10 Things to Do in Eureka Springs You Don’t Want to Miss
June 16, 2020
Eureka Springs offers such a diverse and unique array of experiences that it’s good to have a plan when you come for a visit. Here’s a primer with 10 can’t-miss activities, places and things to see and do. Our list barely scratches the surface of all the things you’ll find in our quirky corner of Arkansas, but it’ll get you started. See ya soon!
Get to Know Our Historic Downtown
Part traditional, part bohemian, all fun, Eureka Springs has the most unique downtown in the Ozarks. It’s the only city in America where the entire downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You’ll be struck by a funky mix of architecture that includes Victorian, Queen Anne, Romanesque and more. Visitors love to stroll along pleasantly sloping Main Street and stop into various unique shops (no big-box stores here, thank you!), vintage hotels, art galleries and restaurants. Make time to browse the Eureka Springs Historical Museum on the south end. Main Street packs a lot of fun into a little over a mile, and it’s the setting for more than a hundred annual events and festivals. As you tour Main, make sure to branch off onto side streets, where you’ll encounter more small businesses and leafy neighborhoods. A nice alternative to walking is a Eureka Springs Tram Tour, a leisurely ride through town that takes around 90 minutes and is narrated by a local guide. The trams depart from the Visitors Center just a short jog from the southern end of Main Street.
Big Cats and Critters
One of the largest and most reputable big cat rescue facilities in the country, 459-acre Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is a phenomenal place to bask in the majestic beauty of tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, bobcats and other wild species — but mostly tigers. The facility offers a half-mile guided tour where most of the big-cat habitats are located. Trolley tours are also available. You can take unguided walks around the open area of the park and see smaller animals, bears and a few big cats. Turpentine Creek focuses on providing diligent care and compassion for its animals. It offers places for you to stay, too, headlined by the renowned Treehouse (with panoramic views of the Arkansas landscape) just outside the gate, as well as cottages, cabins, RV and tent spaces. Turpentine Creek is just eight miles south of downtown Eureka Springs.
A Lovely Lake Cruise
Cruise crystal-clear Beaver Lake aboard this roomy pontoon boat. There’s a lot to see on this narrated, 12-mile trip that lasts about an hour and 15 minutes — 60 miles of scenic shoreline, a pristine wildlife sanctuary, an ancient Indian burial ground, submerged caverns and a 200-acre game-preserve island. You might even see creatures taking a dip in the cool waters. The Belle of the Ozarks runs daily from May to October. The boat launches from a spot 13 miles west of downtown.
A Religious Experience — And Then Some
One of the most famous landmarks in the entire Ozarks region, Christ of the Ozarks is a 65-foot modernist white statue of Jesus which can be seen from just about anywhere in Eureka Springs. The statue sits on the crest of an expansive slope of grass, ideal for strolling and contemplation. Also consider attending a performance of The Great Passion Play that takes place nearby. It depicts the story of Jesus, and takes place in a three-story amphitheatre. The play goes on three days a week, three times a day, from May through October, and lasts approximately an hour and 45 minutes.
Eat, Drink and Sightsee on a Vintage Train
Who doesn’t love a train ride? Take a trip back in time on the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway. You’ll board a 1940s-era diesel locomotive at the depot on the north end of Main Street. You can enjoy an Excursion Ride that lasts about an hour and travels roughly 4.5 miles. It’s narrated by the conductor and takes you through breathtaking Ozark scenery. Or you can step up and dine in luxury as you ride the rails and gaze out the windows of the Eurekan Dining Car. The lunch train boards at noon and takes about 90 minutes. The dinner train leaves at 5 p.m. and goes two hours. Both offer several entree selections, and you’ll dine on white tablecloths. Leave some time to view exhibits at the depot and browse the gift store.
Relax, Get Pampered, and Tend to Your Chakras
Eureka Springs is a very health-conscious community, a tradition that dates back to what first drew visitors here in the late 1800s: the healing powers of more than 60 natural springs. Today, we boast a robust wellness and spa scene, with more than a dozen businesses located in and around downtown that offer a wide array of treatments. You can go upscale and get pampered, or go the new age route and experience a wide array of healing therapies.
Our neck of the Natural State is filled with underground adventures. Cosmic Cavern, 20 miles east of downtown, is regarded as one of the Ozarks’ prettiest caves, with a bevy of otherworldly rock formations and two underground lakes. Onyx Cave Park, seven miles northeast of downtown, in another marvel (a radio guided tour takes about a half-hour). War Eagle Cavern, on Beaver Lake, offers a traditional cavern tour, and more adventurous folks can continue on to the Wild Cavern Tour, where you’ll put on a lamp helmet and twist, crawl and climb through nearly two miles of passages. For something a little different, check out the Downtown-N-Underground Tour, which takes 75 minutes and leaves from Basin Spring Park in the heart of downtown.
Get Your Art On
Our town of 2,000 residents has around 300 working artists, which means art lovers will definitely want to see Eureka Springs’ eclectic downtown galleries. The works on display cover the entire arts spectrum, and many highlight the talents of local and regional artists. The Eureka Springs Gallery Association holds 2nd Saturday Art Strolls from April through November, and provides an overview of galleries. And in keeping with our town’s quirky nature, we have plenty of public art on view, including a Humpty Dumpty sculpture (yes, he’s sitting on a wall), murals, crocheted trees, a rainbow stairway, and more.
Go Natural, Get Some Exercise
A visit to Eureka Springs would not be complete without experiencing our outdoor activities. You can kayak, paddleboard or swim in 32,000-acre Beaver Lake. Lake Leatherwood City Park, less than four miles from downtown, features more than 25 miles of hiking and biking trails. The Harmon Park Loop trail on the outer edge of downtown offers a leisurely 1.4-mile walk through shaded pathways. The Great Passion Play park has completed its first five-mile loop in what is planned to be more than 18 miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails. And don’t worry if you need gear — Eureka Springs has several outfitters that will rent you kayaks, paddleboards, bicycles and more.
Belly Up For a Brew
There will probably come a time during your Eureka Springs stay when you hanker for a pint. If so, we have you covered. Just three miles southeast of downtown, Eureka Springs Brewery sits on five pine-laden acres overlooking a beautiful valley. The place specializes in small-batch beers in many flavors, and includes a nine-hole disc golf course. ESB also offers 32-oz. growlers and howlers (half-growlers) to go. Downtown, there’s BREWS, which serves craft beers (with a dozen Arkansas brands on tap), coffee, and food, along with live music. A new entry opened recently as well: Gotahold Brewing, located on the northwestern edge of downtown.