Exploring NWA: Getting Out Of Fayetteville
By Alex March
Fayetteville is, without question, a fantastic place to be. After a few months stuck in one place, however, even the biggest Fayetteville fan can start jonesing for a trip outside the city limits.
Luckily, northwest Arkansas and the Ozark Mountains surprise with a wealth of activities, from art museums to abandoned theme parks. Even better, all of these destinations are less than two hours away—perfect for weekend downtime or a road trip.
For northwest Arkansas, the conversation has to start with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. The museum is an absolutely indescribable experience. The works “celebrate the American spirit” by “uniting the power of art with the beauty of landscape,” according to the museum’s website, crystalbridges.org. Original portraits of George Washington you’d recognize from textbooks hang on one end of the museum while massive contemporary works occupy the other. The building itself sits in a hollow with Crystal Creek flowing through the site. Outside, a sculpture park weaves in with the trees and rocks.
Just a few blocks away from Crystal Bridges, the Bentonville Square offers exciting restaurants and galleries. Restaurants like Table Mesa Bistro and the Press Room serve up inventive food in a hip atmosphere. If it weren’t for the statue dedicated to confederate soldiers, you’d almost forget you were in Arkansas.
Bentonville also has a well-developed trail system. Particularly, Bentonville is known for Slaughter pen, a system of mountain biking trails north of Crystal Bridges. Slaughter pen is an adventure destination, with over 16 miles of trails. The trails run from the square to Crystal Bridges to Slaughter pen, and throughout downtown Bentonville.
1 hour, 15 minutes
If Bentonville is urban and sophisticated, Eureka Springs might be the opposite. Located 45 minutes east on Highway 412 and then north on Highway 23, Eureka Springs is a funky mountain town populated by old hippies. The downtown area is filled with quirky shops and restaurants. A magic shop, knife store and a store selling nothing but socks are representative of Eureka’s laid-back vibe.
The Crescent Hotel, one of the older hotels in an already old town, is supposedly haunted. If you’re the intrepid type, you can sign up for a ghost tour. The hotel is haunted by a cast of otherworldly characters. According to americasmosthauntedhotel.com, the spirits include “Michael, a mason who fell to his death building the hotel; Theodora, the wife of a doctor who died of cancer in the hotel; and even Morris the cat.”
Jasper, Arkansas is a bit of a drive, but worth every second of the scenic winding mountain roads. Two hours away from Fayetteville, Jasper sits at the heart of the Buffalo River area. The tiny town, less than 500 residents, makes a terrific base for float trips, hiking and backpacking. Even if you’re no Bear Grylls, Jasper is worth a visit in its own right.
The mountains around Jasper are an outdoor mecca—floating, hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, fishing and more. Massive waterfalls, like Hemmed-in-Hollow, natural bridges and the famous Hawksbill Crag are easy trips from Jasper.
Dogpatch USA, a hillbilly theme park, sits abandoned on Highway 7 north of Jasper. While trespassing is frowned upon, the vacant buildings are a photography opportunity waiting to happen. Dogpatch was also the home of Arkansas’ only ski resort, consisting of a single slope and a rope-tow lift made out of a pick-up truck.