Arts & Culture

America's Best New Museum Is In a Tiny City in Arkansas

Walmart put it on the map, but there's a lot more to the city in Northwest Arkansas. Here are the top activities in Bentonville.
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Northwest Arkansas might not be at the top of your travel bucket list, but it should be. Its city of Bentonville (population: about 49,000) is the birthplace and current headquarters of Walmart, and the surrounding area has reaped the benefits of having some of the richest people in the world, the Walton family, as residents. Here are 7 of the best things to do there.

Visit the Crystal Bridges museum.


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"Art wasn't accessible to me as a child and I hope that changes now for people throughout this region," Walmart heiress Alice Walton told CBS Sunday Morning when she opened the American art museum designed by architect Moshe Safdie in her hometown in on November 11, 2011 (11-11-11). Now, more than 3.5 million visitors have passed through the museum, whose permanent collection includes works by John Singer Sargent, Georgia O'Keefe, Gilbert Stuart, and Andy Warhol. Admission is free, courtesy of Walmart.

Walk along the art trails.


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Crystal Bridges's 120-acre park is connected to downtown Bentonville by four miles trails dotted with sculptures, including James Turrell's stunning Skyscape, The Way of Color.

Tour a Frank Lloyd Wright house.


Known as the Bachman-Wilson House, this Usonian home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright was preserved, acquired, and moved to the Crystal Bridges museum grounds in 2015. Free tickets, which can be booked here, are required to visit because of capacity constraints.

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Learn about the history of Walmart in the retailer's original five-and-dime store.


Walton's 5&10 is now part of the Walmart Museum, which opened in 1990. The museum also features Walmart founder Sam Walton's original office and the Spark Café Soda Fountain, a working ice-cream shop dedicated to Walton's love of ice cream.

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Try mountain biking in one of the top-ranked places to do it.


Head to Phat Tire Bike Shop in town and rent a Trek bike for the day, then ride out to the Slaughter Pen Mountain Bike Park. Known as one of the best mountain biking areas in the country (International Mountain Biking Association ranked Bentonville a Silver-Level Ride Center), the region has more than 140 miles of hard and soft trails for every level from beginner to expert.

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Stay at the 21c Museum Hotel.


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Founded in Louisville by Brown-Forman heiress Laura Lee Brown and her husband, Steve Wilson, the 21c line of hotels is known for its quirkiness; for example, you'll see life-size examples of the hotel mascot, a plastic penguin, everywhere, and guests are encouraged to interact with them (I brought one to our dinner table at the hotel restaurant, The Hive, when I visited with my family). Each of the eight properties features an on-site art gallery (inspired by Brown and Wilson's love of contemporary art) and a restaurant with a dedicated chef committed to supporting local farmers.

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Have farm-to-table food in a restored church.

Opened in 2017, The Preacher's Son serves delicious fare including heirloom tomatoes with house-made ricotta and smoked duck pasta with arugula and pistachio, dark cherries, and pecorino. (Executive Chef Matthew Cooper, by the way, is actually the son of a Methodist preacher.) After dinner, head downstairs to the Undercroft Bar, a speakeasy serving drinks that are just as complex as ones you might find in a Manhattan establishment.

Here's how to get there.


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Fly into Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. Less than half an hour from downtown Bentonville, the airport has nearly 40 flights a day to 15 destinations including New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco.

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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Sam Dangremond
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