Things To Do in Bentonville, AR: Mountain Biking, Art, Beer and Coffee
July 3, 2021
Table of Contents
Bentonville is a town tucked into the Northwest corner of Arkansas most known for being the birthplace of Walmart. However, the town has so much more to offer than the Walmart Museum and headquarters. It is home to incredible art museums, many miles of mountain biking trails and a lot of great food.
Over half of the businesses I visited around town had some nod towards biking in their branding, decor and vibes. It’s a huge part of the culture in Bentonville!
Bentonville is home to one of my favorite boutique hotel chains, 21C Museum Hotels. 21C has a handful of locations in the south and midwest. Each hotel is home to a collection of contemporary art for guests and visitors. The Bentonville 21C is centrally located in town and within walking distance to bike trails, restaurants, the Walmart Museum and other downtown spots. The hotel also has an innovative restaurant called The Hive that serves country inspired meals for dinner and brunch, along with an extensive cocktail menu.
Highlights for me at the 21C art museum included an interactive art piece where you can adjust the wind direction over a pile of sand, incredible long exposure photography by Fabiano Parisi and a 3D art piece illusion by Anita Groener.
Our room in the hotel was pretty standard with two queen beds, a floor lamp and a comfortable chair to sit in outside of the bed. Admittedly, this location was not quite as nice as the Oklahoma City 21C but was still a great place to stay.
Each 21C has a different colored penguin mascot and the Bentonville location is home to the green penguin!
If you are interested in reading about the 21C in Oklahoma City, check out my Oklahoma City blog!
The Preacher’s Son is a must if you’re looking for a nice meal during your visit. The restaurant is located in an old church and has tall stained glass windows with biking motifs. The food is sustainably sourced and the menu features American dishes with eclectic touches.
For your appetizer, be sure to order the croquettes. These balls made of pimento cheese and potatoes were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and a crowd pleaser. For dinner, I had a vegetarian version of the ‘Smoked Branzino’ which included chickpeas, smoked tomato and brussel sprouts. It was fantastic and full of flavor. The atmosphere and service was wonderful and I really enjoyed my experience here.
Bentonville has no shortage of amazing coffee and beer! I managed to visit three coffee shops and three breweries during my weekend in Bentonville.
Onyx Coffee Lab is a coffee shop dedicated to finding the best and most unique coffee in the world. They have locations in both downtown Bentonville and at The Momentary Contemporary Art Museum. I visited the Momentary location and was blown away by the beautiful design and unique features of this coffee shop. The cafe fits right into the contemporary museum by creating an experience that juxtaposes robotics to hand made service. It’s full of pink and white details on the walls, benches, tables and coffee equipment. Under the counter, there is a stellar pink Modbar (a high end piece of commercial coffee equipment). The most unique part of the experience was that your coffee arrives on a conveyor belt! I can’t say enough good things about the design at this location, and the coffee and macarons were delicious too.
The Meteor is another unique cafe and coffee shop full of art and retro design. The cafe is full of wood details with bright stripes and geometric shapes. The shop originated in Austin and Bentonville is their second location. The cafe doubles as a bike shop and also serves a wide selection of beer and wine. I ordered the buffalo cauliflower pizza and it was delicious and flavorful.
An abstract and mesmerizing video plays above the counter at The Meteor. There is so much to look at as you enjoy your glass of wine, cup of coffee or meal.
Airship Coffee also draws inspiration from the biking culture in Bentonville. They have a location in town and a location in the Coler Mountain Biking Preserve! The downtown location is a bright and airy shop with wood details, hanging plants and color blocked bikes hanging on the walls. They even had bouquets of flowers for sale when I visited. They also serve breakfast tacos and have a vegan option with a delicious tofu scramble.
Bike Rack Brewing Co. has two locations in Bentonville and I visited the one in the 8th Street Market. The 8th Street Market is a great place to visit whether you go to this brewery or not. It has a mix of bars, restaurants and shops to explore.
The brewery creates seasonal small batches of beer and consistently has something new to try. At the 8th street location, they have plenty of outdoor seating with food trucks sitting outside if you get hungry. I loved the wooden mountain designs that adorned the walls here.
New Province Brewing Company is located in Rogers, just a few minutes outside of Bentonville. The brewery is locally owned and all beer is made on site. The space is large with games, a pool table and tvs to watch sports. I really enjoyed the Leap of Faith sour with hints of white grape and fresh hay.
Bentonville Brewing Company is a large 20,000 square foot brewery with plenty of space outside to spread out. They serve German-pub food such as bavarian pretzels along with burgers and fries. There is a wide selection of beer. If you like to try multiple items, you can pick to try one of their curated flights or even let them surprise you with an unknown flight. I really enjoyed the Light Flight that included sours, a lager and a kolsch. The brewery has been around since 2015 but this space opened in 2020 and feels modern and nice.
Happy Wagon offers a super unique and refreshing dessert. This stand inside of the 8th Street Market serves a layered concoction of Italian Ice and frozen custard; the two textures meld together perfectly. I got strawberry and lemonade italian ice. The tartness matched perfectly to the sweetness of the custard. Don’t miss this gem if you love ice cream and plan accordingly because they are closed on Sundays!
The Spark Cafe and Soda Fountain Shop is attached to the Walmart Museum and offers a large menu of ice cream, sundaes and sodas. They even have mug cakes, which I wanted to order but they had run out. The ice cream was basic but very affordable. The inside portion was closed during my visit due to Covid-19 but it is decorated like a classic diner in the Walmart color scheme.
Markham and Fitz Chocolate is another great shop located in the 8th Street Market. Here you’ll find gourmet chocolates, amazing hot chocolate, chocolate cocktails and more. The decor of the shop is painted with green floral wall patterns with gold details. Visit for a chocolate martini or take a slice of cake home for later!
The one thing you have to do in Bentonville is go biking. There are many miles of mountain biking trails in close proximity to downtown Bentonville. Notable locations include the Coler Mountain Bike Preserve, the Slaughter Pen trails, the Blowing Springs Trail System and the Little Sugar Trail System. Each place has a mix of difficulties from easy to difficult. I recommend visiting the OZ Trails website for information on all of the trails and downloading the Trail Forks app for trail maps.
I rented my bike from Spoke Adventures LLC, which is located right across the street from the 21C. I tried out mountain biking in the Slaughter Pen trail system, located about a block away. This was a great area for beginners because there is a large paved trail (the Crystal Bridges Trail) with several offshoots of mountain bike trails ranging in length and difficulty. The All-American Trail follows along the side of the Crystal Bridges Trail and has many points where you can exit and enter the paved area. All-American is ranked as a blue trail, which is one step above easy. It is mostly doable for beginners but there is a steep portion that we found quite difficult about 0.8 miles from where we began at the southern edge of the Slaughter Pen Trail System.
Another plus for the Slaughter Pen trail system: it goes right past the Crystal Bridges Museum and several outdoor sculptures. Take the Crystal Bridges Art Trail to explore this beautiful area.
Whether you are an experienced mountain biker or it’s your first time, make sure to get on a bike during your time in Bentonville!
Another amazing thing about Bentonville is the art scene! Crystal Bridges and The Momentary are two incredible museums that are funded by the Walton Family Foundation, a philanthropic foundation created by the founders of Walmart. The foundation aims to enhance the development of Northwest Arkansas by funding opportunities for enjoyment and education.
The glass domed architecture and extensive art collection of Crystal Bridges make it a must-visit during your time in Bentonville. The Crystal Bridges Museum was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie and is made up of huge glass buildings that span over the water. The museum has a permanent collection of American artwork, rotating exhibitions and five miles of trails outside featuring sculptures, a James Turrell exhibit and a Frank Llyod Wright House. The museum is free to visit and opened in 2011.
If you would like to tour the Frank Llyod Wright House, be sure to make a reservation in advance!
One highlight of Crystal Bridges for me was the Modern Art Galleries. Galleries are centered in the glass bridges and have site specific installations affixed to their outer walls. The installations are interesting and their colors reflect out onto the water. The mixed media piece by Leonardo Drew and the orange and green wall drawing by Sol LeWitt were particularly impressive and beautiful. I also really loved some of the sculptures right outside the museum. On the north side of the museum, check out the Fly’s Eye Dome by Buckminster Fuller, a futuristic home that you can walk into and explore. On the south side, visit Narcissus Garden by Yayoi Kusama, a large collection of silver balls that float around a pond. It is mesmerizing to observe.
Two more outdoor art installations that are slightly further from the museum and special at certain times of day are Buckyball and James Turrell Skyspace. Buckyball is a giant light based art piece made up of two nested geometric spheres. The installation is by Leo Villareal and named in honor of Buckminster Fuller. It is illuminated all day but I recommend going at night and watching the color changing light show. There are comfortable benches where you can lay back and gaze up at the show.
The LED tubes on Buckyball are capable of producing 16 million different distinct colors.
James Turrell Skyspace is a very peaceful structure where guests sit inside and gaze up at a circular opening in the ceiling as lights gradually change color around them. This art piece must be viewed at dawn or dusk, as you will experience the colors changing as the sky changes. It’s hard to describe the power of this experience. There is a point where the hues will change dramatically creating an effect called “celestial vaulting” that will fascinate and amaze you. The sequence runs for about an hour and is worth your time if you love light art and are looking for a contemplative experience.
The Momentary opened in 2020 as a contemporary art space dedicated to visual, performing and culinary arts. The museum is housed in a former Kraft cheese factory and there are beautiful industrial touches throughout the space. The team purposely kept the building intact and only added elements when necessary to minimize the carbon footprint of the construction. There was a mix of visual and video art when I visited and the exhibits centered around social justice.
In the lobby, you can grab a coffee from the Onyx Coffee Conveyer Belt and enjoy the brick walls and glass ceiling. In the evenings, ascend to the upper level Tower Bar for craft cocktails and views of the surrounding area.
The museum also has a huge outdoor lawn with a stage for live events and unique 3D printed concrete chairs to sit upon. There are various outdoor installations to explore and a food truck outside. Visit in the evening to see the beautiful “You Belong Here” neon sign lit up.
Whether you visit for the art, the biking or the food, Bentonville needs to be on your list. This Northwest Arkansas city exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to return.
Are you visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas during your travels? Check out my guide to Hot Springs!
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