Nestled in the heart of the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas waits Eureka Springs. The town offers the small-town charms you might expect from a city with just more than 2,100 residents: Victorian shops and homes, plenty of hiking and nature opportunities, treehouses, and the entire downtown area listed on the National Register of Historic Places. What you might not expect are award-winning dining, arts, and entertainment venues on par with much larger cities.
1. Downtown Shoppers Delight In Unique Finds
In addition to blocks of distinctive boutiques, you’ll find numerous art galleries in this artist’s retreat. Artists work in their studios and sell their pieces to the public.
Stroll along Main Street in Downtown Eureka Springs to discover the variety of shops, take a carriage ride, or take a Downtown Walking Tour such as the Underground Eureka Walking Tour for a backstage pass secret tour. Then walk along the award-winning Spring Street to visit more boutiques, art galleries, and dining.
2. Explore The City By Tram
One way to dive into the local lore and architecture is with a Tram Tour. Hop on the tram for a 90-minute ride during which local guides narrate the journey. Discover the heart of Eureka Springs’ downtown area, Victorian homes, the Crescent Hotel, plus one of several springs after which the town is named, the Grotto Spring. Tours depart at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. from the Park and Ride/Visitors Center.
3. Amazing Outdoor Adventures
No matter your interest, there’s something for visitors of every fitness level. Kings River, White River, and Beaver Lake offer water sports and fishing; mountain bikers will enjoy access to the Oz Trails system of Northwest Arkansas, which offers experiences for riders of every level.
Enjoy hiking, fishing, and bird-watching at Lake Leatherwood City Park. With 1,610 acres including an 85-acre spring-fed lake, the cool springs and 25 miles of trails offer a chance to spend time outdoors while exploring historic stone walls and bridges, plus unusual rock formations. With more than 120 different bird species — including heron, bald eagles, and wild turkey — bird-watchers have a chance to see wildlife in its home.
If you’re really adventurous, Ozark Mountain Ziplines takes you on a zipline canopy tour in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. Soar up to 300 feet in the air along 2,000 feet of cable to view the limestone cliffs and hardwood trees on 10 cables and one swinging bridge.
4. The Springs Of Eureka Springs
Visit some of the natural springs for which the city is named. There are dozens of springs that flow in locations throughout town. Some that you won’t want to miss: Harding Spring, Sweet Spring, Grotto Spring, and Crescent Spring.
Harding Spring has been considered to have healing powers and was the location of a supposed healing of a blind woman’s sight. Another well-known spring is Magnetic Spring with its rumored ability to magnetize metals dipped into its waters. The setting for Sweet Spring is lovely, and it’s located at the bottom of a spiral staircase. Grotto Spring contains a candle that burns perpetually inside. And Crescent Spring was named for the crescent-shaped outcropping behind it.
To visit these and other natural springs, follow this trail.
5. Spend An Evening With A World-Class Illusionist
Intrigue Theater is located inside a 100-plus-year-old building on the historic loop where a world-class illusionist and a medium amaze visitors in an intimate setting.
6. Thorncrown Chapel
Visit one of the most beautiful chapels in the world at Thorncrown Chapel. The chapel rises 48 feet, contains 425 windows, has more than 6,000 square feet of glass, and rests atop more than 100 tons of native stone and colored flagstone. It’s considered “one of the finest religious spaces of modern times.” Designed by renowned architect E. Fay Jones and constructed in 1980, the chapel has won numerous architectural awards.
7. Visit The Eureka Springs Historical Museum
After visiting the natural springs and experiencing their beauty, tour the Eureka Springs Historical Museum to learn more about the springs and the cultural history of the city. The non-profit museum collects, preserves, documents, and exhibits objects to educate scholars, students, and the public about local historical aspects.
The museum is housed in a three-story home built in 1889 by Samuel L. Calif and reflects the architectural style of the late Victorian era.
8. Tour A Show Cave
The oldest show cave in Arkansas, Onyx Cave, was discovered in 1891. Pan for semi-precious gems on the outdoor deck. Enter the cave wearing a pair of radio headphones that will provide information on a self-guided tour. The cave remains 57 degrees year-round and has underground formations of flowstone, also called cave onyx.
9. Catch A Festival Or Show
The Eureka Springs City Auditorium, built in 1928, is an entertainment venue that has featured bands such as Little Feat and Richie Havens, Opera of the Ozarks, and comedians such as The Smothers Brothers. In addition, the auditorium is used for the city’s many festivals.
For comedy, gospel, and country music, visit the Ozark Mountain Hoe-Down Music Theater. Their entertainers have performed around the U.S. and worked with some of the biggest stars in country music.
Or take in The Great Passion Play, an outdoor theater production. The outdoor amphitheater hosts the drama of Jesus Christ’s last days on earth. Before the play, see the Christ of the Ozarks Statue, take the Holy Land Tour, and see a section of the Berlin Wall, the Church in the Grove, the Bible Museum, the History Museum, Noah’s Ark Park Petting Zoo, and the Sacred Arts Museum. Plus, the hiking and mountain bike trails are open year-round.
10. Take A Cavern Tour At War Eagle Cavern
War Eagle Cavern, located at Beaver Lake, has the largest cavern entrance in Arkansas. Tour the cavern, then hike the nature trails along the shore of Beaver Lake, pan for more than 20 different types of gemstones at the War Eagle Mining Company, explore the Lost in the Woods Maze, and experience gravity gone wrong at the Moonshiners’ Mystery Shack. Cavern tours are available daily.
11. See The Big Cats
With nearly 100 exotic cats, lions, tigers, and bears, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is the largest cat sanctuary in North America. Tour the park and learn about this non-profit organization’s mission to provide lifetime refuge for abandoned, abused, and neglected big cats with an emphasis on tigers, lions, leopards, and cougars. Spend the night in one of their treehouses, cabins, or camping spots.
12. Award-Winning Restaurants
No matter your craving, Eureka Springs has everything, from Southern food to fine dining, ethnic cuisines such as award-winning Czech-German dishes, authentic Italian cuisine, and spicy Indian fare.
Bavarian Inn Restaurant is one of the most award-winning restaurants in Northwest Arkansas and features traditional Czech-German foods. Favorites include the Bavarian Plate — a large home-style bratwurst, slices of smoked pork, and sauerkraut, served with potato salad; the Goulash Esterhazie — chunks of beef simmered in a rich brown sauce and seasoned with Hungarian paprika; the Apple Strudel — a paper-thin crust wrapped around warm apples; and the German Chocolate Cake. The Sauerkraut Soup is so popular they make it fresh each day.
Or dine in the dining car as a 1940s-era train travels through the countryside. Take the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway dinner train and spend about two hours traveling four-and-a-half miles while dining. For under $50, you’ll choose from a chicken breast baked in a white cream sauce, prime rib, a trout almondine, chicken primavera, or vegetarian primavera. All of the entrees are accompanied by soup and salad, rolls, rice pilaf, mixed vegetables with hollandaise, and a Flaming Baked Alaska. Wine and champagne are available to purchase. The price includes train fare and your meal. Or take the lunch train for under $30 or an excursion train without a meal for under $20.
13. Stay In A Haunted Hotel
Sitting on an Ozark mountaintop is the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel. Choose from upscale suites, 72 guest rooms, or four cabin-like treehouse cottages. Take in the grand vistas from the fourth-floor observation terrace, soak in the hot tub or swim in the pool, then enjoy a treatment at the spa.
Opened in 1886, the hotel is supposedly haunted and has been featured on Ghost Hunters and other paranormal shows. Take one of the nightly ghost tours to learn the stories behind the ghost sightings.
Pro Tip: You don’t have to stay at The 1886 Crescent Hotel to take a Ghost Tour. Tours are offered nightly at what’s called America’s Most Haunted Hotel and begin at 8 p.m. Hear ghost stories that have been reported, tour the most active areas, and end at the morgue, where many sightings have taken place.
If planning a road trip to Eureka Springs, follow along on our Ozark Mountains road trip: Osage Beach to Eureka Springs.