Eureka Springs doesn’t market itself as a family destination, but don’t let that keep your family from exploring this quaint and historic town.
Eureka Springs Has Been Drawing Visitors for Centuries
Native American tribes believed the natural cold springs could cure a variety of ailments. In the Victorian era health seekers came to “take the waters”, and built a marvelous Victorian paradise in the Ozark hills. The town doesn’t appear much changed from that time; Eureka Springs has strict building codes in place to keep the downtown area authentic. Beautiful limestone shops and restaurants are built into the cliffs while stately Victorian homes rise above the tree tops. Paint colors are bright and shop windows display a wide variety of art, jewelry and clothing, drawing you through their doors.
There are 63 springs within the city limits of Eureka Springs, though many are hidden. A walk along Spring Street will take you past a few that seem to rise from below the cliffs, beckoning you to stop and take a minute to reflect or pray. At many you will see small offerings, left in thanks or prayer.
Exploring Eureka Springs
The best way to see the historic downtown are of Eureka Springs is on foot- but be sure to bring good walking shoes! Eureka Springs was built in the Ozark hills- and you’ll be walking up and down quite a few of them! Often you’ll follow steep stairs between buildings, or a dauntingly long walk up a narrow sidewalk. Some stairs will lead you to a magical space in between the bustling downtown and the regal Victorian homes further up the hill. Here you can almost imagine the spirits the Native Americans believed enchanted the waters.
Things to See Around Eureka Springs
Eureka Springs has drawn many types of people; free spirits, artists and the religious coexist in an amused harmony. Eureka Springs has something that will appeal to everyone in your family.
Interested in medieval history and castles? Drive about an hour east and explore the Ozark Medieval Fortress– a castle being built using 12th century tools and techniques. (Updated: this site has closed. It may appear as castle ruins now…)
Train enthusiasts will love the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway. See an operating 1940’s diesel locomotive, authentic turntable, and extensive collection of memorabilia or take a ride through the beautiful Ozark hills pulled by a steam engine.
Architects will be entranced by the buildings, the entire downtown area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Be sure to take a drive to Thorncrown Chapel designed by E. Fay Jones, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. Another interesting, though quirky, building is Quigley’s Castle- also known as “The Ozark’s Strangest Dwelling”. Here you’ll see how one woman followed her passion and brought the outdoors indoors.
Animal lovers will adore a visit to the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, a “life home” for big cats, with an emphasis on education. The 459 acre sanctuary is home to lions, tigers, leopards and cougars. If time is limited be sure to plan a late afternoon visit, you don’t want to miss “feeding time”.
Eureka Springs has the dubious honor of being the 12th most haunted place in the world. The 1886 Crescent Hotel was the setting for a second season Ghost Hunters episode, and conducts its own ghost tours nightly. (If ghosts aren’t your thing, but good food is, the Sunday Brunch in the Crystal dining Room is worth hiking up the steep hill for!)
The second largest Christ statue in the world stands just outside Eureka Springs. At seven stories tall the statue can be seen from the upper most balcony of the Crescent Hotel; standing beside it makes one feel very small indeed. Just up the hill from Christ of the Ozarks is a small church, outside of which stands a large piece of the Berlin Wall. The Great Passion Play is performed nearby and many religious relics and re-creations can also be seen.
Sleeping and Dining in Eureka Springs
Because Eureka Springs has always been a resort destination there are dozens of option for lodging and eating in Eureka Springs.
When it comes to dining you have luxurious dining to pub grub- and everything in between.
If cost is no object the Grand Taverne Restaurant and Lounge is fine dining. This is the place for a romantic candle lit dinner- though they do accommodate children, too.
The Squid & Whale is a pub built into the side of a cliff. You’ll want to come early if you bring the kids as it is a bar; they will love the pirate motif and the cliff walls.
Rogue’s Manor at Sweet Spring is a lovely Italian restaurant in a sweet Victorian house. The extensive wine list makes it a favorite. You can also stay at Rogue’s Manor- though I would recommend this as adults only.
For a casual, family friendly Italian restaurant visit Ermilio’s. You pick your pasta and made from scratch sauces. The fresh roasted garlic is incredible and be sure to save room for the Italian Cream Cake.
If you’re looking for quick snacks stop in Peace Love & Cheesecake or Two Dumb Dames Fudge Factory.
Have you visited Eureka Springs? Do you have a question about Eureka Springs? Be sure to leave a comment!