Visit Crystal Bridges museum and see one of world’s best collections of American art.

By Travel & Leisure
December 02, 2014
American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas
Credit: Crystal Bridges Museum

Wal-Mart is headquartered in Bentonville, which didn’t do much to attract travelers to the area until Crystal Bridges, heirless Alice Walton’s American art museum, opened in 2011. Now, the Moshe Safdie-designed facility attracts a global audience. These visitors vie for reservations at the 21c Hotel, which opened soon after, and its Hive restaurant has became a favorite local hangout on special occasions. There are also a slew of farm-to-table restaurants and hip boutiques where you can pick up a funky souvenir.

21c Museum Hotel Bentonville

In 2011, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art put sleepy Bentonville, Arkansas, on the world art map. And the opening of the 21c, part of a growing brand of hotels known for their contemporary art collections in second-tier cities (Louisville; Cincinnati), is reinforcing that position. A two-story-tall metal tree with basketball hoops for branches stands in the lobby courtyard; in the gym, a Batman sculpture hovers over the treadmills. The 104 light-filled rooms have their own cheeky touches—pillows silkscreened with animal portraits; a rubber duck in the bath—all courtesy of avant-garde designer Deborah Berke. And if the stylish guests mingling with locals in the lobby gallery and Hive restaurant are any indication, the allure of Bentonville as a hip weekend getaway is spreading quickly.

Crystal Bridges

As most of the great western art museums focus on European art—and rightfully so—American works often gets lost in the mix. Perhaps that’s what’s most inspiring about Crystal Bridges, dedicated solely to American art. It’s easy to see how the national historic events inspired artists’ works, from portraits of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale and Gilbert Stuart to modern and contemporary pieces by Donald Judd and Jasper Johns. Don’t miss a stroll through the beautiful sculpture gardens, as well as a sunset sit-in on James Turrell’s skyspace, “The Way of Color.”

Crepes Paulette

A Frenchman from Brittany turns out made-from-scratch sweet and savory crepes with fillings such as chicken with pesto or strawberries with dark chocolate.

Mustache Goods and Wares

If you jumped on the mustache craze, this is the store for you: Everything from tees and onesies to pacifiers and purses are printed with stylish stashes.

Tusk & Trotter

Chef Rob Nelson turns to farm fresh produce whenever possible in his lofty space, once Sam Walton’s office and warehouse. The seasonal menu has a pork focus; look out for dishes such as white bean soup with braised pig tails and a take on the classic Cuban sandwich made with house-cured pork jowl and smoked pork loin.