Arkansas is known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities but also offers shopping and art museums.
Bentonville This city’s population (41,614) has doubled since 2000 with the growth of Wal-Mart, whose headquarters are in Bentonville. It’s not a coincidence that two major draws– new and old – have ties to the Walton family.
Crystal Bridges Museum, opened in 2011, is free and was founded by art collector Alice Walton, heiress of Sam Walton. The building, designed by Moshe Safdie, is itself a work of art; its soaring wood-glass-and-concrete wings, are tucked into the ravines of Town Branch Creek and surrounding forest. Just as rewarding are 3.5 miles of outdoor trails with sculptures and artistic themes amid natural beauty.
One of the trails connects to the city’s hike-and-bike system and you can walk downtown to the City Square. On the western perimeter is the original Walton five-and-dime, now the Wal-Mart Museum. The forerunner of Wal-Mart opened in 1950 and the museum re-creates the environs, especially the old-fashioned Spark Cafe soda fountain. On the Square, special events occur every weekend, from farmers markets and First Fridays to music and food festivals.
For the adventurous are two caverns worth seeing: War Eagle is outside Rogers, 20 minutes away; Cosmic is an hour away in Berryville. – Brian Wilson
Bill Clinton immortalized his Arkansas birthplace with his speech “A Place Called Hope,” but Hot Springs had a greater impact because he spent his formative years here. You can tour his hangouts and favorite burger joints. But most visitors come to this National Park city for thermal springs, mineral water, spas and funky retail along Central Avenue. You can even fill containers at public fountains billowing pure Ozark water. A dinner cruise on nearby Lake Hamilton is a fun date.