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Eleven years ago, we packed up our belongings in the beat-up rented moving van and headed out of Cave Springs and settled permanently just north of us in beautifully tucked away Bella Vista. Situated at the end mark of Highway 49 as it briefly turns into 71B before tiptoeing into Missouri, Bella Vista is what I believe is the best hidden gem in Arkansas. It may surprise you to know that tucked into these rolling hills and gorgeous vistas live approximately 26,000 residents. The village is so beautifully and masterfully designed that living here truly feels like a privileged resort without all the snobbery.
Nine of these eleven years we have spent living on the East Side. First in a rental while our home on Lake Brittany was constructed and then once again in another rental after we sold that home to downsize and we remodeled our cozy current home (on the West Side) before moving in. We dedicated many miles exploring the back roads and twisted hidden drives on both sides of the highway before deciding on our forever home. Because of this highway hobby of ours, I feel uniquely qualified to share with you the reasons why you may prefer the East Side or the West Side. There is a lot offer on both sides, so choose wisely.
1. East Side Vibe
As you enter North into Bella Vista, gaze to your right and breathe in the scenery. I mentally refer to The East Side as the piney woods with the stunning Ozark Mountains beckoning you as rocky bluffs and cliffs hug the highway. These rocks are a sight to behold in the winter as ice formations slowly drip, drip, drip as they warm in the soothing sun.
2. Cooper Memorial Chapel
Many a bride and groom have graced these chapel doors and started down their marital journey. The good news is that anyone can stroll the beautifully kept grounds and marvel at the chapel’s architecture or just slip in and sit a spell in peaceful solitude.
3. Lake Ann
Bella Vista boosts seven lakes and the East Side is the proud owner of four of them. Lake Ann is the largest on the East Side and third largest overall. Of the four lakes on the East Side, Lake Ann is the only one that does not have a no-wake-lake zone so if you have a penchant for speed boating, this one is for you.
4. Lake Brittany
This is the lake we lived on for eight years and we loved every minute of it. The deepest lake in Bella Vista, Lake Brittany is the one known for being stocked with trout. They survive during the summer since they are able to dive deep and get out of the heat.
5. Lake Rayburn and Lake Norwood
These two East Side lakes are some of the smallest lakes in Bella Vista and are similar to Lake Brittany yet much shallower. Perfect for kayaking, fishing, or strolling along the banks in a pontoon with family or friends as the sun set and stars fill the night.
7. Hidden waterfall on Pinion Road
The East Side is full of hidden gems. If you take the Pinion Road exit that drives you along the T.H. Rogers hardware site, follow it up to the dam. Park your car along the road and explore the twisting tumble of water worn rocks and waterfall that spills below the dam and is hidden to your left beyond the trees.
8. Blowing Springs Park
Are you an RVer? Are you a picnicker? Are you a hiker? Do you like to mountain bike? Okay, this park is for you.
9. Lake Bella Vista Trail
This is the lake you first see as you enter Bella Vista with the big welcome sign and is across the street from Arkansas Welcome Center (free coffee awaits!). Although technically in the Bentonville city limits, the Bella Vista Trail is just less than two miles and will loop you around the lake and past the Veterans Wall of Honor.
10. Veterans Wall of Honor
From the highway you can see this Memorial peeking beyond Lake Bella Vista and its walking trail. This is a thoughtful tribute to our heroes.
11. Brittany Golf Course and Dogwood Hills Golf Course at Metfield
If golfing is your thing, skip everything I listed up to this point and then skip to the #11 and #12 West Side links. Bella Vista is your golfing Mecca. The Metfield Clubhouse boasts two courses and a golf shop.
12. Metfield pool and putt-putt
Adjacent on three sides of the golf course are additional recreations. A pool, a putt-putt course, slides for the kiddos, a picnic pavilion, and tennis courts. Lake Brittany is just down the road and this was a great treat to live so close to such bounty.
13. Spanker Creek Craft Fair
Northwest Arkansas is famous for its annual craft fairs in the spring and the fall. The Spanker Creek Craft Fair is located on Country Road 40 just as you enter Bella Vista on the East Side and, as the name suggests, is located along the rock-lined and extremely chilly Spanker Creek.
14. Wild watercress on the creek
If you follow Spanker Creek down the road and by the bridge, you will find seasonal growth of wild watercress. I have never picked this particular watercress before yet each time I drive by I am reminded of delicious memories of peppery cream of watercress soup. There is something special about seeing bounty growing and thriving all around you.
1. West Side vibe
As you enter North into Bella Vista, shift your gaze to your left and breathe in the beauty. This view is mainly stretches of golf courses, rolling hills, and magnificent aged oaks. See what I mean about at having a resort feel? Our backyard is filled with lakes, golf courses, and Ozark Mountain finery.
2. Artist Retreat Center (ARC)
The weathered log cabin that is the grounding anchor of the newly opened Artist Retreat Center is part of Bella Vista’s rich history that you discovered while visiting the museum. The ARC is a place for you to get your art on.
3. Lookout Drive
Speaking of rich history, sprinkled on the West Side along the highway and nested up to the Artist Retreat Center, you will notice what looks like old camp homes. While some are condemned, some are still thriving, and some have long been destroyed by man or by fire. Lookout Drive runs along the Artist Retreat Center is a lovely way to take a drive down memory lane and explore the “ruins” of camp homes of yesteryear.
4. Tanyard Creek Trail and the hidden old highway
Folks far and wide come to Bella Vista to stroll along the Tanyard Creek walking trail that is adjacent to both Lake Avalon and Lake Windsor. Be sure to keep walking so you won’t miss the magnificent waterfall spilling off the dam on Lake Windsor. This trail also leads you to the old highway road before Highway 71 came to town.
5. Lake Avalon
The West Side has three lakes and only one of them, Lake Avalon is a no-wake lake and is best known for great fishing and excellent kayaking. It also has a lovely pavilion that is perfect for a family picnic.
6. Lake Windsor and eagle watching
This is my new lake forever home and is the second largest lake in Bella Vista. In the winter the eagles come to make residence. In addition to the eagles, I have personally seen foxes, blue herons, loons, seagulls, deer, minks, and chipmunks in my own backyard. Still waiting for a bear sighting, however they can leave my backyard alone. Lake Windsor is speedboat lake and each summer you can hear the happy shrills of skiers and tubers run their course. In August, the swimming part of a triathlon takes place here.
7. Lake Loch Lomond
A full 475 acres worth of magnificent lake awaits you. This is the mack-daddy of lakes on the West Side and be-prepared for revved up fishing boat motors. If you are serious about fishing and pulling them in fast, this lake is for you.
Lake Loch Lomond is the only lake in the Bella Vista that has a full service marina. I highly recommend you rent a pontoon boat the first time and stroll along the banks and take in the beautiful homes with their covered boat docks and guest homes. They even have kayaks for rent.
9. Highlands Gun Range
Are you getting the idea yet that Bella Vista epitomizes the “natural” in the Natural State? That’s because there is an endless array of outdoor activities available on both sides to appeal to all levels of outdoor enthusiasts. The gun range is on the farthest point of the West Side and well worth the adventure if you are into skeet and trap shooting.
10. Go for an outdoor or indoor swim
The West Side has a seasonal outdoor swimming pool at the Kingsdale recreational facility and a year-round indoor pool facility at Branchwood.
11. Tanyard Creek Golf Practice Center and the Highlands Driving Range
These two places allow you brush up on your skills and improve your swing.
12. The Highlands, Berksdale, Kingswood, and Country Club Golf Courses
Once you get your swing in the groove, you have four courses to choose from on the West Side. On my way home from work I pass three of these courses in a matter of ten minutes. The final one is just five minutes up the road from Lake Windsor.
13. Grab a bite to eat
There are three foodie spots in Bella Vista that veer away from the average chain and all three are on the West Side (ever wonder why I switched sides?). Food spots include Duffers Café off of Lancashire, Café Amici’s located in The Country Club off Cooper Road, and Papa Mikes near Riordon Hall. Try the loaf of homemade bread at Duffers, the Razorback Pasta at Café Amici’s, and the made-to-order omelet on Wednesday night at Papa Mikes.
14. Join the Bella Vista Kayak Club – or any club
This one actually transcends both the West and East Sides. It is what makes Bella Vista truly unique. There are so many clubs to join such as kayaking, fly tying, bridge, golf, quartets, dancing, even ones if you are from Nebraska, or Iowa, or Kansas. It is a great way to instantly feel at home.
Live well, my friends. Lyndi
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