This is a sponsored post on behalf of Visit Bentonville. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.
A small town in Northwest Arkansas is not likely on your radar for a family-friendly vacation. Well, you should think again about adding Bentonville Arkansas and the surrounding area to your family travel bucket list. Bentonville is a quintessential American small town. While the town square looks like something out of an old movie, the town has culture, amenities, and activities you’d expect to find in a modern city. Here’s my list of 13 fabulous and family-friendly things to do in Bentonville.
Walk the square to explore a wide variety of shops, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Kids will especially enjoy the replica of the restored Walton’s 5 & 10 shop from the 1950s and the Spark Cafe Soda Fountain. A stop at the Bentonville Baking Company is also a must. The Station Cafe is a perfect spot for a family breakfast or lunch. If your kids will entertain food that’s a bit more creative, I highly recommend Oven and Tap (the meatballs are divine!) and The Preacher’s Son. You’ll notice southern charm and hospitality wherever you go.
8th Street Market
Located in the heart of the Market District about a half mile from the center of town, the 8th Street Market is a wonderful community-focused food center. There is a culinary school, restaurants, a brewpub and my family favorite – Markham & Fitz. They are a chocolate factory, a dessert bar, and cafe. The Brown Sugar Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies are to die for. Kids will love the hot chocolate, cakes and more.
21C Museum Hotel
Located steps away from Bentonville town square, this boutique hotel features 104 rooms, a contemporary art museum, and The Hive restaurant. Delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner led by executive chef Matthew McClure. The breakfast scones are amazing and the pancakes will make any child drool. While I did not stay at this hotel, I’ve heard wonderful things. I highly recommend a visit to the museum gallery and The Hive restaurant even if you don’t stay here.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
The exponential growth of Bentonville over the past 10 years was ignited by the opening of this architectural wonder. The Crystal Bridges Museum and surrounding grounds are perfect for a family day out. It may be a place you’ll even want to spend more than one day. The museum takes its name from a nearby spring and the bridges incorporated into the building’s design.
The museum is free to visitors except for special exhibits and the Frank Lloyd Wright house carefully moved piece by piece from New Jersey. Visitors can move easily from dark galleries to natural light hallways and bridges. It’s truly magical. Even the museum restaurant “Eleven” is fantastic (kids menu included).
The Experience Art Studio gives kids the opportunity to create their own art, play games and more. If your kids get bored inside the museum, the surrounding grounds and sculpture gardens beg to be explored. Family Sundays feature live entertainment, gallery hunts, and creative play.
Scott Family Amazeum
This is a truly marvelous place for kids and adult alike. The Scott Family Amazeum houses 50,000 square feet of learning, play and exhibit spaces and an additional acre of property for outdoor activities. Interactive exhibits focus on Arkansas industries and agriculture. Exhibitions include the 3M Tinkering Hub; General Mills Lift, Load and Haul; Market Sponsored by Walmart; Nature Valley Water Amazements; Nickelodeon Play Lab; Hershey’s Lab and more.
Exhibit and learning activity creators are called “Makers.” I had the chance to look at some prototype ideas. This museum is always evolving with new ideas. There’s even a tinker space for kids to come up with their own inventions. Maker Ryan Jenkins says, “Making and tinkering are ways of understanding the world and expressing yourself through a very playful and collaborative activity.” The Amazeum truly embodies this notion.
I recommend visiting either first thing or after 3 when school trips and camps will have left for the day. At closing, the staff creates a parade to escort visitors out of the building. The staff says it’s a fun way to avoid temper tantrums from kids not wanting to leave. What a brilliant idea!
Museum of Native American History
The museum houses an impressive collection of over 10,000 Native American artifacts. It’s a perfect destination for children interested in learning more about Native American culture or in conjunction with school lessons on the subject. Some artifacts like “Tusker,” a mammoth comprised of 3 authentic skeletons are thousands of years old.
An added treat is the opportunity for kids to go arrowhead hunting. Hidden in the rocks around the tipi outside of the museum. Children under 15 can keep one for free.
The area surrounding Bentonville provides a gorgeous backdrop for nature exploration. From biking to hiking, camping to kayaking there is so much for an active family to do. I can’t wait to return during warmer months to experience these activities.
Connecting Bentonville to Fayetteville is a 36-mile paved bike patch called the Razorback Greenway. Mountain bikers flock to the area to enjoy the 20-mile single track bike paths. My husband can’t wait to give this trail a try. I’ll stick to the paved paths with the kids.
I can’t wait to return to the area to hike some of the most beautiful nature trails in America. Hobbs State Park is only 14 miles from Bentonville with over 12,000 acres of trails. Devils Den is just a few miles south of Fayetteville with caves to explore and bluffs overlooking Ozark National Forest. My kids will LOVE this!
Visitors can kayak and canoe the nearby Buffalo National River, supposedly one of the country’s best. We are a kayaking family so we will definitely give this a try when I bring my family.
Family Friendly Events
In addition to specific places to visit, the town of Bentonville has a rotating calendar of family-friendly events. Check the calendar at VisitBentonville.com to see what’s scheduled during your visit. I really want to return during Farmer’s Market season. I bet it’s amazing! Regular annual events include:
From Thanksgiving through mid-January Bentonville hosts many cold-weather events. The town square is lit up just before Thanksgiving and then the Lawrence Plaza Ice Rink opens. Other events include outdoor movies and a Christmas Parade.
First Friday Celebrations
April through November, the downtown area is turned into one huge block party. There is great food, music, children’s activities and more.
April through October farmers, artists and ranchers provide visitors with the opportunity to purchase fresh local meat, produce, arts and crafts.
During the summer months, the Lawrence Ice Rink turns into a splash park. They play family-friendly movies typically around 8 pm.
Getting to and around Bentonville
With a modern regional airport only 30 minutes outside of town, it’s easy to get to Bentonville from all over the country. I stayed at the Family-friendly Doubletree Suites by Hilton. Ask for a room on the back side of the hotel to avoid noise from the busy road. A rental car is likely needed, but Uber is readily available as well. Weekends are a great time to visit as the business travelers leave town.