Since we moved to Southwest Missouri, Kalen and I have heard numerous people talk about Crystal Bridges. It took us a while to grasp the idea that one could make a quick day trip to another state, but we’ve gotten used to that (almost), and now, after having lived here for almost eight years, we finally paid it a visit. My parents came for the weekend and we made a day trip to Bentonville in northwest Arkansas to see what Crystal Bridges was all about.
Although I’ve only ever heard anyone call it “Crystal Bridges,” its full name is Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which explains why the art museum receives top billing on the website, but the grounds are just as much an attraction as the museum. General admission is free with tickets available to certain special exhibits within the museum building.
The grounds feature a variety of trails peppered with statues and art installations winding their way through beautiful Ozark woodland. We didn’t actually spend much time in the art museum though (except for a trek to find a restroom, because I have a tiny bladder); this trip was specifically focused on walking trails. Crystal Bridges allows leashed dogs on the grounds, but not in the buildings, and because the weather was particularly pleasant, we took Pippin along to explore the trails with us, opting to save the indoor art for another trip. Pippin didn’t have much interest in the art or architecture at Crystal Bridges, but he was a fan of all the new nature smells and running water from natural springs near the trails.
I will admit, the name “Crystal Bridges” is a little misleading. Unlike Missouri’s Rock Bridge State Park, which features a natural rock bridge, Crystal Bridges didn’t feature a natural bridge beset with or surrounded by crystals, as one might understandably imagine. One of the exhibits on the grounds is an impressive display of natural quartz crystals which naturally formed nearby and were moved to the grounds for display, but the bridges in the name of the museum and grounds refer to the architectural structure of the museum itself, spanning over Crystal Spring.
It’s still a beautiful building in a beautiful setting, but the disappointment from my own misunderstanding dampened it slightly. It’s a little like when you’re four years old and someone asks if you want an easel for Christmas, and, unsure exactly what that is (because you’re four), you enthusiastically confirm that you do want an easel. It sounds like such fun, and you proclaim for weeks that you want an easel, and you’re so excited that Santa will surely bring you an easel because you’ve been so good, and then on Christmas morning you find out that what you’ve received is a stand for painting, which is a lot of fun, but isn’t the small furry animal closely related to, but slightly less troublesome than, a weasel that you had imagined.
Weasels and sparkly structures aside, it was still a delightful time. Based on my short trip into the museum building, (and the parking attendant who we watched tell several dozen vehicles, “This parking lot is full; go back around and take the second right by the bowls to the overflow parking,”) it was a pretty busy day for Crystal Bridges, but walking the trails allowed some respite from intense crowds. Weekday explorations, when there are fewer people might even offer glimpses of wildlife. We saw a tiny ringneck snake on the trail and shooed it into the grass where it would be less likely to be smashed with a bike (or, just as likely, mistaken for a worm and eaten by a bird).
The trails were beautifully maintained and connected to a larger public trail system, easily allowing us to walk into a vibrant downtown area for lunch. There was a wide range of food options, including pizza, barbecue, and seafood. We opted to try the Flying Fish and were all very pleased with our meals, which we enjoyed at a public outdoor picnic area just outside of the Crystal Bridges grounds.
Since the trip to Crystal Bridges was only about an hour by car, I’m sure we will return soon to explore all the art and grounds that we didn’t see on this short excursion.
Have you been to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, or would you consider going? Have you ever wildly misunderstood what something would be based on its name? What is your favorite day trip excursion from where you live? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!