Jill Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Art and nature come together at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville for an experience like none other.
The permanent collection of art spans five centuries of American masterworks ranging from the Colonial era to the current day. Included within the collection are iconic images such as Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits, Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter, and Andy Warhol’s Coca-Cola  as well as major works by modern and contemporary American artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, and John Baldessari. The permanent collection, which continues to grow through a strategic acquisition plan, is on view year-round along with temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Plus, sculpture and walking trails link the museum’s 120-acre park to downtown Bentonville.
Give yourself a couple of days to explore the outstanding artworks and architecture as well as the trails and grounds surrounding it all.
Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of your visit:
First of all, DON’T go on Tuesday. It’s closed Tuesday. DO go on Saturday and Sunday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Monday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Additionally, Crystal Bridges’ trails and grounds are open from sunrise to sunset daily and during museum hours. The only other days the museum is closed are Thanksgiving and Christmas.
One of the most wonderful elements of the museum is that there is NO COST to view the museum’s permanent collection. General admission to Crystal Bridges is sponsored by Walmart. The trails, Eye Dome, Buckyball and Skyspace are free as well.
Leo Villareal’s sculpture, Buckyball, is illuminated from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. The light display changes from the white-light daytime sequence to a vibrantly colored evening sequence shortly after dark.
James Turrell’s Skyspace, The Way of Color, located on the Art Trail, is open for the sunrise experience every morning approximately 30 to 45 minutes before sunrise. Precise times vary according to the time of year, of course. The sunset experience begins about 10 minutes before sunset. Because seating in the Skyspace is limited, you are encouraged to arrive 30 minutes early to secure a seat. Each experience takes about 30 to 40 minutes.
If you want to see the Bachman-Wilson House, an example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s classic Usonian architecture, you have two options. Tickets are required because capacity is limited. Reserve by phone, 479.657.2335, online, or at Guest Services in the main lobby. You have to pick a specific time to tour so work that into your plan for the day.
- General admission: A self-guided experience. To enter, present your ticket at the door of the house. General admission tickets are free. A free, self-guided audio tour of the house is available in both English and Spanish.
- Guided tours: These are one-hour, indoor and outdoor, small-group experiences led by specially trained volunteer tour guides. Guided tours meet in the Museum’s south lobby 10 minutes before the start time. Guided tours are $10 + tax per person, or are free for Museum Members and youth ages 18 and under. Fees contribute to maintaining and preserving the house for generations to come. The cost of your ticket can be applied to temporary exhibition admission; check with Guest Services for details.
Also, don’t forget to check the year-round schedule of temporary exhibitions, tours, and the calendar of events for additional things to do. Sometimes there is a small fee to access the temporary exhibits or to attend an event. Usually you still need to register even if an event is free. Secure space online or at guest services as soon as you get there. Then you can work that part of the museum or extra events into your day.
When it comes to the outdoor experience, there’s an app for that. This free app for Apple and Android devices offers interactive trail maps, art and plant guides, and audio-tour information about the trails and grounds. More than 3.5 miles of trails wind through the museum’s 120-acres of Ozark landscape. Select favorite features to create a personalized tour, and upload and share photos of your discoveries on the Crystal Bridges sculpture and nature trails.
You’re sure to work up an appetite while you’re there. No worries. Eleven Restaurant can be found at the heart of it all. Specializing in modern American comfort food with an emphasis on traditions that hail from the “High South” Ozarks region, Eleven is open for brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday through Saturday. Dinner is available from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday through Friday. Reservations are available for dinner and brunch. Make a reservation online or call 479-418-5700, especially for large groups.
Don’t forget to visit the museum store with a design inspired by the fluting on the underside of a mushroom.
Find additional information to help plan your visit as well as details for families and groups, online at www.crystalbridges.org. You’ll also find guidelines regarding food and drink, conduct, photography, accessibility and more.
Crystal Bridges was founded in 2005 by the Walton Family Foundation as a nonprofit charitable organization for all to enjoy. Philanthropist and arts patron Alice Walton chairs the museum’s board of directors. The building was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie and opened to the public on 11-11-11.