Autumn is in the air and the Hogs return to The Hill this coming weekend to take on Alabama. The mornings are cool, the afternoons sunny, and the leaves are changing. So, whether you’re coming to Northwest Arkansas for Saturday football, October craft fairs, or just to get away, there is simply no better time to spend a weekend in the Ozarks.
You’ll witness a dazzling display of color and natural beauty everywhere you go, and if you’re looking for cultural and culinary delights for that vibrant backdrop of orange, gold, and red, then look no further than Bentonville.
21c Museum Hotel
You’ll want to start your weekend by checking in to the dog-friendly 21 C Museum Hotel located just off the square in downtown. A small boutique chain, it is within walking distance of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the local farmer’s market (held every Saturday until the end of October), a splash park that becomes an ice rink in the winter, and a variety of restaurants, food trucks, and eclectic, privately owned shops located in the downtown area.
21 C is a unique marriage of museum, Southern hospitality, and local flavor.
The museum part is dedicated to collecting and exhibiting art from the 21st century. Hence, the name. The hospitality is represented in it’s pet-friendly policy that allows dogs up to 50 lbs to accompany their people in their rooms, through some of the hotel exhibit space, and in the lounge area of The Hive, the hotel’s very hip restaurant and bar.
*As of 7/2017 The Hive no longer allows dogs in the bar area or outdoor seating space.
The Hive was named one of Southern Living’s Best New Bars in 2014. If visiting, I suggest you do something very Southern, like, have a bourbon and some pimento cheese.
The Hive Burger. Served with pimento cheese and house pickles, be sure to ask for the bacon jam. You’ll be very glad you did. I had an Elijah Craig with mine, but the wide variety of brown water makes it hard to choose.
After you stuff yourself, you may be feeling like some exercise. One of the great amenities at 21C is free bicycle rentals. Through a partnership with a local company, you can choose to bike or walk the over 3.5 miles of trails that wind through the Crystal Bridges 120-acre site. This is a perfect way to enjoy the beauty of the Ozarks landscape while getting a little education and culture.
Not sure that Henri could keep up with a bike, or that I remembered how to ride, we chose walking.
With access near the square, the trail system of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art winds through immaculately kept grounds and features several outdoor sculptures and education stations that identify commonly seen flora and wildlife. LOVE is likely the most popular sculpture, especially with the wedding crowd, but Henri wasn’t interest in my Kodak moment.
Be sure to plan your stroll along the trail system prior to sunrise or sunset. You’ll want to check out artist James Turrell’s Skyspace, which is located on a hillside where the Art Trail meets the Crystal Bridges Trail.
The Skyspace is a round open-air viewing chamber that allows you to look up at the sky from within the structure. Each morning and evening, in conjunction with sunrise and sunset, a programmed LED light display occurs inside the space. The changing colors of light causes changes in your perception of the color of the sky.
If you’re sunset people, like Henri and I, after your Skyspace expierence, you’ll want to be sure you view the museum at night. The glow of the two signature bridge structures surrounded by the group of pavilions which house the museum galleries, reflect and sparkle off the spring-fed ponds and illuminate the natural surroundings. It’s obvious great care was taken to not just build a space but incorporate it into the landscape.
When you return to the hotel, you’ll want to start thinking about dinner. There are several places on the square with outdoor seating that allow dogs. I suggest Table Mesa Bistro for some latin cuisine.
As a professional ceviche-eating-fool, I can promise you will enjoy the Ceviche De Atun Y Salmon on the tapas menu. It is made with sashimi-grade ahi tuna and smoked salmon, served with jicama, spicy fruit salsa and grilled avocado. Also on the tapas menu is Cheap Dates: dates stuffed with gorgonzola and cream cheese, then wrapped in another of my favorite things…bacon.
For dinner, try the Carnitas with pineapple pico and/or the Mesa Paella. Paella is not yet in my home cooking repertoire, so I like to order it when I can. Plus, Henri likes chorizo.
On Saturday morning when you get up, you’ll want to check out the farmer’s market for a wide variety of locally grown seasonal vegetables. I’m sure you all get tired of my farmer’s market trips and mentions, but if there is a farmer’s market, we will go there. Always.
If you did the Crystal Bridges Art Trail Friday evening, then you can spend your Saturday afternoon shopping downtown, exploring more of the Ozark trail system, or leave your dog in the room and head back to Crystal Bridges to puruse the art galleries. Dogs are not allowed in there.
Depending on your love of art and your ability to be couth, you could spend hours at Crystal Bridges. I can not and I readily admit art just isn’t my thing. I’m very tactile and they frown on touching. You can’t chew gum and they’re fussy about flash photography. I always feel like I’m in a library.
I’ll be happy when the children’s Amazeum opens next year. I hope they have grown-up nights. With wine.
*Edit 7/2017- The Amazeum has grown-up nights with wine.
Whatever you choose to do with your afternoon, when the day is done you can grab a cocktail from The Hive and ponder your dinner plans. If you spent your time at Crystal Bridges, then your pooch is probably a bit restless. Pack him up and head to the Bentonville Bark Park to run off some steam before dinner.
I don’t usually suggest dog parks because Henri doesn’t really like them much (and neither do I), but this one has agility equipment. It’s also not far from Fred’s Hickory Inn, which is where I’m sending you for dinner.
Fred’s has an outdoor native stone patio surrounded by mature shade trees. It’s next to the parking lot, so it isn’t quiet or romantic, but it is nice, and they do allow dogs. They are locally owned and operated, and best known for their Pit Bar B-Q (says it on the sign). Have a steak or something smoked.
The one thing Bentonville is sorely lacking is a selection of dog-friendly Sunday brunch options. This is non-negotiable, as you will likely be checking out of the hotel. Plus, Henri and I are very brunch-y types. Luckily, within walking distance of 21C, at the “corner of Crepes and Canines” (I stole that from their Facebook page) is Crepes Paulette.
Taking advantage of the food truck revolution, Crepes Paulette serves authentic, fresh, and delicious French crepes in an open-air setting.
They are open from 11-4 on Sundays with a limited menu (as in not their full weekday menu) of crepes and both hot and cold beverages
You won’t find any mimosas here, but whether you like sweet or savory, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your fanciful food appetite. I like the La Hawaienne with ham, egg, mozzarella and pineapple.
After a weekend in Bentonville, Arkansas you may find yourself shopping for real estate, and you wouldn’t be the first. Walmart recruits, Northern transplants, and even celebrities have all taken a shine to this small but blossoming Southern town. You’ll be welcome here. Better start practicing your “y’all’s”.