8 Reasons to Love Eureka Springs
A few weeks ago, the Eureka Springs Co-op reached out wanting to know if I would like to visit, in exchange for writing about the experience. As I had never been to Eureka Springs before–but have heard nothing but good things the city–I said, “Of course!” My mom and stepdad, Dana and Jim DeKalb, accompanied Joss and I on our July 13-14 visit.
After one and a half days packed full of fun, here are some things we love about Eureka Springs:
1. Non-stop Art Hunt
Walking around Eureka Springs is like a never-ending scavenger hunt, as there are art installations everywhere you go! We were told in particular to look out for the Rainbow Stairs and Humpty Dumpty, who is perched upon a tall stone wall overlooking one of the primary streets in downtown Eureka Springs.
Both of these were located practically next door to our hotel–the historic Basin Park Hotel–so we found them within our first few minutes of arrival!
But beyond these two installations, there are creative installations all over town, from instrument chandeliers to rainbow-colored bicycles. I’m sure that, no matter how many times we visit, we would always discover something new.
2. Charming Public Transportation
Eureka Springs has an excellent transit system with four different trolley lines, which makes getting around a lot easier, even if you may end up waiting a few minutes here and there for the next arrival. (We primarily took the yellow line, which ran about every 30 minutes).
Not surprisingly, Joss loved the trolleys! I recommend using the transit system because there is a lot of foot traffic around downtown Eureka Springs, and lots of twisty-turny, unmarked roads, which could make navigation difficult. The adult day pass is just $6, so it’s pretty affordable.
We got slightly lost driving from the hotel to the hotel parking lot, which was less than half a mile away, because we never saw a sign marking “Mountain Road”!
One word of caution: Make sure you check the trolley schedules if you take any evening outings! We took the trolley to dinner on Saturday, not realizing that the final trolley of the night would be returning about an hour after we were dropped off, which made for a rushed meal!
3. (Haunted) Historic Accommodations
Basin Park Hotel originally opened on May 5, 1905, and is ideally situated for those wishing to browse downtown Eureka Springs. We felt like we were smack dab in the middle of the best of everything, with a wide variety of dining and shopping opportunities just outside the hotel’s front door.
Another thing we loved about the hotel is that it felt very authentic. It is a historic hotel, and felt both historic and unique–not like a hotel you could find just anywhere. Joss loved visiting the 2nd floor bathrooms, which featured an old-timey chain pull flusher (not pictured 😉 .
I love the hardware on the doors and the old wallpaper. The bathroom of our 2-bedroom suite featured a large jacuzzi bath, which was another fun highlight for Joss. After clicking around on the website, I think our room would have cost around $140 for a night, but there are non-suite and several other options as well.
In addition to comfortable rooms, Basin Park Hotel has a spa and restaurant/bar, where we had lunch on Saturday and a delicious continental breakfast (more on food later). And, although we didn’t take advantage of this, there are ghost tours available at the hotel! I really wish I knew what the hotel’s ghost stories were–but maybe I slept better for not knowing!
Another historic Eureka Springs hotel is the Crescent Hotel, notable as “America’s Most Haunted Hotel.” We didn’t see this on our visit, although I wanted to because a friend of mine’s great-grandfather was the hotel architect! And it is absolutely gorgeous (and super haunted, apparently, so next time I’d love to stay here at least one night!)
4. Eclectic Shopping
I wish we’d had more time to just shop around downtown Eureka Springs, as that kind of slow-paced exploration is more my jam than constant activity. We did walk around Saturday evening before dinner, stopping in a retro toy store (where Joss got a plastic bear thing-a-ma-bob for 25 cents, his main souvenir from the trip!) and a bulk candy-and-nuts shop, which, if we had more time, I would have loved browsing and purchasing from.
5. Family Friendly Attractions
We had three must-see attractions on our Eureka Springs itinerary, to which the businesses were kind enough to grant us free admission passes: Christ of the Ozarks and The Great Passion Play; Turtle Back Ridge Family Fun Park; and Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. I’m going to write a separate post about Christ of the Ozarks and Turpentine Creek because I have so many pictures, and we took in a lot of information.
Turtle Back Ridge Family Fun Park is, I believe, recently under new ownership. This is why we missed our trolley stop: the sign out front hadn’t been changed and listed a different name.
Activities at Turtle Back Ridge include mini-golf, go-karts, batting cages and an arcade area. We played a round of non-competitive mini-golf, with Joss “helping” each of us move our golf balls closer to the hole as he deemed necessary.
There were two different mini-golf courses, one harder than the other. We opted for the easy course, which was plenty challenging for Joss–but made me nervous because a couple of the holes were pretty close to the road. Close enough that we skipped those because there wasn’t a fence–just open access to a busy street, eeks!! They’re still doing renovations, so I don’t know if there are any plans to change this, but if we did it over again, I’d choose to do the harder course–since none of us were playing to win, anyway.
The arcade area was small–but personally, I’ll take a small, quiet arcade over a loud, labyrinthine one any day. It’s not really my scene, and at least I didn’t have to worry about losing Joss down some blacklit passageway. Plus, it has skee-ball, which is really all you need in an arcade, right?!
One final note: They sold gatorade, water, and snack items. The gatorade was particularly appreciated after our hot walk from the trolley stop.
Other area attractions include Thorncrown Chapel, which we did visit Sunday morning; Onyx Cave; the Eureka Springs Music Park; Quigley’s Castle (Ozark’s Strangest Dwelling!); Lake Leatherwood City Park and much more.
6. Fabulous Food
A difficult thing about weekend roadtripping is that you can only eat so much! Eureka Springs had a plethora of restaurants, but we mostly stuck to the ones we had vouchers for, which helped when it came to decision-making. It’s hard enough to decide where to eat when you know all the options available!
Our first meal was at Basin Park Hotel. They have a lovely balcony restaurant overlooking downtown, and the food was excellent. We couldn’t resist ordering Fried Huckleberry Pie with Huckleberry Ice Cream for dessert–I’m not sure I’d eaten anything huckleberry-flavored before!
Dinner was at Sparky’s Roadhouse Cafe, a casual diner with a large covered back porch area that we would have loved to have spent more time at, if we’d planned around the trolley schedule better! In addition to the usual kids menus + crayons, they had a bin of toys that kids could dig into and borrow from to distract themselves while waiting for food.
As a coffee lover, one of my favorite things to explore in a new city is the local coffee culture. There were several cafes within eyesight of our hotel, but we had to walk a couple blocks down to Mud Street Cafe, as it had been highly recommended by a friend.
I put aside my coffee-snob hat (well, I used to have one but to be honest, it’s a little dusty) and ordered a mocha made with Ghiradelli Chocolate, so I can’t really comment on the quality of their coffee beans. But that mocha was delicious, and mom and Jim both ordered drip coffee and enjoyed it. The star of our visit, however, was the fresh-out-of-the-oven peach-raspberry muffin. I only tried one bite, but if anyone could get me a true copycat recipe…just name your price because it was delicious!!
The cafe itself is located down a steep staircase (lined with various awards Mud Street has won), and it is so cozy–there’s a couch + games corner, bar, etc. If we go back, I’d definitely return to Mud Street both for an outrageous coffee beverage and a full meal.
7. Friendly Locals
My mom commented several times on how helpful and friendly everyone in Eureka Springs was. From the front desk clerk at the hotel, who let us borrow space in their employee fridge while waiting for check-in time after lunch, to the waitress at Sparky’s who made sure we knew about their bin of toys, to the security officer at the Great Passion Play who ended up giving us a guided, golf-cart tour of the campus–saving us a long walk and giving us a more in-depth understanding of what we were seeing. We felt very welcome during our entire stay.
8. Cycling and Scenery
Yes, these could be listed separately, but I enjoy alliteration, and they are related: Eureka Springs, due to its location in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, enjoys a robust cycling scene, with miles of mountain biking trails–and even hosts the popular Fat Tire Festival each year, which, to our delight, was happening during our visit!
Sunday’s Fat Tire route left right outside our hotel, and it was fun to see several familiar Tulsa faces!
There are about 19 miles of mountain biking trails on the Christ of the Ozarks property, mostly funded by one of the Walton relatives, who is an avid mountain biker. I am not, as I tend to get scared by all the rocks waiting to dig into my flesh after I fly off the handlebars; however, mountain biking can be very empowering, too, so I’d love to explore some of the trails someday. My husband definitely would!
One of the views at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge–wish I’d gotten some better photos of the mountains, but take my word for it that Eureka’s scenery is stunning!
What are some of your favorite things to do and places to eat in Eureka? Let me know in the comments so we can start planning our next visit! 😉