History of Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs has been designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America’s “Dozen Distinctive Destinations”. The entire downtown area has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Eureka Springs is also noted as one of the “Top Twenty-Five Art Destinations” from American Style Magazine.
Eureka Springs is the site of over sixty natural springs in north-west Arkansas. This town was founded on the healing benefits of its spring waters. Native Americans used these springs for hundreds of years. In the late 1880’s, the area became known for the spring waters healing properties. This water was soon bottled and sold throughout the United States. The population boom for this area started at that time and grew to a population of about 20,000.
An arts school and an artist colony began in the 1930’s and continue to influence this area today. There are over 25 art galleries in town with over 200 working artists living here. The May Festival of the Arts celebrates this art heritage every spring. The much anticipated new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opens on 11-11-2011 and is located forty miles nearby in Bentonville.
It is also a town of romance with many people traveling across the country for marriage ceremonies in the historic churches, chapels and hotels and then honeymooning here. Eureka Springs has the largest collection of Victorian architecture homes and buildings in the central United States. These houses with ornate “gingerbread” decorations and pastel colors are authentically preserved and reminders of life over 100 years ago in this small town. One nickname of the town is ‘Little Switzerland’ in honor of the curvy business and residential streets built on the sides of the Ozark Mountains.
Many cultural events take place in this area. The # 1 attended outdoor drama in the United States, ‘The New Great Passion Play’, is located here. Opera in the Ozarks launched its first season in 1950 and continues each summer.
This was chosen as a sample of yesteryear transportation to recreate this mode of travel in early Eureka Springs. Many different routes are offered throughout the year. Visitors can park their car and ride the trolley to shops, art galleries and lodging throughout the town.
These are some of the favorite activities for visitors to enjoy when visiting Eureka Springs.
The Great Passion Play is a must see production for all visitors and has been performed each summer since 1968. Over seven million people have attended a performance with a cast of over 200 actors and animals. On site is the 7 story Christ of the Ozarks statue, a Bible Museum and many other exhibits, and a Dinner Theater.
Thorncrown Chapel was voted one of the 10 churches of beauty in the world on MSNBC’s list for 2011. This lovely glass chapel in the Ozark woods was the only church from the United States on this list.
Blue Spring Heritage Center has a native woodland garden and is also a National Register Site.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is home to over 100 exotic large cats with rescued lions, tigers and cougars living here. Other animals calling it home include smaller cats, bears, monkeys, birds and small mammals.
The White Street Studio Walk is held annually on the third Friday of May. This art walk attracts thousands of visitors who tour private artist home studios to view new artwork each year.
Visitors enjoy touring the art galleries to admire the many pieces of art including paintings, jewelry, pottery, blown glass art, photography, etc. Almost any art medium can be found in an area gallery.
The Surrounding Scenery
The Ozark Mountains are the backdrop for Eureka Springs, Arkansas. There are vistas, scenic overlooks, lakes and crystal clear streams nearby. Beaver Lake is a popular boating and fishing destination. TableRock Lake, north of Eureka Springs, is also popular for fishing and all water sports.
Underground caverns are plentiful to explore. Cosmic Cavern is located north of Berryville. Onyx Cave and War Eagle Cavern are also nearby.
Historic Hotels and Other Lodging
The Crescent Hotel is a charming historic hotel built in 1886 on the historical loop and overlooks the town. The evening ghost tour there is a very popular tour. The Basin Park Hotel built in 1905 is another historic hotel located downtown. These hotels and the historic Palace Hotel and Bath House Spa offer many spa services.
There are many Bed and Breakfasts located in Victorian homes throughout the town. Treehouse cottages are popular lodging sites. Nearby Holiday Island is a source of rental houses and condos for visitors on TableRock Lake with wonderful views of the lake and nearby Ozark Mountains. The major hotel chains are also present in this resort town.
Favorite dining places for our family include Ermilio’s for Italian food, Sparky’s for casual dining, Bubba’s for barbeque, Mud Street Cafe for breakfast, Local Flavor Cafe and The Garden Bistro. For the best view while dining, take an elevator to the top of the Crescent Hotel to Dr Baker’s Lounge and Recovery Deck for an outstanding view of the Ozark Mountains and one of the best views in town of the Christ of the Ozarks statue.
An Invitation to Visit Eureka Springs
This is one of my favorite vacation towns in the middle United States. Visitors of all ages can find many attractions and activities nearby to enjoy. The beautiful outdoor scenery of lakes, Ozark Mountain views and the opportunity to visit world class art galleries and attractions are the reasons we continue to return each year. I invite you to visit this area and hope that it will become a favorite place for you to enjoy as well!
Disclosure: This author has no business or financial interests in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Slideshow of the Victorian Homes in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, by Mike Oberg:
Personal visits to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, over many years
See more detailed article links about my favorite places to visit in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, below.