Day-tripping: Eureka Springs

So, we all know that Fayetteville rules (duh), and is far and away the best place to live in Northwest Arkansas, but despite all the awesome that Fayetteville has to offer, sometimes you just gotta get out of this place. And sometimes, you can’t take a week off work to jet down to Mexico, or Jamaica, or Puerto Rico or Guam. There are times when you can just get away for a day or two to somewhere within driving distance that doesn’t cost a fortune and just chillax, baby. For real.

This idea started as a single post, but we got so many good suggestions for day trips around Fayetteville on our Facebook account today that we’re just gonna have to devote a column to this subject.

We’ll start with the obvious choice. Eureka Springs is only an hour from Fayetteville, or 30 minutes if you’ve got a hemi, and is a strangely wonderful place to get away for a day or a weekend.

Eureka Springs was built in an area near some natural springs that people as far back as the Native Americans believed had healing powers. This tradition continued when the first European settlers found the area, and the legend of the healing springs made Eureka Springs an attractive settling place for people from all over.

Years later, it is still as eclectic and diverse as it was back when people from all over the world were settling there, and if you find yourself needing to get away for a day or two, the unique town just a few minutes drive from Fayetteville is a great place to start.

It’s a town built on tourism, and as a result is full of tourists a good portion of the year. Many of them go for the weird little shops, the antique stores, the craft malls, country music shows, (I think there are two of them) and the quaint bed and breakfasts and cafes.

Eureka Springs is good for all these things. But if you dig a little deeper, you can find a lot of other cool stuff off the beaten paths of downtown that are definitely worth checking out on a day trip.

Turpentine Creek (do yourself a favor, and listen to the theme song on the website) is a wildlife refuge for Tigers and Lions created to take in the animals that people around the country would buy from Black Market dealers, and then try to keep as pets. These people realize pretty quickly that keeping a Tiger in their back yard isn’t a good idea, and these animals end up at places like Turpentine Creek. Their mission statement is “To provide lifetime refuge for abandoned, abused, and neglected “Big Cats” with emphasis on Tigers, Lions, Leopards, and Cougars.”

For $15 and $10 for children, you can visit the cats on the refuge, and the proceeds from your visit will go to the care for the animals, and the upkeep for the refuge. Pretty awesome.

If big cats aren’t really your thing, one of my favorite things about Eureka Springs are the cool little restaurants and bars you’ll find around town. For restaurants, if you’re walking up the hill on Spring Street, keep an eye to your right for the stairwells to a little restaurant in one of the alley’s called Oasis. It’s a tiny little Mexican restaurant with limited seating, but some really delicious and inexpensive food. It’s mostly full of locals, so you know it’s awesome.

Also downtown is the New Delhi cafe. Good Indian food, American food with an Indian twist, and an awesome patio with some good local music make the New Delhi a great way to spend a warm afternoon. Plus, last time I was there, they let me bring my dog out on the patio. Bonus.

If you’re only in town for the day, drive out to the Thorncrowne Chapel and check out what is widely regarded as E. Fay Jones’ masterpiece, and a really incredible building, but before the sun goes down, make sure you find the Horizon restaurant. It’s a house converted into a restaurant on the top of a huge hill overlooking a scenic view of Beaver Lake. The food is incredible, and there’s a really nice patio, and some really big windows that make for a breathtaking view of some beautiful sunsets over the lake. Take your boo. Trust me.

Another favorite restaurant in Eureka is Ermillio’s, a delicious Italian food place in another house-turned-restaurant.

Of course, if you’re not in a hurry to get home, and you have a straight-edge friend to drive you back to Fayetteville, you may as well grab a beer or two at Chelsea’s or the Cat House Lounge (a couple of my favorite bars in Eureka). You might catch some more live music at either of those places, and in both, the beer flows like wine.

Other awesome things to do: downtown outdoor movies projected on the wall of one of the buildings on Sunday during the summer, drinking, moped rental (yes), Beaver Dam, drinking, etc.

I know there’s a ton more to do and see in Eureka, but these are some of my favorite places to check out when I head to the weirdly-awesome town. Chances are, if you’ve lived here for a while, you’ve been to Eureka a time or two. What are some of your favorite spots?