Jolly Arkansas town brims with good cheer.
It is said in Eureka Springs, Ark., that “every season has a reason,” and while visiting in the spring, summer, and fall will provide endless photos of flowering foliage, a trip during Christmastime offers special charm.
Nestled in northwestern Arkansas’s Ozark Mountains, this charming town was born from waters possessing legendary curative power. Today, a thriving artistic community and dozens of tourist attractions sustain Eureka Springs, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Roads that curve throughout town are lined with Victorian gingerbread houses that almost look good enough to eat. Because mountain dogwood and magnolias do not bloom in December, residents make their own color by turning the town into a lighted fairyland during a holiday lighting contest called Bling in the Springs.
In the historical district called The Loop, visitors will find plentiful dining, shopping, and entertainment. At the center is Basin Park, which sports a huge Christmas tree in front of the springs around which the town grew. Other holiday decorations twinkle along this promenade, and a large Christmas nativity scene fills the historical band shell.
A Christmas Castle
Perched on a mountain overlooking town, the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa (AAA Three Diamonds), located at 75 Prospect, has kept its 19th-century Victorian elegance while incorporating modern amenities, such as the New Moon Spa, where guests enjoy a relaxing massage or facial.
During the holidays, lights sparkle, pine boughs drape over dark wood moldings, and poinsettias dot the lobby and other public areas. A weeklong holiday event, Christmas at the Crescent (Dec. 7–13) includes the Christmas Forest Tree Lighting on Saturday, a brunch with Santa on Sunday, a holiday feast with Charles Dickens characters preceding a presentation of A Christmas Carol on Tuesday, and a holiday dinner concert on Thursday.
A good place to enjoy a fine dinner is at the hotel’s 1886 Steakhouse. Make time for a sumptuous Sunday brunch in the Crystal Ballroom. Casual fare, including pizza and calzone, is found at Dr. Baker’s Bistro and Sky Bar, which is accessed from the fourth floor.
For those interested in Christmas spirits of another kind, sign up for the nightly ghost tours that embark from the lounge. The hotel is said to be one of the most haunted in the country.
Holiday events around town
The season kicks off on Dec. 6 with a Christmas parade with marching bands, floats, and Santa. After the parade, Santa sets up shop at Basin Park on Dec. 7 and 14.
The Candlelight Tour of Homes, which takes guests back to the Victorian era in Eureka, will be Dec. 7. Two popular events–the Art Gallery Stroll and Sweet Treats Cookie Tour–are set for Dec. 14. The art stroll allows visitors time to browse galleries, with many offering shoppers cookies and beverages. The cookie tour is a self-guided journey among various B&Bs that will be open to offer holiday sweets. All are on the Eureka Trolley route. Visitors can access many attractions, shops, galleries, and restaurants using the trolley, which offers $6 all-day passes.
When you’re weary from walking, hop on the trolley or take a horse-drawn carriage ride.
Make a list, check it twice
With more than 400 artists representing just about every artistic genre, you’re likely to find a one-of-a-kind gift for that special person on your shopping list.
Explore original jewelry and art at Quicksilver Fine Art and Craft Gallery, 73 Spring St. Visitors to the Susan Morrison’s Signature Gallery, 78½ Spring St., may get a chance to talk with this wildlife artist and environmentalist.
Iris at the Basin Park (8 Spring St.), Eureka Thyme (19 Spring St.), and Serendipity at the Crescent, which is located in the hotel’s lobby, also feature collections by local artists, encompassing everything from jewelry to pottery and paintings.
For a wide selection of Arkansas-made products, pop into Gourmet Eureka, 7 Center St., where you’ll find local cookbooks and other cooking-related items for the foodie on your list. At East By West (9 Center St.), shoppers will find international gifts and clothing, as well as holiday helpers: resident guinea pigs and rabbits that hand customers change.
Take a break from browsing and buying to pop into Eureka Daily Roast, 27 Spring St., and warm up with a steaming peppermint mocha or pumpkin latte.
One of the joys travel offers is ferreting out new places to dine, and downtown offers restaurants for every taste and mood.
Savor dinner in the quiet, candlelit dining room at The Grand Taverne in the Grand Central Hotel. Chef David Gilderson prepares everything from scratch, and his grilled filet of beef with béarnaise sauce and gratin potato is especially tasty.
The Balcony Restaurant in the Basin Park Magnuson Grand Hotel (AAA Two Diamonds) has a varied menu. Try the Ozark Mountain of Nachos for an appetizer. St. Louis-style barbecue and burgers also are favorites here. The Downtown Crown, a house specialty, is pork leg in a chipotle chili sauce. The hotel is at 12 Spring St.
DeVito’s (5 Center St.) specializes in Italian cuisine with servings generous enough to split. The chicken piccata and chargrilled trout were especially tasty.
The Mud Street Café’s reputation, especially for breakfast, extends beyond the city limits. The Mud Muffin–an English muffin with scrambled eggs, cheese, sprouts, mayo, and tomato–hit the spot, but choosing from a large selection of breakfast items was not easy. The café is at the intersection of Main and Spring streets.
Wrap up a quick holiday getaway to Eureka Springs for memorable galleries, shops, dining, and cheer.
Linda F. Jarrett is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.
Nov/Dec 2013 Issue
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