Have you ever visited a place that while you’re still there and while you’re still enjoying ALL THE THINGS, you think to yourself, I am so coming back here and will be doing this all over again? Because that’s basically what happened to four out of four of us when we visited Northwest Arkansas. We were smack dab in the middle of our trip, leaving one hotel to get ready for the next leg of the journey, when both girls looked at me and said, “Mom, can we just do this whole trip over again next summer? It’s so much fun here.”
Normally, I would say that I’d keep their request in mind and let’s just focus on the fun we’re having in the present. Except the girls totally said exactly what I was thinking. So, friends, we spent a long weekend in Arkansas, and we’re just going to do it all over again. The trip was just that good.
Here’s the thing about Northwest Arkansas – it has enough going on to please the adults at a pace that suits young children and at a price that fits the parents’ wallet. That’s my kind of trip.
So if you’re in the mood to look at a bunch of pictures or plan to visit Northwest Arkansas, then read on!
We landed first in Eureka Springs after a long drive that took us through several small towns. On more than one occasion we thought we were lost. But Siri told us to keep going, and we did. Good thing, too, because Eureka Springs was literally around the corner.
The first thing you need to know about Eureka Springs, other than how amazing it is, is that you should plan to be there more than one night. A quirky Main Street, Christ of the Ozarks, a restaurant named Rowdy Beaver, a haunted hotel, a gorgeous chapel, and treehouses you can stay in. One night won’t cut it.
We did not stay in one of the treehouses, but we did stay at a funky place called Stonegate Lodge. And if a 6-year-old’s opinion counts for anything, let me just say Twinkle cannot wait to go back. She was all over the outdoor space, animal pelts, and comfy beds. We hadn’t even started sightseeing before she decided Stonegate Lodge was her jam.
WORD TO THE WISE – If you plan to walk Main Street, park your car a ways away, grab some walking shoes, and start trekking. Everything is on a hill or a curve or some combination of the two. And sidewalks are at a premium. It might be tricky to navigate with strollers, although I did see a few. But the girls loved the quaint and quirky layout, never minding the terrain. You’ll find yourself strolling along ledges without railings to find some of the town’s hidden gems, and the views of all the surroundings are second to none.
Instead of dining out, our family picnicked at the hotel. A few favorite treats included Fudgy Paleo Brownies, No-Bake Paleo Chocolate Chip Coconut Bars, and our Deli Sandwich Lettuce Wraps. But I did drop in to the Rowdy Beaver restaurant to get a shirt and a koozie. Because koozies or it didn’t happen.
We crammed our activities into less than 24 hours, including a visit to Christ of the Ozarks. Y’all, it is on my bucket list to see the actual Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. In the meantime, I’ll satisfy my curiosity in Eureka Springs. Christ of the Ozarks, although not nearly as big as its Brazilian counterpart, is still a sight to behold.
First we tried to see the statue at night, lit up in all its amazingness. So we packed the girls in the car and drove along a winding road that took us into Passion Play, where stories about Christ are reenacted. Except for a few campers, the grounds were open but deserted, and except for a few lights that illuminated the parking lot, the place was pitch black.
We had no idea where we were or if we were even supposed to be there. K-Hubs kept driving, looking for a clue as to where the statue might be in relation to where we were. But we reached a dead end before we ever saw the statue.
“Sorry, Morgan,” he said. “The area barred off ahead must be where the outbuildings are. Let’s try again in the morning.” I agreed. It was getting darker, if that were even possible, and I couldn’t see a thing.
As K-Hubs was trying to turn the car around, my eyes finally started to focus and I began to see an outline ahead of me. In the dark it was hard to tell how close or far anything was to us. But I kept squinting at the towering outline in front of me. I thought for sure it was a building, like K-Hubs suggested, breaking through the treelined darkness that surrounded us. Except that it was rounded on top and curved in on each side, somewhat odd for a utility building.
Because it wasn’t a building.
Friends, straight in front of my face was THE STATUE. We were right behind the head and shoulders. And I proceeded to lose my chill much the way I do when I watch end-of-the-world movies with the inevitable tsunami that engulfs Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Christ of the Ozarks reminded me just how small we really are.
We couldn’t see the statue lit up from the front, so we decided to go back first thing in the morning and ended up having the place all to ourselves. In lieu of an admissions fee to see the statue, there are options for freewill donations.
We hope to get back to see the statue at night. And we have yet to check out the haunted Crescent Hotel, treehouses, or Thorncrown Chapel. There are also unique bars, coffee shops, and clothing stores we have yet to see. So, rest assured, we’ll be back. Eureka Springs easily lives up to its reputation.
Home to Walmart headquarters, Bentonville is full of attractions to keep a person (or a family of four) busy. We packed activities into another short timespan, and in spite of all we did do, we still barely scratched the surface.
First up was the Museum of Native American History. Toodle really wanted to check it out after reading the American Girl series, Kaya. We spent the better part of a morning at the museum. Tucked into a little building that belied just how much there was to see, the museum housed everything from tipis and ceremonial dresses to tools and maps. From a parent’s perspective, I loved it. The museum was easy to navigate, lines were nonexistent, and the staff members were friendly. Like Christ of the Ozarks, there was a freewill donation in lieu of an admissions fee.
Next on the Bentonville leg of our trip was the Scott Family Amazeum. The cost to get in was just under $40 for a family of four. And for what you get, the admission is more than worth it. We spent HOURS in there enjoying the different activities. From pretending to live in a log cabin and working on a farm to transporting goods and working in a grocery store, the girls stayed busy without thinking about it. They also played in water features, created art projects, made music with unlikely objects, and explored loose parts play.
We tried nearly every activity available in the Amazeum, and yet, if the girls set their hearts on a return visit, the Amazeum can TAKE MY MONEY because every dollar is worth it.
And this is the point in today’s post where you and I have a serious talk. If you are planning to visit Northwest Arkansas and are anywhere near Bentonville for any reason at any time, you must pull over to Crystal Bridges and stay a while. Thanks to Walmart and other large donors, regular admission is free.
After the Amazeum, we spent our evening at the Crystal Bridges Musuem of American Art.
There is a restaurant on the premises, which our family did not patron. But you can bet your bottom dollar the next time K-Hubs and I go there sans kids, we’re dining in and looking at all the art without having to mind our indoors voices, walking feet, or wild elbows.
The museum is gorgeous, complete with indoor and outdoor exhibits. Admittedly, the girls were a little young to traipse around the indoor portion for any length of time, although there were plenty of kids tagging along with their parents. We chose to spend the majority of our time outside, wandering the grounds, hiking the trails, and checking out the Frank Lloyd Wright Bachman-Wilson House.
WORD TO THE WISE – Go on a Friday night. The museum is open later, it isn’t terribly crowded, and the weather isn’t as hot at that time, especially if you’re going during the summer, like we did.
We aren’t joking when we say we’re going back to Arkansas. We roamed Bentonville and still have more we want to see, including the Spark Cafe Soda Fountain connected to the Walmart Museum. Bentonville is worth your time.
We spent an afternoon in Fayetteville, visiting the University of Arkansas campus, the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, and town square, which boasts Dickson St. Bookshop, a used and out-of-print bookstore. Toodle is after us to get back there so she can spend time in Dickson’s. We saw it in passing and she was hooked.
We spent most of our time at the botanical gardens. Admission was under $25 for a family of four. The grounds are gorgeous, with main paths for walking and some side and hidden paths for exploring. There were also children’s areas, but those were overtaken by birthday parties.
So we spent the majority of our time in the sensory garden area. It housed a water feature, benches, and a much-needed canopy to block the sun. While the girls played, I explored the grounds and took a ridiculous amount of pictures in a short amount of time. Don’t mind me, I’m just over here geeking out on blossoms, pea gravel, and art installations.
WORD TO THE WISE – Keep a water bottle handy. It was hot at the botanical gardens, and aside from the canopy in the sensory garden, I don’t recall much cover anywhere else. Would I go back to Fayetteville? Um, YES. I, too, want to check out Dickson’s, and then stop and smell more flowers. And Fayetteville is the best place to do that.
So there you have it, Spiriteds. Highlights of our journey to Northwest Arkansas. Firmly planted on team Visit Northwest Arkansas, we are definitely going back. The only question is, how soon will that be?