Fayetteville, Arkansas Attractions Goes Offbeat
Our New Book
But Fayetteville has a lot more to offer than just hog games and bars on Dickson Street. No matter what you describe as a good time, Fayetteville has something you'll enjoy. Love to shop till you drop? There are plenty of places to blow your wad (or max out your plastic), from the Northwest Arkansas Mall to the numerous shops and boutiques throughout town. If you enjoy good cuisine, Fayetteville has everything from finger-lickin' barbecue joints to five-star gourmet restaurants.
A fan of the arts? The Walton Arts Center hosts world-class performers such as Ravi Shankar, Stomp, and the Ballet Folklorico. There are also several small art galleries around town, and local coffee houses Arsaga's and Common Grounds display local artists' works.
But you can read all about that in any tourist brochure. As a life-long resident I'd like to let you in on all the hidden, off-beat things that make my town stand out from the others.
Stuff to See
Fayetteville still has a quiet, small-town feel. The rolling hills, the abundance of hardwood trees and gardens made it a "Tree City USA" for 12 years in a row.
Home to 42 parks and 17 miles of trails, Fayetteville welcomes hikers, bicyclists and nature lovers. Of all the city's parks, though, there is one that holds a special place in the heart of Fayettevillians: the castle at Wilson Park.
Its official name is Point 7, but most residents know it simply as The Castle. This fantasy sculpture was designed by artist Frank Williams in 1980. Beneath the castle, a spring feeds Hamestring Creek, which forms a small koi pond and fountain where kids can splash around. The castle is made up of numerous mosaics and individual tiles, many of which have meanings. For example, the four faces on the tower represent the seasons. Because of its popularity, age and use began to take its toll by the 1990s. In 1999, it was renovated to be stronger and safer, and a few minor updates were made again in 2004.
The town's historic district, near Washington and Willow streets, is dotted with stately old homes, many of which are more than 100 years old. Nearby is the old Confederate Cemetery, a surprisingly beautiful and serene setting. Don't be fooled, though Arkansas had sons fighting on both sides of the Civil War. You can find out more about Fayetteville's role in the War Between the States at Headquarters House on East Dickson Street (be sure and check out the bullet holes in the walls).
Stuff to do
Pick up a brochure at the Fayetteville Visitors Bureau just off the square (21 S. Block, suite 100), and you will only get a highlight of what's to see and do here. The Farmer's Market takes over the newly renovated square Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings from May to October; besides locally-grown organic produce and flowers, shoppers can find pottery and other arts. On Saturdays, live musicians and entertainers play in the small garden setting.
Springfest is another time-honored Fayetteville tradition. Usually held in late April or early May, this year it was combined with an all-new Dickson Street Music Festival. This family-friendly event draws out all the locals with vendors, parades and kids' activities.
Since 2000, the streets have filled with a different kind of hog fan for Bikes, Blues, and BBQ the nation's largest charitable motorcycle rally. For three days in the fall, Dickson Street is packed with vendors, entertainers and, of course, motorcycles ' over 6,000 bikes thundered through town in last year's 'Parade of Power.' Don't worry, though, the event is family friendly (at least during the day). Be sure and book your hotel in advance ' the rally draws more than 325,000 riders and enthusiasts from all over the county.
Fayetteville's relatively new Botanical Garden of the Ozarks is another affordable, enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. The garden also offers special events such as classical music concerts, cocktail parties, classes and kids' activities throughout the year.
Fayetteville, as home to the University of Arkansas, has a wide diversity of student and citizen groups. Many groups offer classes, festivals and events throughout the year, many of which are free. Pick up a copy of the Fayetteville Free Weekly on Dickson Street or at local grocery stores for listings of more community events.
Because it's a college town, there is no shortage of bars and clubs in Fayetteville. Most are clustered along Dickson, adjacent to the campus. George's Majestic, one of the oldest clubs in town, caters to a more mature crowd, but still hosts rockin' live music. Again, pick up a Free Weekly to see who's playing where.
Read more about travel across the USA
Have a comment to share? Like us on Facebook - OffbeatTravelCom and post your comment.
DeLani Bartlette is a freelance writer who lives and loves her hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas, but she also travels abroad every chance she gets.
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author