An Epic Spring Break on US Highway 71: Day 7
This week, thousands of Arkansas students and their families will be spending time away from school as our schools let out for a well-deserved break. But what can you do with that sort of time?
Last year, my daughter Hunter and I set out along Scenic Arkansas Highway 7 and explored it from one end to the other to bring you all sorts of ideas on activities you can undertake with your family. This year we’re at it again, and we’re exploring US Highway 71, which runs from the Louisiana border to the Missouri State Line.
Each day this week, we’ll share an itinerary for adventure. You are welcome to follow along! And to share your experiences along the highway, please feel free to tag us with #SpringBreakOn71.
Saturday morning, Hunter was up and ready to go early. A good night’s sleep and a good breakfast at the Embassy Suites in Rogers had us both keyed up to have fun.
We traveled east all the way out to Hobbs State Park Conservation Area, one of our great Arkansas State Parks I’d wanted to share with Hunter for a long time. Being the first weekend in March, I didn’t expect much of a crowd, but we arrived to find a whole lot of people visiting that day.
After watching the film and touring the museum, we went outside and discovered a Dutch oven workshop just wrapping up. The participants invited us over to try peach and cherry cobblers and beer bread.
This cherry and peach cobblers from the Dutch oven cooking demonstration at Hobbs State Park conservation area taste just as good as they look.#arkansasfood #hobbsstatepark #conservation #arstateparks #arkansasstateparks #visitrogers #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
We decided to try a short trail (a longer trail would eat into our time to visit other attractions), so we headed out on the Ozark Plateau Trail, which circles the top of a ridge to the north of the visitors center. On the route, we saw bird boxes, fallen trees, animal tracks in the cement and much more. We spoke for several minutes with a couple who were visiting the park for the first time, who happened to have a very tiny dog. They were very nice.
Eastern Bluebirds nest in hollow trees, and in bird boxes like this one made by volunteers at Hobbs State Park Conservation Area. #easternbluebird #hobbsstatepark #conservation #arstateparks #arkansasstateparks #visitrogers #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
Inside the visitors center, one of the great state park folks there showed us some different items we might find around our backyard at home, including pine cones and oak leaf galls. The latter were neat, round and golden balls.
Hunter also checked out the woods beyond the visitors center with binoculars, colored a blue jay (it was an outline of a cardinal, but she insisted she wanted a blue jay and so made one) and found a friend to hang out with for a while before we took off for War Eagle Mill.
We were saddened to find the mill roped off, though yes, I did know about the river flood that had inundated the first floor. Though the sign out front declared a reopening on March 1st, it was now past that date. I understand War Eagle Mill reopened on the 15th.
Hungry, we dropped in at Tony C’s, an Italian restaurant on the road back into town. Immediately when we came in, we saw a depiction of Elvis as a statue standing over a booth – which Hunter had to go sit in immediately. We chatted about the Fort Smith Barbershop Museum and all the cool places Elvis had dined at once we had placed our orders.
Hunter got one of the restaurant’s excellent burgers, though it came with cheese she asked to omit. I went for an Italian meatball sandwich, and while this offering didn’t look like much at first, I was happily surprised to find homemade meatballs within, pliant and full of good Italian herbs and seasonings. It was a great and filling meal.
I chose well. Sure, the hoagie roll was a little blonde, but homemade meatballs on this meatball sandwich made the difference - beef with chunks of green bell pepper and onion with great seasoning. #meatball #meatballsandwich #tonyc #italianfood #arkansasfood #visitrogers #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
The two of us decided we had a little extra time, thanks to the War Eagle Mill shortened sidetrip, so we looked through several flea markets along the way to Bentonville. One of these, Somewhere In Time, I’d later learn is the original location of the first Walmart.
We headed downtown to the square and found a parking spot, and visited Walton’s Five and 10, which today is the Walmart Museum. Hunter’s been to a lot of Walmarts, but she had no clue who Sam Walton was before this day. We passed through the entrance, which includes a store full of retro candy and toys, and sat down to watch a film on the man. You too can watch it by clicking here.
I found great interest in looking at the ads and photos from Walmarts of the past, particularly the ones I visited as a child in the late 1970s and 1980s. Hunter went about opening drawers, checking out the different prices for items throughout the years and scoping out Walton’s preserved office. She also found a drawer which included a machine that turned her name into a barcode sticker. She was incredibly amused by this.
We exited into the Spark Café, the museum’s ice cream shop. Each of us had an ice cream cone – cookies and cream waffle cone for Hunter and a Spark-flavored sugar cone for me. Spark? Yes, Yarnell’s makes Spark ice cream, which is a golden vanilla that’s blue and gold. Yes, it’s tasty.
After checking in at the Simmons Suites and changing for dinner, we headed to the 21c Museum Hotel. Hunter loves the different exhibits at this rare 24-hour museum, and she went about looking for neat new things. She loves the sand blower in the lobby, and she adores the green penguins.
To our delight, we found that you can dine with a penguin at the Hive. Hunter named hers Lilly. #greenpenguins #21c #21cbentonville #bentonville #bentonvillear #thehive #arkansasfood #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
We dined that night at The Hive, the restaurant within the hotel, and were happy to see our friend Chef Matt McClure. While there is a grilled cheese sandwich entrée just for kids, Hunter had to go for a more adult selection and chose a cheese tray for dining. I rather enjoyed the cornbread and a taste of the BMF (buttermilk fried) quail along with the remarkably well-seasoned beef tenderloin. While I was thrilled with some of Matt’s splendid silky lemon curd ice cream, Hunter was all about the house green apple cotton candy, which she is still talking about today.
To say that Hunter was pleased with the sour apple cotton candy that was brought to the table at the end of the meal is putting it mildly. She thinks every meal should end with cotton candy. #cottoncandy #greenpenguins #21c #21cbentonville #bentonville #bentonvillear #thehive #arkansasfood #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
Sunday’s adventures took us to Bentonville and Bella Vista. Stay tuned for more itineraries as we share our fun throughout the week.
Kat Robinson is a food and travel writer based in Little Rock. She travels Arkansas and the South searching for good stories, tall tales and the next great little restaurant. Read about more of her adventures at TieDyeTravels.com.