Crystal Bridges in the Ozarks

A Long Weekend in the Ozarks

Normally, I would not be recommending the Ozarks as a vacation destination. I spent many a long week there as a child visiting my grandparents in Rogers, Arkansas. The highlight was generally a trip to Walmart (the world’s first, by the way). What I remember is a lot of boredom and fat-laden food. However, as we travelled home from Texas in February, we spent a long weekend visiting Bentonville and Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The visit was a revelation. We recommend you check out the Ozarks. We will certainly be back.

(Thanks to the folks at Wanderlog for creating this nifty map for us!)

Crystal Bridges Art Museum

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is the brainchild of Alice Walton (yes, that Walton). She believes that world-class art should be available to everyone, wherever they might live. Toward that end, the museum is free to everyone all the time. The museum covers five centuries of American artworks, and displays them in a frankly stunning fashion.

Restaurant at Crystal Bridges

Paul and I took one of the free daily tours of the museum to get an overview of the collection. We ate an excellent lunch in the stunning restaurant. Finally, we wandered back through the galleries to take in more art.

The Grounds and the Town

Crystal Bridges also boasts miles of trails on the property, including an art walk featuring a number of whimsical sculptures. We walked a few paths, enjoying the sunny February weather. Then we took in an audio tour of a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie home that now resides on the property.

The town of Bentonville Arkansas is much changed from my childhood memories of a sleepy town featuring the Walmart Museum residing in a defunct Woolworths. The downtown square is lively, replete with restaurants, boutiques, and even an ice cream truck. We peeked into the lobby of the 21c Museum Hotel and decided that for our next visit, we will book a room there. The hotel looks funky and sleek and sits just a short walk from Crystal Bridges.

The museum is currently under construction as part of a major expansion to be completed (supposedly) in 2025. We already know that we will be visiting the Ozarks again once it is complete.

Eureka Springs

Although we reluctantly had to end out day at Crystal Bridges we were excited to head on to Eureka Springs. The trip took only an hour, but the climb into the Ozark Mountains was, let’s say, intense. If you’re a fan of tight turns at high speeds on mountainsides with no guardrail this drive is for you. While our marriage survived the climb, I think next time we go, I will do the driving.

Eureka Springs is a small resort town in the Ozarks. It is home to a startling number of restaurants and boutique hotels with scattered art galleries and souvenir shops. We treated ourselves and stayed at the amazing Arsenic and Old Lace B&B, which we could not recommend more highly. The rooms are lovely and well-appointed and the hosts are friendly and helpful. While we are not historically “B&B People” (we always feel a bit uncomfortable having our late-night re-entry following poker tournaments noted by others), the breakfasts here may have changed our minds. Really…amazing…breakfasts. Life-changing French Toast. OK, we could go through each course we had over our two days, but you get the point.

Eureka Springs in the heart of the Ozarks

We started our first full day in Eureka Springs with disappointment. Thorncrown Chapel, an attraction that we had heard so much about and were eager to see, is closed in the winter. It is widely hailed as an architectural wonder, and we were both sad to have missed it. Maybe next time.

Instead of our intended visit to Thorncrown, we decided to walk up the hill into the center of town. Eureka Springs was built in the 1870s as a resort town surrounding a series of hot springs. The town was so popular that the Railroad built a line to the town (the nearest station was St. Louis Missouri at the time). While there are still over 60 hot springs in the area, we visited in February and did not take in the waters.

Eureka Springs, however, is still impressive. A series of brick buildings leads you up hill after hill, twisting and turning to the top of town. The views become ever more impressive as you climb. I recommend frequent stops in the stores and cafes to keep your energy up.

bunny of the Ozarks
This bunny will give you change

The stores in the town are unique. No national chains here. There are several art galleries, wood carving artisans, garden shops, and general souvenir stores. At one, “the hardest working rabbit in the state” will run your credit card for you and hand you your change (you’ve got to see it). At another store, an entire wall features concealed carry purses, while another offers finely carved gun cabinets.

If you somehow run out of things to do in town, Eureka Springs offers many attractions in the surrounding hills. The Great Passion Play outdoor theater is just five minutes away and sports a 7-story tall Christ of the Ozarks which can be seen from miles away. There are also multiple animal safari parks, ranging from the Tiger King variety to the more professional and FDA-approved safari park.

Summary of Our Trip to the Ozarks

We are the first to admit that we were quite surprised by the natural beauty and attractions of the Arkansas Ozark mountains. However, Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, the shops of Eureka Springs, and frankly, the Arsenic and Old Lace B&B impressed us. We had a thoroughly engaging and relaxing weekend and vowed that we would return both to Crystal Bridges and Eureka Springs in the coming years.

  • Comfort
  • Tournament Structures
  • Personnel

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