School’s out for summer (for the lucky ones) and after the thrilling promise of summertime freedom wears off, you may find yourself accosted by the dreaded “b” word: boredom. *shudders*
Fear not! If you’re looking for things to do this summer in Northwest Arkansas, we’ve got you covered. We’ve scoured far and wide, inside and out, for local haunts, happenings, and pool-side hangouts to transform your summer from drab to fab.
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**Keep an eye out for these local vendors on the Towny app for some special deals and discounts!
Gigs You Series-Ously Need to Check Out
- Each week, Bentonville hosts fun, free, fam-friendly activities with their In the Park Summer Series. Events will be held at Lawrence Plaza and the Bentonville Bark Park. Check out their site for the FULL schedule of movies, shows, and activities for this summer.
- Grab your boots and get ready to jam to some FREE red-dirt country at JBGB’s Summer Concert Series every Thursday. Doors swing open at 3pm. VIP tickets are available for purchase on their site.
- You’ll certainly “have a nice day” at Fayetteville After 5 by Fayetteville’s Dogwood Festival. Come hear tributes to your favorite 70s and 80s bands on the second Friday of the summer months and grab a bite from local food truck vendors. Gates open at 5pm.
- The whole family is invited to this one, even the dogs. Check out Gulley Park Summer Concert Series for free outdoor live music and a food truck rally on Thursday evenings from 7pm-9pm. Concerts take place at the Gulley Park gazebo.
- Botanical Garden of the Ozarks also hosts free + family-friendly summer concerts and food truck round-ups, though you’re welcome to bring your own picnic, too. Each show will take place from 7pm-9pm on Tuesdays scattered throughout the summer.
- Springdale Parks & Recreation has brought back their annual Music in Murphy: Summer Concert Series. Bring your chairs and blankets to Murphy Park and enjoy this great music lineup, from salsa to rock’n’roll! Concerts begin around 7:30pm.
- Grab your water wear and wade toward the Springdale Aquatic Center for Dive-In & Splash Pad Movies, a free summer movie series! Gate opens at 7:30 + movies begin at dusk.
More than a day’s worth of fun
Celebrate art and food in all its forms with various free and ticketed events in downtown Bentonville for Bentonville’s Art & Culinary Week. (Heads up! It’s only from June 1-8.)
The Native American Cultural Symposium (June 14-17) honors our heritage and contemporary Native American culture through creative expressions, performances, and presentations. Event registration is not required but strongly suggested.
Help welcome the first ever Northwest Arkansas Shakespeare Festival (June 4-9) around downtown Bentonville. Enroll kids in a week-long theatre camp and catch live performances at various venues throughout the week.
From grape-stomping to pasta-making, the 118th Tontitown Grape Festival (August 7-11) lets you experience the rich traditions of northern Italy right here in your own backyard. Prepare your bellies for their famous spaghetti dinners and freshly-fried chicken. Scrum-didly-umptious.
The Fayetteville Roots Festival (August 22-26) is an urban music and food festival centered on all things that make Fayetteville a beloved cultural hotspot. Tighten your belt for five days, 10 music stages, and multiple culinary stages & demonstrations. On second thought, maybe you should loosen it.
Wave goodbye to summer at the Rogers Frisco Festival (August 31-September 1), a family-friendly event that honors Rogers’ rich Frisco railroad heritage. Signature events include a voice competition, car shows, the Frisco Chicken Barbecue, and non-stop entertainment. Choo-choooooo.
Challenge your inner athlete
Don your glow gear and join Bentonville Parks & Recreation for a “lights out” celebration. The 2-mile Memorial Park Glow Run (June 8, 8:45pm) kicks off the 2018-2019 Run Bentonville Race Series.
Calling all ladies: run, ride, run around beautiful Lake Fayetteville at the Ladies Du Fayetteville duathlon (June 10, 8am). The race includes two 2-mile runs and an 11-mile bike ride. Individual and relay options are available.
Get in gear for the Tour de Bentonville bike race (June 16, 7am). This second-annual event includes a 20- and 50-mile ride around the streets of Bentonville.
The Natural State Cycling Criterium Series (July 6-8) takes place in various locations around NWA. Events include a pedi-cab race, kids rides, and a mountain biking competition.
Returning to historic downtown Rogers, the Rogers Cycling Festival (July 27-29) includes a menu of cycling events for ALL skill levels.
Beat the heat
Take a dive into these nearby water attractions, perfect for squelching away the summer rays:
- Lawrence Plaza Splash Pad – free admission to this 7000 sq ft facility with fountains.
- Bentonville Community Center – indoor pool with water slides, adventure river, competition pool, swim lanes, and hoops. Daily pass or monthly/annual membership.
- Fayetteville Athletic Club – lap pool and family leisure pool, exercise and sports classes, spa, and family-friendly activities including camps for the kids. Members only but take advantage of their free 3-day trial pass.
- Wilson Park Pool – large leisure pool with kids slides and jump boards, surrounded by shade trees and beautiful landscaping. Daily, season, and family passes available.
- Mount Sequoyah Retreat & Conference Center – community pool with daily, monthly, and seasonal passes available.
- Summerhill Racquet Club – outdoor pool with lap & open swim hours. Also offer indoor & outdoor tennis courts, racquetball courts, weight training & cardio rooms. Members only but summer membership passes are available.
- Prairie Grove Aquatic Park – family-friendly outdoor pool with big slides. Day passes available.
- Wet Willy’s Water Park (also known as the Rogers Aquatic Center) – has slides and sand volleyball courts, lap pool, and kids area. You can buy a day pass or 10-day splash pass.
- Jones Center Springdale – indoor leisure pool & junior olympic size lap pool. Day passes available. (And only $3 at that!)
- Springdale Aquatic Center – spring boards, splash pads, picnic pavilions, water fountains, and water slides. Daily rates or splash pass good for 25 visits.
Explore the Great Outdoors
With 36 miles of trail stretching from north Bentonville to south Fayetteville, you just might be able to spend your entire summer on the Razorback Regional Greenway exploring the greater NWA area and the many attractions along its route. But if you do get bored…
Northwest Arkansas contains more than 200 miles of trails, hard- and soft-surface. Whether you’re out for a leisurely stroll or seeking adventure in a nearby state park, there’s bound to be a trail right up your alley.
- The half mile of trails through Bentonville’s Compton Gardens lets you tour a beautiful AND historic AND native garden (for free!!). Open daily from dusk to dawn.
- Escape to nature at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. Open daily, the Garden includes 12 themed gardens, rotating art installations, and plenty of summer events – like a free opera series and a family-friendly summer concert series.
- Spend your weekend at the 112 Drive-In. Open Fridays through Sundays, the drive-in shows a selection of movies, so check their site for current offerings. And stop by the ATM on your way – this is a cash-only attraction!
- Lake Atalanta: hike, bike, kayak, fish, and have fun in this Rogers park. Let your imagination run wild along 14 miles of bike trails (paved and soft), playgrounds and a natural splash pad, a dog station, and a tree house everyone will be scrambling to explore.
- In the depths of Rogers lies the mysterious War Eagle Cavern. Only the bravest will venture through the 3-stories and 4 miles of caverns – with an experienced and knowledgeable tour guide, of course! But you can fend for yourself in the nearby (life-size!) wooden stockade maze or experience gravity gone wrong at the Moonshiners Mystery Shack!
- During the months of June and July, Neal Family Farm, a family-owned and operated blueberry and blackberry farm, is open for Pick-Your-Own berry picking. Berries, buckets, and bathrooms provided.
Heat-Proof Your Sweet Tooth
- Spark Cafe Soda Fountain is a delicious part of The Walmart Museum experience that transports you back to the 60s. With its round bar stools, soda fountain, uniformed soda jerks, vinyl covered booths, and 1960s memorabilia, your ice cream cone won’t be the only special treat you enjoy on this visit.
- Create the sundae of your dreams at Yum Yo’s. Select from 21 flavors of froyo, ice cream, and gelato and an almost endless combination of toppings for treat tuned exactly to your liking. (Fayetteville location, too!)
- Love soft serve but hate the melty mess it leaves behind? Then Burton’s Creamery is for you! This innovative food truck and ice cream parlor feature the “buddy system,” a cone system that keeps you hands clean from drips while you enjoy delicious combo of ice cream toppings. Yeah, we’re curious, too.
- 3 Crazy Berries (Frozen Yogurt) is a popular dessert parlor that serves high-quality frozen yogurt alongside an iPad bar and comfortable lounge. You’ll also find bubble milk tea, edible cookie dough, and other premium treats to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- The great debate: cookies or ice cream? Lucky for you, you don’t have to decide because you can choose BOTH at Maggie Moo’s/Great American Cookie Co.**
- Your classic burgers & malts destination, Susie Q Malt Shop is a Rogers favorite. They offer delightful twists on your favorite frozen desserts, like a cherry malt and strawberry cheesecake shake.
Save it for a rainy day
Believe it or not, there’s more in store at your local library than just books. The public libraries of Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale, and Fayetteville all offer various (free) activities throughout the summer for kids, teens, families, and adults. We’re talking summer reading programs, book clubs, story times, craft classes, and workshops. Did I mention it’s all free? Read ’em and weep.
- Bentonville Community Center offers a little of everything for just about everyone. Get moving at the gymnasium and aquatic center, become CPR certified, flex your creative muscles at arts & crafts classes. Kids can hang out at the kids center with different age-appropriate games and activities while you do yo thang! (Daily, monthly, and annual passes available.)
- Hop in your time machine and flash back to the past at Arkadia Retrocade, where you’ll find “retro” arcade games galore. Kids and adults alike will be begging to stay for hours. (Closed Mondays.)
- Spark your inner flame of creativity at Terra Studios. Watch live demonstrations or get your hands colorful with classes offered by this art-centric destination. If the weather’s on your side, journey through the art park with 6 acres of sculpture gardens and murals, a labyrinth, and a wizard’s cave.
- Mission accepted. Modern Mission boasts all sorts of escapades, like outdoor laser tag, an indoor battlefield, airsoft, and a game that fuses dodgeball and archery (with foam-tipped arrows, so no worries, Mom!). Most days require reservations and space is limited so don’t wait to reserve your spot in advance!
- We already know you love queso, but you’ll love it even more at Axis Lounge**, where tapas and sci-fi collide. Enter the multiverse of Axis’ virtual reality arcade, where worlds beyond your dreams await! (We’re in!)
- Gymnastics Joe’s has limited hours for open gyms, but if you’re ready for a little more commitment you can sign kiddos up for gymnastics classes. You’ve earned yourself some peace and quiet to enjoy while the youngin’s run themselves silly under the careful watch of Gymnastic Joe’s coaches.
- Weather’s no worry at Lokomotion Family Fun Park, an indoor/outdoor venue of AWESOME. You can spend a whole day bouncing from bumper boats to mini golf, go karts to lazer tag. And the inside scoop says you’ll want to check out their special deals on Thursdays. Write that down!
- Fast Lane Entertainment** has it all: bowling, bumper cars, laser tag & maze, arcade games, and rides. You won’t even remember what “bored” means. (Priced per activity, open daily.)
- Think you could be the next American Ninja Warrior? Then put your skills to the test at Flip Side Ninja Park**! All ages and levels are encouraged to drop in for a visit to this obstacle-filled adventure park. So much fun, you won’t even notice you got an amazing workout!
- Feeling artsy? Junque 2 Jewels** is DIY-decor heaven. All you bring is your happy self! And with more than 50 colors of paint to boot, the indecisive artíst is sure to spend hours debating between mint and jade green!
- It’s a kids’ world at Playstrong Pediatric Therapy! They offer summer classes for kids ages 3-8, with activities covering gymnastics, sensory art, and water play. You can ALSO sign up your kids (ages 8 and under) for gymnastics classes.
- Fly high at High Rise Extreme Airsports. This trampoline park also includes a ninja course, foam pit, and theme nights like college night, family night, 80s, etc. (Prices vary for 1-, 1.5-, and 2-hour passes. Closed Sundays.)
- Let your imagination run wild at this paint-your-own studio. Imagine Studios offers a range of summer camps and walk-in paint-your-own projects. (Closed Mondays.)
- Two words: pizza + play. You’ll find both at Fun City, with a free play area for kids, 80 arcade games, indoor mini golf, and private party rooms. Check out their site for special offers and discounts.
- Get you fit on at the The Jones Center. Spend your days poolside, or moving and grooving at the ice skating rink, gym, and fitness center. Day passes are available and they host fun summer activities like movie nights and obstacle courses as well as various sport camps throughout the summer months.
- No experience needed at this no-ropes bouldering gym. Ozark Climbing Gym welcomes everyone from the greenest newbies to the climbingest experts. They are ready for you. Sign up as a full-time member or purchase a punch card or day pass. For all of you plan-aheaders: fill out their waiver before you go.
- Amazeum is right – Scott Family Amazeum is something out of this world. Founded in arts and sciences, and more playground than museum, this place includes a climbable tree canopy, indoor cave, outdoor space, a Hershey’s (yes, the chocolate company) Lab, and an art studio. Check their calendar for special events. (Closed Tuesdays.)
- Celebrate the American spirit through an intriguing combination of art and nature. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art offers drop-in artmaking throughout the summer, as well as family fun nights like concerts and movies. Take a peek at their calendar for more. (Closed Tuesdays.)
- Delve into the fascinating world that awaits you at the Native American History Museum. Exhibits have artifacts dating from as far back as the Paleo period. Free guided audio tours are available and kids under 15 can hunt for arrowheads around the tipi outside. (Closed Sundays.)
- In 1875, Colonel Samuel West Peel built a marvelous Italianate Mansion surrounded by 180 acres of apple orchards on the outskirts of Bentonville. Today, you can tour the Peel Mansion to take in the fascinating history of this incredible piece of architecture and the peaceful gardens surrounding it. (Closed Sundays, Mondays.)
- Walmart is no stranger, but you may not know the history of this superstore. Take a trip to downtown Bentonville and see for yourself Walton’s original five-and-dime, a world-class exhibit gallery and the Spark Cafe Soda Fountain. If you’ve never visited the Walmart Museum, this is your chance! (Open daily.)
- Home of the 42nd president of the United States, Clinton House Museum offers a peek at photographic and memorabilia from Clinton’s life as a Fayetteville resident. You’ll also see campaign materials from his run for office. (Closed Wednesdays.)
- Rogers History buffs and curious locals will thrive at the Daisy Airgun Museum. The collection of antique airguns dates all the way back to the 1600s! (Closed Sundays.)
- The Shiloh Museum of Ozark History tells the history of NWA. Its namesake is the pioneer community of Shiloh, better known today as Springdale. A tour of the grounds will reveal six buildings that highlight the lives of ordinary people who lived in the rural communities of the Ozarks. (Closed Sundays.)
Now get out there and live like the local you are. If you need a few extra ideas, download Towny, where local attractions abound!