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To Explore Northwest Arkansas’ Surprises, Start in Springdale

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Northwest Arkansas is packed with surprises. Vintage railcars carry passengers across trestles and through mountains. In the town where Walmart began, world-class art hangs in a bold, beautiful museum. At a popular taproom, cider made from local apples proves worthy of national awards. Through the region, a 40-mile paved path for bikers and pedestrians links communities.

Half a million people live in and around four cities: Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville. The cities stack up north to south, so close together that traveling along I-49 from Bentonville at the top to Fayetteville at the bottom takes only 30 minutes.

A Springdale Sampler

Springdale (pop. 90,000) is the most central, and it is a frequent homebase for meetings at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center, a 61,000-square-foot facility next to the 206-room Holiday Inn Springdale/Fayetteville Area and near some 800 limited-service hotel rooms.

Springdale’s attractions can also serve as off-site venues, including several that are downtown, where revitalization projects are under way and construction will soon start on Springdale’s first downtown hotel, a Hilton Tapestry.

The Arkansas and Missouri Railroad, based in downtown’s train station, offers chartered trips aboard vintage railcars that can last a few hours or all day.

“For a group that wanted to have a board meeting, we set up a long table in a railcar,” said Wesley Oliver, director of tourism and communications for Springdale’s Chamber of Commerce. “As they met, they watched the scenery roll by.”

Near the train station, the taproom at Black Apple Cider also does private events. Black Apple was recently named the nation’s #4 cidery, and even if groups can’t make it in for a sip, they can arrange a cider delivery.

At downtown’s Shiloh Museum of Ozark History interactive exhibits and memorabilia tell how this region was slowly transformed from the wilderness Native Americans found 15,000 years ago to the economic force it has become since Walmart, Tyson and other major corporations arrived. Those companies have brought in people from all over the world to live and work in Northwest Arkansas.

That diversity is expressed in many ways, including food and music. A good example is a convention’s off-site event at the Apollo on Emma, where a mariachi band played and a Mexican dinner was served. “About half of our population is Hispanic, so we are known for having the best Latin American food in the region,” said Oliver.

More to Explore

Of course, given the region’s compactness, most groups venture beyond Springdale, whether it is for a float trip down the Buffalo River; a bike tour on the Razorback Greenway down to Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas; or a dinner at Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, where guests, surrounded by fine art, can gaze out across still waters and see bridges that magically link the museum’s galleries. It can be a sparkling beginning or end to a stay in this surprising corner of Arkansas.

For more information on meeting in Springdale, please contact:

Explore Springdale

Wesley Oliver