Sitting in the rolling Ozark Mountains is a colorful town that oozes Victorian history mixed with 21st-century funk. Eureka Springs stands at the crossroads of hipster and yesteryear, with a well-preserved downtown from the 1800s. These elegant structures are full of eclectic shops and bistros, all brimming with today’s trinkets, cosmopolitan dining experiences and fine arts. Throw in a resident ghost or two, and this little Ozark gem will charm its way into everyone’s trip itinerary.
Boaters and anglers will love Beaver Lake to the west, which offers tremendous opportunities on the water. Rent a kayak, paddleboard or canoe to skim across the lake’s surface or explore its depths at several swim beaches. Beaver Lake is located in northwest Arkansas, the birthplace of the White River, and offers great water for paddling and bass fishing. And don’t miss reeling in enormous trout on the White River or canoeing down the country’s first national waterway, Buffalo National River.
Well-known for its enticing art scene, Eureka Springs is home to Opera in the Ozarks. Started as a summer camp, this unique music colony has become a premier training camp for opera students. But the region has become famous for another presentation, one that has drawn millions of fans to this Arkansas mountain town: The Great Passion Play has been presented yearly since 1968 and holds the esteemed title of largest attended outdoor drama in the United States.
For visitors looking for some two-wheel adventures, there are abundant opportunities for mountain biking along the Oz Trails of Northwest Arkansas. And hiking and biking in Hobbs State Park are just two activities available there, along with camping and target practice.
Subterranean explorations await at Onyx Cave and Mystic Caverns. No spelunking is required to enjoy stalactites and bottomless lakes in steady 64-degree temperatures. And if wildlife is calling, hustle over to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, where big cats rule. Lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!) who have been neglected or abused are granted lifetime residency at this amazing sanctuary.
Quiet Reflection and Ghostly Appearances
A landmark of enormous proportions, Christ of the Ozarks was constructed in 1966. This 67-foot-tall statue is modernistic in design, with arms outstretched in welcome. And a few miles away lies an outstanding creation in architecture. The Thorncrown Chapel, designed by Fay Jones, a Frank Lloyd Wright protege, stands 48 feet tall and brings worshippers to its glass-enclosed sanctuary.
With so many buildings from the 1800s, it is easy to see why Eureka Springs purportedly plays host to many ghosts. The Victorian-era buildings are said to harbor paranormal beings in great numbers. Guests can chase these ghostly apparitions on various tours, but the most popular is the eerie Crescent, known as America’s Most Haunted Hotel.
The citizens of Eureka Springs love a celebration. Started in 1948 as a radio show gimmick, the Barefoot Ball in November has continued to require its participants check their shoes at the door before dancing the night away to traditional Ozark folk music. The Eureka Gras Extravaganza in January is the town’s own twist on Mardi Gras, with events like Arti-Gras: Palette to Palate and coronation balls and masquerades. Enjoy the revelry of the Black Light Ball, and, of course, there is bound to be plenty of bead throwing.
Historical Healing Waters
Widely known as the “Great Healing Spring” by local Indian tribes, the cold springs that seeped out of the earth have been credited with remarkable healing properties. From Dr. Jackson’s eye water to the Ozarka Spring Water Company, the springs have always provided a destination for those seeking rejuvenation.
In 1856, Dr. Alvah Jackson gushed about the spring water’s effect on his eye ailments. By 1878, the doctor’s close friend, Judge J.B. Saunders, was so astonished at his own healing experience in the springs that he promoted the area to people far and wide, creating a rush to the small settlement. In fact, within a year, the town of Eureka Springs was incorporated, becoming the state’s fourth largest town. It quickly became known as a wealthy tourist resort, as substantial buildings and homes were constructed at a breakneck pace. Today, nearly 2,000 of these original structures are still preserved, garnering designation on the National Register of Historic Places.
Eureka Springs Party
Eureka Springs turns out to have a good time during the May Festival of the Arts. Attendees enjoy art exhibits, performances and a crazy block party known as the White Street Walk. During summer, bluegrass enthusiasts can fill up on good tunes and great eats at Bluegrass and BBQ. Other popular summer music festivals include Highberry, Spaceberry and Hillberry the Harvest Moon. When autumn rolls around, check out sweet rides at the Antique Automobile Festival or meet Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge’s resident grizzly bear and take part in a variety of bear-focused activities at Bam Bam Weekend.
In Hot Water
After a day of sightseeing, relax in a mineral bath at Palace Bath House, a Victorian-era institution that uses the hot spring waters for therapeutic relaxation. Eureka Springs also is a haven for almost 400 artists, boasting over 100 shops and galleries. Stop by a few to see some fantastic works and purchase fine crafts.
For More Information
Eureka Springs Arkansas
Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism