A Perfect Spring Weekender: Art-full Bentonville 8

Head over to Crystal Bridges for an exhibit celebrating the American road trip—and find a town on creative fire.

The giant bumblebee gracing the front of Bentonville’s hip 21c Museum Hotel is more than just another piece of art in this town that Walmart built—it could be the unofficial symbol of a place buzzing with creative energy.

Initially gaining notoriety as the sleepy Northwest Arkansas burg where entrepreneur Sam Walton imagined and built America’s bargain retail darling, Bentonville is now infused with art, thanks to the sparkling Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, made possible by Walton’s daughter and heiress, Alice Walton.

But Bentonville’s renaissance isn’t limited to art. The town serves up acclaimed regional-inspired food, thanks in part to culinary superstars such as James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best Chef: South Matthew McClure who helms 21c’s The Hive, and Bentonville Square eateries like Tusk & Trotter where you can order an innovative dish called Arkansas Catfish Pastrami.

In fact, when the Bentonville Convention & Visitors Bureau unveiled the city’s official slogan last year, “A New American Town”—it became the mantra for a small town proudly combining its history with modern progress. Centerpiece of that forward momentum is undisputedly Crystal Bridges, a world-class structure designed by renowned architect Moshie Safdie that opened in 2011 and houses a glorious collection of art celebrating the American spirit.

Carved into a bucolic woodsy setting, its grounds dotted with sculptures and winding trails, Crystal Bridges is a work of art itself. Springing from Safdie’s fertile imagination following his visit to the Ozark forest, the spectacular facility now stands, beautifully aligned with nature, drawing visitors from across the globe.

If you haven’t made the three-hour trek south of Kansas City to Bentonville to check out the buzz, consider this a gentle reminder. There’s the art of course—Crystal Bridge’s permanent collection spans five centuries American masterworks ranging from the Colonial era to the current day—but there’s much more to discover. Stroll the captivating galleries, including rotating exhibits such as Samuel F. B. Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre and the Art of Invention” (through April 18, 2016) and “The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip” (through May 30, 2016). Tour a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house—built in Somerset County, N.J., in 1954 and disassembled, moved, and reassembled at Crystal Bridges—that opened last year. Savor Low Midwest and High South cuisine at Eleven Restaurant, situated in a glass-enclosed bridge overlooking the museum’s tranquil ponds. Meander the outdoor trails throughout the museum’s 120-acre park that links to downtown Bentonville and pose for a selfie in front of Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE” sculpture, one of the museum’s most-photographed works.

However you choose to spend a weekend here, rest assured you’ll be well taken care of by the town’s authentic and enthusiastic ambassadors, eager to show what the Bentonville buzz is all about.