Besides the University of Arkansas campus, Fayetteville attractions include a botanical garden, Dickson Street nightlife and the first home of Bill and Hillary Clinton
By Randy Mink, Senior Editor
Northwest Arkansas, a region with fast-growing cities just a short drive from vast stretches of Ozarks wilderness, surprises many first-time visitors with its dynamic cultural scene, recreational opportunities and quality of life. No wonder it’s often rated as one of the best places to live in the U.S.
The corporate headquarters of Fortune 500 companies Walmart, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt Transport Services, along with other nationally known businesses, keep local economies strong. This corner of Arkansas also hosts the University of Arkansas’ flagship campus in Fayetteville, a lively place sizzling with college-town buzz.
The campus is one of many points of interest in the city of 92,000 permanent residents. Enrolled at the school are 28,000 students, some of them full-time residents.
Things to See at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville
Highlights of a campus tour include:
- Historic Senior Walk, the U of A’s longest tradition in both length and years. Its five miles of sidewalks showcase the names of more than 200,000 graduates dating back to 1876, grouped by year of graduation. The project was started by the class of 1905, and succeeding classes were added each year. Earlier classes were installed in the 1930s.
- Old Main, completed in 1875, the oldest building on campus and its architectural centerpiece. Visitors can see the restored classrooms, look at the tower clocks’ inner workings on the fourth floor and enjoy the shade of trees on Old Main Lawn.
- Overlooking the lawn is the Inn at Carnall Hall, a boutique hotel that occupies a former women’s residence hall built in 1905. The inn’s Ella’s Table restaurant and Lambeth Lounge are popular gathering spots.
- Bud Walton Arena, nicknamed “Basketball Palace of Mid-America,” and 76,000-seat Reynolds Razorback Stadium, homes of the Razorback basketball and football teams, respectively.
The mascot name Razorback comes from the wild hogs native to Arkansas, animals known for their toughness and fearlessness. Fans do the Hog Call, one of the most recognizable cheers in all of sports, and at football games the marching band spells out a “Go Hogs” formation at halftime.
You can purchase the latest Razorback gear at Hog Heaven in the football stadium or at the Campus Bookstore, which is near Walmart on Campus, one of the smallest Walmart stores in the country.
In a region known for biking, Fayetteville offers more than 20 miles of mountain bike trails and 40 miles of paved trails, including the Frisco and Scull Creek trails, which are located steps from campus. The Razorback Regional Greenway is a 37.5-mile trail that extends from Fayetteville to Bella Vista.
Downtown Fayetteville, AR: A Beehive of Activity
The Dickson Street entertainment district, a short walk from both the campus and historic downtown square, reflects the town’s youthful vibe. The heartbeat of Fayetteville, it offers an eclectic variety of eateries, coffee shops, bars, music clubs and other places to hang out. George’s Majestic Lounge, dating back to 1927, is the oldest and longest-running live-music venue in Arkansas.
The downtown square hosts the Fayetteville Farmers Market on Saturdays, Tuesday and Thursdays from spring to fall. Arkansas’ longest-running farmers market celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2023.
Overnight guests can’t help getting into the old college spirit at downtown’s Graduate Fayetteville, a hotel whose rustic decor gives a nod to the Ozarks, University of Arkansas traditions and college life in general. My brightly colored room featured mismatched fabrics, a gaudy red floral settee and a red fabric Razorback head above the bedboard. On either side of the bed were framed sketches of aviation pioneer Iris Louise Thaden, a U of A alumna, and football coach Hugo Bezdek, who in 1909 inspired the Razorbacks name for university sports teams, which originally were called the Cardinals. The bed cover was inscribed with “1871,” the year the university was founded.
Fayetteville’s Botanical Garden: Oasis of Peace and Beauty
Fayetteville’s prettiest attraction is Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, with its 12 themed gardens, stately Southern magnolias and the region’s only butterfly house. Live chickens inhabit the Tyson Chicken Coop.
Themed gardens surrounding the Great Lawn:
- Rock & Water Garden
- Japanese Garden
- Vegetable & Herb Garden
- Children’s Garden
- Butterfly Garden
- Shade Garden
- Rose & Perennial Garden
- Ozark Native Garden
- Sensory Garden
- Founders’ Garden
- Education Cottage & Garden
- Four Seasons Garden
Visit the Ozark Ball Museum in Northwest Arkansas
The Ozark Ball Museum certainly qualifies as the city’s quirkiest attraction. It’s located in the home of Kelly and Donna Mulhollan, a couple of folk musicians by trade who are happy to show groups the eclectic collection of spheres they’ve gathered from friends, garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores and antiques shops. Grouped in categories, the spheres range from marbles, globes and sparkly disco balls to billiard, soccer and bowling balls.
Sharing their passion for their hobby, the Mulhollans enjoy telling tour groups how they acquired the balls. Among their pride and joys are a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth and a ball and chain from Alcatraz.
As part of the tour, the Mulhollans will entertain your group with a song or two, with Donna on the fiddle and Kelly on the guitar or banjo. They’ll also show you their display of guitars and other musical instruments, a collection they call the Ozark Instrument Museum.
Experience the Clinton Presidential Trail in Fayetteville, Arkansas
Fans of presidential history flock to the Clinton House Museum, the first home of Bill and Hillary Clinton. They were married in the living room of the one-bedroom English Tudor Revival-style cottage and resided there in 1975-76 when both were teaching at the University of Arkansas. It’s the only place where they lived together before entering state and national politics. Exhibits include photographs, videos, campaign memorabilia and a replica of Hillary’s wedding dress.
Telling the story of the house purchase in his book My Life, Clinton writes: “When Hillary came back from her trip, I said, ‘Remember that little house you like so much? I bought it. You have to marry me now because I can’t live there alone.’ I took her to see the house. It still needed a lot of work, but my rash move did the trick.”
Clinton paid $17,200 for the house. Built around 1931, it is located at 930 W. Clinton Drive (formerly California Boulevard).
For more travel ideas about northwest Arkansas and vicinity, be sure to Subscribe to Leisure Group Travel magazine for FREE.
Lead Photo: An image of the University of Arkansas’ Razorback mascot emblazons this tour bus parked at the Graduate Hotel in downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Randy Mink Photo)