NOT SURE IF EUREKA SPRINGS, ARKANSAS IS WORTH VISITING?
Nestled in the heart of the Ozarks, Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a quirky town that offers visitors a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.
With its Victorian architecture, lively downtown district, and abundance of outdoor activities, Eureka Springs is a good option for anyone looking to escape for a weekend getaway.
Together we’ll explore some of the top reasons why Eureka Springs should be on your travel bucket list and my honest opinion of why it leaves a little to be desired. So get ready to discover if Eureka Springs is the right destination for you!
Is Eureka Springs Worth Visiting?
My candid response to this question would be, “It depends”. Is there a sufficient variety of activities and attractions to make it worthwhile for a mini vacation? Absolutely! Did my husband and I greatly enjoy the time we spent together in Eureka Springs? Yes! Was it one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited? Not quite.
Eureka Springs sadly did not live up to its nickname “Little Switzerland of America” – it was a bit too touristy for my personal taste (shops filled with tie-dye and fake antiques) – but that’s not to say you still can’t enjoy a trip here. The town has a ton of personality and truly caters to the tourist.
Plus, you can find some amazing eats (see my recommendations below), visit artsy shops, and explore popular attractions that you can’t find anywhere else. Eureka Springs is definitely worth visiting at least once!
Road Trip Ideas: Driving Distances and Times
- Kansas City, MO to Eureka Springs – 230 miles and 3 hours 45 minute drive time
- Little Rock, AR to Eureka Springs – 197 miles and 3 hours 20 minute drive time
- Memphis, TN to Eureka Springs – 272 miles and 5-hour drive time
- Oklahoma City, OK to Eureka Springs – 252 miles and 4-hour drive time
- Springfield, MO to Eureka Springs – 87 miles and 1 hour 50 minute drive time
- St. Louis, MO to Eureka Springs – 296 miles and 4 hours 40 minute drive time
- Tulsa, OK to Eureka Springs – 148 miles and 2 hours 40 minute drive time
Best Things to Do in Eureka Springs
1. Explore Eureka Springs Historical Downtown
Stroll down Main Street and explore eclectic shops and art galleries, dine underground at local favorites, or explore the history with a Downtown Walking Tour.
For a truly unique experience, purchase a souvenir at East By West. Here bunnies will greet you at the register to hand you your receipt, change, and package. It was one of my favorite experiences on our trip!
2. Visit Christ of the Ozarks
Christ of the Ozarks is the largest Jesus statue in the U.S. and fourth-largest in the world – standing at sixty-seven feet tall. Tourists can visit this statue for free 365 days of the year (though, a small donation is “highly recommended” to enter the park).
Before visiting the statue, make sure to take a moment to view a segment of the Berlin Wall (located on your right-hand side before Christ of the Ozarks). This was the first section of the Berlin Wall I had ever seen before and found it to be very moving; this particular piece read, “We also go through the dark valley, I am not afraid” (Psalm 23).
3. Explore Underground at Onyx Cave Park
Discovered in 1891, Onyx Cave is a beautiful natural attraction just six miles from Eureka Springs. The Onyx Cave remains a constant cool temperature of 57 degrees year-round, offering a refreshing escape from the warm summers in Eureka Springs.
Adults are admitted for $13.75, and children ages 4-13 are $8.75. The price of admission includes a recorded self-guided tour that lasts about 30 minutes.
4. MARVEL AT the Thorncrown Chapel
The Thorncrown Chapel was designed by Arkansas architect E. Fay Jones — a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright — and has over 7 million visitors each year. The chapel is a great place to take photographs and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
Thorncrown Chapel is open daily March through December, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is free to visit. However, the chapel occasionally closes early to the public for special events (hello weddings!) so it’s best to call ahead at 479-346-0245 and check if it’s open.
5. Enjoy the Great Outdoors
One of the most popular outdoor activities in Eureka Springs is hiking. The town is home to several scenic trails, including the Black Bass Lake Trail and the Lake Leatherwood Loop Trail. These trails offer stunning views of the Ozark Mountains and are perfect for hikers of all skill levels.
- The Leatherwood Loop Trail stretches 3.4 miles in length and leads you around the stunning Lake Leatherwood. This moderate-level trail will take you approximately two to three hours to complete.
- The Black Bass Lake Trail is a 1.8-mile trail and will take you approximately one hour to hike. Good for all skill levels, I’d recommend packing a picnic and taking in the stunning bluffs and towering pines that surround Black Bass Lake.
Staying in Eureka Springs for a while? While you’re in the Ozark Mountains, check out the popular 3-mile Whitaker Point Trail. Just an hour and a half drive from Eureka Springs, this is a definite must-see trail due to the iconic crag at the end that overlooks Whitaker Creek.
6. Treat Yourself to a Spa Day
Need a break from all the sightseeing? Relax in Downtown Eureka Springs at Spa 1905 located inside the Basin Park Hotel. During our weekend getaway, my husband was kind enough to treat me to a spa day here – complete with a hydrotherapy mineral bath and therapeutic massage.
This was truly one of the best massages I have EVER received and cannot recommend Spa 1905 enough. You are pampered from the moment you walk in with Himalayan salt rocks to warm your feet waiting for you in the lounge area. 10/10 experience!
Top Tours in Eureka Springs
Pass by hundreds of old Victorian homes and historic buildings, as well as several healing springs that made Eureka Springs so famous in the late 1800s. The tram tours are approximately 90 minutes in length and are fully narrated by well-trained local guides that are either natives of the area or long-time residents.
The cost of the tour is $17.00 plus tax for adults and $8.00 plus tax for kids 4-11. Purchase your tickets here.
Note: Due to winter conditions, the tour is not offered from mid-November through the end of February.
Let ghost tour guides escort you on a journey through the “Most Haunted Hotel in America”, telling the stories of resident spirits and ending in Norman Baker’s notorious morgue. Tours sell out so I recommend buying tickets in advance. A “Kids Ghost Tour” is also offered. Purchase your tickets here.
Better than a guidebook! Find out interesting nuggets of information about the area’s history, the locals who shaped the city, and its most important landmarks. Along the way, enjoy a mix of caves, cliffs, and outdoor sights; as well as shopping and entertainment spots. The cost of the tour is $17.50 for adults and free for youths up to 17 years old. Purchase your tickets here.
Where to Eat in Eureka Springs
Eureka Springs is home to a variety of unique restaurants and cafes, influenced by its rich history and natural surroundings. Having eaten all over the US, I found the food here comparable to any big city and a better bang for your buck.
One of the best places to experience the local cuisine is the Local Flavor Cafe, located right in the heart of downtown Eureka Springs. The menu changes daily according to the availability of ingredients, but you cannot go wrong with any dishes that include the salmon that’s cooked to perfection – Cold Smoked Salmon as a starter, Grilled Salmon Caesar, or Wild Caught Salmon for your entree. We tried and loved them all!
Another must-visit restaurant in Eureka Springs is the Grotto Wood-Fired Grill and Wine Cave. The restaurant offers a unique dining experience, with a running spring inside, a wood-fired grill, and a wine cave featuring over 250 wines from around the world. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal here — the Boneless Rib Eye and Smoked Prime Short Rib with the Mushroom Brie Bisque and Quail Poppers to start.
For breakfast, you can’t miss the local favorite, Mud-Street Cafe. Built underground in 1888, the cafe is a local landmark and one of the most popular breakfast spots in the region. The cafe features a full bar and coffee drinks. Try the pancakes — they are giant and delicious! Also, don’t forget to save room for dessert — Mud Street Cafe is known for its fresh baked goods and homemade pies that alone make Eureka Springs worth visiting!
Where to Stay in Eureka Springs
Eureka Springs offers a variety of accommodations, from luxurious hotels to cozy cabins to one-of-a-kind stays in treehouses, caves, and more. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a family vacation, Eureka Springs has something for everyone.
📍Best Hotel: 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa
One of the most popular accommodations in Eureka Springs is the Crescent Hotel & Spa. The hotel offers an old-time ambiance combined with modern amenities, including a swimming pool (changes into a “Hot Pool” maintained at 95°F during the winter), a hot tub, a fitness center, spa services, and on-premise dining options.
Note: If you are looking for accommodations within walking distance of the downtown shops and restaurants, I would recommend the Basin Park Hotel instead.
📍Best Cabin: The Elk Lodge
For those looking for a more intimate experience, Eureka Springs offers several cozy cabin rentals. My husband and I booked The Cinnamon Valley – ‘The Elk Lodge’ luxury log cabin for a romantic weekend getaway and it was the highlight of our trip. Less than a 10-minute drive from downtown, this cabin features a wood-burning stone fireplace and jacuzzi tub. I would book this cabin over and over again – it’s truly such a special place.
📍Best Bed and Breakfast: 5 Ojo Inn Bed and Breakfast
The 5 Ojo Inn Bed and Breakfast is a popular choice, offering charming accommodations and a delicious breakfast each morning. The inn is located just a short walk from downtown Eureka Springs, making it the perfect base for exploring the town’s shops and restaurants.
Visiting Eureka Springs: FAQs
What is the best month to visit Eureka Springs?
The best time to visit Eureka Springs is generally during the spring and autumn months, which fall between April to early June and September to October. By doing so, you escape the humid summers where prices for hotels are the most expensive, and the chilly winters when a lot of the shops/restaurants are closed and tours are not being offered.
What makes Eureka Springs so popular?
Eureka Springs is popular due to its blend of natural beauty, charming Victorian architecture, and eclectic downtown. The town’s rich history, friendly locals, vibrant arts scene, and one-of-a-kind attractions create an inviting and unique atmosphere that leaves a lasting impression on visitors.
Just a quick road trip away from major cities such as Kansas City, St. Louis, Tulsa, and Memphis, Eureka Springs makes for a great weekend getaway for those looking to slow down and relax.
What are some free things to do in Eureka Springs?
There are plenty of free activities to enjoy in Eureka Springs, allowing visitors to experience the town’s unique attractions without spending a dime.
Start by taking a leisurely walk along Spring Street, where you can browse through art galleries and boutiques. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Basin Spring Park, located right in the heart of downtown, where you can relax on a bench, listen to live music performances, and even taste the pure spring water flowing from the fountain.
For nature enthusiasts, exploring the lush trails of Black Bass Lake and Leatherwood Loop Trail offers a serene and picturesque retreat.
Another great option is to take a free self-guided tour of the Thorncrown Chapel, an architectural marvel nestled in the woods, where you can admire the stunning craftsmanship and enjoy the tranquil surroundings.
Lastly, visit the largest Jesus statue in the USA, Christ of the Ozarks, standing seven stories tall.
Does Eureka Springs have hot springs?
No, but Eureka Springs has over 60 natural (cold) springs within the city limits, many tucked away in small caves, nooks, and crannies. One in particular is the Basin Spring located right in the center of downtown Eureka Springs. You can often catch a musical performance here, as people frequently play live music in this family-friendly spot.
Are shops in Eureka Springs open on Sunday?
Yes, most shops in Eureka Springs are open on Sundays. Instead, Tuesday and Wednesday are typically when shops will be closed. Note: Eureka Springs shops switch to seasonal hours in the late winter/early spring. If the weather or roads are bad, please check with the business you intend to visit as many will close if it is dangerous to travel.
How far is Eureka Springs from Branson?
Eureka Springs is approximately 50 miles northeast of Branson and should take approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes to drive in normal traffic.
Final Thoughts: Is Eureka Springs Worth Visiting?
All in all, yes, Eureka Springs is worth visiting at least once. The town is home to quirky shops, eclectic eats, lively taverns, impressive architecture, and lots of outdoor opportunities.
Eureka Springs is also packed full of history and makes for a great romantic weekend getaway (cozy cabins? Yes please!). True, it isn’t the best destination for a week-long vacation, but a couple of days spent here will suffice.
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