Tucked in the northwest corner of Arkansas, Bentonville is best known as the home of Walmart. However since the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened, this small town of around 50,000 has earned the reputation as a first-rate travel destination.

Not long after the museum’s debut, world-class restaurants, microbreweries and boutiques popped up on and around the charming town square, and a majority celebrate Ozark mountain culture. The area even has its own food movement: High South cuisine. Top-notch chefs elevate rustic cooking to upscale dining by sourcing produce and livestock from local farms and flavoring dishes with regional herbs and spices. The city’s flourishing reputation as a haven for mountain bikers and its growing music industry, led by Haxton Road Studios, are also boosting the economy.

Even with the influx of tourists, Bentonville remains every bit as charming as it was when Sam Walton opened his first five-and-ten on the square. The friendliness and easy pace of a small town with the culinary and arts experiences of a big city — not to mention the beauty of the Arkansas Ozarks — make this an ideal getaway well worth considering.


21c Museum Hotel

This chic branch of the boutique hotel chain is the place to stay in Bentonville. Located just off the square, it’s a short walk to many restaurants as well as Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Like at sister hotels, the iconic penguins — which are green here — are everywhere, and abundant gallery space hosts rotating exhibitions and commissioned works, like "Making Change," a 1962 Cadillac covered in thousands of coins.

All 104 rooms and suites have high ceilings, large windows and extremely comfortable beds, and the neutral décor is accented by pops of color from original artwork. Spacious bathrooms have fantastic lighting, oversized vanities and walk-in showers with Malin+Goetz bath amenities.

At The Hive, executive chef Matt McClure, a six-time James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Best Chef of the South, serves refined country cuisine focusing on seasonal, local ingredients. The outstanding Hive Burger topped with house-made pimento cheese and bacon jam is a menu go-to. 200 NE A St., Bentonville, 21cmuseumhotels.com/bentonville.


The Preacher’s Son

From inside a beautifully renovated 1904 church, chef Matt Cooper — who is actually a preacher’s son — looks to local farmers for sustainable produce and sources seafood from the Pacific Northwest to create fare that is both delicious and gluten-free. Share the mushrooms with ricotta or eggplant hush puppies with yogurt and mint before diving into smoked chicken paella or scallops with sweet pea and lion’s mane mushroom. 201 NW A St., Bentonville, thepreachersson.com.

Oven & Tap

Named for its custom wood-fired oven and tap wall with 16 drafts, Oven & Tap delivers Southern fare with an Italian influence. Chez Panisse alum Luke Wetzel turns out perfect pizzas and fried chicken and, at brunch, ricotta doughnuts with coffee dipping sauce. Fortunately the smoky edamame appetizer with rosemary and lemon is available anytime. 215 S. Main St., Suite 3, Bentonville, ovenandtap.com.

Tusk & Trotter American Brasserie

As the name implies, chef Rob Nelson creates signature dishes using pork — and lots of it. Other locally sourced ingredients show up on the menu in seasonal plates, juicy burgers of bison, boar or beef plus fish and vegetarian choices. No matter what, be sure to order the famous house-made pork rinds that arrive at the table still crackling from the fryer. 110 SE A St., Bentonville, tuskandtrotter.com.


There’s no ordinary airport food at this modern all-day cafe, and like Thaden Field, the airstrip it sits by, the restaurant is named for local, record-setting aviator Iris Louise McPhetridge Thaden. Indoor and outdoor seating face the runway so diners can watch small planes land and take off whether they’re enjoying breakfast tacos or chicken fried steak.2205 SW I St., Suite 100, Bentonville, louise.cafe.


Onyx Coffee Lab

Not your average coffee shop, Onyx direct-sources its beans and micro-roasts them in small batches for serious aficionados and casual drinkers alike. Choose from single-origin brews and familiar drinks from the “Comfort” menu, but anyone looking for “Adventure” should consider the lavender coconut latte or s’mores Gibraltar, which comes with a toasted marshmallow and graham cracker. 100 NW Second St., Suite 106, Bentonville, onyxcoffeelab.com.


Located underneath The Preacher’s Son is a not-so-secret speakeasy accessed through a door marked “Coatroom” or an archway simply marked “Bar.” Once inside the cozy space lit with flickering candles, choose from classic drinks, signature cocktails — like the Mediterranean Climate made with Armagnac — or something from the extensive wine list. 201 NW A St., Bentonville, undercroftbar.com.


Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

One of the country’s foremost art museums, Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection holds five centuries of works from American masters and gems from lesser-known artists dating from colonial times to the present. The collection is displayed on a rotating basis, and temporary exhibitions run year-round, so there is always something new to see, inside and out. Reservations are needed to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson House, but like the museum, admission is free. The building — a work of art itself — sits on 120 wooded acres, and a plant- and sculpture-filled trail leads back to the 21c. 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, crystalbridges.org.

The Walmart Museum

Set inside the original Walton’s 5&10, the museum is a must-see for every visitor. The front is a real store brimming with retro toys, souvenirs and snacks, and beyond that is a collection of memorabilia, photos and information on the history of Walmart and the Walton family. After a tour that includes Sam Walton’s original office, grab a scoop of ice cream in The Spark Café Soda Fountain. 105 N. Main St., Bentonville, walmartmuseum.com.

Mountain Biking

Bentonville is a designated IMBA silver-level Ride Center and a mecca for mountain bikers. The terrain, year-round riding, and quality and diversity of trails combine to make this a world-class destination for cycling enthusiasts. With more than 140 miles of hard and soft trails, there’s something for everyone from beginner to seasoned pro. visitbentonville.com/bike.

Scott Family Amazeum

While scaled for little ones, the whole family will enjoy this hands-on, interactive museum with exhibits and activities inspired by the region. It’s a safe setting for climbing the 35-foot tree canopy, exploring an Ozark cave and getting messy in the Hershey’s Lab or Art Studio. At the market inspired by Walmart, kids have so much fun, they don’t realize they’re learning math at the same time. 1009 Museum Way, Bentonville, amazeum.org.

Museum of Native American History

This hidden treasure holds 14,000 years of Native American art, history and artifacts that can’t be seen elsewhere. In addition to one of the nation’s largest collections of arrowheads and stone tools, pottery, headdresses, textiles and beadwork are showcased chronologically through archeological periods. While self-guided tours are offered, the friendly and knowledgeable staff has a wealth of information to share. 202 SW O St., Bentonville, monah.us.

The Peel Mansion Museum & Heritage Gardens

The Italianate-style mansion, built in 1875 and originally surrounded by an apple orchard, now sits in front of a Walmart, but that’s no reason to pass it by. The retailer was instrumental in the restoration of the historic home that captures late 19th-century life thanks to authentic furnishings, some donated by Peel family ancestors. The heritage rose garden is a highlight of the grounds. 400 S. Walton Blvd., Bentonville, peelcompton.org.

Drive: 554 miles

Fly: XNA

Photographs courtesy of Visit Bentonville