Rising out of the dense forests of the Ozark Mountains, the towns and cities of northwest Arkansas offer world-class art museums and small-town charm, state-of-the-art performance venues and Victorian-era downtowns, all within a short drive of one another. Groups can take hands-on art classes, see renowned portraits of George Washington, ride the rails in refurbished historic train cars, watch a water-powered grist mill grind flour and see the BB gun made famous in the 1983 film “A Christmas Story.”
Together, these five communities make up a dynamic destination that has proven perennially popular with groups.
Rogers, the Home of the Daisy Red Ryder
Rogers was founded in 1881, the same year the railroad arrived, and the historic downtown is still lined with brightly painted Victorian-era buildings. A visit there “feels like a step into an authentic small-town downtown,” said J.R. Shaw, executive director of Visit Rogers.
In the 1983 film “A Christmas Story,” Ralphie famously asked for “a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.” Rogers has been the home of Daisy Outdoor Products since 1958, and although groups can’t visit the assembly operation, they can tour the Daisy Airgun Museum in downtown to learn about the company’s history and see nearly every model Daisy ever made. Although the gun in the movie never existed — a different model had the compass and clock — Daisy now puts out an anniversary edition of Ralphie’s Red Ryder gun every five years. It is available only through the museum.
On the same block, groups can take in an Arkansas Public Theatre show or tour the 1927 Victory Theater building. Also near downtown, visitors can picnic or stroll on trails at Lake Atalanta Park.
North of town, the Pea Ridge National Military Park was the site of the Battle of Pea Ridge. At the visitor center, groups can watch a film and explore exhibits about the decisive Civil War battle that took place in March 1862.
Groups will find several sites east of town along Highway 12. At Hobbs State Park, they can learn about local wildlife and habitats at the visitor center or during ranger-led nature walks, Shaw said. On neighboring Beaver Lake, travelers can go kayaking in the summer or take bald-eagle-watching pontoon cruises in the winter.
At War Eagle Mill, groups can watch the waterwheel-powered gristmill in action, eat breakfast or lunch at the Bean Palace Café and shop for flours and meals in the store. Guided cave tours are available at the nearby War Eagle Cavern.