If you’re a cyclist, few cities anywhere have the resources that Bentonville does. With 150+ miles of greenway and bike path, 340+ miles of mountain bike trails, and an entire infrastructure seemingly built around the bicycle, it’s hard to imagine somewhere better.
Not sure about those numbers? Check out our Where To Ride feature on Bentonville’s mountain biking for more on the miles of fresh singletrack being built every week. There’s skills parks, family trails, aggressive technical descents, and tons of flow trail. Seriously, it’s insane.
But there’s also a low cost of living, high average household income, tons of amazing restaurants, world-class art museums, and (as you’ll soon see) a whole lot more. We headed there to sample it all, and here’s why we think any cyclist should put Bentonville on their relocation shortlist.
Full disclosure, Bentonville’s Chamber of Commerce covered our trip and the production costs of this story. But, like all of our trips, we wouldn’t have gone, nor would we publish this story, if we didn’t think you’d like it.
So, if you’re looking for new digs or a remote working spot with next-level, year-round riding, or just seeking an outdoorsy, family-friendly vibe with a growing economy, here’s ten reasons we’d recommend Bentonville…
10. They’ll pay you $10,000 to move here.
And give you a bike. With so many companies switching to remote workforces, people can live wherever they want. And let’s face it, northwest Arkansas isn’t usually on people’s radar. $10k helps put it there. You can get more details and apply online, but we say just use that to cover moving costs and get on it.
9. Art museums you’ll actually want to go to
And not boring museums. Crystal Bridges is an amazing way to spend a day, with so many different styles of art to keep every turn fresh and interesting. I took my kids there when they were younger, and even they enjoyed it (I made a video to prove it), which is saying a lot if three hours in a museum didn’t leave young children in tears.
Our latest visit included The Momentary, a smaller, more contemporary art museum that doubles as a great place to meet or knock out a couple hours of work. They’re both free to enter, and The Momentary has tons of open space seating, Onyx Coffee Lab, and a snack bar!
For the really young, or the young at heart tinkerer, there’s the Amazeum. It’s a hands-on learning museum up front, with an advanced Maker Space in the back that offers membership access to all of their tools, plus classes to teach you how to create and code!
Here’s the thing about having the world’s largest retailer headquartered there: They need good restaurants. Because they, and the ~1,500 companies that have offices here to work with Walmart, want great places to take clients, sales people, and buyers. So you end up with awesome spots like The Buttered Biscuit and, if you’re gluten free…
…check out Olly Makes. But those are just two of many spots for a great breakfast, and then there’s…
There are way too many great lunch spots to list here, which is part of the fun…there’s no shortage of new places to try. Definitely check out 8th Street Market for Yeyo’s Mexican and The Dough Zone, which has killer ramen bowls! Stay after for a little gift shopping at Markham & Fitz or attend a cool indigo dyeing workshop at Hillfolk textile studio.
If you’re gonna call it a day by noon, hit up Pedaler’s Pub for a big selection of gourmet pizzas and local drafts, then mozy next door for another round at Bike Rack Brewing. Then rest up, because you’ll need to make room for…
Before you eat, check in (or just check out the mini art museum) at the 21C Hotel. It’s right downtown, which serves as the perfect home base. You can walk or ride to everything listed here, and it’s just down the street from our favorite dinner spot, Tusk & Trotter. Founded by chef Rob Nelson, it fuses his French culinary training with all manner of pork. The drinks are darn good, too.
Two we’ve heard good things about that deserve a trip back are The Pressroom and The Preacher’s Son. The latter sits atop Undercroft, a killer bar that feels like a secret basement speakeasy. If you prefer beer over cocktails, Don’t worry…
5. There’s a great beer scene
Bike Rack Brewing is the local favorite for many riders thanks to multiple locations that sit just off the greenway. The best spot is at 8th Street Market, where food trucks pull up outside, and across the parking lot is a multi-acre pump track!
4. You can ride your bike Ev-er-y-where.
From ‘most any place in town, you’re likely to find a bike path, greenway, or dedicated bicycle lanes that’ll get you anywhere you want to go. Bentonville’s famous Slaughter Pen trails? Coler MTB Preserve? Both easily accessed by bike, with the former basically sitting in the center of the city. Check out our video…we rode our bikes everywhere we went for 2.5 days.
This means you can ride to work. Your kids can ride to school. Everyone can ride to the store, for groceries, whatever. We saw more kids and families out riding together than anywhere else we’ve visited. No exaggeration: Anywhere.
3. You can learn to fly while your kids learn to build a bicycle
Thaden Field is Bentonville’s municipal airport, and it’s more than just a spot for people who don’t want to drive the 3+ hours to fly out of Little Rock’s Clinton National Airport. It’s where you can get your pilot’s license (and even your instructor’s license), rent a plane or helicopter from their fleet, or just take a sightseeing flight. Surprisingly, you can also catch a direct flight to Denver, Charlotte, Vegas, Newark, D.C., Orlando, and 11 other major cities from here, too.
Or just sit outside of the Louise Cafe and enjoy an open air lunch while watching the planes take off and land.
Meanwhile, at the Thaden School, your kids will thrive with their Wheels, Meals and Reels curriculum. Not only does every student learn to grow and cook their own food (meals), shoot and edit video (reels), but they’ll learn bike maintenance and how to weld their own steel frame!
2. You can ride world-class mountain bike trails
As in, 340+ miles of singletrack, pump track, flow trail, and skills sections. From groomed, machine-built trail to rough, backcountry trail, there’s an insane amount of trail here.
Literally, the trails criss-cross the roads, taking advantage of every nook and cranny of green space to add more trail. Trails snake between road and sidewalk. They loop past coffee shops and parks. They’re…well…they’re just everywhere! But that’s not all…
1. You can ride gravel, ride with IMBA, ride, ride, ride!
It wasn’t too long ago that Bentonville was mostly dirt roads. Yes, it’s growing, but it’s still kinda out in the middle of nowhere. Or, rather, in the middle of the Ozarks, surrounded by forest. Meaning there’s a ton of ways to get lost on mile after mile of dirt and gravel roads. So much so that Life Time launched their Big Sugar NWA Gravel here.
Still not convinced? This 200,000+ sq. ft. building is under construction in downtown and features bike ramps so you can ride up to every floor of its office and co-working space. Scheduled for completion in 2022, they say it’s a perfect example of the “intentional innovation to connect people to work, home, and play in the MTB Capital of the World.”
But wait, there’s more…
As much as we’d like to play all the time, we do have to work a little. Here’s where the advantages of being in Walmart’s backyard come into play again. There are top-notch resources for any entrepreneur or remote worker, like Rapid Prototypes, the University of Arkansas just south in Fayetteville, Brightwater Culinary School, and, of course, Walmart itself.
With experimental stores, test centers, and an ongoing push into delivery, warehouse automation, and a growing e-comm business, Walmart is directly or indirectly a great opportunity for growth, too.
The NWA Tech Summit brings top talent to town to discuss technology, art, and cycling. But mainly, it’s the friendly, outdoorsy vibe that makes Bentonville so cool. I may not be ready to move yet, but you can be sure it’s on my short list if that time ever came.
TRAVEL DISCLAIMER: Friends, we know that travel during a pandemic isn’t the best idea, and we’re not suggesting anyone do it. We’re providing these “Where to Ride” and related travel stories because we know many of you are planning for future trips. When visiting these locations, we took all (or more than) recommended safety precautions including wearing masks, maintaining a safe distance, and drastically limiting indoor activities. We also limited our business to locations that adhered to best practices. Our safety and the safety of our hosts and riding partners is of the utmost importance, and we appreciate the seriousness of COVID-19. If you decide to travel, please follow all recommended safety guidelines for the area you’re visiting, wear a mask, and wash those hands!