I’ve stumbled into many of my favorite places with absolutely no idea what to expect. I am the queen of taking a recommendation, putting it in my trusty maps app and heading out on an adventure. I heard of Eureka Springs while looking for a fun way to kill time while I was a travel journalist’s conference in Branson, Missouri. This was my first time in the Midwest and I had the urge to see as much as possible in my little amount of time there. So there I was on a beautiful Thursday morning in the midwest with my coworker- running off a suggestion, a few hours to kill and being in close proximity to a state we’ve both never been to. It took one google image search full of cobblestone streets to convince us.
The drive into Arkansas is a culture shock for an Upstate New Yorker. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more mega churches, cows or curvier roads in my whole life. After a little motion sickness from possibly the most scenic but most turn-laden ride in existence, we arrived in Eureka Springs. The beginning of the town reminded me a little of something you would find in a New York mountain town but when we got to the heart of the destination I realized it had a flare and uniqueness all of its own. The first thing I noticed about Eureka Springs is that it’s a stairstep town with stairways functioning as named streets leading up to paved streets lined with gorgeous brick buildings and people strolling. The next thing I noticed is that the LGBT community is celebrated and supported as rainbow flags adorned many of the establishments. It was a breath of fresh air in the Midwest to see people of all sexual orientations and genders to be able to have no holds on who they are in this haven.
If you walk around you’ll find memorialized springs that were once claimed magic, healing people suffering from all sorts of ailments. Bath houses that once gave those an opportunity to experience the magic are still existing as luxury spas and places for those visiting to rest their head. Yet there is no shortage of healing still happening present day in this town- shops claiming to spiritually heal are plenty and alternatives to western medicine like CBD oil are sold throughout the town. If anything, the tranquility that Eureka Springs offers is healing in its own way and the spirit of the town will certainly lift yours.
There were so many places to eat in such a small town but having been so hungry my coworker and I picked a place at random and were really glad we did. The restaurant, Mud Street Annex, advertised all-day breakfast and donned a beautiful neon sign inside deeming itself the “home of Ozarka water.” We were captivated by every little decoration but what the waitress excitingly showed us when walking to our table stole the show. In the floor there was a window looking 20-feet below where a spring resided, a hidden gem just like the town itself. We had lunch with the spring in view and I was pretty content with an iced tea and gluten-free turkey melt in hand.
After lunch came more exploring and admiring architecture. During our wandering something that made my whole trip happened- I was admiring the music of an old man playing acoustic guitar with his pup and balloon animals in tow- when I went to tip him for the free entertainment, the sun came out and lit up the park. He exclaimed “this town really is magic” in response and in that moment I was very sold on that notion.
If you get the opportunity to visit this town, please do. It is an absolute gem full of locally owned businesses, adorable cafes and enough history to make your head explode. The whole town is like a giant art park, my favorite pieces included a memorial to a made-up goddess and a humpty-dumpty sitting on top of a wall on a hill. It was a great escape from the evangelical vibe of the Midwest, even with an artsy giant Jesus statue on an adjacent hill overlooking. My best advice is to talk to the locals, they really make the town and have the best facts to share, they’ll provide you with history you wouldn’t have known. Wander the streets, take in the music and take advantage of every photo opportunity. Next time I’m in the Midwest I plan to make a trip out of it and stay at their treehouse resort (yes, they have one of those awesome, right?) or spend the night in their haunted hotel that gives you a “ghost tracker” as a companion for your stay.
Arkansas isn’t all cows, mega churches and dirt roads. If you check this state off your travel bucket list, make sure to pay a visit to Eureka Springs- you’ll be glad that you did!
For more history, things to do and fun in Eureka Springs click here.