It was a vacation after seven months, planned to visit our extended family in Arkansas over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Alongside meeting the family, binging over delicacies, celebrating our engagement anniversary, we also planned for an adventure trip and local sightseeing around Bentonville.
Arkansas mountains, valleys, dense woodland, and wildlife make tourism one of its most important industries and hence nicknamed as ‘The Natural State’. Although Bentonville is mostly known for being the headquarters of Wal-Mart, there’s more to it than that, as I set out to find. Sam Walton’s five-and-dime, which grew to become Wal-Mart, brought more employees, people, and industries into the humble town. I missed touring the Wal-Mart museum, which I hope to cover next time.
Sam Walton’s daughter Alice Walton founded the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on 11/11/2011. The Museum is a world-class art complex that includes galleries, sculpture garden, walking and biking nature trails, meeting spaces, library, and a restaurant named ‘Eleven’! The Museum’s collection features American art from the Colonial era to the contemporary period.
Don’t miss touring Bachman-Wilson House, a Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘Usonian’ [United States of North America] architecture. The house was moved from New Jersey and reconstructed on the museum grounds in 2015. The house full of sleek mahogany wood has an elongated layout; the style of architecture developed during the Great Depression to be within reach of the average middle-class American family.
Gallivanting the charming Eureka Springs Downtown
Eureka Springs is a vibrant town located in Ozark mountains with winding mountain terrain, well kept Victorian manors, carriage and trolleys running up and down the bustling streets. Live music pouring from pubs and cafes, eclectic shops, restaurants; the whole town looks like an artist’s canvas. The Native Americans believed the waters of the spring had healing powers and became the home of The Ozarka Spring Water Company in the 20th century.
Places perched above the streets offer some of the best views of greenery surrounding Eureka Springs. We walked up to the Crescent hotel to check it out up close. The enormous mountain-top resort dates back to 1886 and has an observation deck that offers stunning views. The hotel is rumored to be haunted and offers a ghost tour, which we didn’t take for obvious reasons. 😜
Don’t miss their gourmet pizza at the Sky Bar while you enjoy the vistas. The hotel complex offers other recreational activities such as hatchet-wielding, hiking tours, walking tours through the downtown tunnel system, a spa, to name a few.
What I love the most about traveling is finding new places unexpectedly. One such occurrence was the visit to the World’s first Bhagavad Gita Stoopa, inaugurated in the Hindu Temple of Bentonville in North West Arkansas only a few days before our visit in August 2019.
The Stoopa constitutes 9 pillars with 18 faces representing 18 chapters of Bhagavad Gita with all 700 verses inscribed in Sanskrit and English, and the essence of the verses in English on brass plates. At the center, it features an 11 feet tall statue of Sri Krishna, the great teacher who gave us the Bhagavad Gita. I hope this Stoppa brings more locals and travelers to explore more about the Gita and its teachings.
During this vacation, we also managed to explore the neighboring state of Missouri.
Roaring River State Park
Located in the southwest Ozark hills, Roaring River State Park is a public recreation area offering trout fishing on the Roaring River. Eager anglers flock to the state park to catch rainbow trouts stocked in the river.
The park also has hiking trails, picnic tables, nature centers, and campgrounds with rustic cabins. We did not camp here but drove up to Elk River camp the next day.
River Ranch Resort conveniently located in the four-state area (Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma) attracts a lot of campers with float trips. I was stocked for my first camping experience, before which we went on a canoeing adventure down the Elk River. We were a group of 6 adults and 2 kids. The parents and children took a raft, and V and I chose to canoe. A 5-mile float past beautiful scenery, which took us over 3 hours to make it to our campground, with multiple bumps and capsizing, we finally made it! It was an exhilarating experience! Once at the campsite, we pitched a tent and built a campfire for a night to cherish barbeque, smores, and all things fun.
The campground also offers RV and cabin camping options, but we went for primitive camping – a simplified way, in tune with nature. There’s nothing that can replace the thrill of spending the night outdoors under the stars.
From my personal experience, your camping experience will be all the more fulfilling if you engage yourself pitching and removing the tent. Ladies, don’t leave it to the men, it’s as much fun setting up a tent as sleeping in one.
Arkansas is a beautiful part of the US with numerous natural attractions that I’d love to spend more time in the future. Our first floating and camping adventure will remain a memorable experience.