Feature and photos by Jocelyn Murphy
Fayetteville, Arkansas has been getting a lot of attention in the past few years, landing on list after list of best and most affordable cities to live. It’s not just the residents who can appreciate everything the northwest corner of the natural state has to offer, though. If you can get past a little friendly SEC competition while you’re in town, the folks of hog country are more than happy to show visitors a good time.
Make no mistake, the action in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium is the biggest thing in town on Saturdays during the fall. But it doesn’t shut down the city. Before you get to tailgating and pregaming, stop by Fayetteville’s award-winning farmers’ market on the historic downtown square to see why it’s been voted one of the nation’s favorite large farmers markets.
If you don’t care to spend your Saturday sitting in a stadium, Fayetteville’s shopping and outdoor activities can keep you busy instead. Block Avenue makes up one side of the downtown square and has some of the best locally owned businesses for Fayetteville shopping. Check out The Mustache (15 S. Block Ave.) or Riffraff (19 S. Block Ave.) — started by U of A alum — for some unique threads or gifts for friends back home (or to keep for yourself). Other local favorites include vintage clothing store Cheap Thrills (120 S. East Ave.) and Fayettechill (205 W. Dickson St.), another successful UA alum business.
When the sun’s out, so are Fayettevillians. Between the Ozark Mountains and the Buffalo River, Northwest Arkansas has plenty to do outdoors. But even if you’re looking to stay in town, the Razorback Regional Greenway and Lake Fayetteville will have you covered on getting out and enjoying nature. The 36 miles of the Greenway stretch from south Fayetteville all the way to Bella Vista, making all the cities in between pedestrian- and biker-friendly.
Early to mid-October is the peak time to see the beauty of the changing leaves so even if your drive into town is the only glimpse you get of the Ozark Mountains, you’re in for a treat.
If you’re like me and more concerned about where to find the best eats and drinks in a new town, keep it on Block Avenue where you’ll find two Fayetteville institutions: Hugo’s and Maxine’s Taproom — but we’ll come back to Maxine’s. Right now, it’s still too early.
Since 1977, Hugo’s has occupied the basement of 25 ½ N. Block Ave. with its eclectic wall décor, red neon lights and award-winning burgers. You can’t go wrong choosing any of their burgers or the Derek’s Special. Get a local beer and a basket of homemade french fries to share, and you’ll be in heaven. If you’re looking for something lighter than a burger, Arsaga’s at the Depot (548 W. Dickson St.) has some amazing savory crepes. They have sweet ones too, but trust me, you want to go savory. With a side of potatoes. Always the potatoes.
Just across the street is a restaurant I’ve heard described more than once as “the most ‘Fayetteville’ place there is.” Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese (326 N. West Ave.) serves what it says: grilled cheese sandwiches. You won’t find a plain American cheese on white bread here, though. (Unless you choose the build-your-own option.) These 15 sandwiches are gourmet — boasting combinations of gouda, Havarti, asiago and more with creative and mouth-watering toppings.
When you’re ready to wash all that food down, visit one of the craft breweries in town. Or if you can’t decide on one, pick up a Fayetteville Ale Trail Passport (at any participating brewery or at the Visitors Center on the square) and try them all! Four of the six official breweries are in Fayetteville, with four other participating breweries farther north in Rogers and Bentonville. Any purchase gets you a stamp in your passport from that brewery. A full passport will win you a prize from the Visitors Center.
For the cocktail lover, Maxine’s (107 N. Block Ave.) holds a place in the history of Fayetteville night life even longer than Hugo’s. It was started in 1950 by the feisty Maxine Miller, whose photos and personal barstool still adorn the walls of the classic bar. Their craft cocktails made with house-made juices and quality liquors are some of the best in town. Find a Fayetteville native who remembers the original owner – it’s likely they had their very first drink there.
Dickson Street, which runs right up through the center of the UA campus, is your place for nightlife. Bar after bar and late night food options, including food trucks, make it the place to be the night after a game – or really any night. And if you get to town early, or decide to forego the football game, you can be sure there is always live music playing at George’s Majestic Lounge (519 W. Dickson St.). The bar and music venue has been around since the ‘30s and hosts local, regional, and national acts on its two stages.
Another attraction bringing national visitors to Northwest Arkansas is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The museum is actually half an hour’s drive north to Bentonville, but it is a true Arkansas treasure. Five centuries of American art — including works by Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell and a Frank Lloyd Wright house — comprise the collection that is free to the public. Built to compliment the beauty of the nature surrounding it, the building itself is as much a work of art as the pieces it holds.
However you choose to spend your stay in Arkansas, know there’s certainly enough to satisfy your curiosity, your stomach, and your sense of adventure.