What, in 2014, brings mom and dad with kids under 14 to a wonderful village set in The Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas for a family vacation? This was the question to which local businesses here that are active in serving family vacationers wanted to know. So an informal survey was conducted and the one overriding comment that kept surfacing was, “In Eureka Springs our whole family can vacation together.”
“That’s it! Sure,” exclaimed Jack Moyer, general manager of the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa. “Thanks to our unusual collection of family attractions everyone does everything together. You don’t see half the group, usually the younger ones, standing in line to ride the skyscraper, loop-de-loop ride while the other half bakes on the asphalt waiting for ‘em.”
He continued, “I guess you can say added to that is the fact that our set is authentic. Downtown is an attraction in itself that boasts hundreds of unique buildings, shops and eateries that are still individually owned and operated by the same people as decades ago. We’ve got the best people watching anywhere in Arkansas. Our crazy streets, caves, springs and sidewalks offer exciting urban exploring. Eureka Springs is truly a family adventure enjoyed still today by those special groups known as ‘the family’.”
Although downtown is the crown jewel of Eureka Springs, family fun certainly doesn’t stop there. For surrounding this vacation community are hills, hollers, and water holes. The Ozark Mountains may afford families stimulating wilderness hiking trails but summer calls for water fun. Nearby venues for families to get wet include three rivers -Kings, White and Buffalo- and three lakes -Beaver, Table Rock and Leatherwood- with those first two being considered “big water”. Many families like to bring their own boats, kayaks and canoes with rentals at area marinas. Numerous picturesque places to swim, such as the beaches at Beaver Dam, can accommodate any sized family’s penchant for splashing.
Two of Eureka Springs’ newest family attractions are Ozark Mountain Zipline and Intrigue Theater. Both get hearts pumping a little bit faster. Ozark Mountain Zipline, which accepts five-year-old children and up, is the largest zipline adventure in the state. Families love the exhilarating thrill of being 200 feet in the air and flying along on an 1,800-foot journey through the canopy of Ozark hardwoods. Intrigue Theater takes families’ breath away as mystery and illusion appear then disappear in the blink of an eye. A surprise visit of a special guest from “the other side” will have the family asking each other “How’d he do that?” long after they have left this small, historic, limestone, some say eerie, retrofitted Victorian church.
Atop Eureka Springs’ two facing city mountains, families will experience ghost stories on one and “the greatest story ever told” on the other. Nightly, the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, “Americas Most Haunted Hotel”, takes families on a ghost tour through century-old hallways that some say are inhabited by those “guests who check out but never leave”. Later that night, Flickering Tales will have families sitting around an open campfire while listening to Ozark ghost stories followed by a midnight sojourn to the hotel’s morgue. The Great Passion Play is performed in an open amphitheater by a huge cast with live animals on a set that expertly replicates biblical locations. The play sits in the shadow of the Christ of The Ozarks, the second tallest Christ statue in the western hemisphere.
Most vacationing families do not leave Eureka Springs until they have visited some well established and greatly loved local attractions. Feeding time at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge serves up “Oohs” and “Ahs “ as families watch hundreds of nature’s most powerful beasts -big cats and huge bears- enjoy “dinner at home” in their habitats. Great music and clean family comedy is enjoyed nightly at the Ozark Mountain Hoe-down and Pine Mountain Theater. And not many families get to ride on the open-air, back platform of a trolley but sprawling intra-city travel aboard several operated by Eureka Springs Trolleys will and all for just one daily fare per person.
“And when your family screams for ice cream, two places that will quiet them while exciting the sweet tooth of each are Colossal Cupcakes and Cones and The Big Dipper,” Moyer added.
Moyer concluded, “Eureka Springs is family budget friendly. Families will find more than 2,500 sleeping rooms with a comfortable range of affordability. Within our vast assortment of wonderful restaurants, ranging from the casual such as Pancake’s Family Restaurant to the more upscale like Local Flavor, families can find a menu that best fits their family’s tastes and pocketbook.
“Simply put, Eureka Springs is just a great complete family vacation destination enjoyed by the complete family. Lifetime memories are generational too. I guess that is why we see so many grandparents bringing back their grandkids. They want to share, to repeat that ‘family vacationing together’ experience.”