New in Town: Fun Ideas for Northwest Arkansas Families

northwest arkansas map

Map of Northwest Arkansas, from

If you’re new to Northwest Arkansas — or if you’re a new mama navigating the neighborhoods for the first time with a baby on the hip — we thought you’d appreciate some local exploring options.

We asked some moms who were recently “new in town” themselves (thanks, new girls!) to tell us their favorite places to visit in the area.

You’ll find some of their comments below. Click on the name of the activity/location if you want to find out more.

If we leave out your favorite things to do in Northwest Arkansas, write a comment below and share them with the rest of us

Oodles of Outdoorsy Options:

devils den state park

Devil’s Den State Park – It’s a beautiful park with a built-in pool, picnic tables, great bridge, swimming pool and river and boat rentals. Take a picnic and the Frisbee and football and have a blast! If you’re adventurous, you can also go caving. There are also cabins and camping options.

Withrow Springs State Park. (Near Huntsville) Great camping area, swimming pool, playground, hiking trails, fishing and tennis. Canoes, too!

Lake Fayetteville. There’s a lovely park with a playground and picnic tables as well as volley ball nets. It’s on the south side of the park off of Zion Rd – Veteran’s Memorial Park.  The bike and walking trails are great and, if you have an off road bicycle, you can ride along the Botanical Gardens. The other thing you MUST do there is a round of Frisbee golf!  It’s a blast and takes you by the lake and through the park – although I find I really want to spend some time catching the Frisbee as well as throwing it once we’re done with the 18 baskets.

Speaking of Veteran’s Memorial Park, Northwest Arkansas has an abundance of small, fabulous parks with walking trails, play equipment, and picnic areas. Some of our favorites in Fayetteville are Wilson (you’ll love the rock castle, fish pond and beautiful landscaping), Gulley and Gordon Long (many trees protect the kids on hot summer days). Lawrence Plaza, just north of the Bentonville Square (at the corner of NE A and Blake streets) features a 7,000 square-foot, multi-use facility that transforms into a splash pad in the summer and an outdoor ice rink in the winter!

Gator Golf on College Avenue offers two courses and a free game if you get a hole in one on the 18th hole. You can see a great sunset from there if you catch it right and the course offers some interesting variations.

farmers marketFarmers Markets! Fayetteville, Rogers, Bentonville. There is something for everyone there including music, cookies and coffee, breakfast burritos and lots of amazing produce and flowers.  There are even a few crafts.  Just be forewarned that in Fayetteville, the animal shelter often shows their adorable dogs that need to be adopted. It might be too much to resist.

Pea Ridge Battlefield – Walking trails and step back in time. Take the guided tour via CD and hear the battle come to life.

Prairie Grove Battlefield Park – Bring your hand-held GPS, stop by the gift shop for the first set of coordinates and find answers to a sheet of clues they provide. Beautiful walking trails, stroller-ready.

botanical gardensBotanical Gardens of the Ozarks in Fayetteville. Lots of events for both adults and kids.  The firefly festival in summer is a great kid event.  They also have evening events for adults like “Chefs in the Garden” and a Holiday Farmers’ Market. While the farmers’ market continues, we like to just go on Sunday mornings and walk around when admission is free.

Fayetteville bike trails - These are great for a family outing or couples only.

Tanyard Creek trail in Bella Vista - Great walking trail with streams, a swinging bridge and a waterfall!

Terra Studios in Durham – The kids loved walking around the gardens and paths and looking at all of the strange and unique pottery creatures.  You can also watch pottery and bluebirds of happiness being made.  Before you leave have a snack in the coffee shop and sit in a really cool booth.

Corn mazes, pumpkin patches and u-pick! There are three corn maze-focused attractions (they all have lots more than the maze) in the area, including Ozark Corn Maze in Cave Springs, Farmland Adventures in Springdale, McGarrah Farms in Pea Ridge, Dickey Farms in Springdale, Vanzant Fruit Farms in Lowell and Lost Corn Maze in Siloam Springs.

Attend a Northwest Arkansas Naturals baseball game!

Modern Mission Outdoor Laser Tag is similar to paintball, but without the projectiles. Off Joyce Avenue in Fayetteville.

The Pinnacle Hills Promenade Mall is an outdoor mall in Rogers. Lots of shopping, restaurants and a movie theatre.

Baby, it’s cold (or hot) outside:

amazeum boltScott Family Amazeum. The Amazeum features approximately 50,000 square feet of exhibit and learning spaces inside the museum to bring learning to life and enhance family involvement, while evoking a sense of curiosity and discovery through hands-on activities. So much fun!

Ozark Bowling Lanes in Fayetteville might fool you from the outside, but they have redone the inside and it is really a very nice bowling alley.  There are also pool tables if you need a little variety or for your friends who aren’t as fond of bowling as you might be.

Fast Lane Entertainment on N. Dixieland in Lowell is also lots of fun when you’re looking for arcade games, bowling and laser tag. They’ve got ginormous pizzas, a varied menu for adults and glow-in-the-dark bowling.

Fun City Pizza in Springdale (next to Babies ‘n Beyond) is another great place to let the kiddos play — and it’s brand new. They have arcade games, big slides and tunnels for the kids to play on, indoor mini golf, pizza and salad bar for guests. No admission fee!

The Starlight Skatium is a skating rink on College Avenue in Fayetteville. It’s a great place for birthday parties and for taking the parents wayyyy back.


Arkadia Retrocade in Fayetteville (Evelyn Hills Shopping Center) is another place where parents can go way back! These video games are vintage. $5 cash admission at the door for all-day, old-school video game play. Check out the Facebook page for hours.

Books! Of course the Fayetteville Public Library is world class! It has two floors of books, materials and movies for the whole family. There is a whole section dedicated to the children and a coffee shop where mom can take a break and relax. There’s are also great libraries in Rogers, Springdale (just outside this library’s windows there’s a wonderful park and duck pond for kids to enjoy!) and Bentonville.

kid reading at library

The Jones Center for Families in Springdale is absolutely amazing!  It has a small water park and pool along with other activities like indoor ice skating, and a playground, basketball, volley ball and 9-hole disc golf. Year-round fun.

Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale. Kids can spend hours in this museum.  They love the hands-on exhibits. They also have a great history camp in the summer for kids.

Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville. There are beautiful trails to wander along, art to enjoy, a library and even a cafe. The 120-acre site of the Museum complex is located within walking distance of the Bentonville town square. General admission is free; special exhibits are free on Thursdays.

crystal bridges

Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville.

Arkansas Air & Military Museum. Follow the colorful history of aviation in Arkansas and American military conflicts through numerous displays of original artifacts and aviation memorabilia

Got any fun ideas we missed and you’d like to share? Click on the comment button below and let us know! For other suggestions by NWA mamas, click here to read our 5 Minutes with a Mom feature. The featured moms usually mention their favorite places to play here. Plus you might just meet a new friend!

Not native to Northwest Arkansas? Welcome Wagon 2.0 to the rescue!

welcome wagon 2.0 sliderWhether you live in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville (or any of the lovely little cities in between), Northwest Arkansas is a great place to live and raise a family.

We’d like to welcome you to this corner of the state and help you get started. We’ve pulled together some resources to help you plug in immediately with our new Welcome Wagon 2.0:

1. There’s always something fun to do.

NWA is brimming with festivals, fairs, charity events, outdoor activities, and unique events every year. You won’t be bored if you take advantage of all the good stuff the area has to offer. Take a look at our calendar of events, which is published at the beginning of each month, by clicking here. We’re guessing you’ll be able to find something your family would love to do.

2. Start meeting local moms.

We interview local mothers in a feature called 5 Minutes with a Mom and they always share some fun stuff about their favorite places to play in NWA or even the best motherhood advice they’ve ever received. You might just see some of these mamas around town. Click here to “meet” NWA mamas now.

If you’d like to connect with local moms in person, we’ve got some fun mom groups in NWA (click on the name of the organization to visit their website):

Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS), Central United Methodist Church, Rogers

MOMS Club of Bella Vista/Bentonville

MOMS Club of Fayetteville

Mom App monthly event, Cross Church, Fayetteville & Cross Church, Pinnacle Hills in Rogers

NWA Playgroup, Fayetteville

NWA Hip Mamas, Bentonville

3. Rain or shine, there’s a place to play in NWA.

We pulled together a great list of indoor and outdoor activities for you here, everything from a trip to the amazing Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (FREE, by the way) to the new trampoline park in Rogers.

4. You’ll never go hungry with this great list of NWA restaurants (+ a kids eat free list!)

There are so many great food options here in Northwest Arkansas. We asked local food lovers to tell us their faves and we put together a list to help you find just what the thing in the mood for. Click here to see the big list.

If you want to find some local places to eat that are easy on the wallet, we have a list here: where Kids Eat Free. If you’re eating in, but need a new recipe, we have some great ideas from local mamas in our Mealtime Mama category. Click here to see some great recipes.

5. Need a bakery or a birthday party venue? A place to get your pants hemmed or swim lessons for your kids this summer?

No problem, we’ve got you covered! We put together a Business Directory that’s completely mom-oriented. Click here to visit the Mom-Approved Business Directory of mom-friendly local businesses.

6. Summer camps galore!

If you’re new to NWA and you don’t know what’s available, we’ve got a good list for you here. There are so many great camp options, whether you need full-day or just a few hours a week.

7. Stay in the loop about mom news.

We send out a newsletter about once a week, but only when there’s something in it for you. We usually let moms know about new giveaways, which are always things or experiences we’d like to win ourselves (that’s our test for whether to give it away on nwaMotherlode or not!).Click here to sign up for the newsletter and we’ll send all the mom news straight to your inbox.

If you have a question about any of the info in our Welcome Wagon 2.0 — or if there’s something else you’d like to ask — we’re here for you! Just give Shannon and Gwen (the mamas who run nwaMotherlode) a shout and we’ll be happy to write you back. You can email us at: mamas{at}nwamotherlode{dot}com.

Shannon and Gwen, nwaMotherlode, cropped

Shannon & Gwen, nwaMotherlode founders

Where should we eat in Northwest Arkansas? Restaurant recommendations by local food lovers

Food tour sliderWelcome to our Little Food Tour Across Northwest Arkansas. If you’re looking for Kids Eat Free options at some of these restaurants, click here to see our list. We’re planning to update our list, so please let us know in comments if you’ve noticed any good Kids Eat Free/Cheap options that you’ve noticed around town. We’ll be sure to add them!

The below list (of new restaurants as well as old favorites) was recommended by locals who happen to love food. We left the comments as is to help you with your choices. Be sure to leave a comment telling us YOUR favorite restaurant/food truck/dessert destination. Let’s help each other out!

penguin ed'sMindy: A family member from WI always takes back Penguin Ed’s Bar-B-Q when she comes to NWA. Bliss Cupcakes is fun for desert! We like Gusano’s Pizza in Bentonville, or Mellow Mushroom in Rogers has some local beers and a chalkboard wall…(these are all kid friendly options, of course, since that’s what we do these days!) Jose’s for a margarita.

Rhonda: The Venesian Inn and Monte Ne Inn Chicken out our go-to’s.

Jerra: Natural State Sandwiches, Crepes Paulette, Yeyo’s Mexican Grill (food truck), Kona Coast Taco truck, KGB Food Truck, Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese, Petra Cafe, Arsaga’s

Note from the mamas: Natural State Sandwiches is one of the food trucks at the “Yacht Club” in Fayetteville. Here’s a recent pic (from the Natural State Facebook page) of the Yacht Club in action. Click here for directions.

Food trucks at the "Yacht Club" in Fayetteville

Food trucks at the “Yacht Club” in Fayetteville

Peter: Hugo’s. Hands down.

Tiffany: Penguin Ed’s!

Vikki: Tusk and Trotter in Bentonville, Bliss Cupcakes in Fayetteville, Mud Street Cafe in Eureka Springs just for fun ( awarded best breakfast for a few years) Have FUN!!!!!

tusk and trotter moscow mule

Tusk and Trotter’s Moscow Mule

Andi: Always Monte Ne Chicken! Marketplace Grill is good for lunch. Loafin’ Joe’s if it gets too cold to go out.

Kaylin: Crepes Paulette in Bentonville!

Crepes Paulette

Crepes Paulette

Note from the mamas: Crepes Paulette, which serves sweet and savory French crepes, now operates from a food truck in Bentonville (near 21c Museum Hotel), but will be opening a bricks and mortar restaurant later this year at the “urban-inspired, experience-focused” apartment complex Thrive. Click here to read more about CP plans.

Allison: Crepes Paulette, Hugo’s Basement, JJs Grill, Hammontrees, Briar Rose Bakery & Deli in Farmington, Stone Mill Bread Company, Common Grounds, Powerhouse Seafood, Herman’s Ribhouse, T.J’s Sandwich Shop in Fayetteville

Angie: Farmer’s Table Cafe, Hugo’s, Hammontree’s, Heirloom Food and Wine

Cammy: Baller Foodtruck.

Note from the mamas: You’ll have to follow this food truck on social media to find out where they’ll be on any given day! Click here to find them on Facebook. 

Baller Foodtruck is often at the food truck community in Fayetteville called Shulertown. Click here to follow them on Facebook and see what’s up.

baller foodtruck, cropped

Baller Foodtruck roams around NWA. But you can often find them in Shulertown.

Dawn: Greenhouse Grille

Meredith: Pesto Cafe, Geraldi’s Italian, Monte Ne Chicken, Venesian Inn

Monte Ne Chicken's blackberry cobbler

Monte Ne Inn Chicken’s blackberry cobbler

Sarah: Sassafras Springs Vineyard

Jody: Ermelio’s in Eureka Springs is fantastic! I also think 28 Springs in Siloam Springs is amazing.

Anna: Any of the James Beard award winning restaurants, Crepes Paulette, 28 Springs Restaurant, RJ team springdaleIndian Cuisine in Springdale, Springdale Taquerias, Tangs Asian Market (excellent pork/fish for take home) and the various unique food trucks across NWA.

Note from the mamas: Team Springdale, which was started by a married couple in Springdale to highlight the area’s good points, is planning a “Taco Tour” in May. Click here to find out more!

Laura: Hugo’s, Herman’s RibhouseThe Farmer’s Table Cafe (that’s where Pharrell went!), Neal’s Cafe in Springdale, Wood Stone Craft Pizza, Pressroom Coffee, Arsagas at the Depot for breakfast or dessert … If you want to do a spendy dinner or two, The Hive at 21c, 28 Springs, Vetro 1925. Lunch at Eleven at Crystal Bridges… I agree about the Springdale taquerias. Little Bread Company on Block Street for yummy pastries and coffee. I’m sure I’m forgetting something important, but Hugo’s is first on purpose!

Farmer's Table, Pharrell

Pharrell visited The Farmer’s Table Cafe in Fayetteville when he was in town

Corinna: Or if you want to give them a romantic Arkansas/Ozark experience, Grandma’s House Cafe in Winslow. It’s on top of the mountain, great views and old style decor. Southern deep fried chicken and pies from a buffet. And then there is War Eagle Mill too.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe, nwaSarah: Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese for sure!

Samantha: I love Tropical Smoothie’s king caesar wrap with a kiwi quencher smoothie!

Laurie: Levi’s Gastrolounge just opened in Rogers and is yummy, Gooseberry Handmade Pies in Bentonville for take-out sweets, Onyx for coffee, taquerias in Springdale and Woodstone Craft Pizza in Fayetteville. Oh, and War Eagle Mill!!!

gooseberry handmade pies

Gooseberry Handmade Pies, strawberry rhubarb

Kara: We just tried Grandma’s Kitchen for the first time a few weeks ago for lunch. AMAZING home cooked food! You can’t beat it for the typical southern comfort food! lol

Ceri: Mum loves the margaritas at Jose’s – they don’t make them like that in New Zealand – love James at the Mill too – about every other place has been covered.

miles jamesNote from the mamas: Ceri also recently shared the info the owner and chef at James at the Mill is opening MJ Pizzeria on June 1 (soft opening May 15). Owner and Chef Miles James (who also owns 28 Springs) said the new restaurant is a “chef-inspired fast casual concept”.

Chef James added: “We’re located in the south end of Macadoodles in Springdale at 838 N 48th street Suite 1. Think wood fired pizzas, homemade pastas, crisp fresh organic salads, homemade meatballs and sausages, 11 craft beers on tap, 16 wines in a cruvinet system for our by the glass selections, craft cocktails, a large patio w live bands, & open kitchen!”

Savoy Tea Co., Pinnacle Promenade

Savoy Tea Co., Pinnacle Promenade

Kristy: Crepes Paulette, Briar Rose, Petra Cafe , Vetro 1925 in Fayetteville, Tusk and Trotter, and Savoy Tea Company.

Note from the mamas: Briar Rose Bakery & Deli in Farmington is absolutely adorable and worth visiting. They serve breakfast, brunch and lunch. They offer a good selection of pastries, various treats and bread as well. They serve dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, but be sure to check out their Facebook page for specific times. Closed on Mondays.

briar rose bakery

Briar Rose Bakery & Deli in Farmington

Rebecca: The Green Submarine is one of my favorites.

Melissa: Tusk and Trotter, no doubt. In Fayetteville, for someplace unique, Hammontrees

Jacqueline: Le Stick Nouveau, Aquarius Taqueria, FRESH Farm to Table Fresh, Grand Taverne Restaurant & Lounge and Gaskins Cabin Steakhouse – just to name a few in Eureka Springs.

Evie: Hugo’s (Blue Moon Burger) and Pesto Cafe.


A Fayetteville favorite, Hugo’s

Got anything to add? Post a comment with your favorite Kids Eat Free suggestion or to tell us about your favorite restaurant in Northwest Arkansas!


Where to see Christmas lights in Northwest Arkansas

holiday lights slider

One of our favorite things to do during December is cruise around town after dark to “ooooh” and “aaaaaaah” over all the great Christmas light decorations around Northwest Arkansas. Turn the car radio to Magic 107.9, which plays Christmas music 24/7 this time of year, sip on some hot cocoa and enjoy. Here’s a short list of where you’ll find some beautiful lights.

If you know of some amazing light displays not mentioned on this list, please click the words “post a comment” at the bottom of the post and let us know about it. With your suggestions, we’ll keep building this list throughout the season.

lights of ozarks photoLights of the Ozarks: Just head down to the Fayetteville Square to see one of the most impressive light displays in the entire state. Park the car and get out to walk under and through all those lights. It’s just gorgeous and your pictures will be amazing.

On some nights, you’ll also see carriage rides, pony rides and even camel rides on the Square. There’s usually a food truck parked nearby for snacks, too. Click HERE for more info.

ice skating rink bentonvilleBentonville Square: This revitalized area is just buzzing with activity these days, and the lights during the holiday season are beautiful. Click here for more details and to see a video of the night when city officials lit up the Square.

Don’t forget that there’s an outdoor ice skating rink nearby, too. Click here for info on The Rink at Lawrence Plaza.

Wyman Road in Fayetteville: The Stewart Family Christmas Light Display, at 4423 Wyman Road, just keeps getting better. Lots of local families stop by for this donation-only display for pics and fun. You can stop by nightly from 5:30-9:30 p.m.

Children can drop off there letter to Santa through December 20th.

Interested in the backstory? Well, according to the Facebook page, the collection of lights started in 2003 with 3,000 lights and 2 inflatables.

“Over the years it has grown to over 220,000 lights and over 200 inflatables. We have a walk through pathway so you can enjoy the lights and the inflatables new this year. New for this year we are proud to have Joel and Bebe Occhiuzzo join us with a real train! People young and old can ride the train.”

Parking is available on the corner lot trucks with 4 wheel drive use the area to the left cars park on the gravel.

stewart family light display, wyman road, cropped

The Stewart Family Christmas Train

Cross Church in Rogers: Not only is the church roof trimmed in lights, there are several trees lit up on its massive front lawn, including one that is HUGE and looks like something out of a holiday postcard. There’s even a red sleigh by the tree that’s perfect for holiday snapshots. (It shows the three crosses in the background.)  You can park in the parking lot right in front of the big tree.

This light display is located right off Interstate 49. Just take the Pinnacle Hills exit and look for the three giant crosses.

Village on the Creeks in Rogers: If you visit the Cross Church Christmas tree in Rogers, you’ll be right next door to the Village on the Creeks shopping area which is also lit up this time of year. There are a few kid-friendly restaurants there, including Mellow Mushroom and The Egg & I.

Bentonville Heart Lites. 3505 NW Edgewood Ave., Bentonville. See these lights from 5-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 5 to 10 p.m. on Sundays.

Hamilton Christmas Lights. 1402 SW Rosedale Ave., Bentonville. This one has music and sound effects. 5:30 to 10 p.m. through New Year’s Day. This year will feature 35,000 lights all programmed to ,usic and that play thru your radio in your car 104.5FM.

Bolte’s Christmas Lights. An animated computerized Christmas Light Show at 224 W. Cherry St. in Rogers.

And what about Santa sightings? Click here for a post about where to see Santa in Northwest Arkansas this holiday season.

Click on this pic to go read the post!

Click on this pic to go read the post!