Monday, November 10, 2014

An Art Destination in the Ozarks

Travel seems to be on my mind quite a lot these days. So I thought it might be fun to introduce you to some more delightful places Hubs and I have visited that are known for their charm as well as their focus on the arts. (I covered Santa Fe -- a totally amazing place -- in some posts back in October of 2013.) Today, I'd like to tell you about Eureka Springs, Arkansas, located in the beautiful Ozark Mountains in the northwest part of that state.

Eureka Springs is one of the most charming little towns I've ever encountered. Its entire downtown is on the National Register. Eureka's many Victorian homes are decked out in paint schemes ranging from dignified to quirky to flamboyant. Strolling through the town's  neighborhoods during warmer months you'll see lush gardens everywhere. This is a town decorated in flowers wherever you look.
This iconic building is situated in the heart of the downtown area.

Beauty both natural and handmade

One of the most appealing things about Eureka Springs' natural assets is its many springs emanating from the limestone formations upon which the town is built. One that we came upon in the midst of all the town's "painted ladies" was in a beautiful natural grotto thick with ferns and blossoms. Benches had been placed in strategic locations to allow passersby to stop and enjoy the sheer beauty of the site. It was so peaceful and lovely I could have stayed there all day.

But there are many other things to do in this town besides visiting its natural springs! One of them is immersing yourself in art. Both times we've visited we've spent lots of time wandering through all the interesting specialty shops and galleries in downtown Eureka. The vibe in ES is funky, laid back and fun -- exactly what you'd expect in a town boasting more than 400 artists as residents.

Fantasy & Stone offers colorful, eclectic art for both home and garden.

There are so many galleries in Eureka Springs it's impossible to visit them all in just a weekend. Two we especially enjoyed, among others, were Fusion Squared Gallery and Fantasy & Stone. At Fusion Squared we saw extraordinary fused glass jewelry, all designed by owner John Rinehart. His creations are positively dazzling.  

Across the street from Fusion Squared is Fantasy & Stone. Its owner is a delightful lady with an eye for art and decor pieces that are best described as quirky. It's all very colorful and light-hearted...the sort of eclectic artwork that makes you smile just looking at it. I was especially drawn to a display of large crystal suncatchers, any of which would have looked spectacular in a window or a garden.

If you stay in one of Eureka's many excellent bed and breakfast establishments, you'll encounter beauty there as well. On our last visit to Eureka Springs, we stayed at Red Bud Manor Inn, a B&B that's a work of art in itself. Everything from our room to the grounds to the breakfasts served up by our gracious innkeeper was picture perfect.

The cheerful front porch at Red Bud Manor Inn
Red Bud's hillside garden is a hidden jewel.

Entertainment that's out of the ordinary

There's plenty in Eureka Springs to admire and enjoy. Its downtown is easily walkable and retains all of its historic charm. Catch a concert or listen to street musicians in downtown's Basin Park, and enjoy hiking, boating, rafting, wildlife watching and canoeing. The surrounding mountains lure outdoor lovers, and at any given time there's likely to be a festival or special event taking place. (When we were there, it was a gathering of antique car lovers from all over the country.)

Where else but in Eureka Springs will you find a rabbit that hands you your receipt?

The gift shop's Most Valuable Employee

Eureka Springs is a very special place. Where else will you encounter a very friendly live rabbit that presents a gift shop's customers with their receipts? The cashier at Caroline's Collectables bags the merchandise and hands the receipt to the rabbit, who in turn gives it to the amazed customer. I'm sure many people make more purchases than they intended to, just to have a chance to interact with this furry little merchant. Another example of the many surprises to be found in Eureka Springs!

Text and images ©2014 Lynn Edwards

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