If you are looking for a quick getaway that isn’t too far, you might give strong consideration to Northwest Arkansas. Locals will claim it is in the South, but honestly, it isn’t too much different from the Midwest. Being the home to a number of large companies like Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods, and JB Hunt, the area boasts a number of amenities that you might not find in other areas that compare in size.
Just How Big Is Northwest Arkansas – and what is it?
The Northwest Arkansas Metropolitan Area is made up primarily of four good sized cities. Fayetteville is perhaps the most well known, being home to the University of Arkansas. However, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville are all substantial in their own right, all with great qualities and lots of things to do.
According to Wikipedia, Northwest Arkansas is the 105th largest metropolitan area in the nation, boasting some 525,032 persons. In comparison, Wichita comes in at #87 with 644,672 residents.
What Can We Do?
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is one of the relatively newer attractions in Northwest Arkansas, coming to fruition as the brainchild of Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton in 2005. The building opened in 2011, and boasted collections that rival other museums on either coast.
Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection spans five centuries of American masterworks ranging from the Colonial era to the current day. Included within the collection are iconic images such as Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits, Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter, and Andy Warhol’s Coca-Cola — each reflecting a distinct moment in American artistic evolution—as well as major works by modern and contemporary American artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, John Baldessari, and James Turrell. The permanent collection, which continues to grow through a strategic acquisition plan, is on view year-round and is enhanced by an array of temporary exhibitions.
Scott Family Amazeum
The Amazeum features approximately 50,000 square feet of exhibit and learning spaces inside the museum to bring learning to life and enhance family involvement, while evoking a sense of curiosity and discovery through hands-on activities. Interactive exhibits engage visitors with the land, industries and people who built the Arkansas culture and sustain it today. Exhibitions include the 3M Tinkering Hub; General Mills Lift, Load and Haul; Market Sponsored by Walmart; Nature Valley Water Amazements; Nickelodeon Play Lab; Hershey’s Lab and more.
In addition, approximately one acre of outdoor space accommodates year-round learning and provides a backdrop for experiments and experiences inspired by the seasons. The facility includes a venue for businesses and organizations to host gatherings, productions and special events.
Wal-Mart Museum/Walton’s 5&10
The Walmart Museum is as much a part of Walmart’s history as the exhibits and artifacts that it houses. First opened in 1990, the museum was known as the Walmart Visitor Center. But as times changed and the term “Visitor Center” came to refer more to regional, state, and local tourism offices, it became apparent that a name change was needed. And so, today, The Walmart Museum carries on the mission it always has; to educate, engage, and inspire visitors about the heritage of Walmart.
In 1950, the Walton family – Sam and Helen, sons, Rob, John, and Jim, and daughter Alice – moved to Bentonville in northwest Arkansas from the eastern side of the state. According to Sam, the town was small enough to satisfy Helen’s need for small-town living. According to Helen, it situated the family within a short driving distance of Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas – where Sam could enjoy different seasons on the calendar to satisfy his passion for quail hunting.
Moving to Bentonville allowed Sam to purchase Luther Harrison’s Variety Store on the town’s central square. It was Sam’s second store, but the first to bear the Walton name. A Ben Franklin five-and-dime franchise, it was right next door to a space occupied by a barber shop – space that Sam acquired in 1951. Sam followed this expansion into the space next door with a remodeling sale that established Walton’s 5&10 as the huge success Sam knew it could be.
Today, visitors to The Walmart Museum can see the original tin ceiling tiles from Harrison’s Variety Store as well as the original red and green tiles that Sam laid down prior to the famous remodeling sale. If you look closely, you can see that the red and greens don’t all exactly match. Sam, you see, had been offered a better price on the batch of tiles if he accepted them “as is”. Sam knew that his customers wouldn’t be looking at his floor – or even care – as long as his prices were low and his shelves were well-stocked. Sam was a frugal man, but not just for the sake of frugality. He knew that saving money on expenses meant he could charge lower prices, saving his customers money so they could live better.
Beaver Lake, completed in 1966 and nestled high in the Ozark Mountains, is located in northwest Arkansas, the birthplace of the White River. The 28,370-acre lake is the first of the impoundments created in Arkansas and Missouri along the lengthy White River system.
Taking advantage of the natural scenic beauty, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has constructed a variety of recreational facilities. Paved access roads wind through 12 developed parks. There are 2,008 acres of campgrounds and over 650 individual campsites. Visitors can enjoy such conveniences as electricity and fire-rings. Drinking water, showers and restrooms are nearby. Other facilities — picnic sites, swimming beaches, hiking trails, boat launching ramps, sanitary dump stations, group picnic shelters and amphitheaters — are also available in the parks.
With 487 miles of shoreline highlighted by limestone bluffs, Beaver Lake offers a world of recreational opportunities. Marinas and outfitters are plentiful. Cabins, resorts and other lodging ring the lake, and campgrounds are also available in good number.
Where To Eat
Catfish Hole – Fayetteville
Nobody knows what they put in the hushpuppies at Catfish Hole, but once you go there, you will never forget it. From catfish, chicken, seafood, and more, you’ll find some of the most delicious food you have ever put in your mouth at their locations in Fayetteville and Alma. If you want a steak, they can do that too – but trust us, you won’t find a bad choice on the menu. And the meal starts out with those hushpuppies. Even if you don’t like hushpuppies, you’ve got to try one – they will likely change your mind.
Three brothers from Russellville, Arkansas started Feltner Brothers. Two of them were college students, and one of them was a weatherman in Panama City, Florida when they decided to come home to Fayetteville and start what has quickly become an institution in Northwest Arkansas. Their grandfather started another legendary restaurant, Feltner’s Whattaburger in Russellville, and they took a similar approach to their locations in Fayetteville. The burgers are mouthwatering, and you won’t find a bad choice on the menu. They were even featured on the Food Network last year to talk about some awesome recipes for Game Day! Check them out!
If you love hot wings, they were voted hottest wings in Northwest Arkansas seven years in a row! With four, soon to be five locations across Northwest Arkansas, Foghorns is a stop you soon won’t forget on game day or any other day. Plenty of pretty girls to wait on you, cold drinks, and good wings. You can’t beat it.