If you’ve got a free weekend coming up and want to visit a new area, the Northwest Arkansas corridor should be at the top of your list. The area is perennially named as one of the “Best Places to Live” according to U.S. News & World Report (currently ranking at #4). 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. Outdoors enthusiasts will love the state parks, walking trails, and camping opportunities. Sports enthusiasts can enjoy SEC action at the nearby University of Arkansas. If you’re an art lover, there are performing arts centers, live music venues, and world-class museums. And last but definitely not least, the food scene features high-caliber chefs and dishes. The real attraction, however, is how inexpensive it is to see everything there is to do in this fast-growing hub. Here are the top 15 things to do in Fayetteville, Bentonville, and the surrounding area.
16. Hit the Trails
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Northwest Arkansas is to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. NWA has over 200 miles of hard- and soft-surface trails. With names like Whitaker Point, Thunder Chicken, and Slaughter Pen, you’re sure to find the loop that captivates your senses and quenches your hiking cravings. NWA Trails and Bikeways and OZ Trails are both great resources.
The trails are easily traversed by a number of transportation options: horseback, traditional and mountain bikes, and, of course, by foot. Many are ADA accessible. One of the best times of year to visit is in autumn. The summer heat has faded, and the trees of the Ozarks turn fiery orange and red. From mid- to late October catch the fall foliage train tour on the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad.
15. 112 Drive-In Theater
If you miss the nostalgia of a drive-in movie theatre, you’re in luck. The 112 Drive-In Theatre in Fayetteville 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. Many people bring blankets and picnic in their truck beds.
Get in line early, as it’s first-come, first-serve for the best spots. Only 100 are admitted. Admission is only $10 a person, which is 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.
14. Funky Crafts at Terra Studios
(image via Terra Studios)
Terra Studios is a family glass and pottery studio just southeast of Fayetteville. The studio itself is an amazing art park escape into artistic endeavors and beautiful installations. The original “Bluebirds of Happiness” glass sculptures were created in 1983 by Leo and Rita Ward (husband and wife) who have both since passed. Their son John Ward is also an accomplished artist in multiple media, including cartooning, pottery, sculpture, and photography.
The six-acre art park offers a gallery, art classes, and demonstrations. The grounds also feature awe-inspiring sculpture gardens, murals, and a labyrinth. The art café and showroom feature work, handicrafts, and incredible jewelry made by local artisans.
13. Beaver Lake
(image via Visit Rogers, AR)
Immediately east of Rogers, Beaver Lake is a popular weekend lake getaway for residents in the area. This large lake of 28,000 acres is a favorite for all types of watersports and activities. Bass fishing is particularly popular. Beaver Lake is even home to fishing tournaments throughout the year. Check out Prairie Creek Marina for boat rental options.
Other activities include boating, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, swimming, and even scuba diving. The nearby Hobbs State Park–Conservation Area (formerly known as Beaver Lake State Park) also has plenty of picnic and camping areas, hiking and biking trails, and even a shooting range. In fact, it’s the largest state park in Arkansas.
12. Northwest Arkansas On Tap
The Fayetteville Ale Trail, established in 2013, takes you on a fun, sudsy tour of the local craft brewery and cider culture. It features 17 stops around Fayetteville, Springdale, Siloam Springs, Rogers, Bentonville, and Eureka Springs.
There is no cost to participate and over 35,000 Trail Passports have been issued in just over five years. Besides breweries, there are also beer-themed events throughout the year. These include annual events such as the Nutty Runner 5K, Frost Fest, and Beer & Bagel Off-Road Run that combine cardio and alcohol.
11. Day Trip to Eureka Springs
(image via Eureka Springs)
Want to experience something a little offbeat? Head over to Eureka Springs for a day trip. This small Northwest Arkansas town has a surprising amount to explore no matter the season. Brush up on your civil war history at the Pea Ridge National Military Park (in nearby Garfield).
Take an underground tour with Downtown-N-Underground Eureka Springs. This unique walking tour covers both the history and folklore of the town. If you’re feeling brave, book a Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour and experience the “most haunted hotel in America.” There’s also fun to be had at Cosmic Cavern (in Berryville), Opera in the Ozarks, and Onyx Cave Park. Eureka Springs is small but mighty!
10. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
(images via Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge)
Make sure you visit the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge to see beautiful big cats in this accredited animal sanctuary. This is a 459-acre wildlife refuge for abused, abandoned, or neglected large cats. Around 100 animals live at this sanctuary in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. This is one of the largest big cat sanctuaries in the United States.
Since its inception in 1992, the non-profit USDA-licensed refuge has grown to become one of Arkansas’ top ten attractions and Eureka Springs’ most popular. The main cages and gift shops are surrounded by massive natural habitats containing lions, cougars, leopards, tigers, and bears. Overnight accommodations are available at the Safari Lodge, RV park, and camping facilities.
9. Go See a Show
(image via TheatreSquared)
There’s no shortage of performing arts venues in Northwest Arkansas. The Walton Arts Center hosts everything from award-winning Broadway tours like Fiddler on the Roof and Hamilton to Grammy-winning artists like Melissa Etheridge.
The Walmart AMP is an outdoor music pavilion that nets big names like Phish, Dave Matthews Band, Pitbull, Jim Gaffigan, and Luke Bryan. Theatre Squared is a regional theatre company that produces high-caliber productions like Designing Women and A Christmas Carol. And small but mighty favorite Arts Live Theatre produces fantastic original productions featuring youth and child actors.
8. Northwest Arkansas Coffee Culture
Get caffeinated with world-class coffee in Northwest Arkansas. This area features some of the best roasters in the country. After all, we all need a cup of joe to help us jump-start the day. In this area, thy cafes take coffee to a whole other 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! The owners consider themselves a blend of artists and scientists—always tinkering with brewing techniques so they can offer the best experience for their regulars. There are multiple locations throughout Bentonville, Rogers, and Fayetteville. Basecamp Coffee Co. features ethically sourced coffee in a relaxed environment. If you’re on a bike adventure, we suggest a grab-and-go breakfast burrito. Others, sit and relax with some heavier fare.
7. Nightlife on Dickson Street
A stroll down Dickson Street will place you in the center of the action. 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 of Arkansas. This makes it a popular place for the college crowd, especially after a home game of any kind. Pick a music venue, celebrate a victory, and dance the night away.
However, Dickson Street is still plenty of fun during the daytime (for those who head to bed early). Explore outstanding boutique shopping or go old-school at French Metro Antiques. Wander through Dickson Street Bookshop to discover a unique used book. For lunchtime, enjoy a meal outdoors on the patio where the people-watching is top-notch.
6. Walmart Museum & Bentonville Square
(image via Downtown Bentonville)
The Bentonville Square serves as a true city center. Like Fayetteville’s, Bentonville Square hosts a robust farmers’ market every Saturday as well as other civic events. Every year at Christmas, the trees and storefronts are lit up in lights, accompanied by a celebratory “turning-on” party.
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. Make sure to visit the Spark Café Soda Fountain, a true soda fountain that features Arkansas-favorite Yarnell’s Ice cream. The prices are so low, you’ll definitely want a double scoop!
5. World-Class Art in Bentonville
(image via Crystal Bridges Museum)
The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and The Momentary are must-visits in Northwest Arkansas. The museum is a stunning compilation of art, architecture, exhibitions, and nature. Its unique setting overtop two ponds within 120 acres of native Ozark forests places world-class art in a natural context.
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 permanent collection includes greats such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Thomas Eakins, and Jackson Pollock. The Momentary, opened in 2020, is a separate contemporary visual and performing art space in downtown Bentonville.
4. Bike Northwest Arkansas
The biking culture in Fayetteville is lauded near and far. The city holds the Union Cycliste Internationale Award (joining such prestigious cities as Copenhagen and Paris) for its commitment to developing cycling at all levels. It’s the first time the award has been given to a city in the U.S. If you don’t have a bike of your own, Phat Tire Bike Shop has rentals at locations in both Fayetteville and Bentonville.
You can enjoy over 100 miles of designated biking thoroughfares, from the Town Branch Trail to the expansive Razorback Regional Greenway. Coler Mountain Bike Preserve in Bentonville is a mountain biker’s paradise. There are 17 miles of progressive trails and dry campsites. If you aren’t a serious enthusiast, try the Pedal Pub. Fayetteville’s original party bike lets you ride around town with your friends to enjoy a brew or two!
3. Botanical Garden of the Ozarks
(image via Botanical Garden of the Ozarks)
The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks showcases the natural beauty of the Ozarks while also educating and entertaining visitors. There are twelve themed gardens. These include the Japanese garden, a vegetable & herb garden, a butterfly garden, a rose garden, and an Ozark-native garden.
There’s always a special event going on: Yoga in the Gardens, Firefly Fling, or Chefs in the Gardens. These fun experiences let visitors take in much more than just the natural beauty. Admission for adults is $10 and $5 for children.
2. Call the Hogs
(image via Arkansas Razorbacks)
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. Therefore, an event is happening nearly every weekend on campus.
Whatever the athletic event, grab your cardinal and white ensemble, and don’t forget your plastic hog hat. Cheering for the home team is unavoidable as the famed “Woo Pig Sooie!” chant is quite infectious. You may even hear it spontaneously on the street or in a bar. It’s the unofficial anthem of Northwest Arkansas.
1. Fayetteville Downtown Square & Gardens
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. Thousands enjoy this tiny slice of heaven greenspace annually. Surrounded by restaurants and hotels, the square will most likely be your starting point for exploring Northwest Arkansas.
The Fayetteville Square also hosts a fabulous farmers’ market every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Even when the tent setups take a break for winter, you can still order online. The Lights of the Ozark Festival is a huge draw in December featuring hundreds of thousands of holiday lights illuminating the entire square.
Interested in More Suggestions?
As you can see, Northwest Arkansas has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from Fayetteville.
These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.