Where It’s At: Eureka Springs

Nestled snugly away in Northwest Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains, the city of Eureka Springs is an art lover’s paradise. One of the best kept secrets in Midsouth America, the city is a slice of San Francisco surrounded by scenic overlooks and rolling hills.

With streets lined by galleries, eclectic shops, cozy parks and a lookout named "Inspiration Point," it’s no wonder that creative types of all ages and styles have flocked to the quiet destination for decades. "Eureka Springs loves artists. And it’s a mutual love affair," says Greg Bartlett, a watermedia artist and longtime area resident. "If you enjoy nature art, we have the most beautiful four seasons here in the mountains."

Visitors will discover a captivating mixture of old and new—as the city is a unique juxtaposition of classic Victorian architecture and contemporary, locally owned shops. Most homes in the city were built between 1880 and 1910, with some houses constructed directly into the sides of surrounding cliffs.

Randy Woodward, co-owner of the Morrison Woodward Gallery in town, says the city provides energy for artists’ souls. "Eureka Springs is a place where energy from the mountains helps artists and their work. We can escape because just over any hill is a place we can have all to ourselves."

Besides The Morrison Woodward Gallery, other must-see Eureka Springs art spots include 83 Spring Gallery, Quicksilver Art and Fine Craft Gallery, and Delphia Dreams. All three galleries are filled with a variety of media by national artists and talented Arkansans. Besides traditional painting media such as watercolor and oils, shopgoers can also peruse interesting artwork composed from metal, glass and bronze.

A typical day for a visiting artist might be to travel from her hotel via the town’s trolley system, then begin by stopping at the East Mountain to see the area’s picturesque bluffs and compose a sketch. After that, it’s a short walk to the downtown business district for lunch at a café. With a great view (and wonderful opportunities for people-watching) from almost anywhere in town, either a sketchbook or paints and an easel can lead to fantastic streetscapes and figure paintings. Because most of the town’s diverse businesses and restaurants are on a few main streets, tourists can navigate the area easily and walk from shop to shop.

Staples that draw people to the village include the May Festival of the Arts, which runs the entire month and the Eureka Springs School of the Arts (www.esartschool.org). The town continues to keep visitors coming back for seconds (and thirds…) by adding new musical and entertainment events to the city calendar each year. To check out this year’s entertainment calendar or learn more about Eureka Springs, visit www.eurekasprings.org.

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