Why stop in Northwest Arkansas?

Northwest Arkansas has made a name for itself.  The quaint towns dotted in the Ozark mountains have been relatively sleepy in the past, but a recent awakening is luring visitors to this area.  Here, art and culture mix perfectly with the natural outdoors.  You will find a world-class museum, A-lister film festivals, amazing farmers markets, fascinating natural features, and an emerging culinary scene claiming James Beard awards. 

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is arguably the most important new art museum in America in decades and what brought us to the area.  Located in the small town of Bentonville, when the museum opened in 2011 it triggered a metamorphosis of the town.  Bentonville is the home to Walmart and when Alice Walton (daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton) announced that world-class art was coming to northwest Arkansas, art aficionados and collectors across the country were aghast.  Some of the most famous art pieces would be in Arkansas instead of New York or Chicago.  But Alice Walton’s objective was simple – people in mid-America should have access to the same quality of art as those in other parts of the country.  And, to further make sure it was accessible to all – admission is FREE!


Alice set out to build a museum that respected the natural environment and made the grounds as much a part of the museum as the art inside.  The simple philosophy that art and nature are both vital to the human spirit and should be accessible to all is evident when you wander around the miles of trails that surprise you with amazing views of the museum and wondrous art pieces. 


During our visit a traveling exhibit called “The Open Road – Photography and the American Road Trip” was there.  How appropriate for us and our Airstream friends, T and Kelly, as we were on a road trip.  The exhibit tells the pictorial story of everyday places and experiences that cause the viewer to see things in a new light – the economic dichotomy of class in the south, our national monuments, wacky roadside attractions, and scenes along the iconic Route 66 during its heyday. 


No visit to Bentonville is complete without stopping at the birthplace of Walmart.  The humble little dime store known as “Walton’s 5 – 10” opened in 1950 and now serves as The Walmart Visitor Center Museum.  The storefront serves as a souvenir shop where retro toys and candies take you back in time and the Spark Cafe Soda Fountain celebrates America’s past with an ice cream soda fountain.  Ice cream was loved by Walton and it seems T and Betsy share that love.


The rest of the building is the museum which tells the history and rise of Walmart from a 5 & 10 to a Fortune 500 company corporation with over thousands of stores around the world.  One of Walton’s simple but effective philosophy of customer service was the “10 – Foot Rule.”  Every time a customer came within ten feet of an employee they were to smile, look them in the eye, greet them, and ask if they needed help.  The museum is a glimpse into Sam Walton’s life with his office and old pick up truck.  


In the heart of northwest Arkansas is Fayetteville – home of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks – and recognized as a great college town.  Here you will find a hopin’ dining scene with everything from gourmet grilled cheese to Hawaiian to fine dining.  We could not resist indulging in cheesy goodness at Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese which had us coming back two nights in a row for the amazing sweet blueberry grilled cheese desert.  And, thanks to T’s appreciation of her Hawaiian roots, we sat down to great Hawaiian food at Hawaiian Brian’s and embraced her good taste in food.  Fayetteville is becoming known for its beer scene and attracting beer lovers to its Ale Trail.  After all, what college towns don’t have craft breweries. 

Downtown Fayetteville is charming with boutiques, galleries, funky clothing stores, and an awesome bookstore that looks like an organized mess spewing books off the shelves.  Fayetteville is also home to the “Naturals” minor league baseball team,  Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, the Arkansas Air and Military Museum, and an extensive paved trail system that will reach 100 miles when completed.  One thing you will notice around town is that the Walton’s have contributed lots to the area as their name adorns many buildings. 

Before leaving the area we took a drive to Rogers where the Daisy Airgun Museum is located.  Because you know, if there is a small odd museum we will find it.  Daisy has been in business since 1886 and is easily the most recognizable brand of airgun.  Many youngsters were taught to shoot with a Daisy BB gun.  But Daisy is more than just a kids toy.  It is reported that Lewis and Clark took along a Daisy on their famous westward journey.  The museum exhibits vintage products and artifacts that takes you through the company’s history (with the help of an audio wand). 


After the museum we stopped at Pop’s Wild Hog BBQ for a delicious brisket sandwich and spent some time walking around town looking in antique shops (buying nothing, of course) enjoying the warm spring day.

On our way back to the RV park, we took the back country roads.  We stopped at the War Eagle Mill which has been making stone ground grains since the 1830’s.  Unfortunately, the museum on the lower level was not open due to recent flooding the area incurred. 


Fayetteville is where we said goodbye to our friends as they were heading back to Florida and we were continuing our journey to Maine.  Our time in Arkansas was made even more fun because of their presence and we look forward to traveling with them (and their dog pack) again. 

Leroy, Cosmo, and Bee were afraid they would be left in northwest Arkansas and not
get to see the Florida beach anymore.

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