Arkansas is a beautiful state, and Eureka Springs is a wonderful place to experience Mother Nature as well as the kind nature of humans and the happiness of exploration.
Photography by Janet Warlick
[dropcap]One[/dropcap] of my favorite ways to explore a city’s center is to park the car and walk its streets. Downtown really is the heart of many towns, and this is true of Eureka Springs as well.
It’s been several years since I’ve made a trip to this Ozark Mountain town. I remembered its charm and the welcoming spirit of its residents, and I found this to be true again during this visit.
If you’re looking for a unique lodging experience, try one of the city’s treehouse resorts. We stayed in the delightful Swiss Chalet at The Grand Treehouse Resort. Set in a serene wooded area, it’s a lovers’ hideaway with intimate accommodations and an outdoor shower. Of course, modern hotels are available, but in a city founded in 1879, you can also find a number of historic cabins, bed and breakfasts and inns, including the Basin Park Hotel, the Crescent Hotel and 66 Center Street.
We began our day with breakfast at the Mud Street Café, where they offer a selection of omelets, breakfast wraps, croissants and loaded hashbrowns. Coffee lovers will delight in the self-serve coffee bar, and for just 50 cents, you can even add a shot of flavored syrup. The café is open Sun., Mon., and Thu. through Sat., from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; lunch begins at 11 a.m., during which they serve a number of entrees including reubens, quiche and housemade chicken salad, chicken waldorf salad and hummus.
After dining more than sufficiently, we began to work off the calories. First stop, Parts Unknown, where you’ll find hats, leather goods, Scully Leather jackets and other items from a number of national brands, such as Brighton. Their Spare Parts clearance area is located in the basement, one of only three working basements in the city. These rooms were once street level; however, according to Underground Eureka Springs, two of the city’s major streets were often plagued by mudslides. So many of the first-floor entrances were walled off, and streets were re-engineered so second stories became street level.
We then wandered into Spry Girls, where we found a selection of summer clothing, Freaker USA bottle covers, Jimmy Crystal sunglasses — perfect for those who love sparkly things — and accessories blinged out by local Nancee Spry. Next door, we stopped in Sonya’s Leather Goods and Leather Plus, where I purchased an inexpensive pair of sunglasses.
Along the walk we stopped in several other shops: the Trolley Stop, great for a quick stop for snacks and drinks; Two Dumb Dames, sellers of homemade fudge, chocolate-covered pretzels and housemade fudge pops and juice pops; the Treasure of Golden Lotus, where you’ll find Asian-inspired accents; Judge Roy Beans Old Time Photos, where you can actually get hitched and take western-style photographs; Eureka Springs Funnel Cakes, purveyor of lemonade, Nathan’s hot dogs and, of course, funnel cakes; and, selling something lacy and daring is Scarlett’s Lingerie & Curiosities Ltd. Just a street over, you’ll find additional sexy selections at the Fine Art of Romance.
Next we took a few moments to take in the sights at Basin Park. Here you’ll also find the storefront for Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. Stop in to purchase tickets and gifts.
Dog lovers will find great gifts for their pooches at Blackie’s Backyard; the quaint store is full of dog treats, clothes, carriers, dog bowls as well as signs, doormats and rugs that celebrate all things canine.
Gardening enthusiasts will find a haven in The Secret Garden, where they sell wind chimes, birdhouses, lawn ornaments and more.
There are a number of jewelry-buying opportunities — several stores sell locally crafted items and there are several fine jewelry outlets; we stopped in All That Glitters, The Jewelry Show and Vintage Jewelry.
Comic book aficionados will want to drop by Tee Rex for vintage toys, graphic tees and novels and collectibles. Next door, Twice Born sells Christian and inspirational items such as signs, greeting cards, T-shirts and more at great prices.
We were thrilled when we spotted the sign for Eureka’s Nut House; there you’ll find 54 varieties of flavored nuts, roasted in-house, as well as flavored popcorn and other items including a yesteryear favorite, candy cigarettes.
We also met the family behind Granny’s Place, where they sell organic teas, herbs, incense, toys, gifts, pottery, tie-dye T-shirts and items crafted by Eureka Springs artists. Perhaps you’ll have worked up an appetite with all this walking — we can’t say we did, what with our generous breakfast and the yummy nuts we’d eaten — but you can find a nice selection of sandwiches, salads, smoothies and snacks at Nibbles Eatery.
Looking for a fedora? A fascinator? Cowboy hat? You’ll find just what you’re looking for at Hats, Hides and Heirlooms, where they sell hats by Kangol, John Callahan and Cappelli. And I could have spent hours in Gazebo Books, where there are books for every interest.
If you’d like to pass your time in Eureka Springs by cultivating the artist within, you’ll definitely want to stop by The Norberta Philbrook Gallery/Practical Magic Art Supply to purchase supplies to create your masterpiece. While there, peruse artwork by Lorri Carter; Jan Ironside; Christie Braswell, whose lovely “found art” easels will inspire you; and pastel artist Cynthia Kresse, whose work has been accepted in the 57th Annual Delta Exhibition, which you can read all about on page 50.
Beer lovers will be right at home at Brews. They serve local beers on tap and as growlers. There’s a great vibe, and it’s an ideal hangout as they offer a selection of pastries and snacks, coffees, teas and espressos. Located at 2 Pine St., the bar is site of Open Mic Night; held each first Wednesday, it’s a showcase for spoken word, storytelling, comedy, poetry and performance artists. Brews’ walls also showcase artwork by locals.
Eureka Springs is a virtual treasure chest of art galleries. Just next door to Brews is Eureka Fine Art Gallery, a co-op displaying fascinating works by artists such as Barbara Robinson, Denise Ryan, Larry Mansker and John Willer. Other galleries include Studio 62; Eureka Thyme; Zarks Fine Design Gallery; Quicksilver; Art & Soul; and Keels Creek Winery & Gallery, to name a few.
Of course, shopping was on the agenda. Kitchen gadgets and all things gourmet can be found at Gourmet Eureka; antiquing is good at stores like The Green Gourd, Antique Affaire, Red Scottie Fibers Yarn and Antique Shop, among others. For information about other outlets further in the city, be sure to ask for a brochure detailing the area’s antique dealers.
As we wrapped up our walking tour, we ventured into two additional stores: Spring Street Candle, a family-owned business selling wax melts, potpourri by the bag, candles, fragrance oils and novelty signs; and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, where we indulged a sweet-tooth craving with fudge, a variety of chocolate-covered items, candies and caramel-dipped apples!
We couldn’t leave Eureka Springs without stopping by Gaskins Cabin Steakhouse. This restaurant is situated in a lovely cabin built by John Gaskin. Owners Bert Jones and his wife, Lisa McMahon, along with chef Mark Cook and their professional staff, serve up delicious steaks, tasty appetizers and a number of fish and shrimp dishes.
Jones promised us a meal that was “just stupid good,” and he delivered. Prime rib is the house specialty; it’s slow roasted for hours and so popular they sell hundreds of pounds of prime rib each week. Their salmon and ribeye entrees receive rave reviews and, after dining there, we understand why.
“Mark is a grill master,” Jones said. “He cooks steaks upon steaks, and each one is served at just the right temperature and with just the right amount of char on the outside.” He said their goal is to serve food that’s simply good. “Our presentation, our recipes are simple. In my opinion, the simpler the better. Start with quality ingredients. Keep it simple.”
In this case, simple was simply delicious and well worth another visit. Soon. And it was the perfect way to wrap up our trip to this historic town.
For more information about all the attractions in Eureka, such as Thorncrown Chapel, “The Great Passion Play,” spas such as Gryphon’s Roost and the Suchness Spa, and entertainment like the show “Lovin’ Every Minute,” log on to eurekasprings.org.