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Tank Trip: What to do in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa offers great views of Eureka Springs and its surroundings, especially during fall. Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism

Perched on an Ozark mountainside and flowing with mineral-rich waters, Eureka Springs once attracted visitors for the suspected healing powers of its springs. But this northwest Arkansas gem continues to rejuvenate in other ways. The eclectic Victorian town hums with a vibrant arts scene, historic hotels, outdoor adventures, and frequent festivities.

What to do

Located not far from the Missouri border, Eureka Springs beguiles a variety of tourists, from artists capturing the area’s natural beauty to motorcyclists who love to weave through curvy mountain roads.

For an overview of this historic town that dates to 1879, take a narrated tour via tram or golf cart to get insight into the town’s early years and elaborate Victorian architecture. Because of its well-preserved character, the Eureka Springs Historic District that encompasses much of downtown was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

Lights glow throughout Thorncrown Chapel.

Designed by renowned architect E. Fay Jones, Thorncrown Chapel awes visitors with its soaring wooded trusses and 425 windows. Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism

It’s easy to see why an Arkansas teacher chose to live in an Ozark forest just outside town after retiring. The woodsy mountainside was so breathtaking, people would often pause at Jim Reed’s property simply to enjoy the landscape.

Reed decided to share his little slice of heaven, employing renowned architect E. Fay Jones to build the simple but stunning Thorncrown Chapel in 1980. Today you can visit the chapel, whose award-winning design of glass, wood, and stone blends nicely into its natural setting. Free; donations are accepted.

Bicyclists riding over a bridge in Lake Leatherwood City Park.

Bicyclists will find scores of scenic trails around Eureka Springs, including at Lake Leatherwood City Park. Photo courtesy Rightmind Advertising/G6M Productions

Wilderness and wildlife lovers have much to swoon over in Eureka Springs. Two zip-line courses careen through the treetops, and scores of mountain-biking trails can be found in the region, including more than 25 miles of paths at Lake Leatherwood City Park. Several outfitters can put you on the water with kayaks or stand-up paddleboards at nearby lakes and rivers. And don’t miss Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, where you can see rescued tigers, lions, and other big cats. Adults, $32.

A tiger and white tiger laying side by side at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

On tours of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, encounter lions, tigers, cougars, bears, and other rescued animals. Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism

There’s almost always a party in Eureka Springs, from car shows and motorcycle rallies to the Original Ozark Folk Festival, which marks its 76th iteration November 9–11 with music and crafts. Eureka Springs hosts Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day parades, a spring Diversity Weekend, a Blues Party in June, and cemetery tours in October. Thousands of lights illuminate downtown during the holidays, and the Christmas Parade of Lights (December 1 this year) heralds the season.

You may also like: Celebrate 100 years of Arkansas State Parks

Where to shop

View down a street in Eureka Springs.

An array of boutiques, art galleries, and antique shops line the winding mountain streets of Eureka Springs. Photo by Serhii Chrucky/Alamy Stock Photo

New-age store Crystal Waters offers positive energy as well as a wide selection of stones and jewelry. Hats, Hides & Heirlooms haberdashery covers heads with style. And Iris at the Basin Park features crafts, jewelry, and artwork from about 150 local artists.

You may also like: Why mountain bikers, art lovers, and foodies are visiting Bentonville, Arkansas

Where to eat

Brushing sauce onto meat being grilled.

Choosing between the grilled shrimp, cedar-plank salmon, and smoked prime short rib is not easy at Grotto Wood-Fired Grill & Wine Cave. Photo courtesy Grotto Wood-Fired Grill & Wine Cave

Toast your trip and admire local art at Keels Creek Winery & Art Gallery. For fresh craft beer, Eureka Springs Brewery and Gotahold Brewing serve up artisanal brews, bites, and live music. Dine on grilled classics like cedar-plank salmon at Grotto Wood-Fired Grill & Wine Cave, where an active natural spring flows inside the historic stone building.

You may also like: How to experience the Buffalo National River

Where to stay

Aerial view of the exterior of Basin Park Hotel.

Set in the heart of downtown, Basin Park Hotel dates to 1905 and brims with vintage charms. Photo courtesy Rightmind Advertising/G6M Productions

On a hill above town, the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa features a spa and the outdoor Frisco Sporting Club, with games like  bocce and hatchet-throwing. Rates start at $200, plus a $15 daily resort fee; AAA discount available. At the 1905 Basin Park Hotel, sip whiskey in a former speakeasy and dine on the balcony overlooking downtown. Rates start at $179, plus a $15 daily resort fee; AAA discount available.

Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.

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