April 29, 2016

Things to Do in Northwest Arkansas

I was recently fairly insulted by a blogger who mentioned stopping in Arkansas for their roadtrip, and I assumed from the other towns she claimed to visit, it had to have been the Northwest Arkansas area (best part of Arkansas, in other words). While she named specific towns on their trip otherwise, she simply named the state and that they crossed the stateline just to say the kids have been there, "no offense" to Arkansans.

I get the stigma but she's only perpetuating it. There are loads of fun activities to do in Northwest Arkansas, so I thought I would share a few with you... keep in mind, this is only an overview... but perhaps I'll review the following more in-depth in future posts!

Opening night of the 2016 season!

1. The 112 Drive In: If there's a particular new movie out I lean towards AMC Fiesta Square instead of the Malco Razorback (even  though, fun fact, I worked there for the first couple of months when I moved to Fayetteville!)--it may not be quite as nice (i.e. overdue for a remodel) but the tickets are far cheaper and I've never had to worry about it selling out if I get there last minute. But what's even far more special is the drive in, which Fayetteville is so lucky to have. While it may be in need of a renovation as well, and the options aren't always swell, there is nothing cooler than packing up your snacks and blankets into your vehicle (and maybe even your dog...) and leaning your seat back for the big screen.
And like I said, while the options aren't stellar every Thursday through Sunday (two back-to-back movies that change every week), the best movies almost always come to the drive-in. Some that I've seen were Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mad Max, The Martian, Jurassic World, and Planet of the Apes.

2. Hiking: The options are limitless when it comes to getting outside in the Ozarks. My favorites are obviously Indian Creek to Eye of the Needle and Big Bluff & the Goat Trail, but there's also a variety of hikes at Devil's Den (also some of the closest), Hawksbill Craig/Whitaker's Point, Lost Valley, Glory Hole, Hemmed in Hollow... the list goes on. Basically, go pick up a Tim Ernst book and grab your gear--you can't go wrong with anything on the Buffalo River. I also hear of great climbing at Horseshoe Canyon and Sam's Throne (or indoors at Ozark Climbing Gym, La Casa Pollo).

Glory Hole from Above

Fishing Cove on Beaver Lake

3. Floating: Speaking of the Buffalo River, whether your method is kayak, canoe, or inflatables, nothing beats getting out on the water in the summer. There's also the Mulberry, Illinois, Kings, and White River. Beaver Lake is also a good option, especially if you want to fish as well--or other lakes are Sequoyah, Leatherwood, Lincoln, and Fayetteville (lovely park for a Sunday walk/bike ride or disc golf). Not to mention the engineered Kayak Park I've been dying to check out in Siloam Springs! Even if you don't want to invest in your own vessel, there are rental options.

4. Food: It's hard to go wrong with food in Northwest Arkansas, with a world-renowned art museum bringing in the culture in Bentonville, a large Hispanic, Marshallese, and Italian population to Springdale (seriously, try any pupuseria or Italian joint), or the university catering to a variety of tastes in Fayetteville. Some of my favorite places in Bentonville are: Sushi House (so fresh, so fast, lots of freebies), Tusk & Trotter (brasserie with local ingredients & house-made everything), Table Mesa (yummy Latin), and Petit Bistro (for the most romantic of occasions). A couple of places I've heard wonders about but haven't had a chance to try yet are: Tavola Trattoria and The Hive. It's also home to Pho Thanh, to which I've been to #2 in Fayetteville and appreciate for its consistency. Other Pho closer to home (because I get on my pho kicks) is PQ Noodle House (very homestyle pho with amazing bahn mi & spring rolls & peanut sauce), Bucks of Asia (when I just want drive-thru/can't agree with what sort of Asian food someone else wants), or So Pho Real (technically Springdale, but a great modern fusion-flare).

Tusk & Trotter
But before I get too deep into it I really think Fayetteville needs its own section as it's what I'm most familiar with. Feel free to check out one of the food truck hot-spots (on Dickson, on College [recommend: Green Goat], or off North behind Columbus House/Fayetteville's Funky Yard Sale--there's no official site, but I believe Natural State Sandwiches is almost always there).
I still haven't eaten everywhere, but I'll try to share a few of my favorites:
Mexican - Burrito Loco (cheap, authentic, and perfect for an early Sunday lunch after a long night)
Mediterranean - Petra's (only open for lunch, closed on Sundays, the nicest owner)... though I do love the fries at more to-go style Kosmos.
Thai - Thep Thai
Pizza - My favorite is Mojo's [ghost sauce!] (or Gusano's for deep dish) but I have to admit a stuffies with pink sauce at Damgoode is damn good and a more traditional choice, while Marley's is decent but I've only been there once because there was a herd of loud frat boys. Woodstone is tasty but fairly overpriced, and people rave about Guido's but I've only had it cold at a party.
Burgers - I'm a firm believer that it's all about how you like your burger. Hugo's is everyone's go to (love the atmosphere) but my guy doesn't care for it because he's not the thin greasy diner style type. He wants something hearty, which is why we usually end up at Deluxe. Smitty's is newer and has a lot of creative options and tasty sides.
Wings - Foghorn's for sure, so many different flavors, but for good barbecue in general hit up Lucky Luke's or Penguin Ed's.
Sandwiches - Green Submarine for subs and Hammontrees for gourmet grilled cheese, though some might throw a fit that I didn't list Loafin' Joes (which is a great alternative to cheap Eureka Pizza--which is a local alternative to Little Caesar's--but you must call ahead).
Italian - Pesto Cafe for cozy or Vetro 1925 for extra fancy (seriously one of the best restaurants I've eaten at).
Sushi - Wasabi and Meiji are pretty good, and though I love the freebies, Tokyo doesn't really blow me away. Sidebar: We have our own ramen shop now but I haven't been to it yet (Update: Ramen shop now closed but their ramen can be tried at their sister restaurant Meiji).
Breakfast - Little Bread Co. has great pastries, quiches, and more, Arsaga's is well-known for its brunch and coffee (amazing crepes including ones that would double as dessert), and Stone Mill is super affordable with french toast that's so basic but so amazing...

State of the Art Exhibit
5. Crystal Bridges: Let's talk about that museum while we're at it, an enormous collection of American pieces from Colonial Era to present--and it's free. Even if you've been to it before, there's always the traveling exhibits as well (not as likely to be free; Van Gogh to Rothko and State of the Art were two of my favorites). The architecture of the museum itself is really something, plus you can feast your eyes on one of Frank Lloyd Wright's own designs. Not to mention it has a beautiful nature trail and the Amazeum next door is perfect for kids/kids-at-heart.

6. Breweries, Bars, & Caffeine: I really feel like there's a place to get a drink no matter what kind of person you are. Kingfish, JR's Lightbulb Club, Smoke & Barrel, and George's are great places to get a well and catch a show. If you're looking for classy, Maxine's is the obvious choice--though if you like a good cigar and wanna get out of downtown, Open Door Cigars has its own Sweet 7 Lounge with a hidden bookcase door, leather armchairs, poker, and free snacks on Thursday nights. Another rowdy place if you don't mind cheap bottles, smoke, and a typically older crowd is Tables & Ale, where you can wait your turn to play some free pool. A couple of my favorite bars in general are the 21st Amendment (great rooftop seating) and Brewski's (for a big beer selection). The Social Club is one of the only places you can get a buzz on while playing arcade games, giant jenga, and bust a move on the dance floor (Arkadia is a non-alcoholic version). We have tons of local breweries: Fossil Cove, Apple Blossom, Saddlebock, Core, West Mountain, Columbus House, Ozark Beer Co., Bike Rack Brewing Co., Bentonville Brewing Co.--let me know if I missed anyone. Puritan is a great place if you can't decide whether you want beer or coffee (and The Handlebar throws this in plus bikes & kombucha)--or for those of you who just want coffee, Onyx has received national attention (though I hear good things about Mama Carmen's and Baba Boudan's as well...and Arsaga's is understood, but I can't not get food when I go there).

7. Other Exploring: You don't have to go on a hike, per se, to have an adventure. There are plenty of caves to explore--or abandoned areas like Monte Ne and Dinosaur World (the latter of which is no trespassing). The Botanical Gardens is a great pit-stop by Lake Fayetteville (that the trail runs right through). There are also some more historical options such as Clinton House, Pea Ridge National Military Park, Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, and Fayetteville National Cemetery. Dickson Street Bookshop has made a worldwide list, and a picnic at the top of Mt. Sequoyah could be nice. Northwest Arkansas is also one of the most bike friendly areas in the state--you can ride the Razorback Greenway all the way from Fayetteville to Bentonville, not to mention there are plenty of other trails and even mountain biking.

Wine is much easier, but must ferment much longer than beer.
8. Homebrewing: With all the breweries in Arkansas, especially in the Fayetteville area, there are many homebrewers that follow. Stop by The Home Brewery at Township & College and they'll get you set up for brewing your own beer or wine--they also have cheese and root beer kits!

Spent grains from homebrewing can make a hearty bread - pair with some beer queso!
9. Gardening: Stop by Tri-Cycle Farms to learn about gardening through volunteer work and take some produce with you. Support local farmers by checking out the Farmer's Market on the square every Saturday morning (as well as Tuesdays and Thursdays).

Kafka at his 1st Farmer's Market (he was a little anxious).
10. Events: There are tons of events and festivals throughout the year. Frost FestFoam FestBlock Street PartySpring FestLast SaturdayFirst Thursday, the Pack Rat holds Pint Night & outdoor clinics, and plenty of concerts (look into Backspace for something super hipstery). Check out Bikes, Blues, & BBQJoe Martin Stage RaceFayetteville Roots Festival, and Tontitown Grape Festival.
Exhibit during Last Saturday
You can always find good music in NWA.
Trying to sit very still after being roped into Quick Draw at Fayetteville Underground

There are so many more options and I'll try to update this post at a later time to reflect that, but this should get you started. What are your favorite NWA activities?

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