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When my husband and I moved our family to Springdale from Fayetteville eight years ago, the biggest reason was its affordability. Prior to that time, the only time I had stopped in Springdale on purpose was to dine out with my grandparents at one of their favorite restaurants, Golden Corral. I didn’t know anything about its rich agricultural history or the pride of place that Springdale natives have for their hometown. The Golden Corral is long gone, but I have discovered that there are a many more reasons to take a drive up Thompson/Hwy 71B and drive down some of its side streets. Let me tell you a little bit about the Springdale I know and share the seven things you need to know about Springdale.
1. The Shiloh Museum of Ozark History has been recording and collecting the history of Northwest Arkansas since 1965, so it’s a great first stop. As a fellow 49-year-old, I must say she has held up very well. What started out as a single donation of Native American artifacts to the city has grown into a widely-respected institution housing tens of thousands of artifacts that preserve the history and tell the story of life of the Ozarks region. Their professionally curated collections rotate on exhibit regularly and they offer a wide variety of educational programs as well. You can find more information (including photos from the largest public image archive in Arkansas) on their website.
2. If you are looking for some activities to wear out the kids, check out the Springdale Aquatic Center and The Harvey and Bernice Jones Center for Families. The aquatic center is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day (weekends only when school is in session). The facility is made up of several outdoor pools to accommodate everyone in the family, from littles to grands. Plenty of chairs and shade structures are available, or you can stretch out and get some sun. Located on the edge of Murphy Park and across the park from the Springdale Public Library, you could spend the day having a great time without using any gasoline!
The Jones Center was built as a result of a gift to the city from Harvey & Bernice Jones, Springdale natives and founders of Jones Truck Lines. The facility is open year-round and has an indoor water park with a lap pool as well as slides and shallow water fun for little ones. It also boasts the only year-round ice rink in Northwest Arkansas. A gym and fitness center are open to the public, and several indoor basketball courts are available with a reservation. For more info including fees and hours, visit their website.
3. The Arts Center of the Ozarks is a great place to take a little culture break in Springdale. They present several stage shows each year that each feature a cast made up of members of the community, so it’s a perfect (and usually family-friendly) evening activity if they have a show going on. If theater isn’t your thing, their main space is always full of visual art exhibits. From August 6 to 29th they will host the 20th Annual Artists of Northwest Arkansas Art Exhibition, featuring artists from across the region. Find out more on their website.
4. Emma Street was a bustling hub of activity back in the city’s heyday, but it fell into a slump during the 1980s. Foot traffic is increasing and several new businesses have popped up over the last few years, and there is a growing movement afoot to bring life back to this lovely part of town. Emma is a tree-shaded street that provides almost everything you could be looking for: antique shops, art galleries, a drum and skateboard store, banks, an Amish market and cafe, a florist, bike shop, gift shops – with more coming every month. Construction is underway for an outdoor amphitheater that will connect the property where Shiloh Museum is located with the street. It will be a lovely place to have a picnic, and the Razorback Greenway will be crossing the street as it heads north from Fayetteville to cities to the north in Benton County. A&M Railroad also departs its Emma Street depot for rides through the Boston Mountains to Van Buren. Be sure to purchase your tickets online ahead of time!
5. Located on Emma Street, Shelby Lynn’s Cake Shoppe has come a long way since it opened in 2001. The owner, Jennifer Matsubara, had never decorated a cake when she decided to fulfill her dream of owning a cake shop. She hit the ground running, and six years later made a name for herself in her first appearance on the Food Network Challenge television series. She went on to participate in several of their competitions and brought home a number of medals. If you are going to be in town for a celebration, be sure to stop by Shelby Lynn’s and let them help you make it extra-special.
6. When you are ready for a meal, I recommend a visit to one of the authentic taquerias that are located all over Springdale. They are owned by families who have moved here from countries in Central and South America, as well as Mexico. The menus may include some terms you are unfamiliar with, but don’t let that stop you – employees are always happy to provide a language lesson. There are also a few “mercados” (markets) in town in case you are interested in picking up some ingredients to take home and cook up yourself. (And for a sweet treat, stop by El Progresso Bakery or Ayala Bakery – you won’t be sorry!)
7. For a meal that reminds you of something grandma used to make, stop by Neal’s Café on Highway 71 (Thompson Avenue). They are celebrating 70 years in business, and the pink cinder block building, vintage interior, and clientele hasn’t changed much in that time. An amazing array of taxidermy animals can be found hanging on the walls, as well as impressive collections of arrowheads and other Native American artifacts found in local fields in Northwest Arkansas. Neal’s is the place where deals have been made, political offices have been won (or lost), and memories have been made in Springdale. It’s a little slice of the city that will probably never change – and that’s okay. Speaking of slice, save room for some homemade pie!!
Have I missed anything? There are new places popping up in Springdale every day. If you have a favorite that isn’t mentioned here, please share it in the comments section! Hope to see you in my town soon!
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