What to See and Do in Northwest Arkansas

An art lover’s guide to Bentonville, Eureka Springs, and Fayetteville

photo: Tara Donne

What to See & Do

Compton Gardens
Before you explore Crystal Bridges’ artistic offerings, soak in some of Arkansas’s natural beauty inside this 6.5-acre native-plant garden, located steps from the square near the entrance to the museum’s art trail, where Paul Manship’s bronze sculpture Group of Bears stands sentinel.  peelcompton.org

Crystal Bridges Museum
You’ll need at least a couple of days to absorb all of the riches contained inside architect Moshe Safdie’s structural masterpiece. More than four hundred paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations (both indoor and out) are on display—from stunning works out of the Hudson River School and paintings by Norman Rockwell and Mary Cassatt to Louise Bourgeois’s giant thirty-foot spider sculpture, called Maman. crystalbridges.org

Phat Tire Bike Shop
Whether you’re tackling one of the region’s many mountain bike trails or just want to cruise in granny gear on the paved Razorback Greenway, this outpost of a four-shop Northwest Arkansas chain will rent you everything you need. When the International Mountain Bicycling Association rolls into town for its global meet-up in November, the downtown store will be summit HQ.  phattirebikeshop.com

Where to Eat & Drink

Crepes Paulette
The king of the Bentonville food trucks just cemented its reign with a new brick-and-mortar location, where the affable Henrys—Frédéric, a Frenchman, and Paula, a Bentonville native—roll their sweet and savory crepes into craveable cones. You’ll also still find the four-wheel outfit parked near the 21c Museum Hotel. Local favorites such as la pistou, a buckwheat crepe with genoa salami, whole milk mozzarella, pesto, and egg, are as tasty as ever—no matter where you order them. facebook.com/crepespaulette

Pressroom is Bentonville’s everything-to-everybody eatery: coffee to go, leisurely breakfasts, business lunches, takeout sandwiches, date night, nightcaps, Sunday brunch. Order the avocado toast, with spring pea mash, micro greens, and a six-minute egg, for a hearty start before ambling over to Crystal Bridges. eatatpressroom.com

Where to Stay

21c Museum Hotel
Even check-in at this sleek branch of the boutique Louisville chain is an immersive art experience, as the lobby (like much of the hotel) hosts rotating exhibitions spotlighting world-class artists the likes of Kehinde Wiley. A handful of the hotel’s signature five-foot green plastic penguins perch on the roof, while the rest of the emerald flock move around the hotel. Don’t be surprised if one joins you for dinner at the Hive, James Beard Award–nominated chef Matthew McClure’s local-foods beacon. 21cmuseumhotels.com/bentonville

A room at 21c.

Tara Donne

A room at 21c.

What to See & Do

Mitchell’s Folly Antiques & Fine Art
When John Mitchell moved to Eureka Springs in 1969, he says, it was nothing but “overgrown trees and closed buildings.” Today, Mitchell’s Spring Street shop—packed with Native American artifacts, works by Arkansas artists (including the famed Depression-era Ozark painters Louis and Elsie Freund), eclectic antiques, and quirky oddities—is surrounded by bustling businesses but still feels like a discovery. 479-253-5147

Thorncrown Chapel
In the woods just outside of town, you’ll find this airy nondenominational sanctuary designed by Frank Lloyd Wright protégé Fay Jones. Glass walls and a roof of skylights rest atop local pine beams that cross and intersect in a pattern that is at once modernist, Gothic, and meditative. No matter your personal beliefs, prepare to be moved. thorncrown.com

Where to Eat & Drink

Local Flavor Café
Befitting Eureka’s eclecticism, the menu at the seventh-generation Eurekan Britt Evans’s fine-dining den lists plenty of pasta, seafood, and red meat, including humanely raised beef from Creekstone Farms. But you’ll also find entire gluten-free menus and copious vegetarian options. Seeking a more casual supper? Evans also owns  Aquarius Taqueria.

Mud Street Cafe
This basement-level coffee shop is the place to get a cup of organic Guatemalan and a bite of breakfast (or lunch) before scaling Eureka’s hills. Cheerful servers pepper omelets and
pastries with local knowledge. Want to know the gallery with the best deals? They’ll spill the beans. mudstreetcafe.com

Where to Stay

Heartstone Inn and Cottages B&B
After careers in corporate hospitality and retail, Rick and Cheri Rojek looked at properties all over the country before settling on Heartstone. After a restful night in one of the historic home’s eleven restored guest rooms, wander down to the sunlit dining room, where Rick serves up breakfast each morning. heartstoneinn.com

What to See & Do

First Thursday Fayetteville
Brimming with artist booths, live music, and  even a pop-up beer garden, the square is the heart of the popular First Thursday art nights (held April to October)—a concentrated look at the local art scene. Participating galleries such as Fayetteville Underground and the innovative sUgAR Gallery, the University of Arkansas’s student-run space, often schedule openings to coincide. firstthursdayfayetteville.com

Public Art Crawl
For the perambulatory art lover, the streets of Fayetteville are their own outdoor museum, where the everyday becomes extraordinary: Matt Miller has transformed a drab parking deck with a bright multipatterned eighty-eight-foot mural; Jason Jones’s insect paintings amp up humdrum utility boxes; and even the storm drains get creative makeovers. There’s so much public art in Fayetteville, the city created an app to help you take it all in.

Where to Eat & Drink

Hugo’s is everything a great college-town burger joint should be—with more than forty beers on the menu, stupendous fries, and a signature burger called the Bleu Moon, made with blue cheese and red onions. The dim subterranean location means you can forget taking any stylized food snaps. Just dig in. hugosfayetteville.com

Hugo's juicy Bleu Moon Burger.

Tara Donne

Hugo’s juicy Bleu Moon Burger.

Thursday is martini night, so wander over after First Thursday to tip one back on the patio and snack on bites such as grilled shrimp bruschetta. Chef de cuisine Elliot Hunt, a Fayetteville native, worked in fine-dining kitchens in France and Chicago before returning home with his wife, performance artist Cynthia Post Hunt, who cofounded the city’s INVERSE Performance Art Festival, held in April. theosfayetteville.com

Where to Stay

Chancellor Hotel
After a whopping $16 million overhaul, this fifteen-story hotel reopened in 2012 as the independently owned boutique-but-big Chancellor. A block from the town square and just a short stroll from the restaurants and bars of Dickson Street, the now-posh digs show off Arkansas talent, including the work of interior designer Tobi Fairley. Amenities abound: a fitness room with a view, a clubby restaurant and bar, and an indoor-outdoor pool. hotelchancellor.com