20 Cool Things To Do: A Guide to Activities, Attractions in Northwest Arkansas

1. ARKANSAS AIR AND MILITARY MUSEUM
For an aviation experience with no delays or lost luggage, journey back to the days when real men wore silk scarves at the Arkansas Air and Military Museum in Fayetteville. From vintage biplanes to military jets, the exhibits offer a look at the growth of aviation in Arkansas and the evolution of military air power. Housed in a hanger that was once a World War II training post at Drake Field, the museum boasts handsomely restored fighters, helicopters and early civilian and experimental aircraft. Also on hand are uniform displays, engines and military ground vehicles as well as tributes to some of the state’s greatest pilots, male and female.

2. DAISY AIR GUN MUSEUM
The weapon that tamed America’s backyards gets its due at the Daisy Air Gun Museum in Rogers. Located in the historic downtown, the museum opened in 2000 to display the collection of air guns that were housed in Daisy’s corporate offices, located in the city. Features for nostalgic adults include a chronological history displaying vintage guns, packaging and advertising. For the little Ralphie Parkers there is a gift shop with modern air guns and accessories, including versions of the famed Red Ryder that once took down Black Bart and struck fear into squirrels and empty soda cans across the United States. Memorabilia collectors, and their stories, are welcome.

3. BEAVER LAKE
If you want to go for a swim, head to Beaver Lake. Unless you want to fish, or go boating, or water skiing, or camp, or hike, or picnic, or watch wildlife, or simply relax. In that case, go to Beaver Lake. At 28,370 acres, Beaver Lake links Benton and Carroll Counties, offering 487 miles of shoreline, paved access roads, 12 developed parks, 2,008 acres of campgrounds as well as picnic sites, swimming beaches, boat ramps, showers, marinas, amphitheaters and cabins. The lake also features some of the state’s most diverse fishing, with various types of bass as well as crappie, bream, channel and spoonbill catfish.

4. BOTANICAL GARDEN OF THE OZARKS
Hop in your car and let nature handle the arrangements with a trip to the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville. Flower aficionados can enjoy the collection of nine themed gardens as well as the state’s only butterfly house. The Garden offers workshops, classes and lectures on horticulture and conservation for the adults, while the little seedlings can enjoy a number of hands-on programs presented in cooperation with local school districts. The Garden also has concert series and the popular Chefs in the Garden, a culinary treat, among its special events, and can be rented for private functions including weddings. Just don’t misplace the bouquet.

5. FAYETTEVILLE ALE TRAIL
Craving some suds? Then hit this trail to quench your thirst and explore the unique, craft brewery culture of Northwest Arkansas. The Fayetteville Visitors Bureau launched the self-guided Trail tour in August of 2013. Participants can pick up a passport at participating locations, and collect stamps at each brewery location. The Fayetteville Ale Trail, already garnering national attention, features eight (soon to be nine) tour locations and partner breweries: Apple Blossom Brewing Co., Bike Rack Brewing Co., Columbus House Brewery, Core Brewing and Distilling Co., Fossil Cove Brewing Co., Ozark Beer Company, Saddlebock Brewery, and West Mountain Brewing Co. The passports are available at the Visitors Center on Fayetteville’s Downtown Square, located at 21 S. Block Avenue or they can be obtained at any of the participating breweries. Bottoms up!

6. MILDRED C. COOPER MEMORIAL CHAPEL
One of Bella Vista’s most beautiful features since it opened in 1988, the chapel stands on a hilltop overlooking Lake Norwood. Designed by renowned Arkansas architects E. Fay Jones and Maurice Jennings, the chapel is inspired by the gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages, features 15 main arches 50 feet high and is built from 31 tons of steel and 4,460 SF of glass. The transparent structure creates inviting patterns of light and shadow, enhancing the quiet, meditative experiences of individual guests as the gatherings for marriages, baptisms, memorial services and concerts.

7. THE MUSEUM OF NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY
Travel into America’s past and see how its first inhabitants lived at the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville. The museum is divided into five time periods illustrating the changing lives of Native Americans, as seen through their artifacts. Displays feature relics dating from more than 14,000 years old to historic times.

8. THE WALTON ARTS CENTER
The centerpiece of the region’s arts scene opened its expanded and renovated $23 million facility in November 2016. Located at 495 W. Dickson St. in Fayetteville, the center offers traveling Broadway productions, dance groups, music acts, film screenings and more.

9. CLINTON HOUSE MUSEUM
It isn’t Pennsylvania Ave., but the Clinton House Museum provides a glimpse into the days before President Bill Clinton became the Comeback Kid and his wife Hillary became a senator, secretary of state and presidential candidate. This unassuming little one-bedroom in Fayetteville is a cozy, 1,800-SF charmer that is the perfect starter home for young political power couples. The living room offers a romantic ambiance — the Clintons were married there — and the First Ladies Garden is a great place to unwind after a hard day of public speaking, passing legislation or making foreign policy. Added features include a replica of Hillary’s wedding dress, campaign memorabilia and gift shop. 

10. BIKES, BLUES & BBQ
This is one gathering of hogs that does its best to leave fans singing the blues. No matter how the Arkansas Razorbacks' season is going, the annual Bikes, Blues and BBQ is a certified hit when it rolls into Fayetteville each September. What began in 2000 as a 200-motorcycle rally, partially inspired by police chief Richard Watson after he bought his first Harley Davidson, has grown into a four-day event with a turnout of more than 400,000 from all 50 states. A family friendly nonprofit that raises six figures for local charities, Bikes, Blues and BBQ is ranked among the top motorcycle rallies in the country and also features the music and food that give the event its name.

11. CRYSTAL BRIDGES MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
Open in Bentonville since 2011, Crystal Bridges stands as one of the region’s most important art museums. A gift to the city from Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, the museum features some of the best-known works by some of the nation’s most noteworthy artists like Norman Rockwell, Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keeffe. With a design that embraces the surrounding, natural beauty that features dogwoods, ponds and springs, Crystal Bridges is an accessible, must-see destination.

12. RODEO OF THE OZARKS
The rodeo is not coming to Springdale. That’s because it never left. The Rodeo of the Ozarks began as one-shot event to ease wartime blues in WWII, but it turned out to have staying power. The Fourth of July event, coming up on its 73rd year, continues to draw bull riders and calf ropers to Parsons Stadium, which sits on the same site the first rodeo was held. While the rodeo itself is held the first week of July, other events like the Arkansas High School Rodeo, the Professional Bull Riding Touring Pro Division, barrel racing championships, fall carnival, Christmas parade, demolition derby and monster truck rally have kept the stadium busy.

13. WAR EAGLE MILL
War Eagle Mill, in Rogers, is the only working mill in Arkansas and continues to grind out fresh flour as it has since 1832. Talk about job security. Pioneer couple Sylvanus and Catherine Blackburn knew a career opportunity when they saw it when the pre-Civil War power couple arrived from their native Tennessee at a lush site on War Eagle Creek. Then as now, it was all about location, and the mill thrived, grinding through several reconstructions thanks to flood and fires. Visitors can observe the century-old milling process, take in the mini-museum and shop for food, recipes and kitchenware or enjoy the Bean Palace Restaurant on the third floor. The fall craft fair is an annual attraction.

14. BENTONVILLE FILM FESTIVAL
With its mission to champion women and diverse voices in media, the Bentonville Film Festival, held in May, was co-founded by actor Geena Davis and Trevor Drinkwater. It is designed to inspire action and bring together decision makers and content creators with the goal of ensuring the media represents the world we live in, which is 51 percent women and very diverse. The festival strives to work with content creators to inspire young minds, because if they can see it they can be it.

15. WALMART AMP
Now at its permanent, new location in Rogers, the former Arkansas Music Pavilion is one of the top 100 amphitheaters in the nation. Musicians like to play to a big room, and what could be bigger than the great outdoors? The Arkansas Music Pavilion, a venue of the Walton Arts Center, has offered concerts in every genre for close to a decade. From Lynyrd Skynyrd to Blake Shelton to Three Days Grace and more, there is something on the schedule for every music lover and no need to worry about getting an aisle seat.

16. NORTHWEST ARKANSAS NATURALS BASEBALL
Just a heartbeat from the Major Leagues, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals play their Class AA Texas League games at airy and open Arvest Ballpark in Springdale. Affiliated with the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals, the Naturals play 70 games a year at Arvest, providing plenty of chances to see tomorrow’s stars today.

17. RAZORBACK GREENWAY
This series of multi-use trails was dedicated in 2015 and links Bentonville, Rogers, Lowell, Springdale, Johnson and Fayetteville. A scenic system for cyclists, walkers and runners, the Greenway, at a cost of $38 million, was funded primarily by a federal transportation grant and a gift from the Walton Family Foundation. Officially known as the Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway, project links not only communities but many of the region’s notable attractions like the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the University of Arkansas. Health and environmentally minded commuters working in the home offices of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt Transport Services can use the trail to get to work.

18. SCOTT FAMILY AMAZEUM
This Bentonville attraction, situated near the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, opened in 2015 through the efforts of longtime area residents Lee and Linda Scott. With a boost from a $1.5 million gift from the Walmart Foundation, the Amazeum features traveling, hands-on and interactive exhibits and features that include a Tinkering Hub, art studio, canopy climber, Nature Valley Water Amazements, outdoor playscape and the temporary exhibit Dinosaurs: Fossils Exposed, which is available through March 2016. Built to spark the curiosity and imagination of young and old alike, the Amazeum brings learning to life and enhances family involvement.

19. SKYDIVE SKYRANCH
Get your head in the clouds and hit the silk at this long-time skydiving destination in Siloam Springs. Founded by Wolf Grulkey, Skydive Skyranch, the “Freefly Capital of Arkansas,” has been offering fun for thrill seekers since 1989 and is backed by decades of experience in the sport of skydiving. Novices can become world-class skydivers with the guidance of a staff of instructors with thousands of jumps to their credit.

20. PRAIRIE GROVE BATTLEFIELD HISTORIC STATE PARK
On Dec. 7, 1862, Confederate troops attempted to stop Union forces from advancing south on Fort Smith, and the ensuing battled led to 2,700 casualties. Now, more than 150 years later, the park commemorates the battle with historic markers on a one-mile walking trail and a museum featuring artillery and other weapons from the battle. The pre-Civil War, Ozark Village is open for tours and you can make it a day trip and take your lunch to the picnic tables and playgrounds. Arkansas’ largest battle reenactment takes place in even-numbered years early each December.