My favorite part of coming home for the summer is taking a family trip with my sisters, nephews, cousins, friends or whoever can get off work. We usually go somewhere within driving distance and stay for about 3-4 days (before the dysfunction outweighs the fun) This year we headed to Eureka Springs, Ak. It was a short (5 hour) drive from my home in Topeka. This quirky town, full of Harleys and hippies, had something for each member of our group.
For the Outdoorsman
Located in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, Eureka Springs is a great place to get outside and explore. We visited in early July – the hottest time of year. Still, it was manageable with all the trees providing shade – just expect to sweat – or get on the water.
The first day in Eureka, we planned a canoe trip down the White River. We rented canoes and a kayak through Riverview Resorts and after a bit of a wait, we were picked up by our driver and taken to our start point by Beaver Dam. The owner suggested we do the 5-mile float which worked out well considering there was no current and we paddled the whole way. The current does pick up when they open Beaver Dam – which didn’t happen while we were canoing.
The scenery was gorgeous especially in the morning when the steam was rising off the cold water. Ice cold water from the bottom of Beaver Lake. Not much swimming but a lot of fun paddling. We saw a lot of canoers fishing while they floated.
The next thing on our list was ziplining. I would strongly recommend OMZ – Ozark Mountain Ziplines for their outstanding customer service. Their staff was excellent – fun and friendly. Jack, the youngest in our group pointed out how fast the guides learned everyone’s names – “I have teachers that didn’t learn my name until 2nd quarter and these guys knew it on our 2nd zipline.”
The course is fun and starts you off on several short zip lines. They get longer and faster as you go. The last ones take you over a valley with beautiful views of the canopy. Don’t forget to look around while you’re zipping!
There are a ton of other things to do in and around Eureka Springs but we had limited time. You might want to look into boating on Beaver Lake, hiking and walking tours, fishing, bike riding (watch those hills) and cave exploring. There is also Turpentine Wildlife Refuge where you can stay (if the sound of tigers roaring won’t keep you up all night).
For the Food Lover
Coming from a chain restaurant town, I really appreciated the Local Flavor. Which, coincidentally is the name of a really tasty restaurant where we celebrated my sister’s birthday. Tip: If you are going to sit on the patio in July be ready to invite 20 or so flies to your table. Apparently, this bothers some people more than others – our table seemed to be the only one frantically swatting these pests away from our food. We also had a raccoon peep in on us from the tree above and a stick bug joined the party. Ahhh, nature.
For lunch, we (and about 50 friendly bikers) found the Rockin’ Pig Saloon. The menu had a large variety including burgers, wood-fired pizza, tacos, bbq. Everything was delicious. If you go make sure to order the chicken wings – which were amazing. The secret recipe according to our waitress – Frank’s Hot Sauce and butter. I haven’t tried to make these yet – but soon.
Our breakfast spot was recommended to us by a local shop owner. Oscar’s Cafe is a house converted into a cafe and serves the traditional breakfast menu, including delicious bacon, quiches, and frittatas. They also serve morning pick me ups like coffee, mimosas, and bellinis. Nice atmosphere and great food and a favorite spot for the locals.
For the Shopper
Eureka Springs downtown area is the main shopping district with lots of cool little shops ranging from t-shirts to nuts. Eureka’s Nut House has a variety of flavored nuts including flavored pistachios, soda pop, beer, and other unique and tasty products. My favorite store was called Vintage Cargo and located off the main street. This boutique store had home goods, clothes, soaps, and it was all fun and fancy. A great place to do some early holiday shopping.
For the Artsy Type
With its great local art and music scene, Eureka Springs feels like an artists’ colony. We were lucky to be there on the first Saturday of the month for the drum circle. This is an evening when locals and tourists meet in Basin Spring Park and drop a beat. You can bring your bongos, maracas, cowbell, whatever and join in the rhythm of the night. It is events like this one that makes Eureka Springs feel like a very close, and cool community.
There also seems to be a strong artists community, theatre groups, and live music scene.
This was a great spot to spend a few days and we all really enjoyed our time. We stayed at the Sunflower Cottage, a clean and cozy rental that was just across the street from all the action. Perfect location, nicely decorated, and clean. Hope you enjoy your trip! Travel on!