With a population of about 50,000, you might expect Bentonville to be nothing more than the headquarters to the world’s biggest company. But Bentonville is much more than the home of Walmart. Here’s what to do if you have a day to spend in Bentonville, including a few lessons learned…
Don’t let its tie to the world’s biggest corporation fool you, Bentonville is a charming southern town with much to offer. Originally named Osage after the Osage Indians who were native to the area, Bentonville, Arkansas was renamed in 1906 after printing industry inventor Linn Boyd Benton. In 1950, Sam Walton opened Walton’s 5 & 10 on the square of the small, Ozark mountain town, and the rest is history.
Despite a few lessons learned — lessons that smarted a bit because I have been traveling enough to know better — we enjoyed a fantastic day in Bentonville. Here’s what I recommend if you have a day to spend in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Fuel Up at Onyx Coffee Lab
8:00 am to 9:45 am
Start your day at Onyx Coffee Lab. Located in Bentonville’s quaint downtown, the Onyx Coffee Lab is as beautifully designed as it is delicious. Pair your favorite breakfast beverage — coffee, tea, smoothie — with a toast piled high with your favorite toppings or something from the pastry case.
Fun Fact: Onyx Coffee Lab has three other locations in Arkansas in Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale.
Pro Tip: Downtown Bentonville is full of activity, including a Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and First Fridays once a month. If you’re visiting on a Saturday morning, be sure to explore the market and chat with the vendors. We especially loved talking to a woman who converted historic church beams, debris from the Joplin tornado, and other treasures into amazing birdhouses, door knockers, and other masterpieces.
9:45 am to 11:00 am (includes travel time from Downtown Bentonville)
The Peel Mansion is only open a short window each day from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, probably so that the beautiful, Italianate mansion can be rented for private events like weddings, company parties, and other celebrations. Because our trip to Bentonville was focused on visiting a special exhibit at Crystal Bridges, we didn’t think to visit the Peel Mansion first. It’s a short, five-minute drive from Onyx and tours are provided on the hour. We could have easily been there right when the mansion opened, enjoyed the 30-45 minute tour offered at the top of every hour, and then headed to Crystal Bridges. Lesson learned.
We were only able to see the exterior of the mansion since it was already closed for the day to prepare for a wedding on site that evening, but it was absolutely gorgeous! Learn more about the gorgeous home of the first native-born Arkansan elected to the United States Congress and the home he built for his wife, Mary Emaline Berry Peel, and their nine children via the Tulsa Tiny Stuff blog based upon Troy’s recent visit.
Fun Fact: The Peel Mansion is said to be haunted by Samuel Peel and his daughter Minnie Bell.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
11:00 am to 6:00 pm (includes travel time from the Peel Mansion)
After the Peel Mansion, head over to one of the nation’s most beautiful and well-respected art museums, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Walmart founder Sam Walton’s only daughter, Alice, founded the art museum that opened in 2011. Thanks to the generous support of Walmart, there is no cost to visit Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection of exclusively American artists, but there may be a fee for special exhibits, programs, and other events.
During your visit to Crystal Bridges, you’ll see the works of such notable American artists as:
Don’t miss a rare sculpture by the artist as well as the world’s most expensive painting by a woman, Georgia O’Keeffe’s s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1. purchased for $44.4 million back in 2015.
Related Article: 5 Tips to Help Kids of All Ages Appreciate Art Museums
Through nearly five decades of The Saturday Evening Post magazine covers, Norman Rockwell is famous for capturing life in America in the 20th Century. His painting of Rosie the Riveter, eating a sandwich with a rivet gun and a lunch box labeled “Rosie” on her lap while stepping on a copy of Mein Kampf is prominently displayed at Crystal Bridges after being purchased from a private collector for the museum’s permanent collection.
Andy Warhol is one of the most recognizable artists from the Pop Art movement. He started painting his series of Coca-Cola bottles in the 1960s, and Crystal Bridges proudly displays one of them in its permanent collection.
Lunch at Eleven
When you’re ready for lunch, head over to Eleven, the on-site restaurant at Crystal Bridges. Place your order at the counter, grab a table, and the incredibly friendly staff will deliver your order on real plates with real silverware.
Pro Tip: You can download the brunch, lunch, and dinner menus for Eleven here.
Fun Fact: The restaurant gets its name, Eleven, from Crystal Bridges’ opening date on November 11, 2011.
Sculpture Garden and Trails
If the weather cooperates, be sure to explore the museum’s 120-acre grounds including a sculpture garden and walking trails. The sculpture garden features more than 20 works of art including one of pop artist Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE statues and Louise Bourgeois’ 30-foot spider, Maman.
Pro Tip: Download a map of Crystal Bridges’ outdoor sculptures and trails here.
Frank Lloyd Wright House
Round out your visit with a tour of the Bachman-Wilson House designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The house was originally built along the Millstone River in New Jersey but was carefully moved to the museum in 2015. Tickets to the Frank Lloyd Wright house are limited, so be sure to plan ahead! We arrived at Crystal Bridges right when it opened on a Saturday morning, and all of the tickets for the day were already gone. Another lesson learned!
View photos of the Bachman-Wilson House courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum here
Related Article: 7 Things to Expect When You Visit Crystal Bridges
6:00 pm to 7:30 pm (includes travel time from Crystal Bridges)
No matter how you feel about Walmart — and I know that people tend to passionately love or hate the place — it’s an American success story worth knowing. Visiting Bentonville without a stop at the Walmart Museum would be like visiting San Francisco and not seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. Plus also, there is no admission fee.
- Helen Walton’s wedding dress that is updated with a new bouquet of flowers every year on their Valentine’s Day anniversary,
- A hilarious display of customer returns including a pencil sharpener that didn’t sharpen ink pens,
- Sam Walton’s office exactly as he left it,
- Ten rules for building a business from Sam Walton’s perspective, and
- The red pick-up truck that one of the world’s wealthiest men drove with his beloved hunting dogs.
Related Article: A Visit to the Walmart Museum
Dinner Before Heading Home
7:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Despite having a list of restaurants we wanted to try for dinner in Bentonville, we opted to instead grab snacks out of our cooler and just get started on our three-hour drive home to Kansas City.
While we didn’t get to try them, these two restaurants are consistently at the top of everything we read about dining in Bentonville and every personal recommendation we received from the locals during our visit:
- The Hive. Located inside Bentonville’s 21c Museum Hotel, The Hive is decorated with honeycombs and over-sized bees. Arkansas native Chef Matthew McClure has developed a menu around the in-season ingredients from Arkansas farms like black walnuts, cornmeal, smoked ham, and peaches.
- The Preacher’s Son. The oldest church in Bentonville has been transformed into a highly-rated restaurant that opened earlier this year. Executive Chef Matthew Cooper sprinkles a bit of the Pacific Northwestern over the Southern cuisine of his upbringing while offering many gluten-free menu items due to his own celiac condition.
What about you? Have you spent time in Bentonville, Arkansas? What things do you recommend visitors experience while they’re there?