One of the most delightful spots in the Southern mountains, Eureka Springs shines in winter. Gone are the summer crowds seeking relief from the lowland heat. Gone also are the leaf watchers who cruise the town’s roller coaster streets searching for autumn’s paint box. In their place come couples looking for a little romance and holiday shoppers keen for those special gifts you can’t find in a department store. This time of year, the town dresses itself in Christmas finery and opens its doors wide.
Streets here wind up and down, so slip into your most comfortable shoes when you take your gift list for a walk. So many shops line the streets that it could take days to see them all. We love Wilson & Wilson Folk Art Co., across from the 1905 Basin Park Hotel. Look here for folk paintings by owner Blakeley Wilson and for her charming limited-edition animals decorated with tiny folk scenes. Next to the hotel, Bath Junkie will mix your favorite scents into bath salts, lotions, and creams. In a bend of Spring Street, Zarks Fine Design Gallery offers lovely decorative glass and pottery by local artists Gary Eagan and Steve Beacham of Spring Street Studio. For home furnishings and antiques, stop by Mountain Eclectic on North Main Street. Vintage Cargo, on Kingshighway near the hospital, carries furniture, VIETRI tableware, candles, and other home accessories. For local art and crafts, visit printmaker Jack Miller and other artists in their studios at The Art Colony on North Main.
Forego traditional mountain fare and enjoy some surprising cuisine twists. Offerings range from ethnic to downright decadent.
• Local Flavor Cafe The quiche and the Greek salad at Local Flavor Cafe, near the courthouse on South Main Street, top our list of lunchtime favorites. Deliciously filling, they still leave room for a slice of homemade cheesecake or baked fudge (yum!).
• Rogue’s Manor For a romantic evening, dine in the atrium-like sunroom. Specialties include custom-cut steaks and fresh seafood. If you like oysters, order them as shooters or pan-fried, and don’t pass up the house-made bread pudding.
• Ermilio’s Arrive early at this comfy Italian restaurant in a former private home. Diners often line up a half hour before the door opens at 5 p.m.
• Mount Victoria Bed & Breakfast Inn Some of the best breakfasts in town come with your room, especially at the Mount Victoria. Chris McCants rules the kitchen, turning out such eye-openers as Poached Pears with Raspberry Sauce and signature Smoked Turkey Breakfast Pastry with Vidalia Sauce.
• Mud St. Cafe This little underground cafe serves generous breakfast omelets (veggie, Mexican, Greek, or traditional ham-and-cheese) and garlic-cheese grits; it also claims to have the best coffee in town.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic inn or just a comfortable motel room for the night, you’ll find plenty of choices at www.eurekaspringslodging.com. Our top three favorite overnight stays include two bed-and-breakfasts and a historic hotel.
For modern comfort and quiet, we like Arsenic and Old Lace Bed & Breakfast Inn, operated by Doug and Beverly Breitling. Built in the 1990s, it perches on a hill north of downtown and offers spacious rooms (The Tree-Top Suite is fabulous.) with walk-in showers, whirlpool tubs, televisions, and telephones with data ports. Mount Victoria Bed & Breakfast Inn, in one of the town’s lovely old homes, combines a great location (on the mountain above downtown) with delicious breakfasts and suites that feature whirlpool tubs with house-made bath products and flat-panel TVs. Ask innkeeper Lisa McCants for her insider shopping tips. Just down the street, the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa gets our nod for local atmosphere. Several rooms are haunted (especially rooms 218 and 419). Even if you don’t stay overnight, sign up for the evening ghost tour.