Located in Arkansas’ northwest corner near the neighboring states of Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas, Bentonville is most noted as the place where the retail giant Wal-Mart has its world headquarters.
The area around Bentonville is rugged, scenic, and known for its natural beauty that draws visitors from all over the country.
The Ozark National Forest and Beaver Lake offer outdoor recreation opportunities for sportspeople, nature lovers, bikers, hikers and bird watchers. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll be in for some amazing sights of undisturbed forests and majestic mountains.
Below are 15 things to do in Bentonville.
1. The Walmart Museum
Walmart’s connection to Bentonville goes all the way back to the beginning, when, in 1950, Sam Walton opened one of his first stores near the town’s historic square.
Who knows if he had any idea that those humble beginnings would lead to a retail giant that’s one of the largest of its kind in the world.
The Walmart museum is a must-see when you’re in the area; it includes an old-style café along with amazing exhibits and displays that lay out the brand’s meteoric rise toward retail domination.
Located on North Main Street, it isn’t open every day, so check online before you make a special trip.
2. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is northwest Arkansas’ undisputed go-to destination if you’d like to experience the finest collection of American art anywhere in the area.
It’s a great place to spend a few hours out of the elements. With a broad range of art on display, there will be a little something that everyone will enjoy.
There are a number of outdoor trails that are part of the museum as well; they’re a great place to stretch those legs and get a breath of fresh air after an hour or two inside.
The museum is located on Museum Way.
3. Pea Ridge National Military Park
On March 7th and 8th in 1862, a decisive Civil War Battle took place on the land which is now part of the Pea Ridge National Military Park.
The opposing Union and Confederate troops squared off in the relatively remote corner of Arkansas. Although the Union troops were outnumbered by the Confederates, they won the battle and established control over large areas of Arkansas and Missouri.
The park and its exhibits are wonderful bits of history of an important battle that isn’t too well known outside the area.
Most of what you’ll want to see is outdoors, so dress for the weather.
4. Museum of Native American History
For thousands of years before the area was settled, the northwest region of Arkansas around Bentonville was exclusively populated by a number of Native American tribes.
The Museum of Native American History is dedicated to educating the public about this fascinating segment of local history and focuses on five distinct eras.
You’ll get an amazing insight into the lives of the Native Americans, particularly with regards to their hunter-gatherer lifestyles, their migrations within the region, and how they went about their daily lives.
The museum is handicap accessible, open to large groups, and contains the finest artifacts, displays and exhibits around.
5. Orchards Park
Parks are great places to relax, stretch your legs and let the kids run around and make lots of noise without offending anyone.
Like most parks, Orchard Park in downtown Bentonville is conveniently located near lots of other area attractions and is free to use.
Sporting a big pond that’s often filled with Canada geese, there’s even a little waterfall and plenty of places to sit and relax or catch a few rays.
Local artists often display their work here as well, so it’s a great way to spend an hour or two of your vacation time.
If you take the words ‘amazing’ and ‘museum,’ throw out all the grammar rules you were taught in grade school, and combine them into one, you get ‘Amazeum.’
The name is apt because the Amazeum is part learning center, part museum, and part playground.
It’s one of the few places you’ll ever visit that does such a good job at keeping kids active, engaged and surprisingly content.
The museum is full of interactive exhibits, displays and activities that have been specifically designed with the little ones in mind. Since they’ve probably put up with the Walmart Museum and other ho-hum places, a few hours at the Amazeum is the least you can do for them.
7. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson House
Located on the grounds of the aforementioned Crystal Bridges Museum, the Bachman-Wilson house was designed by famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Like most of his creations, it was built in a way that blends as seamlessly as possible with the natural world.
The house was originally built in New Jersey and was disassembled, moved and rebuilt on its current site in Arkansas by a couple who were intent on preserving it for future generations to enjoy.
Though not considered one of his most monumental achievements, it’s well worth a visit, especially since you’ll already be right around the corner.
8. The Peel Mansion Museum & Heritage Gardens
Consisting of a restored home from the 1800s, a museum, and some of the most beautiful gardens in the region, the Peel Mansion Museum and Heritage Gardens are things you should try your best to see while in Bentonville.
The home was built on the city’s outskirts by a retired Colonel, who intended to do a little farming, and planted many apple trees on the acres of land around the house.
The home now features multiple gardens showcasing both local and non-native varieties of plants, trees and wildflowers.
Tours are available, but if you’d rather show yourself around that’s okay too.
9. The Preacher’s Son
Though it hasn’t been around very long, The Preacher’s Son restaurant is famous for its tasty fare that’s made fresh to order, almost exclusively with locally sourced products.
Many of their most popular dishes are classics made with a new twist and include things like smoked duck, pasta and some delectable desserts.
Once you’ve had your fill of the good food and ambiance, consider heading downstairs to the Undercroft Bar, which is a classic watering hole that’ll take you back in time a decade or two. The drinks they serve use the best ingredients and are second to none.
10. Wishing Spring Gallery
For all-around art lovers or those who dabble themselves but are lacking inspiration and motivation, a trip to the Wishing Spring Gallery would be a great way to get back into the swing of things.
Full of prints, carvings, photography and lots of other arts and crafts, the gallery has garnered regional and national attention and is visited by travelers from all over the country.
Much of what you’ll see isn’t available elsewhere, making it a great place to pick up a truly one of a kind item for your house or a Christmas gift for a loved one.
They’re particularly known for their stained glass.
11. Bentonville Town Square
Nestled downtown is Bentonville Town Square.
One of the most picturesque settings in an already unbelievably quaint town, it’s full of great shops, restaurants, galleries and coffee shops.
The Town Square has been rejuvenated in recent years; for many decades, it was a pretty bleak and largely unvisited area.
Now a real sense of community has taken hold and the square has become a hotspot for those looking to get out, relax and socialize with friends over a beverage.
It’s located on North Main Street, right downtown.
12. Lawrence Plaza Ice Rink and Splash Park
Whether you’re visiting Bentonville in the middle of a sweltering summer heat wave or when the ground and streets are covered with snow and ice, you’ll have a kid-friendly option to get out of the elements and have a lot of fun.
The Lawrence Plaza Ice Rink and Splash Park were built with kids and families in mind.
Ice skating and frolicking in splashing water are both great exercise. Due to their popularity, the rink and splash park are often crowded with families, so if crowds are things you’d rather avoid, consider going at non-peak times like weekdays, in the morning or in the afternoon.
13. Slaughter Pen Hollow Multi-Use Trail System
Many municipalities across the country are investing in multi-use trails for the benefit of the city’s residents.
At a time when many Americans are overweight and unhealthy, they’re places where people can enjoy the great outdoors, burn a few calories and improve their overall health.
The Slaughter Pen Hollow Trail System includes sections that are suitable for nearly every age and level of physical fitness; they’re open to walkers, joggers, hikers and bikers.
Though some of the trails can get slick and muddy during wet weather, if you plan ahead and wear appropriate shoes and clothing, they can be appreciated year-round.
14. Stay at the 21C Museum Hotel
Though they aren’t part of a nationally known chain, the 21C hotels are unique in that they incorporate lots of colorful and fanciful works of art into their designs.
There are other locations, and the brand was founded by a wealthy husband and wife in Louisville, Kentucky.
One of the brand’s most iconic images is the green penguin; in all the hotels, you’ll find them around the grounds. Guests are encouraged to move them to different areas whenever it strikes their fancy.
It’s a unique twist on the otherwise usually stagnant hotel business that really makes 21C hotels stand out from the crowd.
15. Work on your Golf Game
If you’ve ever heard the phrase, ‘use it or lose it,’ you know that it’s true – and if you’re a golfer, especially so.
Those skills you’ve worked so hard to hone can slip away like a cat in the night if they’re not continuously worked on. If you find yourself in Bentonville with some free time on your hands, a trip or two to The Back Nine Golf Academy would ensure that doesn’t happen.
If you’d like to meet the instructors or check out the facility before committing, stop by and say hello.
They’ve got the experience and equipment you’ll need to shave a few strokes off your game.