Welcome to the final instalment of my magical mystery tour. If you haven’t yet discovered my excitable posts about Celebration, Disney Springs, and Florida then you can follow the links below:
Magical Mystery Tour: Part I
Magical Mystery Tour: Part II
When my cousin moved to Bentonville, Arkansas eighteen months ago, I had to buy a map to find out where she was going. It wasn’t a state that I was familiar with. In my defence, I’m pretty bad at remembering where all the English counties are too, so not knowing anything about Arkansas shouldn’t come as a shock!
Following our Disney-tastic antics at the Magic Kingdom, I thought this would be the more sedate part of our trip – how wrong I was. There is so much to do in and around the beautiful town of Bentonville, home of Walmart.
We arrived in Northwest Arkansas after a slight delay (our plane wouldn’t work so we were taken off one and moved to another!). Straight away I was blown away by how green the area was. The drive to my cousin’s apartment allowed me to take in the sites (and grab a fabulous wrap and salad from Taziki’s).
Unfortunately, my cousin had to work on Thursday, so my aunt and I were left to our own devices, something I’m fairly sure Becky won’t let us do ever again. Let’s just say the local’s will remember us when we return! We started the day with a lovely walk and a gorgeous pie from Fork & Crust, and then hit the shopping centre. I’m now totally hooked on Bath & Body Works products (and gutted that we can’t get them here in the UK!) and we’re also BFF’s with the fabulous staff in Versona, Luna, and P.F. Chang’s.
We finished the day off with an incredible experience thanks to Becky’s friend, Alex, who took us out on his boat around Beaver Lake. Now, when I say lake, I mean LAKE, this place makes Lake Windermere look like a puddle! It’s located in the Ozark Mountains and has 487 miles of natural shoreline. Beautiful just doesn’t cover it. The bonus of a stunning sunset, Ed Sheeran playing in the background, great company, and a slap up Mexican meal once back on dry land made this night my favourite of the holiday. I also got to taste re-fried beans which is something else I can now tick off my bucket list.
We were up and out early the next day as we headed to Devil’s Den State Park. This place is a natural treasure trove with miles of trails winding through the lush oak-hickory forest. As we hiked our way along one of the trails we felt like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, slashing at the spider webs that strung across our path – it was all worth the squeamish yelps and spider-jig as we emerged at the overlook. Words failed me – yes, you read that right – words failed me! The view was absolutely stunning. I experienced yet another bucket list moment as I swung my legs off the end of the world and breathed in the forest air. My aunt couldn’t watch as I shuffled my way to the edge under the supervision of my cousin. I was so glad I did it as I looked out over the blanket of treetops and Lee’s creek winding through the forest far below me.
Saturday is well known in the area for Bentonville’s Farmer’s Market, so we headed to the town square and enjoyed milling around the stalls and shops. I loved watching the ice-cream eating contest and would have put money on the one guy hurling before they announced the winner! The main square is also home to the first Walmart store and the Walmart museum. It was so interesting to learn about Sam Walton and how he built the Walmart (Asda) empire from such humble beginnings.
In the evening we met up with Becky’s friends to attend a local art and music event at Crystal Bridges Museum – Chihuly: In the Forest. This incredible event combined live entertainment with a stunning exhibition of glass art which was displayed throughout the local woodland. We walked through the exhibit as the sun set and the stars emerged, listening to live music drifting through the trees. I also got to tick off another bucket list item when I spotted fire flies in the woods. It was a truly magical evening.
We headed back into Bentonville town square on Sunday for the incredibly popular brunch at Table Mesa Bistro. I’ve never seen so much food in one place! You pay per head and can fill up your plate as many times as you like. There was a huge choice from freshly made omelettes, fajitas, pastries, right through to deep fried chicken and waffles (not potato waffles, but pancake waffles and yes, I had them, and they were delicious).
Once our bellies were full, we returned to Crystal Bridges to look around the main museum rather than the woodland where we’d spent the previous evening. The art is pretty amazing, and there is a lovely restaurant area which you can hire out for weddings and events. The giant spider was like something out of Harry Potter! From here we headed off to Thorncrown Chapel, nestled in a beautiful woodland setting. The church is an incredible wooden and glass structure, forty-eight feet high with 425 windows and over 6,000 square feet of glass. Since opening its doors in 1980, the chapel has welcomed over six million visitors, and I can understand why. Despite the relatively busy influx of people, this place was like a haven of peace and tranquillity. Sitting on the wooden pews and soaking in the atmosphere was soothing for the soul.
Feeling fully restored and meditative we left Thorncrown Chapel and drove to Eureka Springs. Before heading off on my magical mystery tour I read a wonderful blog post by Tiffany, one of my favourite travel bloggers, all about Eureka Springs, you can read it HERE. She does a fabulous job of describing the amazing things you can do here.
The highlight of Eureka Springs, for me, was when we took a tram (red route) and visited Crescent Hotel which is America’s most haunted hotel. The views from the observation deck are pretty amazing. As is the view down the flights of stairs where some guests checked out…literally! If I do return to this part of Arkansas, then I’m booking on one of the ghost tours! According to the staff, there is a particular ghost who, if she doesn’t like the look of you, packs your suitcase as a way of telling you to leave. So cool!
Our time in Arkansas came to an end, and we made ready to fly back to Winter Park in Florida for a couple of days before heading home. I can honestly say I didn’t want to leave. I haven’t covered everything we did and saw while in the area in this post but merely included the highlights. Bentonville is a beautiful town and well worth a visit. I can’t wait to go back again.
Here are links to just some of the incredible places we went should you ever find yourself in the area:
The Walmart Museum – www.walmartmuseum.com
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art – http://crystalbridges.org
Thorncrown Chapel – www.thorncrown.com
Crescent Hotel – http://americasmosthauntedhotel.com
Fork & Crust Pie Company – http://forkandcrust.com
Taziki’s – http://tazikiscafe.com
Wilson & Wilson True American Art – http://wilsonandwilsonfolkart.com
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my magical mystery tour. This wasn’t just a holiday, it was an experience that nourished my soul and swept away a lot of the anxiety I’ve been carrying around for the past few years. To say it opened my eyes to how I want my life to be is an understatement. It’s too easy to get bogged down by real life stuff, social media, and negativity, but this trip proved to me that switching off completely is not only refreshing but necessary. Until next year!
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