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Those relocating to Northwest Arkansas, or just visiting, can hardly miss the signs that it is a special place. From the still-robust economy to the first-class neighborhoods, splendid restaurants and incredible natural beauty, life is good here — very good.

Moreover, the area is replete with good folks.

Northwest Arkansas includes Benton, Washington, Carroll and Madison counties. Interstate 540 connects Fort Smith to the south and Bella Vista to the north. U.S. 412 provides a scenic journey east into Carroll and Madison counties. The most populated areas of this region are Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville.

Fayetteville is an eclectic mix of a major-college town, thriving business community, outdoors-lovers dream, and a cultural and arts center. It’s also home to the beloved Arkansas Razorbacks and recently was recognized by Forbes magazine as one of America’s top five smaller towns to live and work. From trails and greenways to the ever-bustling and historic Dickson Street, home to the acclaimed Walton Arts Center, it is a truly unique city.

The city also boasts a nationally known farmers’ market, where patrons fill bags with the freshest produce, flowers and local handiwork.

The University of Arkansas is a land-grant institution on 345 acres and was recently named among the Carnegie Foundation’s most active research institutions. Enrollment typically hovers near 20,000 students.

Fine-arts lovers have a facility second to none in Crystal Bridges Museum of American Arts in Bentonville. The museum boasts 201,000 square feet of exhibit space and 120 acres that include trails dotted with exhibits.

The lineup of art pieces is seriously impressive — Andy Warhol’s Dolly Parton comes to mind — and there are interactive exhibits for both children and adults, guided tours and an on-site restaurant.

History buffs should be sure to pay a visit to the Civil War battlefields at Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove and their accompanying museums.

Other area attractions include Fayetteville’s magnificent botanical gardens and the elegant Pinnacle Hills Promenade shopping center in Rogers, where the state’s first Cabela’s location is set to open in August.

At the northernmost tip of the U.S. 71/I-540 corridor, Bella Vista offers 126 holes of golf, seven lakes and home prices to rival any other popular retirement-themed village in the country.

Additional golf opportunities exist at the Fayetteville and Springdale country clubs, along with Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, where the LPGA Tour stops for its annual Walmart Northwest Arkansas Championship.

Public courses include nationally touted Stonebridge Meadows, The Creeks at Cave Springs, Prairie Creek Golf Course near Rogers, Big Sugar Golf Club in Pea Ridge, Razorback Park Golf Course in Fayetteville and Holiday Island near Eureka Springs.

Fayetteville also is the corporate home of Lindsey Management Co., which offers signature apartment complexes with golf courses in eight states.

Northwest Arkansas anglers can choose from Beaver Lake just east of Rogers or a number of smaller but productive lakes, including Bob Kidd Reservoir near Prairie Grove, Lake Hindsville east of Fayetteville and Lake Elmdale near Springdale.

For those who prefer streams, scenic choices include the renowned Buffalo National River, the White River both below and above Beaver Lake, War Eagle Creek, the Kings River, the Mulberry River, Clear Creek, the Illinois River and Crooked Creek, a world-class smallmouth bass haven just west of Harrison.

With funding finally in place, the long-anticipated 36-mile Greenway trails system is well under way.

This walking, hiking and bike pathway reaching from Fayetteville to Bella Vista will offer an outdoor experience like no other in Arkansas and much of the country.

Folks will be able to make an enjoyable weekend of hiking the paved trail and spending the night in a hotel or bed-and-breakfast along the way, or take a bike trip to a favorite restaurant along the path.

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