In 1950, Sam Walton opened the first Walmart store in Bentonville. However, far from being overshadowed by its connection to the retail giant, the quaint town has blossomed into a place of art, culture, and public parks.
Visitors can find plenty of things to do in Bentonvillle and those traveling through northwest Arkansas can experience several exceptional galleries and museums that belie its stature as a small town. Each space is surrounded by yet more ornate gardens where couples, friends, and family can gather.
Around the town are historic buildings that showcase Bentonville’s beginnings in the 19th century. Along with the nearby Ozark National Forest, it’s easy to see why the town is worth a visit.
12. The Momentary
A satellite space for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Momentary is part contemporary art museum and part performing arts space. The Momentary is an evolving creative hub where exhibitions and artists in residence art held, music, and theater are performed and the community can gather.
The space is a recent addition to downtown Bentonville, having opened in 2020. Inside a former cheese plant, visitors can make the most of a varied arts calendar with rotating exhibitions, outdoor art, along with on-site eateries and bars.
The Momentary is a free space, surrounded by a beautiful garden primed for afternoon picnics. While you can also visit the Momentary Shop to purchase prints by prominent artists and gifts unique to the building.
11. Bentonville Brewing Company
After opening in 2015, Bentonville Brewing Company has gone on to be one of the go-to breweries in northwest Arkansas. The brewery is dedicated to producing unique beers that challenge the boundaries of conventional taste.
Visitors to the Bentonville Brewing Company will note the wide range of styles and flavors on offer. The independent and family-owned brewery offers guided tours of the establishment. Get a behind the scenes look at how the brewery makes use of the finest and freshest local ingredients using state-of-the-art techniques.
With their ability to try new things, Bentonville Brewing Company is consistently producing new lines of beer, meaning even return visitors can enjoy a unique experience.
10. Peel Museum & Botanical Garden
In 1875, the Peel Mansion came to life and was the home of Colonel Samuel West Peel. Peel was a prominent Confederate soldier who would go on to be a member of the state’s House of Representatives.
The Italianate villa has been well-preserved throughout the ensuing decades and along with its surround botanical gardens, provides an exceptional historic attraction. From Tuesday to Saturday, the museum, mansion, and gardens are open for visitors to explore. To take your experience to the next level, sign up for guided tours of the notable home that showcases the life of Mr. Peel, period furniture and the ornate gardens featuring native plants and wildflowers.
9. Downtown Murals
Whether you’re looking for it or not, there’s something captivating about stumbling across a large public installation of art. The experience adds a sense of awe and unpredictability to what is otherwise just a regular walk around town.
As you wander around Bentonville, jumping between antique stores, boutique shops, cafes, and museums, you’ll likely come across several enthralling murals that light up the cityscape.
Of the dozens of murals and large-scale public art pieces around Bentonville, many can be found on 8th Street and A Street.
8. Compton Gardens
Named after the “savior of the Buffalo River”, the Compton Garden is an urban oasis in the center of Bentonville. The peaceful sanctuary harbors ample space to explore, spread out, and relax. It’s a place to read under the trees or gather with friends and family for a picnic.
However, the Compton Gardens is also a celebration of Ozark horticulture. Its on-site arboretum helps to conserve and promote local flora. Throughout the park you’ll find vibrant woodlands, lush greenery, and native plants. While the Dr. Neil Compton Exhibit Room explores the vital contribution of the man who made the Buffalo River the first national river in the United States.
7. Bachman-Wilson House
In the mid-20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright put pencil to paper and designed the impressive Bachman-Wilson House. In was then built in 1956 1200 miles away on the Millstone River in New Jersey.
The mid-colonial designs were put under consistent pressure thanks to intermittent flood waters and fell into disrepair. It was restored 30 years later. However, it wasn’t for another 25 that the Bachman-Wilson House found its forever home at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Frank Lloyd’s work is characterized by the ability of his architecture to fit in with the surrounding nature. Perhaps this is why the home is such a spectacular site. Today you can explore the ornate interior while admiring the home’s place alongside Crystal Springs.
6. The Buckyball
As you make your way to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, you’ll spot a unique installation passing by your left shoulder. While you can admire it during the day, it’s well worth returning at night when the Buckyball lights up the sky.
Designed by Leo Villareal, the Buckyball is a geodesic dome laden with LED lights. It first appeared alongside the museum in 2012 and quickly captivated locals and travelers alike.
Beneath the enormous dome, there are five reclining benches offering wonderful views as you lay back and gaze upon the changing colors of the one-of-a-kind Buckyball. From there you can wander down the Museum Trail and along the Walkway that runs the length of the pond.
5. Bentonville Town Square
Much of the small-town charm that flows through Bentonville is sourced from the enchanting Town Square. Thanks to the help of the local community, the square has once again found its rightful place as the center of cultural life and is surrounded by some of the best restaurants, cafes, and boutique stores in town.
It’s a great place to start your experience in Bentonville, having a central location with attractions in walking distance, including the Walmart Museum. However, the Bentonville Town Square comprises manicured gardens, leafy trees, an ornate fountain, and a statue of its own. The square is reminiscent of those in Savannah, Georgia, and makes for a great place to meet with friends and watch the world go by.
4. Scott Family Amazeum
If you’ve been seeking a way to be a kid again, unleash your youthful side at Scott Family Amazeum. A memorable experience for young and old. This attraction finely mixes education and play.
The Scott Family Amazeum remains engaging through thanks to its hands-on activities and educational adventures. The hub of fun is broken up into several sections, which include an art studio, a science lab and the Nickelodeon Play Lab and the General Mills Lift. However, it’s the Hershey’s Lab that will likely steal the show. The lab provides the opportunity for you to do all sorts of experiments on the popular chocolate bar.
Before arriving in Bentonville, keep an eye on the Scott Family Amazeum’s calendar to see whether any of the regular special events are on when you’re in town.
3. Museum of Native American History
For thousands of years before the words Bentonville, Arkansas were ever uttered, the Osage, Quapaw, Caddo and Cherokee Native American tribes called the region home. A captivating way to learn about the indigenous history around northwest Arkansas is at the Museum of Native American History.
Visitors can embark on an experience that features 14,000 years of history. The exhibits are placed in order, allowing you to start from the very beginning, in the Paleo era. From their trace the events through the centuries, ending in the 1800s.
The many exhibits and artifacts will have you roped in from the get-go. Visitors can gaze upon a complete mammoth skeleton, clothing, woodcraft, and the Sweetwater Biface. The latter considered to be the thinnest flint artifact ever found.
2. Walmart Museum
Few, including Sam Walton himself, would have seen the rise of Walmart from its humble beginnings in Bentonville. However, it was here, near the town’s central square, that the Walmart behemoth was born.
Today, you can visit the Walmart Museum, inside Mr Walton’s second store. See what the chain was like at the beginning and take the journey from the first dime store to the modern day. Popular exhibits in the museum include the office of Sam Walton, untouched from the day he last stepped inside.
Visiting families will enjoy the interactive displays, “discovery drawers” for the kids and exhibits that include Sam Walton’s Ford pickup truck. Take a break on your exploration by stopping by the retro Spark Cafe Soda Fountain.
1. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
The Walton family’s other major contributions to life in Bentonville, is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Founded by the famous family, the museum is a significant piece of architecture that can be admired without spending a cent.
The museum is free of charge to explore, granting access to over 50,000 works of art, including the very painting of President Washington that was used on the dollar bill. The various displays are placed around the dazzling building situated on a large creek-fed pond. There’s an extensive collection of colonial art to complement the painting of Washington, along with the most comprehensive collection of contemporary art in the state.
Around the museum are five miles of walking trails, allowing you to mix art and nature within the Ozark Forest.