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.

family friendly flow trail mountain biking in bentonville arkansas

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.

chandelier art exhibit from nick cave until at the momentary in bentonville arkansas

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!

breakfast and a giant cinnamon roll from the buttered biscuit in bentonville arkansas

8. Breakfast

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…

gluten free pastries and snacks from Olly Makes Bakery in bentonville arkansas

…check out Olly Makes. But those are just two of many spots for a great breakfast, and then there’s…

dough zone ramen bowls from 8th street market in bentonville

7. Lunch

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.

pizza and salad from pedalers pub in bentonville Arkansas

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…

pork ribs and homemade chicharrones pork skins from tusk and trotter in bentonville Arkansas

6. Dinner

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…

fresh beer from bike rack brewing in bentonville arkansas

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!

Nearby are Natural State Beer Co., Rendezvous Junction Brewing, Ozark Beer Co., New Province Brewing, and Hawk Moth Brewing.

Back near downtown is Bentonville Brewing, which sits next door to the massive Climb Bentonville indoor climbing center. Lots of options, so it’s a good thing…

riding bikes on the bike paths in bentonville to crystal bridges museum

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.

thaden field house at thaden airfield and regional airport in Bentonville arkansas

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.

thaden school building and garden thaden school bicycle repair shop classroom

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!

mountain biking at coler mtb preserve and park in bentonville

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…

things to do in bentonville arkansas include gravel cycling

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.

IMBA hosts summits and events here, and Bentonville Bike Fest brings the circus to town in the summer for racing, skills clinics, and more.

rendering of co-working office space in bentonville arkansas with bike ramps so you can ride to every floor of the building

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.

you belong here sign outside the momentary art museum in bentonville

Resources:

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!

22 comments

    • Tyler Benedict on

      Definitely worth waiting until travel is safe for a visit, and we took ample precautions during our trip here. All meals were outdoors in open air, and we wore masks everywhere we entered.

      Reply
      • JBikes on

        This.
        One can take trips. Not everyone needs to fly, some can drive and MTB’ing is about one of the safest things you can do.
        Life doesn’t need to end and you can participate in a lot with effectively zero risk if you take the appropriate precautions.

        Reply
  1. Hankystar on

    Dear Residents of Bentonville, This all sounds lovely! As a long time resident of Bend, Oregon – be very careful what you wish for… I believe we now describe it as not so gradually being trampled to death.

    Reply
  2. PedalBend on

    He’s right. Bend OR is over. Destroyed by the same forces designed to revitalize an old depressed logging town. Now it’s tourists 100% of the time with NO off season.

    Reply
    • JBikes on

      A town doesn’t have stated “purpose” and I’ve never live in a place where people are in 100% agreement with a given direction taken.
      Locals are free to change it to suit their needs. One could argue bend did just that and I can only assume the majority like it unless they’d make changes to reverse it. Reminds me of the people complaining about Californians pushing up house prices, but the same locals gladly sell to the top dollar rather than sell to a local for significantly less.

      There is probably a middle ground, but calling a town destroyed is definitely not that.

      Reply
    • Jesse on

      For clarity, Bentonville Municipal Airport doesn’t have direct flights anywhere. XNA which is just a couple miles west of town is where all the commercial flights are.

      Reply
  3. whatever on

    Being from Northwest Arkansas, I think we have significant differences. Mountain biking isn’t saving the town. The area is well worn with three corporations that are the largest, or the largest in their respective areas. Wal Mart is the obvious one, but add to that Tyson Foods, and JB Hunt Trucking. Add the University of Arkansas, and the myriad of venders etc, Bikes Blues and BBQ, and the area already has high traffic. Bikers are very much welcome, but they are unlikely to overrun the area, especially since the trails/roads are located over multiple counties. There are plenty of less ridden places, and much more on the way.

    Reply
  4. Jeff on

    Tyler, do you honestly think this is the appropriate time to publish an extensive travel recommendation to a place that has seen low numbers of Covid cases and maybe doesn’t want a bunch of people from all over the US coming in and visiting? I have friends that live in Bentonville and while they appreciate the economic growth, they are less than excited welcoming all kinds of tourists into their community. Maybe publish this when the vaccine has had an extensive roll out, or you know, not during a global pandemic that’s killing thousands of people a day.

    Reply
    • Kristi Benedict on

      Jeff, we understand this and have added a disclaimer regarding traveling at this time. We also think it’s fun to plan for future trips, to have something to look forward to or just daydream about.

      Reply
  5. Chalchalero on

    Can you explain cero risk? As a Mtb er you should know there’s no such thing as cero risk. Coming from a place that lives from tourism, I was taken a back at how tourist were not wearing masks in public spaces while locals were masked at all times. No social distancing and Tourist don’t seem to respect local rules. The issue with travel is not the transportation but the possibility of moving the virus to other communities. Stop promoting tourism during a pandemic.

    Reply
  6. Joe Partridge on

    Alas, this is still Arkansas.

    Step foot outside of the city limits and its all confederate flags and Trump signs. This is not a friendly or safe place for people outside a very narrow demographic range. Arkansas is incredible regressive politically and socially. The state consistently ranks among the worst in education, access to healthcare, and environmental protection.

    There are some good spots to ride in the state (Syllamo trails are rough but fun!) but I’m gonna take my money and use it someplace that better represents my values.

    Reply
  7. Eric on

    Maybe Arkansas could stop white-washing history and not introduce legislature blocking and downplaying the legacy of slavery in the US? How about no 1619 bill? Sorry, I won’t patronize a state that doesn’t acknowledge it’s past and tries to better itself.

    Reply
  8. Erich on

    To be blunt about it, being in Walmart’s backyard is the only reason that most things cited in the above piece exist, and that isn’t a good thing. Bentonville’s diamond-in-the-rough status was built largely by the Walton family fortune and all the accompanying issues inherent to that.

    The trail networks exist because Steuart and Tom Walton like MTB and have aimed the Walton family money cannon at making something they can enjoy while whitewashing their images. This money was obtained through being a part of the largest, worst American employer since the days of company towns. They have taken underpaying their employees to such an art that a good percentage of them are eligible for food assistance money from the state, which is then redeemed at, yes, Walmart. In a number of states, Walmart makes up multiple percentages of the total take on gov’t assistance. For a company pulling down billions in revenue, that’s disgraceful.

    While they don’t literally use the bodies of deceased employees to shore up the berms, there’s a strong argument to be made that most of those trails are built on the backs of a grievously exploited workforce. Yes, the trails look, and probably are, fantastic. However, the ethical implications behind them should at least give you pause before you decide whether or not to buy what Bentonville is selling.

    Reply
  9. tech9 on

    Joe P. is right.. I’ve been/rode in bentonville many times. You go outside city limits (pea ridge, etc) or any gravel ride more than 10mi from bentonville you realize you are in Arkansas really quick. Every red neck stereotype you can think of shows up really fast.

    Other con’s, is 100% 1st world thing, but i can say there is a serious lack of restaurants around the main trailhead (town square) in terms of understanding most of your riders are from out of town. Thus, most of them are going to be eating out a lot. You have a handful but most close early (7-8pm). Exceptions were peddler’s pub and pressroom. Yes there are a few others but not enough of the mtb’er type places. They are more frufru towards the rich walmart executive type spots. There’s a few other places spread around, but that town square is the best hub for that type of stuff and it would be better if more peddlers pub like places were around.

    The trails and infrastructure for riding are phenomenal. There’s something for everyone too. Slaughter pen has everything from beginner flat trails, to dude-bro huck city stuff. You can also ride to every trail from that town center. Back 40 and Little Sugar are great for all types of riders as well. Hobbs state park is excellent. You can cover all the trails there in about 4-5 days. So it’s a great destination for mtb’ing.

    Road biking around there is kind of sketchy as the roads are mostly single lane with bends and curves that are hard to see through. I am sure there’s better stuff outside the city just didn’t know enough locals that rode road bikes.

    Gravel is descent to great around there, but again you run into the (holy smokes we are not in bentonville city limits anymore) real quick.

    The trails are good enough that you find that people dont’ just go their once. They go there over and over. I can’t think of many places that like that. Also the city itself is very clean. You can diss the waltons all you want, but I love the fact that they put millions and millions into a trail system that everyone can use for free, and a giant cycling infrastructure. It’s also very weird how the trails seem to have the right away through everyones property line. Not sure how that works, but I noticed both on Little Sugar and Back 40 that it was almost like we were in peoples property at some points.

    The local establishments take covid fairly serious. Matter of fact, some were closed last time we were there for that reason. The moment you get outside the city limits people look at your weird for wearing a mask, 5g, coronavirus is fake, etc. real quick. Bentonville is great, just remember it’s still AR at the end of the day 🙂 The stereotypes hold true.

    Yes lots of art for you art lovers as well.

    Reply
  10. Tom on

    visited there 2 years ago as a potential retirement destination. That was my exact reaction – great place, but it looks like it’s growing so fast that it’s getting overrun. Hard to add infrastructure after people have already arrived.

    Reply

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