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Arkansas Travel Guide

10 Quirky Things You Can Do in Northwest Arkansas

Stephen Ironside Photography; Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Ar

Northwest Arkansas has always been a business traveler’s destination—some of the largest companies in the U.S. are headquartered there—but in recent years, residents of the area have slowly been transforming the region. Craft cocktails, a burgeoning culinary scene, and a surprisingly vibrant cultural lifestyle taken over both Bentonville and Fayetteville, two of the major cities in this part of the state. Beyond the newfound hipness, what makes Northwest Arkansas fun is the variety of quirky attractions. From the former Clinton house, where Bill and Hillary were married in the living room, to the Walmart Museum, here are 10 unique things to experience in this corner of Arkansas. —David Duran 

Courtesy of The Walmart Museum
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The Walmart Museum

Northwest Arkansas is not only the home to Walmart’s headquarters, but it’s also the home to Sam Walton’s first 5&10 store, dubbed the original Walmart, which opened in 1950. Attached to the tiny shop, located on Bentonville’s town square, is the Walmart Museum, a free experience for anyone interested in learning the history behind the juggernaut brand. As a reward for brushing up the mega-chain’s history, The Spark Café Soda Fountain is at the end of the museum and is a popular spot for ice cream.

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Courtesy of Fayetteville Visitors Bureau
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The Clinton House

For political buffs or Clinton family fans, the Clinton House Museum is the place to visit. Bill and Hillary’s first home is truly where it all began, and the museum is filled with rare memorabilia from Bill’s early political career. The home is also the site of one of the couple’s most important milestones: their wedding, which took place in the living room. Aside from learning about the Clintons’ past, visitors can also stroll through the First Ladies Garden.

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Courtesy of 21c Museum Hotels
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21c Museum Hotel

There are currently only four 21c Museum Hotels in the country, and Bentonville is home to one of them. The luxury hotel brand combines the experience of staying in a hotel with visiting an art museum, one 12,000 square feet of exhibition space and a rotating exhibition program featuring acclaimed international artists and emerging artists. The Hive, the hotel’s restaurant, showcases what makes Arkansas unique in the culinary world by paying tribute to the High South with refined country cuisine.

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Courtesy of Visit Bentonville
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Razorback Regional Greenway

For cyclists both amateur and professional, the Razorback Regional Greenway is a 36-mile bike-pedestrian trail running through seven Northwest Arkansas cities. Borrow a bike from your hotel, or head over to any local bike shop to rent a bike for the day and hit the trails while stopping along the way to appreciate some of the art installations along the way (located in the Bentonville area, near the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art).

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Stephen Ironside Photography; Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Ar
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A popular nighttime activity is to head over to Buckyball, sculptor Leo Villareal’s mesmerizing sculpture on the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Villareal uses light as his medium and, using LED bulbs, has created two nested geometric spheres that take the shape of a Carbon 60 molecule (the sculpture is named in honor of visionaryengineer Buckminster Fuller). The structure produces 16 million distinct colors and is illuminated from 10 am to 11 pm daily, though after-dark hours are the most popular. Surrounding Buckyball are extra large communal lounge seats where anyone can go and get lost in the lights.

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Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Photos by Nancy Nolan Photography
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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson House

Frank Lloyd Wright may not have visited Northwest Arkansas, but you can find one of his iconic homes here. Known as the Bachman-Wilson House, the structure is an example of Wright’s Usonian architecture. Originally built in 1954 along the Millstone River in New Jersey, the home was purchased by architect/designer duo Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino in 1988 and carefully restored. However, the structure was threatened by repeated flooding in the area, so the new owners decided to embark on a multiyear search for a suitable institution willing to purchase, relocate, and preserve the house, The home now sits on the grounds of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; there’s no cost to visit, but advance tickets are required.

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Courtesy of Scott Family Amazeum
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Scott Family Amazeum

For families and science lovers, the Scott Family Amazeum is a wonderland. With hands-on activities and interactive exhibits throughout the 50,000-square-foot space, it’s easy to spend an entire day here. Exhibits include a pioneer-style cabin and farm, a chocolate learning lab sponsored by Hershey’s, a play area with Nickelodeon characters, and a “Tinkering Hub” sponsored by 3M where kids can explore technology and create art. There are also rumors of adults-only evening experiences, so be sure to ask about those special events.

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Courtesy of The Handlebar
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The Handlebar

Located in downtown Fayetteville, The Handlebar is more than just a bike shop; it’s a place that invites cyclists and non-cyclists to hang out and enjoy coffee or beer while chatting. On Saturday mornings, the owner’s mom makes homemade chocolate biscuits, and locals and guests are invited to come by and share a communal table while savoring an amazing twist on biscuits and gravy.

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Courtesy of Fayetteville Visitors Bureau
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Fayetteville Ale Trail

Beer lovers, rejoice! The Fayetteville Visitors Bureau recently launched the Fayetteville Ale Trail, Arkansas’ first craft-beer tasting experience featuring local breweries exclusively. The trail is self-guided, so you can go at your own pace and take the time to sample all the beer you want. (Guided tours are also available for those wanting some direction.) Anyone wanting to hit the Ale Trail can pick up a passport at participating locations and collect stamps at each brewery location.

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Courtesy of Fayetteville Visitors Bureau
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World Peace Fountain

A multipurpose convention center, Fayetteville Town Center is perhaps most notable for its World Peace Fountain, created by local sculptor Hank Kaminksy. The bronze sphere displays the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in over 100 different languages, weighs 8,000 pounds, and was designed to be turned by hand like a prayer wheel. When standing at the sculpture and facing the street, walk forward to where the sidewalk meets the pavement and look for the artist’s secret installation, which mostly goes unnoticed. Kaminsky tends to hang around town and is always up for meeting folks; if you’d like to meet him, just ask around.
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