain Bike capital, and you’ll see why very quickly. Mountain biking not quite your scene? You’ll find small-town charm and a vibrant arts scene along with some delicious food to keep you entertained.
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- The 7 Best Things To Do In Bentonville, AR
The 7 Best Things To Do In Bentonville, AR
Stay In An Art Hotel
Check out the 21C, an Art hotel just off Bentonville square. It provides a central location with free parking. As you walk into the lobby of the 21c, you’ll notice a gallery of art leading up to the elevators. The art rotates, so if you come for a return visit, you’ll see something new. The staff was friendly and welcoming and provided me with a list of restaurants and their opening hours.
The hotel is more contemporary, and the rooms are soft cream with blonde wood accents. Each room has its own unique piece of art. For example, in my room, there was a lovely painting of natural landscapes using bright orange.
You don’t have to leave the hotel to start enjoying delicious cuisine. The Hive is a hotel restaurant and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. With Beehive sculptures and the 21C penguins offering décor, you’ll want to grab your phone for a selfie. The brunch menu offers a nice variety of options depending on if you prefer sweet or savory.
I went for the pimento cheeseburger, and it did not disappoint. Beef patty topped generously with house-made pimento cheese, and a brioche bun was filling, but tasty.
Big On Bentonville Tour
My favorite way to discover a town is with a local tour guide, and Big on Bentonville delivers. The tour starts at the 21c hotel, and the guides take you around town on a golf cart. They share the history of the city and the city’s revitalization over the past 10 years.
On tour, you’ll see several street art murals and will have time to take some pictures, so bring your camera. Next, you will continue the tour to see the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Art Museum and examine numerous bike trails and public art around the city.
Finally, I had the opportunity to step out of the golf cart and walk a bit into the Compton Art Gardens, where I saw one of my favorite art pieces.
Heartland, created by Daniel Popper, is set back into the gardens, and in summer, it is surrounded by a meadow of flowers. The sculpture is two hands formed to make a heart. It stands tall over the garden and is beautiful with sunlight casting shadows over it.
From the tour, I knew I wanted to explore the multiple museums in Bentonville and take some time to take some pictures of the murals. The guides were so friendly and enthusiastic about their hometown.
I recommend taking the tour at the beginning of your trip to determine what sites you want to go visit. You can book tickets on the big on Bentonville website and they offer sightseeing tours along with food tours or private events.
The Walmart Museum
Bentonville is home to the Walmart Corporation, and the Walton family has provided so much to the town. Visit the Walmart Museum located right in the square and free to all visitors. The site was the location of the first store, and the museum outlines the history of the Walmart corporation from its beginnings to where it is today.
Anyone who grew up in small-town America probably has many memories of visiting a Walmart, and it is interesting to review the artifacts on site. One of my favorite exhibits was the wall of returns. Walmart allowed guests to return items for whatever reason, and the display shows some of the things along with the return slip descriptions.
Objects included a pencil sharpener returned because ‘it doesn’t sharpen any ink pens’ and a returned hand mixer because it was believed to be ‘possessed’. In the museum’s back, they have set up Sam’s office as it was the day he retired. With newspapers collected in a pile and a desk full of file folders, it is evident that it was a working office.
Once you have visited the exhibit, stop by the Spark Café, conveniently located at the exit. The Spark Café offers ice cream, sweet treats and sodas, hot tea, and hot chocolate if the weather has cooled down. The café is very affordable as a dish of ice cream is 99 cents, and soda will only set you back 50 cents. If you want to keep the Walmart theme going, order the spark cream flavor, vanilla ice cream but tinted blue and yellow to match the Walmart theme colors.
Crystal Bridges Museum Of American Art
The Walton family wanted the arts to be accessible to all, and the Crystal Bridges Art Museum offers free admission showcasing world-class art.
The museum is nestled into a wooded area and overlooks a pond creating a fascinating showcase of art and natural beauty. The exhibits are set up by periods, and I enjoyed starting with paintings from the 18th and 19th century. As you wander through the buildings, do not forget to check out the outside art as well.
First, stunning Chihuly glass sculptures in a bright blue with sharp sticks rise up from the ground. Against the natural woods background, the sculpture is striking and well-maintained even with harsh winter snows and summer heat.
Next, discover the Fly’s Eye dome, a futuristic white sculpture created by Buckminster Fuller. The dome is made of fiberglass with two different panels with circular cutouts. Initially created to provide a place to live, it’s now an exciting structure to discover and grab pictures of the Arkansas landscape with a futuristic view.
As you continue through the museum, you’ll notice the artwork is in chronological order, which provides an exciting look at how art has changed over the years. From portraits to more modern sculptures.
Plan for a couple of hours to discover the art inside and explore the trails surrounding the museum.
For a small town, Bentonville has a large street art scene. You’ll find murals across many of the buildings and some unique neon signs throughout town. However, you won’t have to look hard to see it as there are many pieces right around the square. If you want to plan ahead, the Visit Bentonville website has done a great job of mapping out the various public art available so you can grab directions as you tour the town.
My favorite piece is located just across from the 21c Museum hotel and was created by Kenneth Seimens. ‘Holding her breath, she steps out into a whole new adventure’ is the dramatic caption on the mural, as a girl in a spacesuit looks anxiously at a growling tiger. The mural is replicated in different colors across the building, and it was hard to choose which color palette was my favorite.
If you want to see several pieces in one spot, check out the parking lot behind the pedaler’s pub. A low wall covering three directions is filled with murals, each distinct point of view. Murals in black and white to scenes riotous with color.
I enjoyed discovering each piece as they were so different from each other. The street art scene provides an authentic feel to the city by merging the historical city square with modern murals.
Mountain Bike Capital
When you arrive in Bentonville city limits, you will notice how many bicycles are secured to the back of vehicles. With so many trails intersecting through the city, mountain biking is one of the main draws to the town. Bentonville offers a wide variety of routes, including beginner to the more experienced.
Over the past few years, Bentonville has created numerous trails to establish itself as the Mountain Biking Capital, and with the Ozark landscapes, it is easy to see why it’s such a draw.
In Bentonville, you will find numerous bike rental shops so that you can grab a ride if you weren’t able to bring your own. As you roam around town, you’ll quickly hear the buzz of cyclists making their way through town. With numerous parking lots near the trails, the city has provided convenient ways to bicycle on the trails and still be close to lodging and food options.
Additionally, there are plenty of bike racks outside of shops and restaurants, so you can take a break in town if you need a break from the trails.
Explore The Local Food Scene
Mountain biking and discovering the art scene will build up your appetite, and Bentonville offers a food scene full of southern comfort foods and some European favorites. If you can’t decide what you are hungry for, check out the 8th Street market. With several restaurants and shops inside the market, you will have plenty of choices.
Also, there is a good range of food trucks around the market and plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy your meal. I chose a ploughman’s lunch from Sweet Freedom cheese and enjoyed the cheese and meat selections. The 8th street market also has a few interesting murals, so it’s a fun place to enjoy some good food and art in one place.
For European flair, head to Creperie Paulette for savory and sweet crepes that rival what you would find in Paris. Just a few streets off the main square, Crepes Paulette is bustling with locals and visitors, and it is worth a wait. It will be hard to choose just one from the classic Nutella and strawberry. or a savory crepe with fresh spinach and sharp cheddar!
Bentonville, Arkansas, is authentic with its art scene, mountain biking, natural beauty, and delicious food options. I was pleasantly surprised by how many free things there were to do, and for a weekend getaway, your main expenses will be lodging and food.
Bentonville is easily accessible to those in the Midwest by driving or flying for those farther out. The easygoing pace of the city will allow you to relax or increase your heart rate with mountain biking.
The city truly has something for everyone, and I hope you consider Bentonville for your next excursion.
Which of these best things to do in Bentonville AR do you want to try first? Let us know in the comments section below!
Erin Jones works in the corporate world, but her true passion is exploring. Whether it is navigating across cities in America or Europe there are no vacation hours left behind at year-end. You can find Erin’s latest travels on her blog Adventures of Erin.