Northwest Arkansas has a lot going on. It is partially thanks to Walmart and because of that there are many incredible things to do. It’s the perfect place for an adventure schooling field trip. Did you know that there is a world renowned art museum right in downtown Bentonville? Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art consistently brings top notch exhibits and experiences. Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges is no exception. Here’s a video of our whole Bentonville itinerary. Sponsored post but the views and opinions expressed are the author’s own. Contains affiliate links.

What is Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges?

Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges is an absolutely fascinating exhibit. Christopher Marley is an artist who uses the natural world as his medium. He takes nature study and elevates it to the level of fine art. Every piece of his exhibit is carefully crafted with actual animal specimens. The pieces are made with insects, birds, feathers, snakes, sharks, and more. Each piece is unique, forming mosaics and mandalas. Additionally, there is a great hands on art opportunity halfway through. As a note: all of the creatures in his art died of natural causes. The artist works accordingly with zoos, wildlife refuges, zoologists and wildlife biologists. No animals were harmed for the purpose of art.

Homeschool and nature study.

In our family we have homeschooled our children from the beginning of their education, by embracing an approach to education that stokes their curiosity with a heavy emphasis on nature study, outdoor adventure and exploration. We call it adventure schooling. The way we weave in nature study has sometimes been an in-depth unit study on a specific topic, like the oceans, space, botany, or human anatomy. At other times it has been a theme that we wove into all of our studies for the entire year, such as biomes and ecology. Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges is the perfect field trip to wrap up any of those topics and a beautiful way to expand your homeschool journey. Keep reading to the end to see a list of some relevant curriculum.

Details about Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges.

This incredible exhibit will be on display at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Bentonville through July 29th, 2024. It’s a brilliant exhibition that is suitable for all ages. Tickets are $12 for adults but free for children 18 and under. Admission is free for museum members, SNAP participants, and veterans. All of the displays are made with actual animals specimens, which are both fascinating and can at times be frightening. As a note: some of the birds used in the displays do not have heads but it is done tastefully. Also note that there are large snakes and insects in this exhibit.

Our favorite parts of Exquisite Creatures.

It is incredibly difficult to choose a favorite part of Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges. Every piece in the exhibit is astoundingly intricate and beautiful. From a distance it’s hard to believe some of the mosaics are made of insects, but then you step closer and see the brightly colored beetles and bugs making up the designs. Equally amazing are the displays of varied insects or the rainbow display, where a variety of creatures are aligned according to similar hues. Here are our favorite parts:

  • Boy, age 12 – The snakes, specifically the King Cobra. But also the light boxes with the insect displays.
  • Girl, age 10 – The shiny beetle mosaics and mandalas.
  • Mom, age 39 – Honestly, all of it. Especially the monochromatic displays and the displays with various insects.

Learning opportunities in Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges.

There are so many ways to prepare for visiting this exhibit which I’ll address later. But, there are also some great ways to explore and learn right within Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges itself. Here are some ways to use the exhibit as an educational experience:

  • For younger children, here is a FREE printable scavenger hunt for the exhibit.
  • There is a gallery guide you can pick up in the space with the animals separated by color gradient, have your children identify the animals by matching the frame to the title. It’s a great way to work on reading and spatial awareness.
  • For older children, have them bring a journal to write down a few things: 1) keep a tally of animals they have heard of, 2) keep a tally of animals they’ve never heard of and can research more about later, but be sure to write down names.
  • Use your nature journal to pencil sketch your favorite animal in the exhibit. Write down it’s scientific name.
  • Use your journal to keep a tally of how many you see of: 1) snakes, 2) butterflies, 3) beetles, 4) birds 5) monitor lizards.
  • For students studying Latin: examine the scientific names of each animal and see what root words they recognize.
  • In the monochromatic section: discuss albinism and melanism and how that can impact survival.

Expanding on the exhibit: drop in art studio.

In addition to the Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges exhibit there is a fun activity in the drop in art studio. The studio is located on the basement or ground level of the museum, beneath the permanent collection. There are many wonderful picture books and hands on learning opportunities, plus puppets and fun ways to play. Currently, there is an art project to design your own creature. There are card stock pieces to be the backdrop, scissors, glue, colored pencils, and lots of pages with different animals that you can cut out. You can leave your masterpiece on the art wall in the studio or take it with you. Feel free to go wild with your creation!

Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges: outside on the trails.

Did you know that Crystal Bridges Museum of Art sits on 120 acres in the heart of Bentonville? There are five mils of trails throughout the property. Grab a trails map or download the free CB Outdoors app to wander and explore. We enjoyed a morning hike when the museum was closed on a Tuesday. Take your journal and write down or sketch the exquisite creatures you spot in the Ozark forest around the museum. We were treated to a Cardinal song, a caterpillar encounter, a snacking squirrel, and two different herds of White Tail Deer! There are art pieces around the trails as well. Be sure to catch a glimpse at the “crystal cave” next to the creek by the museum, along with the fossil display!

Look for: an insect hotel, the Fly’s Eye Dome, three Chihuly sculptures, a Yayoi Kusama sculpture, the giant spider sculpture “Maman,” the giant deer sculpture by Tony Tassett, and Monochrome II by Nancy Rubins (the canoes!).

Outdoor adventure: biking in Bentonville and Coler Bike Preserve.

While you’re in Bentonville to see Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges, you’ll want to bring your bike. Northwest Arkansas is the biking hot spot in the United States and there are so many unique biking trails and experiences. Visit Bentonville just released a great biking guide too. One of our favorite places to bike is Coler Mountain Bike Preserve. There are trails for every ability, from the gentle paved trail that bisects the park, to easy trails like the Family Flow and Esther’s Loop. Or, for the experts there’s Here’s Johnny and Copperhead Road. We really enjoy breezing along the Good Vibrations trail on our way to the Airship Coffee cafe. Coler is also a nature preserve and was recently designated a firefly sanctuary!

Other Outdoor adventure in Bentonville.

Bentonville is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Especially if you’re into biking, but also if you’re into nature. If you’re coming to see Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges there are many ways to extend the nature study while you’re there. Here are more fun ways to explore outdoors in Bentonville:

  • Enjoy Compton Gardens next to Crystal Bridges.
  • Explore the trails and wetlands at Osage Park. This park also has pickleball courts, public art, and an archery range.
  • Take the trails at Osage Park around Lake Bentonville to the playground next to Thaden Field. See if you can spot the beaver home along the way.
  • Play at Park Springs Park. Be sure to take the trail down to the creek, it’s a great place to splash and explore nature.
  • Try some rock climbing at the Bentonville Boulder at 8th Street Market.
  • Bike to the top of the Ledger Building and enjoy the views.
  • Pack up some food and enjoy the outdoors with the Bentonville picnic guide.

More things to do in Bentonville.

Two of our other favorite spots to hang out in Bentonville are around The Momentary and 8th Street Market. The first is contemporary art museum with rotating exhibits and it’s free. There’s a very fun Onyx coffee location inside as well. 8th Street Market is connected by walkway through the outdoor amphitheater space. Art is everywhere in Bentonville and be sure to check out all of the murals and the giant boombox around the market building. Must see spots at 8th street include Two Friends Bookstore and Yeyos Mexican Grill. Get the cauliflower street tacos. Other things to do in Bentonville include:

  • Check out Best Friends Pet Resource Center where you can spend some time with adoptable pets.
  • Play some games at Gear Gaming, a card and board game lounge and store.
  • Explore and learn at MONAH (Museum of Native American History).
  • Look for nature themed books and vintage treasures at Once Upon a Time Books.
  • Go back to The Momentary at night to see the Buckyball light up.

Where to stay in Bentonville.

While you’re visiting Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges, I’d recommend staying somewhere that’s walkable or bike-able to the museum. Luckily, almost anywhere in Bentonville, or Northwest Arkansas, is bike-able. There are also lots of short term rentals to choose from in the downtown area. We had the pleasure of staying at The Downtowner, an AirBnb with great amenities and an equally great location. It has a finished garage space with plenty of room (and racks) for bikes. My children loved the claw machine and the ping pong table. The main floor has one large bedroom with a walk in closet and full bathroom with an amazing shower. Upstairs, there are to more spacious bedrooms with shared bathroom. The Downtowner has a full kitchen and a fantastic upper level deck to enjoy the outdoors. It is located very close to the Ledger Building, the world’s first bike-able building!

One coffee brand, three locations.

One of the best things about northwest Arkansas is the huge variety of coffee shops. Airship Coffee is one of those wonderful local brands. They have four locations across Bentonville and we were fortunate to visit three of them. The first location we visited was at the Ledger Building. It has a beautiful tree sculpture and an open concept shop. Second, we visited the Coler location. That one is extra special because it is only accessible by trail and it’s an open air coffee shop. Lastly, we stopped at their newest location, the Pumphouse. All three locations are must see spots for the great coffee and fantastic photo ops.

Where to eat in Bentonville.

Bentonville is packed with incredible restaurants and places to eat. Many of them can also accommodate for food allergies. I have Celiac Disease, so I’m always looking for gluten free when we travel. Here are just a few of the great places we ate:

  • Eleven at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art – I enjoyed a kale salad and added salmon, my kids enjoyed cheeseburgers.
  • Crepes Paulette – Their menu is amazing. I had a gluten free, vegan Thai crepe, my daughter had the Elvis, and my son had the classic.
  • The Witching Hour – A horror movie themed food truck with excellent burger. I had the “Feed Me, Seymour,” vegan and gluten free style. A note – the exterior of the truck is designed with horror movie characters and may be scary for young children.
  • The Meteor Cafe – This coffee shop, bottle shop, bike shop, restaurant is super fun and has gluten free pizza crust.
  • Sunny’s on Second – A health conscious and very cute cafe. I had a curry chicken sandwich on gluten free bread and my children both enjoyed a smoothie and gluten free cookies.

One last place I would recommend if you’re looking for gluten free fine dining: Conifer Bentonville. The entire restaurant is gluten free and I had the best chicken and dumplings and biscuits in my life there.

Homeschool curriculum for Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges.

One of the advantages to homeschooling in this modern age is the almost limitless supply of homeschool curriculum. There are too many options for me to list in one post. But here are some studies and books relating to the natural world that we have enjoyed.

A note: Disney Plus has a huge library of National Geographic documentaries and wildlife series.

Crystal Bridges and Bentonville should be on your list.

Bentonville, Arkansas should be on your adventure list. It’s a wonderful vacation destination for families, especially for families who love outdoor adventure, great coffee, art museums, and delicious culinary options. Exquisite Creatures at Crystal Bridges is the perfect reason to plan an trip to explore Bentonville. The exhibit will only be there until July 29th, 2024, but its worth visiting anytime of year. The art museum always has top level exhibits, both with the permanent collection and the rotating installations. Bring your bikes, your sense of adventure, and some good shoes because you’re going to make some epic memories when you visit Bentonville, Arkansas. Happy adventuring!

Bentonville, Arkansas is the perfect playground for homeschool families and traditional school families alike. There’s a little something for everyone and you’re sure to have a great time!

About the author.

Nichole is a writer, content creator, and family travel and adventure influencer residing in southwest Arkansas. Though her and her husband (Ryan) are originally from the midwest, they’ve lived in Arkansas for ten years now and are thrilled to call it home. They have homeschooled their children from the beginning of their educational journey. They have a now 12 year old son and 10 year old daughter, along with a one year old Direwolf Dog named Levi. Nichole is an avid outdoor adventurer and road tripper and has been taking her kids on adventures by herself since they were infants, it’s all part of what she calls being responsibly brave. She is also on the Executive Team for Run Wild My Child and has contributed to Wild and Free. Be sure to follow her on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date with all of their shenanigans.