Eureka Moments

This quirky spa town in Arkansas draws outdoors enthusiasts, animal lovers and even ghost hunters
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Thorncrown Chapel, designed by architect E. Fay Jones

It’s believed that when Greek Archimedes understood how to determine the purity of gold he exclaimed, “Heureka,” meaning “I have found it!” Today, we use that expression as “Eureka!” when we hit upon something amazing.

Like when Dr. Alvah Jackson stumbled on a spring bubbling out of the Ozark Mountains in northwest Arkansas. Jackson bathed in the mineral waters and soon realized that the aqua healed his eye ailment. He shared these miraculous waters with others and founded a town. Naturally, he named it Eureka Springs.

Today, the springs still flow all over town and the quaint but sometimes eccentric enclave attracts visitors from around the world. It’s also very haunted, which makes Eureka Springs a great destination for fall, when the veil between living and dead grows thin. You might just spot a full-body apparition and yell “Eureka!”

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1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa










There are numerous cabins and vacation rentals within the city and throughout the surrounding countryside, all perfect for fall foliage drives and hiking through woods and along mountainsides. Two urban hotels that offer both history and lore are the Basin Park Hotel in the center of Eureka Springs and the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa overlooking the town. 

The Basin faces the Basin Spring Park where Jackson experienced his eureka moment, and the historic property includes a balcony restaurant and a whiskey bar that dates to Prohibition (it was originally a speakeasy). In addition to guests enjoying the Crescent’s full-service spa, heated pool and Frisco’s Sporting Club with food trucks and lawn games, the hotel’s fourth-floor lounge offers spectacular sunsets from its perch atop the mountain.

Both hotels sport guests who have never checked out, and ongoing ghost tours tell their stories. Two spooky spots not to miss are the Crescent Hotel basement’s “morgue” and the Basin’s wine cave built against the mountain. 

“There’s a lot of activity down at the wine cave,” said Gina Rambo, director of marketing and communications for 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa and the Basin Park Hotel. “It’s dark and it’s cobwebby and it’s damp. Even people who are skeptical have had experiences.”

And, well, we’ll leave it to your imagination why the Crescent has a morgue. It hails from a quack doctor who ran a sketchy cancer hospital at the Crescent in the early 20th century.

Get Spooked

In addition to the ghost tours offered at the Basin Park and Crescent hotels, the Eureka Springs Historical Museum presents its 13th annual “Voices from Eureka’s Silent City” living history walking tours in October. At the annual fundraiser benefitting the museum, actors will portray the town’s historic residents who reside at the city cemetery. In other words, they’re dead.

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Beautiful blue water of a natural spring near Blue Spring Heritage Center


COVID-19 may have put a damper on tourism for the past few years but not in Eureka Springs.

“When COVID hit, we were actually quite busy because of the outdoors,” said Rambo.

The town offers several springs, in addition to Jackson’s discovery, and each spring exudes its own personality, such as the Grotto Spring with its ever-glowing candles and or Sweet Spring at the bottom of the spiral stairway. Visitors may pick up “Six Scenic Walking Tours in Historic Eureka Springs,” published by the city’s preservation society, and explore the town’s water features, some of which allow for drinking.

Outside of Eureka Springs are numerous ways to enjoy the outdoors, from kayaking on Lake Leatherwood and hiking through Pivot Rock and Natural Bridge to the Blue Spring Heritage Center, another spring that’s also a Trail of Tears historical site.

Animal lovers may choose the big cats of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, the largest big cat refuge in the world. Visitors may enjoy tours, educational talks and accommodations on-site while viewing the lions, tigers and other wild cats saved from illegal ownership.

For more information on things to do in Eureka Springs,


Categories: Things To Do, Travel