A charming mix of Ozark Mountain town, Victorian Spa escape, and eclectic art community makes Eureka Springs a fun – and funky — getaway.
Our Favorite Getaway: Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Before we owned our RV, we would stay in the town’s historic hotels. However, our most recent visit found us traveling with family and enjoying the hospitality of the Eureka Springs KOA (open March 1- November 1).
Nestled in the Ozark forest, the KOA is located a few miles from town, so our ‘toad’ (aka my husband’s commuter car, a 2006 Sonata) joined us for the trip. Relaxation ruled in the campground where we would sit around the fire as the temperatures cooled beneath the conifer cover of the trees. Evening walks with the dogs often resulted in wildlife spotting – armadillos, raccoons, and opossum love to creep into campgrounds at night in search of tasty morsels dropped around campfires.
Our daily explorations exposed the diversity of this Ozark resort area.
The town, incorporated in 1880, was built around the healing nature of the hot springs, which gurgle through the town’s rocky terrain. Today the entire city is featured on the National Register of Historic Places. Walking through town you’ll find that little has changed since the town was built. Beautifully crafted buildings of limestone and native woods are built into cliff sides while stately Victorian homes sit atop the bluffs, overlooking all below.
Eureka Springs is best explored on foot. Bring good walking shoes because this is no regular town! Paved sidewalks, steep stairs between buildings, and even forested pathways lead you up and down the steep Ozark hills. These paths take you past the small parks built where springs gurgle forth, to brightly painted store fronts with large shop windows where eclectic displays drew us through the doors. My tip: take the shuttle to the Crescent Hotel which overlooks the town and let your explorations take you downhill.
The area surrounding Eureka Springs is just as eclectic as the town itself. The quirky Quigley’s Castle, built in 1943, was the dream home of Elise Quigley. Created with lumber from their own land and lovingly covered with stones and fossils Mrs. Quigley had collected for years, the house brings the outdoors in, with 4 feet of soil bordering the inside walls of the house creating the feeling of living in a greenhouse.
Even if you’re not religious, Christ of the Ozarks, the second largest Christ statue in the world, is worth seeing. Standing next to the 7 story statue makes one feel very small. Not far away is a small church and a piece of the Berlin Wall, as well as a Bible Museum and a Sacred Arts Museum.
During our visit to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, an exotic cat rescue, we not only saw these majestic felines, but we also learned that there are both RV camping and safari lodges available. (I think I know where we will be staying during our next visit to Eureka Springs!)
One afternoon we kicked our adrenaline up to high with Ozark Mountain Ziplines. The 10 zip lines were perfect for the beginners in our group, starting low and short, and gradually climbing higher and stretching longer – until we were soaring over 200 feet in the air, kicking the tops of the tallest trees with our toes as we flew nearly a quarter mile across the Ozark valleys! What a rush!
The next afternoon the ladies left the men with childcare duty and spent an afternoon at the Bath House Spa at the Palace Hotel. The only remaining bath house original to the city, we ‘took the waters’ in large claw foot bathtubs before a steam in a wood barrel followed by a mud facial and an incredible massage. So relaxing…
While we ate most meals at the campground – one of the best benefits of RVing, in my opinion- our family getaway made it possible for each couple to have a date night. My sister and brother-in-law took our advice from previous trips and ate at Ermelio’s. Located in the upper Historic Loop amidst the Victorian B&Bs, this restaurant is perfect for a romantic dinner a deux or a family meal.
Doug and I used our date night to the fullest, beginning at The Stone House, where we enjoyed sampling wines with our beautiful plate of bread, cheese and fruit. The lights were dim, the chairs comfortable, and the plate filling. We could have stayed all night.
But we had heard great things about Fresh, a farm to table restaurant, located just a few doors down. A quick cloudburst had cleared the patio, so we had a bit of a wait for our table as outdoor reservations were moved indoors. The staff offered to fetch drinks and brought out tasty nibbles as we waited. The waiting area took on the feeling of a cocktail party and people mingled together, exchanging stories of their stay. Our meal, when we were seated, was delicious, proving the hype we heard was not misplaced.
Each visit we make to Eureka Springs reveals a new side of the town. Free spirits, artists, and the religious co-exist here in an amused harmony – one that we love to pop in to as often as we can.
Have your travels ever taken you through Eureka Springs? What was the highlight of your visit?