Ryan Robinson takes you for a ride in the passenger seat of his RV, off the grid, deep among the dramatic rock formations of the Utah Desert. Robinson and friends chill by the fire, tell stories, and of course, rig a one of a kind highline over the Looking Glass Arch in Moab, UT.
The city of Bentonville in Arkansas is a fun, artsy destination with a beautiful surrounding natural area perfect for outdoor recreation. Jeremy Puglisi shares his tips on where to stay and what to see while visiting Bentonville.
What happens when a family becomes one of the wealthiest in America, and they happen to live in a tiny town in Arkansas? You can find the answer in Bentonville. This underrated travel destination is home to one of the finest art museums in the United States, chic hotels and shops, and foodie-approved restaurants. And, it all started when Sam Walton opened a simple store on the town square.
What started as a small town five and dime would later become Walmart, a multinational corporation that would have an impact on Bentonville in amazing ways. The town is not only the headquarters for Walmart, several Fortune 500 companies have headquarters or offices there. The big bucks have brought an urban vibe to a town that was once a little sister to larger cities in the region.
On top of that, Walmart heir Alice Walton decided to make her mark by investing part of her fortune in building Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which houses a world-class collection with architecture and a natural setting that complements the art. This cemented Bentoville’s prospects as a travel destination. Thankfully for us RV owners the area is packed with great options for camping, but more on that below!
Family Fun & Outdoor Activities
Though many visitors put Bentonville on their bucket list for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, there is so much more to explore. But, let’s start with Crystal Bridges. The esteemed collection will astound even the visitors who have toured museums in much larger cities. Outside, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachmann-WilsonHouse has been carefully rebuilt, with interior tours available.
RVers traveling with kids will find an equally impressive museum for them, the Scott Family Amazeum, with indoor and outdoor experiences targeting toddlers to elementary-aged children. For two very different elements of the region’s history, hit the Walmart Museum and the Museum of Native American History. Even the hotels get in on the gallery action, with the 21c Museum Hotel showcasing modern art.
If you feel restless after all of the museum touring, Bentonville offers outdoor recreation in spades. Northwest Arkansas is a mountain biking hub, with the Slaughter Pen MTB Trails being a highlight. A number of walking paths, including the Art Trail, showcase the outdoor art at Crystal Bridges and connect to trails that cross the city. The Compton Gardens And Arboretum and Tanyard Springs Nature Trail are two more good options.
Daytripping from Bentonville can lead you to some of the exquisite waterways and hiking trails 90 miles east of town, where the don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it town of Ponca serves as the homebase for visitors to the Buffalo National River, which was the U.S.’s first national river. The waters are an effervescent blue and lined by towering cliffs, making this a popular spot for paddling.
Finally, take a hike in the Ozarks Mountains. Though not for the faint of heart, Hawksbill Crag or the Goat Trail offer some of the best views of the Natural State. Lost Valley Trail is a much more family friendly option. When it comes to hiking, there is something for everyone in this region. Just make sure you bring comfortable hiking shoes and lots of water.
Where to Eat
Bentonville has a number of notable restaurants. While museum food rarely gets rave reviews, Eleven (no relation to the character in Stranger Things) breaks the mold. Refuel yourself during your Crystal Bridges visit by grabbing a coffee, treat, or a full meal. The menu features Southern favorites with a modern twist, all served with epic views of the museum’s architecture, all with a giant Jeff Koons sculpture hanging overhead.
A fun spot for a savory meal or a sweet treat is Crepes Paulette, which has a restaurant and a food truck. Speaking of food trucks, the 8th Street Market has a food truck park where you can take your pick from several delicious and affordable options. The Sweet Dream Creamery near the town square has the best handmade ice cream with truly original flavors like Strawberry Buttermilk and Salted Oreo.
If you’re traveling with kids—or even if you’re not—Hog’s Valley RV and Treehouse Resort is a top campground pick. Kids will be tempted to jump out of your vehicle as you check in, so they can hit the pool and splash pad. The RV sites offer a mix of pull-through and back-in sites, with full hookups available at all sites.
Blowing Springs RV Park is a hidden gem, and it is the closest to Bentonville. The RV sites aren’t particularly noteworthy, but the surrounding park has ridges that rise over the campground, creating scenic views and offering easy access to trails.
A number of Corps of Engineers (COE) campgrounds are a bit of a drive from Bentonville, but they offer beautiful views of Beaver Lake, with sapphire waters surrounded by the green Ozarks Hills. Prairie Creek COE and Horseshoe Bend are two choices.
Best Time to Visit Bentonville
Though it’s not the Deep South, Arkansas feels like it in the summer, when heat and humidity descend upon the Natural State. Outdoor recreation can best be enjoyed on the water—or spend your days indoors at Bentonville’s many museums and galleries. Late spring and early summer are more comfortable, and you may be treated to a bevy of blooms.
Fall is an exquisite time to visit the Ozarks Mountains, when the deep greens of summer give way to a cavalcade of colors. The hills come alive with a rainbow of hues, and the pleasant temperatures are perfect for outdoor adventures. Chilly nights make the campfire extra delightful.
Arkansas is definitely an up-and-coming destination! In recent years, Bentonville has grown, just like Sam Walton’s little Five and Dime shop eventually turned into a multinational company. You are sure to be surprised by everything from the museums and restaurants to the beauty of the great outdoors. If the Natural State wasn’t already on your bucket list, it should be. It’s definitely on my list for a return trip!
Jeremy Puglisi is the co-host of the RV Atlas podcast and the co-author of See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors, and Where Should We Camp Next: A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and other Unique Outdoor Accommodations.He loves nothing more than hitching up and heading out to the next campground with his family.