The many cold-water natural springs in Eureka Springs were once famed for their restorative properties. They've drawn people for centuries, and in the late 1800s, this scenic town in the Ozark Mountains became one of the state's popular resorts. Today, the springs are polluted and no longer used as a treatment, but so much of the town's 19th-century architecture remains that Eureka Springs is on the National Register of Historic Places.
It's very easy to spend several days in Eureka Springs. You can browse the work of the many artisans who live there (a large arts-and-craft district is downtown) and look at the elegant Victorian houses. Some of the hotels in town are also more than a century old, including the Crescent Hotel and the Palace Hotel and Bath House; both offer spa services that continue the town's tradition of providing rejuvenating treatments. To find out more about the town's colorful past, pay a visit to the Eureka Springs Historical Museum.
In addition to vintage buildings, there's a piece of contemporary architecture that should not be missed: E. Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel is in a forest on the western edge of town. The chapel's soaring glass walls seem to bring the forest inside, creating a truly inspiring place to pray or meditate. It's a very popular site for weddings.
Spiritual rejuvenation is a big topic in Eureka Springs, and a number of attractions with a Christian theme are found at the foot of the seven-story Christ of the Ozarks statue. The Great Passion Play is presented there several times a week late April-late October. The New Holy Land Tour is a type of living-history park that depicts Biblical sites (Moses' tabernacle in the wilderness, the stable where Jesus was born and others). There's also a Bible Museum, a Sacred Arts Center, even a segment of the Berlin Wall. With its springs, new-age shops and hippie heritage, the town also draws followers of alternative forms of spirituality, including paganism.
Other options include Quigley's Castle (a bizarre home in which just about every visible surface is covered with rocks, marbles or live plants), Eureka Springs Gardens (which surrounds Blue Spring, one of Arkansas' largest springs) and Onyx Cave. The Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway operates sightseeing and dinner excursions in vintage trains, though their run is a rather short 4 mi/7 km. Eureka Springs is also known for its very corny hillbilly revues: As long as you don't go expecting La Scala, you might have a good time . . . or not. The Original Ozark Folk Festival, which draws big-name national acts, is held in October.
West of Eureka Springs is Beaver Lake, a popular watersports playground. Northwest of the lake is Pea Ridge National Military Park, which commemorates the Civil War battle (March 1862) that kept Missouri part of the Union. Be sure to take the 7-mi/11-km drive through the park and spend time at the visitors center. Across the state line is country-music mecca Branson, Missouri. Eureka Springs is 140 mi/225 km northwest of Little Rock.
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