By Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong
We had no idea what to expect when we were invited to visit Arkansas and Missouri. We spent six days exploring Eureka Springs and the Ozarks and what we found was amazing!
Beautiful rolling hills – check! (www.EurekaSprings.org or Eureka Springs Visitors Guide)
Artists and art galore – check! (www.EurekaSprings.org or Eureka Springs Gallery Association)
Pioneering citizens for equal rights – check! (www.EurekaSprings.org or Diversity Weekend)
Historic and picturesque downtown – check! (www.EurekaSprings.org or Eureka Springs Chamber)
LGBT relocation and business hotspot – check! (www.EurekaSprings.org or Out In Eureka)
Spooky historic hotel – check! (1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa)
Significant architecture – check! (Thorncrown Chapel)
Mayor with a cool nickname – check! (Butch Berry)
We spent the night in a spooky hotel complete with a ghost tour. We strolled the historic streets and spoke with award winning artists. We enjoyed delicious meals ranging from upscale to something called ArkMex.
We had dinner with Eureka Springs Mayor Robert Dale “Butch” Berry. This is what he told us about Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
In one sentence, how would you describe Eureka Springs?
Eureka Springs, clinging to limestone walls, nestled in the mountains and surrounded by water, is a vibrant, authentic and historic cultural “island” in Northwest Arkansas known for its arts, architecture and culinary uniqueness.
How is Eureka Springs unique in architecture, dining and lodging?
Eureka Springs is the only town which has been listed in its entirety by its (1969) city limits on the National Register of Historic Places with National Significance.
Area restaurants can satisfy anyone’s appetite with everything from down-home Southern classics to romantic, candlelit dinners. With over 80 restaurants in the area that has award-winning restaurants serving savory Czech-German dishes, authentic Italian cuisine and spicy East Indian fare. You'll find Mediterranean, Chinese, Irish, Mexican, Cajun, and Thai as well. You can also enjoy lunch or dinner on a dining car at Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway.
When it comes to lodging, cozy up in a downtown B&B, historic hotels, modern motel, a romantic private suite or cottage, or a cabin in the woods. And if you want to spend the night in a treehouse or with a lion or tiger in your backyard, we have that too!
How has Eureka Springs become such a home for talented artists and a destination for art lovers?
Artists have been flocking to Eureka Springs since the early 1920’s to live in naturally creative setting free from distraction and rich with inspiration.
Louis and Elsie Freund started the ‘art colony’ phenomenon in the 40’s when they opened an art school in Eureka. As nationally known WPA muralists and artists, the Freund’s attracted folks from around the country. They also organized some of the first art fairs and artisan workshops in the area.
Quickly, galleries opened downtown, art festivals were born. The May Festival of the Arts will celebrate 30 years in 2017!
Today, we have over 48 galleries, more than 350 working artists, the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, Opera in the Ozarks, Melonlight Dance Theater, Eureka Springs Plein Air Festival and the Eureka Springs Artist Studio Tour, to name a few.
Artists like to live where other artists live and visitors appreciate their craft – Eureka Springs is that place.
How is Eureka Springs a destination for family travel?
Deep in the Ozark Mountains, Eureka Springs is a family paradise just brimming with activities – The Great Passion Play, one of the nation’s largest large cat sanctuaries, Turpentine Creek, and a Zipline over our valleys.
The city has over 63 springs and is surrounded by two rivers and three lakes with great fishing, smooth water for canoe or kayak floats, boating, jet skiing and paddle boarding.
Plus a 1600-acre city park, one of the largest city parks in the US, twice as large as Central Park, that is crisscrossed with 25 miles of hiking and biking trails and then there are several caves in the area available for touring.
Over 1.3 million visitors a year agree!
How is Eureka Springs a destination for LGBT travel?
Eureka Springs is the only city in Arkansas with a full non-discrimination ordinance clearly stating that Eureka Springs embraces equality, diversity and welcomes EVERYBODY.
Eureka Springs celebrates the LGBT community several times a year with Diversity Weekends.
Many of the galleries, restaurants, lodging and shops are LGBT owned.
Eureka Springs understands that equality and diversity are good for business, quality of life and essential for the arts, culture and entrepreneurial growth of Eureka Springs
If the word eureka means “I’ve found it,” then Eureka Springs, Arkansas may be the most perfectly named city in the USA.
For more information about Eureka Springs, Arkansas, visit www.EurekaSprings.org or www.arkansas.com/Eureka-Springs
Article and photos by Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong
Copyright 2016 Sunny Harbor Publishing
Sunny Harbor Publishing
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