12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Eureka Springs, AR
We may earn a commission from affiliate links ()
Eureka Springs is a city steeped in natural and cultural appeal in the extreme northwest of Arkansas. It’s a resort city named after the abundance of surrounding mineral pools. The same therapeutic properties that attracted Indigenous cultures and settlers to this Ozark Mountains hideaway still attract tourists today, and visitors of all ages often appreciate the history here.
The city's attractive downtown district is lined with historic Victorian buildings, small museums, and the centerpiece Basin Spring Park. It’s often a fun-filled day just wandering these antiquated streets and popping into places that catch your interest. Other nearby places to visit include the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway, the inspiring Thorncrown Chapel, and the theatrical production known as the Passion Play.
For underground attractions and other fun things to do, to the east of town is the inviting Onyx Cave, and to the west is the Blue Spring, one of the most abundant springs in the Ozark Mountains. Learn more about these and other attractions with our list of the top things to do in Eureka Springs.
See also: Where to Stay in Eureka Springs
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Visit the Thorncrown Chapel
The Thorncrown Chapel is a 48-foot-tall wooden structure and a stunning place of worship and spirituality. This forested retreat has 425 windows and 6,000 square feet of glass. It’s a true architectural amazement that allows ample light inside and provides an open feeling that really takes in the surrounding Ozark woodland scenery.
Designed by noted architect E. Fay Jones, the chapel hosts public Sunday Services between April and December and is available for weddings throughout the year. Every member of the public is encouraged to check out the impressive design of this woodland chapel, and plenty of parking for RVs and buses can be found nearby.
Thorncrown Chapel is open to the public throughout the day between April and November, with more limited hours in March and December. The chapel is closed during January and February. Over seven million people visit the chapel every year, and it’s a particularly fun spot to bring a camera.
Address: 12968 Highway 62 West, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Official site: http://www.thorncrown.com/
2. Downtown Eureka Springs
The historic downtown district of Eureka Springs is a central attraction of the city. The aesthetics of the 1900s Victorian architecture lining Spring and Main Streets makes for an excellent backdrop for many kinds of downtown experiences. Local storefronts, eclectic shops, and specialty boutiques comprise many of the shopping opportunities downtown, which are only rivaled by the generous selection of local eateries and evening entertainment.
The downtown Basin Spring Park is a great place to rest between shopping excursions or to catch live music from under the bandshell, which often provides a soundtrack to the downtown experience.
Walking tours are a popular way to experience downtown Eureka Springs. These guided excursions vary from historic underground tours to narrated trips that explore the haunted side of the city. The Eureka Springs Trolley and an open-air tram tour are also great ways to see some of the local sights. Festivals, celebrations, and community spirit is also downtown, including an annual festival of the arts, seasonal parades, and memorable Mardi Gras celebrations.
3. The Great Passion Play
The Great Passion Play brings to life the epic drama surrounding Christ's death and resurrection. The play is performed in an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by luscious landscaping. The production is based on the Old Testament prophecies and New Testament accounts of the last seven days of Jesus of Nazareth before and including His ascension.
Numerous performances occur throughout the year, ensuring ample opportunity to catch this Christian attraction comprising a multi-level stage, live animals, and 150 trained actors. The Great Passion Play’s typical season spans from Memorial Day through October. Performances take place in the evening.
Other attractions at The Great Passion Play also give it a family-friendly reputation, including the larger-than-life Christ of the Ozarks monument. Visitors can also participate in an immersive Holy Land Tour complete with a life-size replica of the Eastern Gate in Jerusalem and an authentic Marketplace to explore. Mountain bike trails, a Noah's Ark petting zoo, and a Sacred Arts Museum are also available to experience year-round.
Address: 935 Passion Play Road, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Official site: http://www.greatpassionplay.org/
4. Meet the Resident Animals at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is a sanctuary for big cats and other large animals. It’s home to abandoned, abused, and neglected tigers, lions, leopards, and cougars, as well as bears and bobcats. Visitors to the refuge have many ways to interact with the resident animals and learn more about their species. Guided habitat tours happen daily, and exclusive behind-the-scenes tours occur on the weekends.
The wildlife refuge also hosts numerous special events throughout the year, which help fund Turpentine's efforts, including a kite-flying festival, blues weekend, and various educational programming. The refuge also provides lodging options, including a family-friendly treehouse and an adults-only safari lodge.
Address: 239 Turpentine Creek Lane, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Official site: http://www.turpentinecreek.org/
5. Step Back in Time at Blue Spring Heritage Center
Comprised of beautiful gardens, local history, and a large natural spring, Blue Springs Heritage Center has been a popular tourist attraction for over 70 years. Prior to attracting tourists and Eureka Springs residents, the spring was considered a sacred space for local and traveling American Indian tribes. Today, it’s a popular family destination and a great place to enjoy the Ozark outdoors.
The history of Blue Spring is on full display with every visit. Artifacts and exhibits are interspersed throughout the park, including the remnants of an old mill that was once powered by the moving water. A notable Bluff Shelter is also worth a visit, now on the National Register of Historic Places, with evidence of use spanning back thousands of years. The various gardens are also worth seeing, and just over a mile of trails connects the different garden beds.
Address: 1537 County Road 210, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Official site: http://www.bluespringheritage.com/
6. Basin Spring Park
Before the city was incorporated, the mineral water found at the site now known as Basin Spring attracted Indigenous cultures and settlers. And this single spot set the stage for the thriving city found today. Every visit to Eureka Springs should include at least a quick stop in the park.
Today, Basin Spring Park is a central downtown park incorporating benches, a bandshell, and the original spring encased by concrete and a fountain. It provides a scenic resting opportunity between downtown excursions and serves as a great jumping-off point for other nearby attractions.
Walking tours often start at Basin Spring Park, and the public space hosts community celebrations, including live music and holiday festivals. The park’s bandstand, built in 1921, often provides a summer music soundtrack on the weekends.
Address: 4 Spring Street, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
7. Quigley's Castle
Quigley's Castle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and noted as the "the Ozark's strangest dwelling." It was the dream home of Elise Quigley, an Italian immigrant with a passion for gardening. Perennial gardens surround the home, with lovely paths, benches, and other features.
Inside the home are full-size tropical plants and trees, growing from natural ground soil on the first floor. And on display within the home are several unique collections, including butterflies, crystals, fossils, glassware, and arrowheads.
Quigley’s Castle is open from March through November. Visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour of this quaint and memorable residence. Tours take place both inside and outside among the beautifully landscaped gardens. Children under 14 years old receive free admission.
Address: 274 Quigley Castle Road, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Official site: http://www.quigleyscastle.com/
8. Hop aboard a Historic Train at the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway Company
This historic depot and passenger line is a mile from downtown Eureka Springs and allows visitors a glimpse of what life was like when rail service arrived in Eureka Springs in 1883. Within this depot-turned-museum, visitors encounter a collection of vintage rolling stock, a restored turntable, handcar, and an automobile outfitted to run on the rails. A connected Baggage Room Gift Shop is also available at the depot for locomotive-related memorabilia and keepsakes.
The real experience of visiting the depot comes from the daily scheduled rides and the chance to hop aboard the historic line. Trips include an excursion train, lunch train, and a special dinner train. These narrated journeys take place between April and October.
Official site: http://www.esnarailway.com/
Address: 299 North Main Street, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
9. Go Underground at Onyx Cave Park
First discovered in 1891 and hosting tours since 1893, the Onyx Cave is just a short drive east of Eureka Springs. It offers a family-friendly opportunity to see some amazing cave features and wildlife. The cave is small, and visitors can walk through it with relative ease on a self-guided audio tour that takes about a half hour or less.
Onyx Cave also hosts a popular Gem Panning station outside the cave, which entices both children and adults. A newly renovated gift shop at the cave features a variety of gems, jewelry, and photo opportunities with a large set of Amethyst Angel Wings. Axe throwing with guided instruction and supervision is also available.
Address: 338 Onyx Cave Lane, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
10. Explore the Outdoors at Lake Leatherwood
Hiking, biking, and water activities are some of the most popular ways to explore the Ozark mountains surrounding Eureka Springs. Miles of trails sprawl throughout the city and immediate surrounding area. And with places like Onyx Cave and Cosmic Caverns, Eureka Springs also provides underground worlds to explore.
The historic Lake Leatherwood City Park is the first place to head for outdoor activity in Eureka Springs. This 1,600-acre park has facilitated outdoor adventures in the region for nearly 80 years, with much of the infrastructure dating back to the WPA. Here, visitors enjoy over 25 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails and easy access to the lake. The park also includes a fully stocked bait shop to take advantage of the fishing opportunities.
11. The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa
Much more than just a place to stay, the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa provides numerous community attractions and things to do. Celebrating over 130 years on a hilltop overlooking the city, this historic hotel provides day visitors and overnight guests with activities ranging from full moon yoga to spooky haunted tours, as well as great places to eat, socialize, and indulge in spa treatments.
The Crystal Dining Room at the Crescent Hotel is a popular venue for special events throughout the year. And gourmet pizza is served on the hotel's balcony, with great views overlooking the Ozark landscape. Many of the events offered by the hotel are complimentary when booking a room, though anyone interested in checking out the entertainment and history is welcomed to peruse the event calendar.
Address: 75 Prospect Avenue, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Accommodation: 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa
12. St. Elizabeth Catholic Church
The St. Elizabeth Catholic Church is an inspiring landmark of Eureka Springs. It’s over a century old and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The walkway leading to St. Elizabeth Church is lined with the Stations of the Cross, and a small prayer garden can be found at the side of the building. Visitors enter the church through a charming bell tower.
History runs deep in the interior of the church, and visitors can sign up for a self-guided tour or take part in any of the scheduled masses that occur throughout the week. This historic church is also a popular wedding venue. An attached gift shop features locally made jewelry, inspirational readings, and a wide variety of religious items for sale.
Address: 30 Crescent Drive, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Official site: http://stelizabethar.org/
Where to Stay in Eureka Springs for Sightseeing
- Steeped in history and culture, a few of the most luxurious places to stay in Eureka Springs continue the legacy of attracting visitors from around the world. Besides an outstanding tourist attraction, the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa also provides a great place to stay.
- Special programs, balcony restaurants, and a sprawling estate are just a few of the reasons why the Crescent Hotel has prospered for so long. Other features include spa amenities and timeless décor.
- Near downtown and adjacent to Basin Spring Park, the 1905 Basin Park Hotel is another overnight spot that has attracted visitors for well over a century. Highlights include easy access to the historic downtown district and old-fashioned rooms complete with modern amenities.
- Eureka Springs is filled with many great hotels that provide first-class service for an excellent value. The rates and amenities found at the Palace Hotel & Bath House Spa encourage visitors to stay an extra night or two. Featuring comfortable rooms in a historic 1901 building, including antique Victorian furniture, the Palace Hotel delivers a great deal, with friendly front desk staff, an elegant lobby, and a long list of specialty spa services.
- Also located in downtown with easy access to nearby shops and restaurants, the Grand Central Hotel & Spa can be found in a historic building with clean, comfortable rooms and a surplus of spa pampering services.
- Farther south, Brydan Suites is another popular mid-range option, which features modern suites with ample space to spread out your things.
- For those interested in saving money on lodging, budget hotels in Eureka Springs don't skimp on service. The Trails Inn is popular thanks to its friendly rates and excellent customer service.
- Another affordable hotel near downtown, the Edelweiss Inn features a quite location, modern rooms, a well-kept facility, and a trolley stop right outside the front door.
- The Ozarka Lodge is another great budget option near the historic district, featuring a balcony area overlooking a pool, a convenient location, and many repeat guests.
More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com
Exploring Arkansas: Outside of all the excitement found in Eureka Springs, the capital city of Little Rock is another popular city worth visiting in Arkansas. Also check out Hot Springs National Park, one of many top tourist attractions in Arkansas.
More to Explore in Missouri: The state of Missouri, directly north of Arkansas, also has plenty of fun to explore. From major cities like St. Louis to other fun places to visit including Branson, Missouri provides ample exciting things to do.
Lots to Discover in Louisiana: To the south of Arkansas, the state of Louisiana is filled with historical and cultural appeal. Perhaps the two best cities to visit are Baton Rouge and New Orleans, each offering their own unique style and many things to do.