'A NEW AMERICAN TOWN'
December 20, 2017 By Crista Videriksen Worthy
A momentous event in the history of Bentonville, Arkansas, took place March 9, 1950. On the west side of the little downtown square, a man named Sam Walton opened a variety store he named Walton’s 5&10. It was the beginning of what would become the world’s largest retailer, Walmart. Today the company remains headquartered in Bentonville, in the northwest corner of Arkansas, and Walmart remains its largest employer. But where the town once was a destination only for Walmart vendors, it’s now a world-class art mecca. In 2011, the Walton Family Foundation made Walmart heiress Alice Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art an $800 million reality. The museum has attracted high-quality hotels, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. Now, Bentonville finds itself transformed. Tourism officials call it “A new American town.”
Bentonville’s Thaden Field is named for famed aviatrix Louise M. Thaden. Born in Bentonville in 1905, she earned her pilot’s certificate in 1928 and then set aviation records on her way to co-founding The Ninety-Nines international organization for female pilots. The full-service fixed-base operation provides fuel, and courtesy and rental cars.
From the airport, you’ll either head straight to the Crystal Bridges museum or to the Bentonville city square. Depending on the time of year, the square hosts an ice rink, farmer’s market, concerts, or open-air film screenings. It’s also where you’ll find locally owned restaurants, food trucks, and shops, plus the very chic 21c Museum Hotel and its onsite The Hive restaurant. When the hotel opened in 2013, it was the third location for the 21c chain, which Condé Nast named among its Top 10 world’s best hotels. Anyone can view the curated art exhibitions that begin outside and continue into its free street-level gallery. Hotel guests can explore the art throughout the hotel, including a video art channel on the rooms’ HD flat-screen televisions, and rent cruiser bikes.