Located within the vast beauty of the Ozark Mountains rests Eureka Springs, Arkansas. This bed and breakfast covered city holds a unique charm yet maintains resort-style feel. From sprawling scenic views to an acute sense of fine arts, this is easily one of the most well kept hidden gems in America.
With spas aplenty and the mystique of healing waters, many come here as an escape-style vacation. Others are attracted by the oddities unique to the area, while others still come to marvel at architectural wonders. If you’re planning a trip to Eureka, here’s everything you need to know.
The city derives its name from a Native American legend, in which the springs found in the area have magical healing powers. Each spring was said to have the ability to cure different ailments. This myth was so popular amongst tribes that the land was considered sacred.
During the 1800s, a doctor by the name of Alvah Jackson believed he uncovered the location of this mystifying phenomenon when he washed his son’s afflicted eyes with the waters of Basin Springs. His belief in the healing powers of these Ozark springs was furthered during the Civil War when he used herbal remedies and spring water to heal soldiers.
Starting a City
Sometime later, the doctor introduced Judge L. B. Saunders to the springs where the judge would claim to have his inflamed leg healed by Basin Spring. That’s when the first house was ever built in what would later be known as Eureka Springs, Arkansas, owned by Saunders. From there, the city began to form rapidly.
Intrigued by the promise of healing waters, settlers began flocking in from all over to grab a plot of land near these mountain springs. In just one year’s time, the population went from 3 to a whopping 1,500. By 1882, its “healing waters” had garnered national attention, turning a once log cabin settlement into a thriving city with hotels and businesses.
As time went on, the city slowly developed into the modern wonder it is today. As for the healing spring, well, you’ll have to determine for yourself whether or not the legends are true.
Things to Do, Places to See
There is an abundance of sights, fine art, and storefronts to explore in the city. Since the town has such a rich history, there are plenty of historic locations to check out as well. Here are some of the top things to do in Eureka Springs.
One of the top draws this location has to offer is its beautiful scenery. With miles of trails leading through rolling hills and jutting rock formations, there’s no end to the outdoor adventure in the Ozarks. Plan ahead and bring your hiking gear.
Pro traveling tip: Head up the trail that leads from town into the mountains, then take the rock path behind the chapel it leads to. You’ll end up on a plateau that offers the best view for miles.
Eureka is home to dozens of local artists, featuring their works in galleries all over the city. Zarks Fine Design is one that garners a lot of attention in particular for its display of incredibly unique designs. The Quicksilver Gallery is another excellent option, showcasing works made from metal, wood, and clay.
Studio 62 offers a chance to meet the artists behind the work since they own it. This gallery is filled with fantastic watercolor and pastel paintings of some of the nation’s top sights. Last, but not least, make sure to stop in the Historical Museum to catch a glimpse of artwork from the past.
Christ of the Ozarks
This seven-story tall sculpture towers above the trees lining the mountainside. Created by one of the artists who worked on Mount Rushmore, it’s a marvel in and of itself. While it’s steel and concrete construction is impressive, the minimalist style artwork has given it the reputation of looking like a milk carton. So, when you hear a local talking about the “milk carton with arms,” now you’ll know what they mean.
Every town has something uniquely strange, and the Quigley home happens to be Eureka’s. Known as the Ozark’s strangest dwelling, this stone “castle” is an odd combination of interesting stone structures, glass bottles sculptures, and indoor trees. Who knows where these design ideas came from, but they’re worth checking out.
The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa
If you enjoy all things spooky and haunted, then the Crescent Hotel is right up your alley. Once a simple hotel, this building has seen multiple owners and several atrocities during its history.
From a young woman falling out of a top floor window during its time as a college for young women to a terrifying torturer under the guise of a doctor, there are dozens of real-life horror stories surrounding this historic building. Today, it is open to the public for frightfully fun ghost tours where tourists hope to catch a glimpse of spectral patients that suffered under Norman Baker’s malpractices.
Whether you’re religious or not, there’s no denying the architectural wonder that is Thorncrown Chapel. Built-in 1980 by E. Fay Jones, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, this structure is comprised almost entirely out of materials taken from the local wilderness, and looks like something out of J.R.R. Tolkien novel.
Jutting from the earth as if it were a part of the landscape, this glass-walled building is an impressive feat of construction. Its crisscrossed beams are unlike anything you’ve ever seen, but its true beauty is revealed once it is fully illuminated at night. Certainly worth seeing during your trip!
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
Have you ever seen a Siberian Tiger in person? If not, then this your chance to see one and other exotic cats who have been rescued and now make their home at Turpentine Creek. This organization works tirelessly to rescue tigers in the U.S. from deplorable conditions, then give them the care and respect they deserve. To get here, all you’ll have to do is travel south down Route 23.
Basin Spring Park
Step back in time and enjoy an 1800’s style part with a few modern touches at Basin Spring Park. Everything looks as if the clock has stood still, just waiting for you to get a taste of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, in all its glory. This is the home of the famous spring Dr. Alvah Jackson discovered, so you can even run your hands through the supposed healing waters. Results may vary.
Home of healing waters, it should come as no surprise that many travel here for a spa day beyond their wildest dreams. There are over a dozen spas in the area, all offering everything from facials to deep tissue massages. However, the main draw is their use of natural spring water in various treatments. That’s right; this is the only place on Earth that offers “magical healing” spa treatments.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of Eureka Springs Hotels to choose from in the area, most of which rest along North Main Street and the connecting highways. Even when keeping things budget friendly, you’ll never be too far from the city’s attractions.
For the ultimate hotel experience, skip Best Western and book a room at the Basin Park Hotel. Its classic charm can’t be beaten, and you’ll be located right next to the famous fountain. From there, you can walk pretty much anywhere as you shop, eat, and drink until your heart is content. You could also choose from a variety of Eureka Springs cabins if you prefer being a little closer to nature.
If you truly want to make this a trip to remember, then look into Eureka Springs Treehouses. These unique rental homes are perched on cedar logs up in the trees of the forest (but not too high up), giving you a serene view anytime you like. With a prime location in-between city and forest, you have the best of both worlds at your fingertips. Plus, who wouldn’t want to stay in a fully furnished treehouse?
Eureka Springs, Arkansas, has a ton of quirky and neat tidbits of information surrounding it. For instance, not a single one of its intersecting streets cross at right angles, and you won’t find a single stoplight in town. Here are few fun facts about this extraordinary escape.
- The famous neon sign hanging over Palace Bath House was the first neon sign to be installed west of the Mississippi River.
- Local folklore says that infamous robber Jesse James and his gang hid out in the caves by the springs after a major heist.
- The original Main Street lies one story underground from todays. It had been prone to runoff from the nearby creek, giving it the nickname Mud Street.
- Eureka Springs is the only city in America to have its entire historic downtown listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Thorncrown Chapel is considered the fourth most significant architectural structure in the U.S., trailing behind Sears Tower, The Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building.