Discover unexpected wonders in and around the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.
The pristine beauty of the Ozark Mountains is a compelling reason to visit Northwest Arkansas. There’s so much to do outdoors in this region: hiking, biking, camping, nature photography and wildlife watching. But what keeps things interesting is the diverse collection of towns to discover. Set off on a road trip to check out three towns that will surprise you with world-class art, foodie-approved cuisine, unique shops and plenty of history and culture.
Fort Smith: Old West History
Embrace the spirit of the Old West in Fort Smith. At Fort Smith National Historic Site, experience the frontier firsthand by exploring history exhibits that depict early 1800s life here. See the remains of two frontier forts, and the “Hell on the Border” jail. The infamous Judge Isaac Parker’s courtroom is worth a peek, too; Parker was an Old West judge with a staunch reputation often popularized in Western movies. Nearby, you’ll stumble upon the Fort Smith Museum of History for more historic artifacts to peruse. Tucked inside is the pharmacy, a delightful 1920s-style soda fountain that will tempt you with old-fashioned ice cream floats. Don’t miss the trolley rides originating at the Fort Smith Trolley Museum for a fun and nostalgic way to check out additional sights. From there, take a tour of the contemporary street art downtown produced by the annual urban art project, The Unexpected. The event draws notable international artists to town.
Statue honoring Western legend Bass Reeves in Fort Smith
Bentonville: Big City Art Culture, Small-town Appeal
If your favorite pastimes are eating and shopping, you’re going to love rolling into Bentonville, only an hour and a half north from Fort Smith. A charming, walkable downtown awaits with its fair share of restaurants, cool shops and attractions, including The Walton Museum, an early Walmart store with interactive exhibits telling the story of Sam Walton’s humble origins and the growth of Walmart to the world’s top retailer. The museum also houses a working dime store and a 1950s-style soda fountain. Continue onto the town’s crown jewel, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Once inside, no one will judge you if you get lost for hours – it’s an American art wonderland with collections featuring work from superstars such as Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe and Norman Rockwell. The culinary scene is also having a big moment here, and the restaurant The Preacher’s Son (housed in a former Gothic Revival church) may just be the perfect example of why. In partnership with local, family-owned farms, this eatery is bringing farm-driven ingredients and culinary know-how to the creation of delicious dishes such as the smoked chicken paella and the A and A Farm Peach salad.
A glass installation by Dale Chihuly at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Eureka Springs: Dip into Bohemian Vibes & Cold-water Springs
An hour east of Bentonville, you’ll discover Eureka Springs, a town abuzz with plenty of local color. You won’t find many chain stores, and it’s easy to get lost in all the one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants in its lively downtown. On Main Street, have lunch at the beloved Mud Street Café, known for its awarding-winning espresso; then grab dessert at Two Dumb Dames, which offers a delectable assortment of homemade fudge. After your foray downtown, a stay at the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel is in order, where the quirky, entertaining ghost tour is a must. Beyond the city limits, hop on a dinner train offering Southern fare paired with scenic views on the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway. Wondering where the springs are? You’ll discover the iconic waters dotted throughout town in gardens and parks. Test out local folklore at Magnetic Spring Park, home to a spring that is said to magnetize any metal upon contact with its mystical waters. Give it a try. If any place could make you believe in a little magic, it’s Eureka Springs.