Hello reader! You may also wish to read Part 1 and Part 3 of our series, to see what other fun times may be had in Northwest Arkansas.
Days 2-4: Bentonville and Fayetteville
Our scenic drive from Eureka Springs to Bentonville offered a a few pleasant stops. The view from Inspiration Point is quite lovely, and there are a couple of antique/gift shops here that were not open when we were passing through.
We were driving right by the Pea Ridge National Military Park, and decided to make a brief stop. Civil War Buffs have surely heard of Pea Ridge, however I had not. Here the fate of Missouri was determined, and this was a turning point of the Civil War in the west. It is said to have been the most pivotal battle west of the Mississippi River, and the park maintains one of the most intact battlefields in the U.S.
There is a $20 per vehicle fee to visit this National Military Park (good for 7 days), or one may buy an annual pass for $35. Admission is free for America the Beautiful Interagency Pass holders. The park has a nice visitor center & bookstore, a 7-mile hiking trail, bike path, and horse trails.
With rain in the forecast all day, we had a lot of antique hunting on the agenda for our second full day in Arkansas. We happened upon this very old Royal 5, which did not come home with us because it was too fragile and incomplete to be made a working typewriter again. Still a great example of Industrial design.
One of the antique stores I had really been looking forward to seeing is The Rusty Chair in Rogers, just a 15 minute drive from Bentonville. The Rusty Chair specializes in retro and mid century (not necessarily modern), but has a large variety of vintage and antique goods.
This is a beautifully curated shop. If you are looking for something specific, be sure to ask the owner. She has a large selection inventory that isn’t on display in the store yet. There is also a sweet shop doggie who will steal your heart. We purchased a few fun pieces, including a cute little Royal Dart typewriter that Robert brought back to life.
Rogers has a cute historic downtown with several other shops and restaurants we will check out on our next visit. Like Bentonville, the area has seen revitalization and rapid growth due to the large number of jobs that Walmart and so many affiliated corporations have brought to the area.
Also in downtown Rogers (and also charming us with a shop doggie) you will find Dandy Roll. This beautiful website and brick & mortar shop specializes in antique maps and prints, and also offers a lovely selection for the home, a women’s boutique full of clothing and accessories, stationary, gifts, and more.
After browsing a few area antique malls, drove south of downtown Bentonville and we checked into the Best Western Plus Castlerock Inn & Suites. Sidenote: Best Western is our go-to for chain hotels. The B-Dub has an excellent rewards program, and if you travel enough to reach their Gold or Platinum levels, the perks start getting really good.
We were ravenous at this point, but also tired of being in and out of the car in the rain. Glasgow’s – an old school Mexican with a curiously Irish name – is right next door to our hotel. One step inside and we were transported back to the 70’s. We love this kind of time capsule. Often the food in places like this is pretty meh (or downright bad), and the reviews are mixed, but our meal was good. Not California Mexican, Southwestern, or Texas caliber, but its own kind of tasty. Also the portions were huge. We split a meal and an appetizer, ate way too much, and still had food left on the plate.
We drove to a couple more antique malls, then picked up a 6-pack of local beer and headed back to our hotel for an early night.
Waking to sunny skies, we drove downtown and parked (for free) a couple of blocks from the square, then hopped on a trail and headed toward the Crystal Bridges Museum.
The redbuds growing here are the most beautiful that I’ve seen anywhere, and the paths are lined with wildflowers.
The land surrounding the museum is a truly unique urban park. There are miles and miles of paved woodland walking paths, and the famed Slaughter Pen mountain bike trail system weaves its way through the park.
We had seen our first of James Turrell’s Skyspace installation at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. Unfortunately the Nasher’s Skyspace – “Tending (Blue)” – was closed in 2013 by order of the artist because a 40-story condo building erected nearby was visible from within the installation.
We were quite happy to see another Skyspace installation – Way of Color – along the sculpture trail to Crystal Bridges.
The Skyspace buildings are simple, modern, contemplative spaces. Inside Way of Color, the visitor sits on a concrete bench and leans back against a sloped wall, viewing the sky through a circular opening in the concrete roof. Watch the clouds move by, the light change, and the interesting patterns of light reaching into the space.
What I did not realize until searching for a link for this post is that each Skyspace is lit with varying colors at night, offering a completely different experience during and after sunset.
Continuing on the path…
We pass several sculptures and reach a canal, where we first glimpse the Crystal Bridges Museum.
This picture is just a teaser because my next post will be dedicated entirely to Crystal Bridges – one of the best art museums in the world.
Skipping forward, about five hours later we walked back to the heart of downtown via a different woodland trail, and came to the 21c Hotel.
Bentonville’s 21c Museum Hotel looks like a fabulous place to stay. A (free) walk-through the 12,000 square feet of indoor art exhibition space is a treat for day-visitors. Each piece is thought and conversation provoking. The Hive restaurant’s chef is a 6-time James Beard Award semi-finalist.
Nearby the 21c, we spy this mural. I really want that message to be my personal thought bubble.
We walked about a mile past the square and arrived at Bike Rack Brewing. We did make the walk south primarily for that crazy good IPA, however hunger accompanied our thirst, so we snagged the last table inside The Pedaler’s Pub next door. Get there early on a Friday!
Expect to see lots of bikes out front and cyclists in full attire. This really is a perfect place for a post-ride dinner and beer.
I was really tempted to do a little shopping at Phat Tire Bike Shop. Since I crashed my very old Giant a couple of times in 2017 (injuring my ribs and destroying the derailleur in the process), we deemed my bike too old to be worth fixing and I haven’t yet bought a new bike.
Were it not for all of the rain, we would have rented a couple of bikes from Phat Tire. Being in such a bike-crazy area really has me jonesing to get back on the trail.
Visiting the Walmart Museum behind Sam Walton’s first 5 and Dime seemed a little hokey, but after a couple of IPA’s we said “why not?”
The cute compact 5 and Dime store in front is filled with candy and traditional games. I bought a slightly overpriced Hershey Bar, and was entertained and surprised by an exchange between the kind 80-year old man working the cash register and a late-20’s bearded hipster customer.
The cashier – an Arkansas native – upon seeing the hipster’s 49’s hat – remarked how proud he was of Colin Kaepernick for standing up for his beliefs, and the young hipster replied that he hated Kaepernick because Kaepernick had “ruined his team”. The conversation was fairly light and friendly, but the debate continued for a couple of minutes, the hipster adding that he was native to the Bay area and that he probably felt the way he did because he had “been in the military a long time”. Even he knew those were lame excuses for intolerance and squashing freedom of speech.
It just goes to show that one should not always make assumptions about who – based on age, ethnicity, or geography – is progressive and who is not. I really wanted to give that kind old man a hug. More points for Bentonville.
The Walmart museum was a bit more interesting than I had thought it would be. They recreated Sam Walton’s office, filled with his actual stuff.
We had not found much inventory yet, so the following morning we headed south in search of more vintage goodies. It was going to be another full day of rain anyway, so not a great day for outdoor activities.
That 70’s office replica above makes for a tidy segue to our most exciting stop on Day 4: the most fantastic modern furniture store we’ve ever been in.
410 Vintage Fayetteville offers a huge collection of mid century furniture and decor, and is so much fun to walk through. Anyone into retro / modern who finds themself within two hours of this place should make the trip to 410 Vintage. It is worth noting that the prices at 410 are very much on the high end.
Rain. Rain and more rain. We just couldn’t get excited about walking around downtown Fayetteville on this gray day, so we decided to continue south to Fort Smith. On the way out of town this cool building caught our eye, and it’s lunchtime, so why not have a burger?
Star BurgerHaus made a good, but not great, cheeseburger. The funky architecture and diner decor inside are fun and the service was great, so we would probably eat there again if passing through.
We made the gorgeous (even in the rain) drive south through the Ozark Mountains to Fort Smith, where we drove by my Mom’s childhood home and spent time hunting for vintage goodies. I twisted my ankle this morning, so we weren’t up for any long walks in the rain, and didn’t take any more pictures.
Two sunny days in Northwest Arkansas were just not enough, and we will definitely be back soon to spend less time on work and more time walking cities and riding trails. And of course our days will be capped off with a freshly tapped Slaughter Pen IPA!
Tourist Tip: While lodging at many vacation destinations is less expensive during the week than on the weekend, we found the opposite to be generally true for Bentonville because the hotels are filled with business travelers during the week.