The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 20, 2013

Destinations: Shopping, food, festivals and fun make Eureka Springs place to be in Ozarks

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. — I don’t get down to Eureka Springs, Ark., as often as I would like. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve made the two-hour trek south to the city many of my friends call the cultural heart of Arkansas.

I agree.

Art, food, shopping and culture draw thousands to the eccentric town every year.

I tried to get down that way earlier this summer, but my plan was foiled. I won’t let that happen this fall — Eureka Springs is on my travel schedule.

Since I hadn’t been down there in a while, I decided to catch up on the events planned for this fall and see what new activities might be available for the weekend traveler.

I called Mike Maloney. Mike’s job is to promote Eureka Springs activities, events and festivals. He’s a great resource. He knows why people love the Eureka Springs way of life.

“I think there are a lot of different things,” he said. “It’s the architecture, the food, and it’s our lifestyle. The people create an eclectic and Victorian community. It’s very unique. The city has 400 artists and a population of 2,000.

“On any given weekend, there are around 2,000 visitors in town to see our unusual and eclectic shops. They are popular with people who like to travel, but don’t want to travel too far.”

Most guests to Eureka Springs come from no more than six hours away, including many Joplin-area residents.

Ozarks Outdoors

“We have superior outdoors experience,” Maloney explained. “We have Beaver Lake and Table Rock and the White River. For people who like aquatic things, we are a perfect fit. We have Lake Leatherwood, the third largest city park in the United States, which has some incredible trails for walking, hiking and off-road biking. The outdoor experience in Eureka Springs probably ranks as high as anywhere in the nation.”

Looking for a vacation weekend with lots of culinary options? Maloney says Eureka fits the bill.

“Dining is a very, very big thing in Eureka Springs,” Mike said. “People like to come here, and they want great service and great food, and I think the mass popularity of the dining establishments in Eureka Springs deliver that.”

I agree. I love the dining experience this town offers. Variety is key to the community’s culinary appeal.

“There are some great places to eat here,” he said. “If you what a filet mignon or Mexican or something Italian — Asian or whatever you want — you can find a fit in Eureka Springs. We have Czech and German, and there’s a little bit of everything that goes on in the dining world.”

I like Local Flavor for American standards and a great Sunday brunch. Good Mexican and Italian are easily available, too. Looking for a wine and cheese experience? Several restaurants offer exceptional plates and wide selections of wines.

Want to eat on the cheap? Burgers, pub grub and cheap cocktails are available at many local establishments. Check out the Basin Park Hotel’s balcony bar and restaurant for a good view of downtown and exceptional people-watching.

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