If you’ve got a free weekend coming up and want to visit a new area, the NWA/Fayetteville corridor should be at the top of your list. The area is a favorite and longstanding location for Best Places to Live according to U.S. News & World Report (ranking #4 is the U.S.) and for great reason. The cost of living is low, and the quality of life is high. So, what’s attracting all the attention?
The area is nestled in the Ozark Mountains, so outdoors enthusiasts love the state parks, walking trails and camping opportunities. Sports enthusiasts can enjoy SEC action at nearby University of Arkansas- in a number of sports where a Hog Hat is preferred along with a woo pig sooie chant. If you’re an art lover, there are performing arts centers, live music venues and museums. And last but definitely not least, the foodie scene is amazing. The real attraction, however, is how inexpensive or free it is to see everything there is to do in this fast-growing hub. Here are the top 15 things to do in Fayetteville and the surrounding area for your best getaway.
(featured image via Facebook)
15. Take a Hike
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Northwest Arkansas is enjoy the beautiful outdoors and NWA has over 200 miles of hard and soft-surface trails with names like Thunder Chicken, Slaughter Pen, Fossil Flats, Pedestal Rocks, Whitaker Point and Blowing Springs Park, you’re sure to find the loop that captivates your senses and quenches your hiking cravings. The trails are easily traversed by a number of transportation options: old fashioned feet, horseback, ADA biking/hiking, or mountain bikers. The trail system is organized with the hiker/enthusiasts at the center of the journey. If you want to see a nature show, make sure you head up mid-late October to catch the Fall Foliage Train Tour and most favorable weather you’ll ever experience in Arkansas.
14. 112 Drive-In Theater
If you miss the nostalgia of a drive-in movie theatre, you’re in luck. The 112 Drive-In Theatre is open Thursday through Sunday with FIRST-RUN Movies. Harkening back to the 1950s phenomenon, you can park your car and enjoy a movie outdoors on your blanket under the stars. Get in line early- as its first come, first serve for the best spots- only 100 are admitted. Admission is only $10 a person- a bargain if you’ve been to the cinema lately. An old-fashioned concession stand is available with all your favorite drive-in favorites like popcorn, pretzels, corndogs, ice cream and funnel cakes.
13. Funky Crafts at Terra Studios
(image via Terra Studios)
Terry Studios is a family glass and pottery studio that has transformed into an amazing escape into artistic endeavors and beautiful installations. The original Bluebirds of Happiness were created in 1983 by Rita Ward while husband John was an accomplished artist in multiple mediums including cartooning, pottery, sculpture, and photography. Situated on a six-acre art park, Terra Studios offers a gallery, art classes and demonstrations as well as awe-inspiring sculpture gardens, murals, and labyrinth. Their art café and showroom features work, handicrafts and incredible jewelry made by local artisans that you help support with your purchase.
12. Clinton House Museum & History
(image via Clinton House Museum)
Arkansas was the home of President Bill Clinton and his formative years are on display in Fayetteville at the Clinton House Museum. This one-bedroom, modest 1,800 square foot home provided the college backdrop to what would become the most celebrated, and often reviled, couple that rose to the highest office in the land. It all started here for them together in 1975, where the couple resided during their time as law school professors. Visitors will see memorabilia from Clinton’s early political career as well as the extraordinary First Ladies Garden, where the favorite flowers of all 47 first ladies are planted.
11. Get Your Drink On
Like coffee in this part of Arkansas, the brewers are no slouches either. The Fayetteville Ale Trail, established in 2013, takes you on a fun, sudsy tour of the local craft brewery and cider culture- featuring 17 stops. There is no cost to participate and over 35,000 Trail Passports have been issued in just over five years. There are also annual events such as the Nutty Runner 5K, Frost Fest and Beer & Bagel Off-Road Run that combine your need to run and imbibe at the same time- all will return when COVID Safe. Northwest Arkansas hosts over 15 craft beer producers that are nationally known, ensuring you get the pint you’re looking for- from strong draughts to pale ales.
10. Day Trip to Eureka Springs
(image via Eureka Springs)
Wanting to experience something a little offbeat- head on over to Eureka Springs for a daytrip. There’s so much to see and do for all seasons of the year. Make sure you visit the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge to see beautiful big cats in this accredited animal sanctuary. Brush up on your civil war history at the Pea Ridge National Military Park. Take a underground tour at the Downtown-N-Underground tour that brings historical characters to life. If you’re feeling mighty brave, check out the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tours and experience the “most haunted hotel in America”. There’s also fun to be had at Cosmic Caverns, Opera in the Ozarks, and Onyx Cave Park.
Admission: varies according to venue
9. Go See a Show
(image via TheatreSquared)
There’s no shortage of performing arts venues in Northwest Arkansas and like Razorback sports, there’s always someone to see or hear. The Walton Arts Center hosts everything from award-winning Broadway tours like Mean Girls and Hamilton as well as Grammy award artists like Melissa Etheridge. The Walmart AMP (aka The Amp) is an outdoor music pavilion that nets big names like Phish, Dave Matthews Band, Pitbull, Jim Gaffigan and Luke Bryan. Theatre Squared is the home of fantastic plays like Matilda, Designing Women, and A Christmas Carol. And small but mighty favorite Arts Live Theatre provides fantastic events featuring young arts like Alice in Cyberland, Rock Dogs and other student originals.
Admission: varies according to venue
8. Catch a Buzz
Get caffeinated with world-class coffee in Northwest Arkansas with some of the best roasters in the country- after all, we all need a cup of joe to help us kick the day off. And in this area, these cafes take coffee to a whole ‘nother level. Arsaga’s, located on the Razorback Regional Greenway, is famous for its medium blend, small batch roasted varieties. Onyx Coffee Lab was named Imbibe magazine’s Coffee Bar of the Year- and for good reason. The owners consider themselves a blend of art and science- tinkering with brewing techniques so they can offer the best experience for their regulars. Mama Carmen’s Espresso Café imports their beans directly from the Mama Carmen’s farm in the highlands of Guatemala- ensuring that when you purchase coffee, you’re also supporting a Guatemalan orphanage.
7. Nightlife on Dickson Street
If you like nightlife and excitement, head on down to Dickson Street in Fayetteville after dark. There, you’ll find amazing restaurants, bars and clubs located steps away from one another in Fayetteville’s entertainment district. The downtown area is close to the University and is a popular place for the college crowd- especially after a home game of any kind. There is outstanding boutique shopping and the people watching is top notch. You can find every type of music venue to dance the night away- its so electric, you’ll forget you’re in Arkansas.
People Watching: Free
6. Walmart Museum & Bentonville Square
(image via Downtown Bentonville)
Centered in the middle of downtown Bentonville, you can visit the Bentonville City Square that serves as the true city center. Like Fayetteville, the Square hosts a robust farmer’s market every Saturday as well as other civic events. Located just a step off the square is the Walton Five and Dime and the Walmart Museum. See firsthand how Walmart went from a simple, local store in the early 1950s to a worldwide phenomenon and employer today. Make sure to visit The Spark Café Soda Fountain- which is a true soda fountain that features Arkansas favorite Yarnell’s Ice cream- the prices are so low; you’ll definitely need a double scoop!
Admission to Walmart Museum/Bentonville City Square: Free
5. World-Class Art in Bentonville
(image via The Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic)
The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art & The Momentary are must visits in Northwest Arkansas. The museum is a stunning compilation of art, architecture, exhibitions, and nature that truly celebrates the American spirit, situated on 120 acres of native Ozark forests that include natural springs, streams and animals. Designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the pavilions and glass bridges are remarkable to behold. Inside, the museum’s curated collection features five centuries of American artwork. The Momentary was opened in 2020 and is a contemporary visual and performing art space in downtown Bentonville.
4. Bike, Bike, and Bike
(image via Jim Coleman Crystal Mines & Rock Shop)
You don’t need a special award to enjoy the biking environment in Fayetteville, but Fayetteville holds the Union Cycliste Internationale award- the first awarded in the United States and joining such prestigious cities such as Copenhagen and Paris – for their commitment to developing cycling at all levels. You can enjoy over 100 miles of designated biking thoroughfares, whether it’s around down on the Town Branch Trail or a longer stretch on the Razorback Regional Greenway. Coler Mountain Bike Preserve in Bentonville is a mountain biker’s paradise that offers 17 miles of progressive trails and dry campsites. You can even enjoy the Pedal Pub, Fayetteville’s original Party Bike which lets you ride around town with your friends and enjoy a brew or two!
3. Botanical Garden of the Ozarks
(image via Wannafaye Lincecum)
The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks showcases the natural beauty of the Ozarks while also educating and entertaining visitors every year. There are twelve themed gardens that also include the region’s only native butterfly house. Boasting stunning vistas and extraordinary architecture and landscape, your visit to the gardens will be enhanced by the Sensory Garden that appeals to all five senses. There’s always a special event going on- whether its Yoga in the Gardens, Firefly Fling or Chefs in the Gardens- ensuring that you experience much more than just the natural beauty.
Admission: $10 adults/$5 Child
2. Call the Hogs
(image via Evelyn Gan)
If sports are your thing, you can hardly go wrong attending any sporting event at the University of Arkansas. Founded in 1871, the University is the home of the Arkansas Razorbacks, a proud member of the SEC. There are 19 teams competing at the highest level of NCAA competition- so there’s multiple events every weekend on campus. Whether its football, basketball, baseball, or soccer, grab your cardinal and white ensemble and don’t forget your plastic hog hat. Cheering for the home team is unavoidable as the famed chant Woo Pig Sooie is quite infectious.
Admission: varies according to sports/venue
1. Fayetteville Downtown Square & Gardens
(image via Mike Wiese)
In 1978, Fayetteville decided to utilize its downtown area as a public park and the Fayetteville Downtown Square Gardens were founded. The area is plush with gardens and plants around the Old Post Office and thousands enjoy this tiny slice of heaven greenspace annually. Fayetteville Downtown Square also hosts a fabulous Farmer’s Market every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning- ensuring you get the best produce or coolest art around. The Lights of the Ozark Festival is a huge draw in December, with hundreds of thousands of holiday lights illuminating the gardens.
As you can see, Northwest Arkansas has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more check out other Weekend trips from nearby Little Rock. …links to detailed itineraries. Links to other similar destinations. links to origins FROM Fayetteville/Bentonville.