Families looking for a vacation destination that can offer a lot to do in a small area, fun activities that don’t cost a lot, a safe place for kids to explore, and a place that has a proven track record in creating lifetime memories – in short, who want to do an “exploravacation” this year – can find it in Eureka Springs, a historic Victorian village in the Arkansas Ozarks that is surrounded by lakes and rivers for their family’s “exploravacation” this year.
“The term ‘exploravacation’ was one we coined after interviewing vacationing parents and kids, separately,” explained local hotelier Jack Moyer. “We discovered that parents feel comfortable allowing their kids to go off alone in exploring our historic downtown district assuming they are traveling in pairs and that their cell phones are on. The kids described being wowed at the Eureka’s crazy staircases, unique history, interesting buildings and designs and the feel that you were on this fun scavenger hunt with a new discovery at every turn. I enjoyed the kids’ analogy that being downtown was like hanging at the mall just a lot more interesting.”
To give kids -and their parents- a head start in exploring downtown Eureka Springs, a Downtown-n-Underground Tour has been developed that traces the town’s history from its beginnings through the Civil War era, the days of Wild West outlaws, right on up to today. Additionally, the downtown Eureka Springs Historical Museum offers numerous maps of hidden walkways and trails of this “city that time forgot”. The community is so historically distinctive, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has named Eureka Springs as one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations.
“The kids also told us that a summer vacation without water is like a day without sunshine,” Moyer noted, “and Eureka Springs doesn’t disappoint in that area either.”
Just minutes from downtown are Table Rock and Beaver lakes, recreational swimming and boating are easily accessible as is world-famous trout fishing in the White River and bountiful bass fishing and floating on the Kings River.
Surrounding 85-acre city-owned Lake Leatherwood are 40 miles of trails for hiking and biking, perfect for family outings. For those skilled adventurers, area caves and more rugged trails can be found in almost every direction. Many of these excursions can be found on arkansas-outdoor-adventures.com.
Affordable commercial attractions abound, too. The list includes such “must sees” as Turpentine Creek, a wildlife refuge with the largest collection of lions and tigers and bears in the region; The Great Passion Play remains America’s number one attended outdoor drama; and the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway, a real steam-driven train. Nearby Pea Ridge National Military Park is the perfect entrée into the sesquicentennial commemoration of America’s Civil War. A complete list of attractions, calendar of events, and many activities available for kids and families can be found at reserveeureka.com.
“One of the most intriguing aspects of our community is its reputation for our ghosts,” added Moyer. “Perhaps the most famous for ghosts, thanks to nationally televised episodes on such programs as ‘Ghost Hunters’, is the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa. This four-story limestone structure is a successful mountaintop spa resort yet boasts of having ‘guests who checked out but never left’.” The hotel offers nightly ghost tours and has a special paranormal website, americasmosthauntedhotel.com.
Moyer explained, “No community is like Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and no family vacation provides such positives without spending the majority of your day and your vacation budget while waiting in line in the sun for a two-minute roller coaster ride. We hear it time and again, our guests remember their visit here as the time that their family actually did something together that produced lifetime memories, memories that can be shared by generations to come. And they did it within the family budget.”
Family vacation packages abound for Eureka Springs. Many can be found at reserveeureka.com. Most of the packages include lodging and attraction tickets while many include some meals. Throughout the season both attractions and places to say will post “hot deals” on facebook.com/officialeurekasprings.
“In a time when family ties long to be tightened and vacation budgets are short on cash, moms have told us that an ‘exploravacation’ to Eureka Springs proves to be a pretty good investment,” Moyer concluded, “an investment that reaps major dividends in lifetime memories.”
1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa
Eureka Springs has been attracting family vacationers for more than a century. In fact, the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations.
One of the best places to experience Eureka Springs, and have that connection to its heritage and history, is the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, a member of Historic Hotels of America. The 1886Crescent Hotel is a palatial structure that echoes the recuperative splendor of the surrounding Ozark Mountain region.
The hotel features 15 on-site acres of gardens and nature trails. Located in the historic district with more than 100 restored Victorian shops, restaurants and galleries, the hotel seamlessly retains its 19th-century character, from the Victorian-style Crystal Dining Room to the elegantly furnished guest rooms, without sacrificing a single full-service amenity. The Ozark Mountains premier spa, The New Moon, boasts spa, salon and wellness treatments while the hotel host numerous meetings and wedding events. The New Moon Spa, the recently rebuilt conservatory the addition of luxury suites in the previously vacant stone annex reinforce the modern identity of this century-old hotel.
By the way, frequent paranormal sightings rank the hotel as one of the most haunted hotels in the U.S.
(1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, 75 Prospect Avenue, Eureka Springs, AR 72632, 479-253-9766, www.crescenthotel.com, Historic Hotels of America toll-free reservations number, 800-678-8946).
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