The weekend before Christmas, The Mechanic and I visited his father in Missouri. We actually flew into northwestern Arkansas, the closest airport, and spent most of our tourist time in that state; his father’s farm is just across the border in Missouri. Having never been to either state, I was looking forward to seeing what exactly the Ozarks were like.
We arrived about the same time as a terrible storm, but somehow missed the worst of it. Everything was covered in ice the first morning we were there, but the roads were drivable, so we started off in downtown Bentonville, AR, in the Walmart Visitor Center. Despite not being a fan of Walmart, I enjoyed the museum, which chronicled Sam Walton’s life and the business he created. One of my favorite parts was the display of items returned to the stores, and the reasons given – a fishing pole was returned because it was “defective – it didn’t catch any fish,” and the hand mixer that was “possessed.” A digital map showed the growth of Walmart over the decades, and at the end, a summary of the Foundation’s work leaves visitors with warm-fuzzies, right before dumping you into a 1950s style soda fountain. I had to get the “Cutie” sized cone with Walmart colored ice cream, despite the cold!
But Bentonville is more than Walmart. We visited the bike shop, Phat Tire Bike Shop, and I bought some locally made stuff at The Mustache Goods & Wears (way more hipster than me, the store was full of great local crafts. I recommend it if you get that way!). We discovered bike racks around the town square, which had a Confederate soldier statue decorated for Christmas, and the cool 21c Museum Hotel, with great modern art outside it. Apparently the 21c Museum Hotel is one of three in the country. Way to go Bentonville!
Our next stop was Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, not far from the town square, and easily bikeable, following color-coded bike trail signs we saw on our way. Crystal Bridges opened in November 2011, established by a Walmart heiress, and is free to visit. The art collection was really great, many American masters, but I think the highlight of the collect were the buildings themselves. Created by architect Moshe Safdie, they are situated in a square, and opposing buildings either arched or swooped. The ceilings are magnificent wooden beams, and the walls of two are fully glass, exposing the inner pond and outer grounds. The grounds surrounding it are full of trails, which we would have walked on if it hadn’t been raining the entire day. Next trip!
The next day we woke up to a dusting of snow on everything, but again, dodged the worst of the weather, and were able to drive out to Eureka Springs, AR. We stopped at Pea Ridge National Military Park, location of one of many Civil War battles, and the “most intact” of all the battlefields. The Trail of Tears also runs through the property, giving it another layer of sorrow. We drove the seven-mile loop and stopped at the Elkhorn Tavern, used as a field hospital during the battles.
Eureka Springs, AR, is a Victorian town full of healing springs. Every few blocks was another spring trickling out of the magnificent rocks. Built on the side of the mountains, we started at the very top, at the majestic and haunted Crescent Hotel – I’m sorry we didn’t get to see any ghosts! We wandered up and down the streets, but almost everything was closed, and it was too cold to really linger. But I would definitely like to return again in warmer weather – and maybe stay at the Crescent and see the ghosts!
I don’t know when The Mechanic and I will have time to return to this area, but I definitely want to return. It’s full of caves and crazy rock formations, some amazing vistas, and good restaurants. And my father-in-law-to-be.