Visting Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Sure, Eureka Springs has some great Victorian architecture and plenty of art, but the surrounding natural beauty is also a reason to take your family for a visit any time of year.
By Diane Tritt Eaton
An Extraordinary Outdoor Adventureland
For outdoor adventure, head a few hours east to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a pretty little historic town nestled in the heart of the Ozark’s mountainous terrain, where hiking trails, lakes, caves, and natural wonders are a stone’s throw away from whichever motel, hotel, cabin or bed and breakfast inn you choose.
Explore the quaint Victorian village of Eureka Springs for an education in yesteryear, when vacationers and millionaires from around the country came to soak in its natural beauty and to “heal” at the fresh water springs bubbling up all over town. With the largest collection of Victorian architecture in the central U.S.A., this Ozark oasis takes you back to the turn of the 20th century, when ornate decorations and gingerbread style homes were the “in” thing.
The least exerting way to get around is by car or the town trolley, which runs the full historic loop, where riders can hop on and off to admire the idyllic charm of Eureka and to dine and shop at inviting restaurants, boutiques and galleries. This is one fine idea but is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to outdoor activities.
Oh, Go Take a Hike
I strongly suggest taking at least one hike during your visit. There are many trails with varying degrees of length and difficulty, so lace up. As the Eureka Springs Preservation Society tells all, “Whatever the season, take time to experience Eureka Springs the old-fashioned way…Walk!”
Along the three-mile downtown historic loop, there are well-maintained sidewalks, off-shoot trails and even guided walking tours. Trekking through town allows you to admire the architecture, and to rest along the way as you admire the cold-water springs including the Basin Spring, Sweet Spring and Crescent Spring, to name a few. Feeling the cool 58 degree Fahrenheit water flowing from underground lends itself to the mystique of its proclaimed ailment-curing properties, first by Native Americans, and later by Victorian-era health-seekers.
Away from the village district, there are recommended trails to satisfy those who like to meander and/or those who choose to get their cardio workout in while admiring the vistas. For example, there’s an enjoyable two-mile long Dogwood Overlook Trail, which starts above Beaver Dam. Constructed by Arkansas boy scouts, Dogwood affords various views of the powerful Beaver Dam, passes scenic bluffs and goes up hill and down dale, with a degree of difficulty that’s manageable for children as young as eight.
A Water Lover’s Playground
A short drive from downtown, you can enjoy aquatic adventures at one of several lakes and rivers.
Beaver Lake, to the west, is a 28,000-acre clear water paradise for swimming, boating and fishing. Here, the water is so irresistibly clear, you almost want to drink it. Given Beaver’s size, there’s no “crowded feel” like one might find at popular lakes closer to Tulsa. Located just north of Eureka Springs, Table Rock Lake is another fine option. Here, there are similar activities available, such as fishing for bass or walleye or boat rentals and cruises.
For free-flowing river-time fun, why not float and fish along the 13-mile long White or 90-mile long Kings Rivers, where some of the nation’s largest trout have been hooked.
Cave “Spelunking” Expeditions
To create memories below the earth’s surface, why not go spelunking, or in layman’s terms, check out a nearby limestone cave or two during your stay? It’s cool underground, especially in the summer months. Subterranean wonders include bottomless lakes, rivers, unusual wildlife and magnificent rock formations. Both within 10 miles of Eureka Springs, there are guided tours at Cosmic Cavern, home to the Ozark’s Blind Cave salamander and underground lakes, and at Mystic Cavern, home to two separate caves known as the “twin caves” because they are only 400 feet apart.
A Year-round Wonder
There’s so much beauty in and around Eureka Springs, it is no wonder it’s been named one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. From day trips to lakes and parks to holiday events, you won’t be at a loss for family adventure—-almost any time of the year!
When I took the Eureka Springs plunge last month, I saw what all the fuss is about. On some levels, it has gained a questionable reputation by some critics for being a tourist trap due to its souvenir shops and such, but, in my estimation, the real attractions are the outdoor adventures.
When determining the best time to go, each season offers something unique. Recently, a visitor told the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce, “From the bursting of spring flowers, the lush greens of summer, the bountiful colors of fall to the wonderland of the holidays, this is Eureka Springs! A visit any time of the year is spectacular.” Why not see for yourself?
For more detailed information, see www.eurekasprings.org or www.eurekaspringskids.com.
Favorite Picks Along the Historic Loop:
The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa
75 Prospect Ave
Check out this historic hotel for its unique majesty as well as for a bite to eat on the veranda, which offers an outstanding view of the mountains. The spa is also a treat. Some say this place is haunted and ghost tours are offered for the curious-minded. It is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. Critics and guests don’t always give it the best reviews for overnight stays.
Local Flavor Café
71 S. Main Street
The focus here is fresh food. Serving creative and eclectic breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes, Local Flavor’s chef and owner focuses on fresh food. Depending on your preference, sophisticated yet quaint inside and street side dining are available. There’s also a rather extensive wine list for the sommelier in you!
The Heartstone Inn
35 Kings Highway
For a romantic retreat, this award-winning bed and breakfast inn is second to none. Fine hospitality is the inn keepers’ focus (luxurious linens and well-appointed rooms and suites are the norm) and delectable all-inclusive breakfasts are their specialty. Kids are not welcome here so the location offers an added sense of peace and tranquility.