One of the best things about my 50 before 50 quest has been finding little jewels around the United States that I had never considered traveling to. My friend Laurie and I set off to see five states that were new to me. The first state on our trip was Arkansas.
I had just returned from Saratoga Springs, New York, and I love the culture of towns built around hot springs. These towns were settled coming out of the Civil War when people with means were obsessed with wellness. The result is bustling towns with unique architecture, often in natural settings. Eureka Springs more than delivers on this promise but is also so darn cute. It combines charm with nature as it is nestled in the hills of the Ozark Forest. The town’s roads randomly follow the hills, darling buildings and houses are burrowed into every possible corner, and it has a bohemian vibe.
There are so many things to do in Eureka Springs I could have easily spent more than a weekend here and would love to return. It was the perfect spot for a girl’s weekend, but I would happily return with my family or send my parents on a romantic visit.
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What to Do in Eureka Springs
- Wander around town shopping. Eureka Springs has a vibrant downtown full of shops and restaurants.
- Watch live music. Right on Spring Street in downtown Eureka Springs is Basin Park, an open area where you can see live music. There are also a plethora of bars with music.
- Look for art installations scattered around town.
- Visit the springs. Unlike many springs around the US, the springs here are more decorative than utilitarian. There are over 60 springs in Eureka Springs. Over a dozen are manicured with unique landscaping. Be sure to check out two of my favorites:
- Grotto Springs lies underground, which makes for a charming presentation. After following the stairway down to the spring, you will find a small spigot with alters laid around it. Outside is a beautifully manicured garden.
- Magnetic Spring was famous for curing drug addiction due to its magnetic properties. I don’t know about that, but this spring has free-flowing water, is covered in moss, and is surrounded by flowers.
- The spring is on the road that leads to the Passion Play, so it is conveniently located. It has a picnic table and is also located right around the corner from Ice Cream Delights. Grab a sandwich or some blackberry cobbler and have a picnic by the spring.
- Speaking of ice cream, if you get to Eureka Springs, please do me a favor. I travel the world looking for excellent, homemade ice cream. I asked my sources about exceptional ice cream in Eureka Springs but got no answers. After I left, I heard that the Eureka Springs Coffee House started carrying Bliss Artisan Ice Cream. My other readers would love to know how it is and if Eureka Springs now has great ice cream!
- Watch The Great Passion Play high up in the mountains. This story of Jesus’ life has a large cast and expansive set. The audio was a little dated but was quite a spectacle. If you go early, you can tour their Israel set. Get tickets here.
- While you are up at the Passion Play, go further up the road (past the large parking lot) to the Christ of the Ozarks statue. Did you have any idea one of the largest Christ statues looms over the Ozark Mountains?
- Don’t miss the piece of the Berlin Wall on your drive to Christ of the Ozarks. There are so many random treats to be found around Eureka Springs!
- Mountain bike around Lake Leatherwood. If my son were with me, this would have topped his wishlist. There are 47 miles of trails around the lake and by the dam.
- If you would rather get out onto the water, kayak, canoe, or paddleboat around the lake. I went prepared to kayak but then fell in love with a purple paddleboat and memories of my youth.
- Spend a day leisurely floating down the White River with Float Eureka.
- Watch the butterflies and dragonflies flutter. I visited in August, and there were so many of these beautiful insects.
- Have some southern barbeque at Bubba’s, eating on their deck.
- Enjoy a steak cooked on a wood plank at the Grotto Wood Fired Grill cave, sitting alongside its rock wall.
- Try a Krazo Queen B Burger from the third-floor patio at NYX Restaurant and Bar. It has brie, onion frizzles, and blueberry jam- a wonderfully unique burger experience.
- Take a ghost tour in a haunted hotel. The 1886 Cresent Hotel and Spa has been many things through the years, a scam cancer hospital, a woman’s school, and a hotel. Could ghosts be hanging around? I most loved the idea of the hotel being haunted by a cat, Morris.
- See Morris’ gravesite behind the hotel. The hotel has a current live cat too!
- Feel close to God at Thorncrown Chapel. Even the walk to this chapel in the woods made out of glass and steel is a treat.
- Take a hike to Pivot Rock and Natural Bridge. It is rumored that Jesse James’ gang hid out in here. It is a half-mile hike to see these rock formations, and there is a charge to enter.
- Relax in a hot tub overlooking the mountains at New Moon Spa after getting a massage or wrap. A spa overlooking the Ozarks is a pretty perfect way to spend a day with the girls, and Laurie and I both loved our treatments at this spa!
Where to Stay in Eureka Springs
My trip was hosted through the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa. They gave me a choice between their two hotels. Honestly, It was so hard to choose because they are both pretty perfect places to stay in Eureka Springs.
This castle-like building sits at the very top of the mountain over Eureka Springs. The hotel is beautiful, from the Crystal Dining room and the guest rooms to the large stone fireplace in the lobby. The views of the Ozarks from the hotel can’t be beaten. It is rumored to be haunted and has a resident cat. There is a bar, pool, and activity center with games such as ax-throwing.
My room had two double beds and a private balcony where I read every morning. We chose this hotel because I love a view and my friend and I really wanted to feel like we were escaping from the world.
There is a free shuttle into town, so the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa is the perfect combination of escape and being in the middle of things.
Right in the middle of downtown Eureka Spring lies the Basin Park Hotel. If you want to be in the middle of the action, a hotel’s location could not be better, and it has all the amenities of its sister hotel. There is even a balcony bar overlooking the town.
If you don’t stay in town but plan to spend a lot of time in it, parking can be a real issue. Staying at either of these hotels will solve that issue.
Have you been to Arkansas, or are you planning a trip? This is a beautiful little state with southern charm and a lot of natural beauty. I would recommend adding Eureka Springs and Arkansas to your plans.