Steep & Surprising: Eureka Springs, AR

This Ozark Victorian village a fun day trip from Branson


Tucked within the Ozarks Mountain Country of Arkansas - an hour east of Bentonville and 51 miles from Branson, Missouri - sits Eureka Springs, a small town that packs a big punch. Designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations, Eureka Springs is known for its Victorian-era architecture and thriving art scene.Downtown Eureka Springs — Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

Drive 67 miles from Branson, across the Missouri border and into Arkansas, and you'll arrive in the Historic District of Downtown Eureka Springs. The village earned a spot on the tourist map way back in the late 1800s when it became a popular natural springs resort. When the boom ended, development screeched to a halt and what remains are dozens of Victorian homes perched precariously on the steep hillsides of the Ozarks. Looking down on Eureka Springs — Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

Much of the town's charm centers around the historic downtown area, where a single three- or four-story building might have three different entrances, each on a different street. Spring Street, the main thoroughfare, is home to block after block of boutique shops, galleries, spas and street-side cafes. From the Tourist Information Center at the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce, you can board an open-air green tram for a narrated tour of the historic district.Cafe in Eureka Springs — Photo courtesy of Ana Emerson

Victorian architecture isn't the only thing Eureka Springs is known for. The town is also home to one of the country's most famous works of religious architecture, the Thorncrown Chapel. Designed by E. Fay Jones, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, the chapel was built from mostly glass and locally sourced wood and utilizes an open air-like structure to harness the natural light seeping through the canopy of the forest just outside.Thorncrown Chapel — Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

Eureka Springs enjoys a location amid the beautiful Ozarks and makes for a good base of exploration to the surrounding areas. If you're traveling with kids, be sure to take in the scenery from the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway, a restored steam engine from 1909. Also nearby, you'll find Onyx Cave, the oldest tour-able cave in Arkansas, and the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, a facility that takes in and cares for abused and abandoned exotic cats.

In the spring and summer months, the town plays host to a variety of cultural festivals and events, including Blues Weekend and Opera in the Ozarks in June and July, Bluegrass Weekend in August and a range of car and motorcycle shows on weekends throughout the year.

About Lydia Schrandt

The Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs is on Lydia's architectural bucket list!

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