By Terrah Baker
When you first enter Fayetteville it seems like any other town. Fast food chains, slow food chains, a mall, banks, real estate, and everything that defines American civilization today. But look a little closer and the beauty, creativity and originality of Fayetteville, and Northwest Arkansas as a whole, begins to reveal itself.
NWA is a place where creativity blossoms, local community take precedence over cheaply-made goods and mass produced food, where activism is encouraged and the options for entertainment and fun become almost overwhelming.
While there are many facets to NWA’s originality, The Free Weekly has chosen four that we think will make off-campus life more satisfying then you could’ve imagined. You’ll of course discover many great places on your own, and there’s no way to list all of our favorite highlights of NWA here, but we hope this gives you a general guideline to navigating the wild and wonderful world that you now call your college home.
Fun is a vague word. For some it means a hike in the woods, for others a night of live music, and for someone else it could be a Friday night dinner and theater. Whatever your idea of fun, it can be found in NWA. From the Walton Arts Center (WAC) and the AMP to the Fayetteville bike trail and city parks, if it’s fun, it’s here.
One of the highlights of fun in NWA is the local music scene. Suffice to say the local music scene in Fayetteville brings in many talented musicians from all over the country, many who end up calling it home. George’s Majestic Lounge on Dickson is one of the area’s favorites, with headlining shows from Yonder Mountain String Band to Static-X. On the same strip you have a multitude of bars, live music venues and eateries that satisfy every taste, including the WAC’s Broadway and off-Broadway shows throughout their season beginning in August and running through June.
If more intimate theater is your thing, you have TheatreSquared and a multitude of spontaneous shows and venues that pop up on a weekly basis. NWA is not short on poets either with Poetry Slams on a monthly basis. And let’s not forget about the belly dancers, fire throwers and hoola hoopers that make local festivals (Harvest Festival, Wakarusa and more) all the more colorful.
For the outdoor enthusiasts, NWA is a haven of adventure. From campus, your starting point is easy to locate — the Fayetteville trail system. On this you can ride from South to North through Fayetteville, running by a movie theater, several streams, Lake Fayetteville and Martin Luther King Drive, where you’ll find local stores like Terra Tots that sells Earth- and human-friendly baby paraphernalia and several art stores and studios that offer lessons, supplies and even counseling. One of NWA’s locally-owned outdoor centers (like Pack Rat), along with bike shops like Phat Tire can lead you in the right outdoor direction when you visit their Fayetteville locations.
And lastly, one can not forget about NWA’s budding and established art community. New studios are popping up every month and local restaurants make it a habit of highlighting great local artists. And best of all, the community supports their artists as important and integral parts of a healthy and happy community.
If you still haven’t found what you call fun, check out 8-Days and Live Music Calendar for everything you need to keep you entertained in NWA.
Food in NWA is a tasty beast of its own. Food, Energy and Garden Corps — a federal program where volunteers serve a year of community service for little pay and loan forgiveness — are sprinkled throughout NWA, spreading the message of local and healthy food. The healthy human and Earth epidemic has caught on locally and now community members are trying to reach those who are the most under-served and uneducated in society.
But NWA is by no means a “food desert.” The Fayetteville Farmer’s Market has been awarded the honor of one of the best markets in the U.S. and opens Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays touting everything from kale to peaches, radishes to blueberries. This is made possible by the multitude of local farmers that call NWA home.
Small farmers offer GMO-free, organically raised meats, produce, products and crafts to an eager community, educated on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and planet. These farmers also offer their food to a number of local restaurants, something hard to find in a world of USDA regulation usually barring small farmers from providing produce to restaurants and stores. Here, in the budding NWA food market, restaurants like BHK Cafe on the Fayetteville square, Greenhouse Grille on School Avenue, Lean Green Cuisine, and Berry Natural in Fiesta Square buy local produce and offer it in delicious, one-of-a-kind dishes and drinks.
Ozark Natural Foods, the local health food store, cooperatively owned and governed by a board and their customers (or investors), is usually the first place to hit when the market is closed. Even chain stores like Harps offer locally baked goods from Ozark Natural Breads.
Whatever suits your taste buds, and health, it can be found in NWA, and by checking out our weekly Dining Guide.
Fashion is something unavoidable in our society today, with new trends being pushed out every season and more. Luckily, NWA offers some great alternatives to the traditional box, chain stores that now stock clothes made in China and other impoverished nations where fabric is cheap (in quality and dollar amount) and the labor is even cheaper. Fayetteville hosts a number of designers and fashion shows like BonnerBell who uses high-quality fabrics using fair trade tactics. Or like EmilysOneManBand who puts together powerful, high-end looks using vintage and second-hand clothes, mixed with her own designs. Despite some controversy and local designer conflict, NWA Fashion Week has been held the last two years, and as of 2013 boasted sponsors like BMW and Loreal.
Boutiques line the streets of Block Street, the Fayetteville Square, and even along College Avenue, including Good Things Boutique that carries environmentally-friendly made clothing, offering local and unique designs to the many characters of NWA. Don’t forget about your own second-hand and vintage finds from places like Daisy Exchange and Grey Dog on College Avenue. Whatever your taste, or whatever the chosen fashion, it can be followed or broken with the great variety of local options.
Get some fashion tips and find out more about what local designers are offering and up to with our monthly fashion column (runs first week of the month) by owner of Mayapple Salon and Boutique, Melissa Arens.
Never had I seen such philanthropy than when I moved to Fayetteville. It seems every week a charity is holding a fundraiser, corporations large and small are donating small fortunes, professional artists and musicians are donating their time and art and the nonprofits and charities they support are flourishing and expanding. While the good side of our culture may not be as visible in our political and media-driven world, it can’t be missed in NWA.
Just this year, NWA Fashion Week raised over $10,000 for local charities, Jammin’ Java and Roots Festival raised thousands to support Feed Fayetteville and Wal-mart and its affiliates contributed large lump sums to places like the Fayetteville Senior Center, Crystal Bridges (the newest and largest free art museum), and so many more. The trend of giant corporations that have not-so-noble business practices but donate thousands a year to charity is an epidemic in this community, and one that does help spread the philanthropic attitude throughout the area.
If you’re wanting to volunteer, or find out why donating your time or resources can be extremely fulfilling (and give you great references for future jobs), NWA is the place to find it. TFW tries to highlight any fundraising and volunteer opportunties that come our way, so make sure to read us weekly to find out what’s out there and what would be the best fit for you.