Knowing that Fayetteville is a college town is like knowing a woman only by her measurements – you’ll draw some conclusions from that information, but most of them will be wrong.
Robert Rhoads, a 38-year resident and Fayetteville’s Commissioner of Advertising & Promotion says “the town has grown into a most remarkable city that never fails to shock newcomers and visitors alike.” He adds, “I’ve heard repeatedly over the years the defining and universal comment, “it’s nothing like I expected!””.
Standing in Fayetteville on a sunny Saturday, I can echo that sentiment. I’m struck by how similar the multitude of colorful images is to the childhood experience of traveling via my red Viewmaster. By loading a round reel of photographic images into the slot, a new scene flashed with every click of the lever.
Had Fayetteville made its way to a Viewmaster reel, you’d see Osage Indians, the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach route, Civil War battles, New Orleans’ French Quarter influences, signs of Italian heritage, Arkansas’ largest performing arts center, a $23 million public library that’s been cited by The New York Times’ travel section, and a remarkable 8,000 pound bronze sphere shouting messages of peace in over 100 languages.
Fayetteville was founded in 1828 (eight years before Arkansas’ statehood) on land previously set aside for the western Cherokee nation. Its original town patent was issued by President Andrew Jackson.
The town’s name was chosen because two of the original city commissioners hailed from Fayetteville, Tennessee. Census data indicates Fayetteville flourished until early 1862 when Confederate forces were ordered to torch it. From that initial burning to the end of the war in 1865, the town was at the center of numerous engagements between the Confederacy and the Union and you’ll see proof of this in the cemeteries and historical markers scattered about. Progress returned when the first regularly scheduled passenger train of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway arrived from Pierce City, Missouri in 1882.
Italian settlers came to the area in the 1680’s. One of the earliest and most noteworthy, Henri de Tonti is sometimes referred to as the “Father of Arkansas.” A soldier, explorer, and fur trader, de Tonti sailed under the French flag accompanying René-Robert Cavelier on his explorations of the Mississippi River. In 1686 de Tonti established a trading post that became Arkansas Post (Arkansas County), the state’s first permanent Euro-American settlement. Tontitown, was named for de Tonti.
Today the city in Northwest Arkansas, south of Springdale and north of the Boston Mountains, has a permanent population approximating 69,000 and is home to the University of Arkansas’ Razorbacks. In March 2010, Forbes Magazine ranked it 7th on their list for Top College Sports Towns and 4th in their 2009 list of Best Places for Business and Careers. In 2009, Kiplinger Magazine ranked the city 7th on their Best Places to Live, Work and Play list; Builder Magazine placed it #9 on their list of Healthiest Housing Markets, and Business Week placed the city on its list of Best Small Cities for Startups and named it the Best City in Arkansas.
Go see it for yourself. Leave the Viewmaster at home.
Fayetteville Little Black Book:
Where to stay. What to do. Where to eat.
Sightseeing & Events:
- The Billgrimage Tour starts here in the house where a two-term United States President and the current Secretary of State married and began their life before entering the public eye. 930 California Blvd.; 479-444-0066; www.clintonhousemuseum.org
- Not interested in the Billgrimage Tour but you love history? Stop by the Visitor’s Center on the historic town square, 21 S. Block Avenue and pick up the Historic Walking Tour brochure. www.experiencefayetteville.com
- Dickson Street: Fayetteville’s social center of activity. www.dicksonst.com
- The Walton Arts Center anchors Dickson Street’s multi-cultural vibe. Through an unusual partnership between public and private sectors and a shared vision, the facility opened, debt free, on April 26, 1992. The center serves as the university’s and the community’s performing arts center, is home to the North Arkansas Symphony and hosts the annual Wal-Mart shareholder’s meetings. 495 West Dickson Street; 479-443-5600. www.waltonartscenter.org.
- Fayetteville Public Library: 88,000 square feet of an over-the-top learning experience. In June 2005 the library won the coveted national Library of the Year award sponsored by Library Journal and Thompson/Gale Publishers. In 2006 the library was named an American Landmark Library by TravelSmart newsletter. 410 W. Mountain Street. www.faylib.org
- Bikes, Blues & Barbeque: Motorcycles, Blues Music and world class barbeque. It takes place this year from September 29 – October 2. www.bikesbluesandbbq.org
- Arkansas & Missouri Express Train: The Arkansas and Missouri Railroad is one of the few commercial lines left in the United States that operates both freight and passenger service. Enjoy a leisurely ride from a by-gone era through the scenic Boston Mountains and into the historic Arkansas River Basin. All passengers travel in refurbished antique passenger cars or the first class parlor coach. 800-687-8600; www.arkansasmissouri-rr.com
- World Peace Prayer Fountain, the “Peace Ball”: Located in front of Town Center, this is a beautiful piece of public art. Ten feet in diameter and 8,000 pounds of bronze inscribed in over 100 languages with “May Peace Prevail on Earth”, water spills continually over the top and into a pool below. The sculpture took Fayetteville sculptor Hank Kaminsky 16 months to construct.
- Chi Omega Greek Theatre: Built in 1930, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, this outdoor theatre on the University of Arkansas campus is a replica of the Theatre of Dionysus at the foot of the Acropolis in Greece.
- Hugo’s: Have the beer cheese soup, a blue moon burger (blue cheese on great beef), a basket of fries, and anything else you think you can handle. It’s all good. 25 ½ N. Block Ave.; www.hugosfayetteville.com
- Theo’s American Kitchen & Cocktail Lounge: Part Greenwich Village, part New Orleans. The bar is a destination all its own. Renowned for their martinis. 318 N. Campbell Avenue, just off Dickson Street; 479.527.0086; www.theosfayetteville.com
- The Common Grounds bills themselves as a gourmet espresso bar. But they’re so much more. They have the requisite selection of coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, and hot chocolate. It gets interesting though when you move past that. Their bakery case offerings are decedent. They offer a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, a full bar, and a selection of cigars. Oh, and ice cream. 412 W. Dickson Street; 479-442-3515; www.commongroundsar.com
- Hog Haus Brewing Company is the only operating brewery in the Northwest Arkansas area. Located in a building reminiscent of New Orlean’s balconied perches. 430 W. Dickson Street; 479-521-2739; www.hoghaus.com
- The Flying Burrito: Burrito bar extraordinaire. White queso dip worth the trip over. 503 W. Spring St. #220; 479-521-3000; www.flyingburritoco.com
- AQ Chicken: A fried chicken institution since 1947. Pan fried chicken with a subtle lemon pepper bite enrobed in the perfect crust. If you don’t have time to go in, sit down and enjoy it properly, make a dash through the Express drive-through and bring some back to Tulsa. Highway 71B; 479-473-7555; www.aqchickenhouse.net
- Bordinos Italian Restaurant: 310 W. Dickson St.; 479-527-6795; www.bordinos.com
- Emelia’s Mediterranean Kitchen: Known for their Saturday/Sunday brunch and the salmon omelet (available anytime). 479-527-9800. 309 Suite 2, W. Dickson St.; www.emeliaskitchen.com
- Herman’s Ribhouse: 2901 North College Avenue; 479-442-9671; www.hermansribhouse.com
- Powerhouse Restaurant: 112 North University Avenue; 479-442-8300; www.powerhouseseafoodandgrill.com
- Pesto Italian Café: 1830 North College Avenue; 479-582-3330; www.pestocafe.com
- McLellan’s Fly Shop: A full-service fly shop offering top quality fly fishing gear and advice for fishing the White River. 18 W. Sunbridge Dr.; www.mcflyshop.com
- Corazon Interiors. Wander into the store for no particular reason. The art glass and colorful décor will make you smile. On the square. 155 Block Avenue; 479-587-9294
- French Quarter Antiques: Named one of the “Top 200 Places to Shop in the South” by Southern Living Magazine. 11 North Block Avenue; 479-443-3355; www.french-quarters.com
- French Metro Antiques: Recently voted “Best Antique Shop in Northwest Arkansas ” by Citiscapes Metro Monthly magazine for the fourth year in a row. 200 West Dickson Street; 479-587-0804; www.frenchmetro.com
- Maude Clothing Boutique: A combination of funky vintage furniture and fun unique clothes that make it into a cozy bedroom-like boutique; an eclectic mix of clothing, shoes, purses, jewelry, and accessories. 704 N. College Ave.; 479-935-4700
- Lola: A contemporary women’s boutique that specializes in luxury basics, premium denim and one of a kind event pieces. 339 Northwest Ave.; 479-443-5535; www.lolaboutique.com
- Something Urban: Trendy clothing and accessories; 643 West Dickson St.; 479-442-0140
- Town & Country Clothing; Women’s specialty store featuring weekend casuals, career suiting, mother-of-the-bride dresses, coats and unique accessories. 9 South Block Avenue; 479-442-5561; www.townandcountryshop.com
- Dickson Street Inn: Location, location, location. Boutique hotel with a veranda wine bar overlooking the stirrings on Dickson Street. Lots of character, beautifully restored, and well maintained. 301 W. Dickson Street; 479.695.2100; www.dicksonstreetinn.com
- Inn at Carnall Hall: Campus of the University of Arkansas. On the National Register for Historic Places, the Board of Trustees in 2001 approved to turn the structure into a historic hotel and restaurant at a cost of $6.9 million. 465 Arkansas Avenue; 479-582-0400; www.innatcarnallhall.com
- Pratt Place Inn: AAA Four Diamond. A unique retreat on Sassafras Hill of which the third generation of the Pratt family is preserving. 2231 W. Markham Road; 479-966-4441; www.prattplaceinn.com
Just For the Vibe
- Anywhere on Dickson Street; www.dicksonst.com
- The veranda at Hog Haus Brewing Company; 430 W. Dickson Street; 479-521-2739; www.hoghaus.com
- The Common Grounds; 412 W. Dickson Street; 479-442-3515; www.commongroundsar.com
- George’s Majestic Lounge. Live music. 519 West Dickson Street; 479-442-4226; www.georgesmajesticlounge.com
- The deck at Theo’s American Kitchen; 318 N. Campbell Avenue, just off Dickson Street; 479.527.0086; www.theosfayetteville.com
- The bar in Bordino’s Restaurant. Wine Spectator 2009 Award of Excellence; 310 W. Dickson St.; 479-527-6795; www.bordinos.com
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