Sunday, January 15, 2017

Eureka Springs in the Winter

Some of our best vacations have been taken in the winter. Venice in 2001, Berlin in December 2002, all the Christmas markets in Germany... winter travel is the best for beating the tourist crowds. With a milestone anniversary in front of us this past December, we planned a trip to Eureka Springs in the dead of winter - and loved every minute of it. Eureka Springs is typically a summer tourist resort hot spot, known for its healing waters and historic architecture. It's hidden in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, making it a beautiful drive into town from any direction. While the nearby lakes and rivers might not be ideal on a winter getaway (although don't count them out completely - Arkansas can have mild winters that are perfect for hiking), there are plenty of other things to do in Eureka Springs, even when it's cold outside.

Thorncrown Chapel
I first learned of this chapel on Pinterest. It was a “picked for you” pin that showed up on my home board after I had pinned a lot of hiking and outdoor pins from around Missouri. When something of architectural interest is located so close, and is free to the public, of course we are going to take a look. 

The chapel is incredibly easily accessible and very close to town. 

The chapel was built to feel like it was a part of the landscape. It is really beautiful. And without (many) tourists there, we got right in and right out.

There is a host sitting right inside the chapel who points you to a seat. All pictures must be taken from a seat. As in you can't get up and wander around. It is a chapel after all and they do seem to try to keep it a place of reverence.

 It's also small and I imagine that when it is packed with tourists, there is no room to move around. Notice how there are no other people in my pictures. There was only one other family inside the chapel when we were.

Winter views are the best, unobstructed by leaves so you can see forever.

Thorncrown Chapel was our first trip when we rolled into town. We arrived a little before check in time at our cabin so we knocked this off our list. We were literally in and out in about 20 minutes.

Historic Downtown
There are signs to historic downtown all over the place. You can't miss it when you pull into town. Depending on the route you bring into town, you may drive right into downtown anyway. The benefit of coming during the winter is that we were able to immediately find a free parking spot and explored the area on foot. The downtown area is a vertical labyrinth of gift shops, magic shops, artisan areas, loca restaurants and bars, bed and breakfasts for every interest and budget, and natural springs and parks. It is packed so tightly that every stairwell, footbridge, and curve leads to a whole new area to discover. If you come here during the summer, I'm sure the shops are packed with tourists, but on the day after Christmas, the shops were empty and running great clearance sales. Perfect for the winter traveler. 

The city building is beautifully old.

 Everything is so welcoming.

  It's the kind of town where every building has a soul.


And in addition to the historic architecture, there are quirky artistic contributions like this spooky shadow man we found in an alley. 

And those street lamps hold real fuel burning candles.

And a peak through the buildings show off the beautiful hills of the Ozark.

This natural spring and courtyard area was decorated for some kind of holiday event that I'm sure was beautiful when it was all lit up. It's right in the heart of the downtown area.

 I don't know if it could be any more charming.

Crescent Hotel

Aside from Historic Downtown, this beautiful, Victorian hotel may be Eureka Spring's most famous landmark. It also holds the title of America's most haunted hotel. While we opted for a private log cabin on this particular stay, I would LOVE to go back and stay in this hotel. On this outing however, we just gave ourselves a self guided tour through the lobby and terrace. You can book nightly ghost tours here for an adventure. 

Even though the hotel is perched high above town these stairs link the hotel to the downtown area via a wooded trail.  

The Christmas decorations were beautiful.  

And how awesome is this elevator? I really wanted to take a ride on it, but we didn't.

The lobby was beautiful. There is also a gift shop with beautiful local artwork. 

And here is the view from the back terrace. The Christmas trees are part of a charity event they were hosting.

Another view. 

And a very restful place to be.

 The Crescent Hotel is definitely worth a walk around even if you aren't staying there.

East Mountain Lookout

And while you’re at it, if you want a better view of the Crescent Hotel that can’t be seen from the actual Crescent Hotel, jump in your car and drive to the East Mountain Lookout. The path is narrow and windy to drive. If there is heavy foot traffic or car traffic (like during summer months), it may be better to take the trolley tour or just walk through town. It was easy for us to drive since we didn’t have to worry about either of those things. The gazebo lookout offers a direct view to the hillside Crescent Hotel as well as an overview of the town itself. With the leaves off the trees, you can see for miles. It really is a beautiful place to stop. There were no other people on the lookout while we were there, another added bonus of visiting in the office season.

And of course the view of the hotel did not disappoint.

The hazy sky made this a perfect day to view a haunted hotel. Very eerie.

On the way down from the lookout, you can take a route to pass right by 3 of the town’s natural springs as well as some charming hillside inns, homes, and architectural accomplishments that makes one wonder how this whole town doesn’t just slide down the hill on itself. It feels like a town taken right out of the hills of southern Germany and placed in northern Arkansas. But the springs are worth the drive by, especially because of their historical significance. 

This one (below) is one that we almost missed but saw another car pulled over and decided to get out and look too.  It was really interesting. 

And that's a summary of our week in Eureka Springs! Happy traveling and adventuring!

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