When a city needs the infrastructure to support the world’s largest retailer and all of its supporting characters, you can bet there’s going to be a lot of great dining opportunities. Fortunately in Bentonville, AR, that doesn’t mean it’s all snooty white linen (read: expensive) dining for wining and dining clients. There are a ton of great spots to eat that are fun, affordable, and most importantly, delicious.
There’s also a lot to do here, with mountain biking being the top tourism draw. For non-cyclists (and between rides), three museums are absolutely worth a visit even if you hate museums. They’re mostly free, too, so there’s zero reason not to check them out. I’ll list those at the bottom, along with other great activities for the adventure-minded. But first, the food…
Breakfast in Bentonville
If you’re right downtown and want something quick, delicious, and gluten-free, check out Ollie Makes Bakery. A native, founder and head baker Molly moved back after school and runs her bakery out of a converted house just off the main square. Open Wednesday to Saturday, 8a to 2p.
The Buttered Biscuit has a couple locations (we like the one on Moberly for it’s outside patio) and serves up giant cinnamon rolls and huge portions, with something on the menu to please everyone.
Snacks & Coffee
- Coffee – Check out Heroes Coffee Company for a mid-day pick-me-up (or morning jumpstart if you’re not big on food first thing). It’s also the spot to learn how to be a barista, or just watch them roast the beans while sipping on your own cuppa. It’s a few blocks from downtown and an easy walk, but if you’re in a hurry to get your fix…
- More Coffee – Onyx Coffee Lab is even closer and has a great ice coffee and tasty bites. Even better? Head out for a morning mountain bike ride and stop at the Airship Coffee Shop located in the middle of the Coler Mountain Bike Preserve trails!
- Ice Cream – Treat the kids (and yourself) to a giant ice cream cone at Trash Creamery, a perfect swirl with your choice of toppings mixed in via their unique swirling machine. Be sure to watch yours being made, it’s pretty cool.
- Crepes – Another local favorite is Crepes Paulette, which turns the humble crepe into a wide variety of sweet and savory (and filling) rolled cones that make them easy to eat one-handed.
Lunch & Dinner in Bentonville
Any of these spots are open for either meal, and all are delicious. We’ll start at the 8th Street Market because it’s home to several great eats…and Bike Rack Brewing, where there’s a solid rotation of IPAs, Pilsners, and more, with seasonal selections to keep it interesting. It’s also adjacent to a massive pump track, so bring the kids’ bikes and they’ll pretty much entertain themselves while you relax with a bevvie.
Choose from Co-op Ramen (aka “Dough Zone”) for ramen bowls, or walk about the corner for tacos and burritos from Yeyo’s Mexican Street Food. Sorry, we ate our food too fast to get pics from Yeyo’s…it’s that good. There’s also a rotating selection of food trucks pulled up next to the brewery, though their hours aren’t as regular.
Pedaler’s Pub has gourmet pizzas and hearty salads, all served on a huge outdoor patio (or air conditioned interior). It’s also conveniently located next door to a second Bike Rack Brewing location should you want to keep the party going.
We also really like Meteor Cafe, which combines tasty breakfast items, single-serve pizzas, sandwiches and salads with a coffee shop and bike shop. It’s the perfect spot to meet before a ride or run, or after if you just wanna kick back and refuel with friends.
We’ve been to Bentonville several times and still haven’t tried it all. Here are some of our other favorites, along with our local friends’ personal favorite spots:
- Oven & Tap – Wood fired pizzas, sandwiches, and southern fare
- Blu Fish House – Upscale, fresh seafood and sushi spot
- The Preacher’s Son – Upscale and eclectic, it’s fine dining inside a Gothic church
- Undercroft – A “secret” basement bar underneath Preacher’s Son that feel’s like a speakeasy, very cool
- The Pressroom – Mid-priced, elevated comfort food with a big Sunday brunch menu
- Tusk & Trotter – Delicious pork dishes prepared by a top-rated chef, plus good mixed drinks.
Where to stay in Bentonville
There’s really only one hotel worth staying at, the 21C Museum Hotel. It’s smack dab in the middle of downtown’s city center, walking distance to almost everything, and has excellent rooms and service. For what it is, it’s also very reasonably priced. And they’ll give you extra Malin+Goetz lotion and soap if you ask, plus free coffee in your room and lobby each morning. But there are other hotels, too.
What to do in Bentonville
If you’re into riding, Bikerumor.com has full features on where to Mountain Bike and Gravel Cycling. You’ll see some familiar spots in those stories and videos, but this article has a larger, more comprehensive list of non-riding things to do. First, the museums:
- Crystal Bridges – We took our kids here when they were young (like, 9 and 12…check out our family video, which turned it into a bit of a game for us all) and they actually enjoyed it, which meant we could enjoy it. It’s one of the best collections of American Art, with paintings, sculpture, and “other”, but what really keeps it interesting is the architecture and transitions from one area to the next. It’s free, too, with paid options to tour the Frank Lloyd Wright Bachman-Wilson House. Allow time to walk the nature paths around the museum and see the outdoor installations, too.
- The Momentary – Bentonville’s latest museum, it’s a converted Kraft Cheese factory that uses split levels and big spaces to showcase different artists for large scale installations. It’s rad, and has a performance space with moveable floors to let them create whatever type of stage they need. It’s free, too, and has open spaces indoors and out with a cafeteria, coffee shop and more, plus couches throughout, so you can use it as a remote office or meetings in a very, very cool environment.
- Amazeum – Billed as a children’s museum, it’s also a Maker Space with classes and meetups for youth, teens, and adults. Kids can climb around on pretty much everything, play with water, and just go nuts. Then they can learn to build things and even try their hand at coding…as can you. Kids and members are free, adults are just $10.
- Walmart Museum – OK, I said I had three museums to list, but there’s a fourth that we haven’t been to yet but locals tell us it’s absolutely worth going to. The Walmart Museum is in the town square and apparently very interesting…it’s on our list for next time.
If you need to get your wiggles out, we like the following spots and activities:
- Cycling – One of the best ways to get a feel for a city is to ride bikes around it, and Bentonville couldn’t make it easier. Bike paths lead almost everywhere you’d want to go. We rented e-bikes from Gearhead and literally didn’t touch our car for three days. Even if you’re not there to sample the hundreds (no exaggeration) of miles of MTB singletrack, it’s worth bringing or borrowing a bike to get around town.
- Coler Mountain Bike Preserve – Of all the trail networks, this one is the newest and best family-friendly spot, with trails to accommodate most any level of rider. And it’s all loops, with a covered picnic area and bathrooms in the new south parking area. We brought our Niner JET9 RDO trail bikes, which were the perfect mix of efficient pedaling and trail-taming full suspension.
- Archery & Botanical Gardens – If you’re riding the bike paths from downtown to Crystal Bridges, you’ll be rolling through much of this. But check out the Peel Compton Foundation’s website for details about the gardens, and to try out their archery range.
- Thaden Fieldhouse – Tour one of two U.S. airfields named after a woman, then enjoy a meal on the lawn or deck while watching the air planes takeoff and land. They also offer flight lessons for both planes and helicopters, as well as sightseeing flights (photos below). You could even rent a rowboat and paddle around to see the touch-and-gos from student pilots. When you’re done there, head around the corner to…
- Climb Bentonville – Shown above, this massive indoor climbing gym has 25 auto belays (and many more top roped routes), a huge bouldering wall, yoga, and a fitness area. And it’s conveniently located next door to Bentonville Brewing Company, which has 22 taps of fresh regular and seasonal beers, a dog park, and occasional live music.
If you’re not in a hurry, and you’re coming from the east, it’s worth meandering on backroads, just above Ozark National Forest on highways 412 to 65 to 62, through Harrison, AR. If you have even more time, dip down into the forest and hike some of the trails to really work up an appetite.
Either option will be way more scenic than coming up I-49 from I-40. But, if you do stay on the Interstates and are coming from the East, it’s worth the detour to grab lunch at Tortilleria Morelos in Dardanelle, AR. There’s no menu, you just order the chicken plate.
Got your own favorite spot in Bentonville? Leave it in the comments!
A WORD ON INCLUSION: At the time of this post going live, the state of Arkansas kinda has its head up its butt about diversity and inclusion, which is a serious bummer. We’ve been to Bentonville numerous times over the past five years and have always been impressed with its forward-thinking, inclusive, and dynamic culture and people. In our opinion, it is an oasis within the state, but it’s still within the state. How you feel about your tourism dollars is entirely up to you, but we wanted to share these tips in case you’re headed through there anyway, whether for business or pleasure.
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