Eureka Springs, Arkansas

WARNING:  Do not go to Eureka Springs Arkansas on the weekend if you do not like driving!  Lucky for me, one of Tim’s favorite things to do is drive on twisty, turny, crazy steep roads as fast as he can get away with.  Arkansas in October is a must do for drivers who love fall color and great roads so Eureka Springs is full of people on the weekends looking for craft fairs and fun fall drives.  The weekend we were there was no exception.

Whoever laid out the town of Eureka Springs may have been drinking too much “Fountain of Youth” water because it is not car friendly.  They do, fortunately, have a park and ride tram system that will take you down the main roads allowing you to relax while someone else navigates the twisting, narrow roadways.  If you are planning on spending the day checking out the neat shops, historic springs, and maybe catching a ghost tour or riding on the dinner train; parking and riding the tram may be your best option.

Eureka Springs is interesting in that is was established as a resort for the wealthy to take “treatments” for medical issues in spas supplied by any one of the 42 original springs the town is founded around.  Ozarka bottled spring water was founded from these springs.  The American Indians of the area had known about the healing powers of the spring water even going so far as to carve out a basin in the limestone for the water to collect.  For a look into the history of the city and its origins, I highly recommend the Historic Museum located on South Main (Hwy 23) on the south end of town.  There is a small fee of $5 per person, but if you’re interested in finding out more about the town it’s worth the cost.  After the tour they provided us with a helpful map of the town with markers for all the current springs and of course, businesses along the way to them.

Due to the popularity of the town in the late 1800’s, the railroad built a spur line to the town which is how Rogers, Bentonville, and Springdale also received shipments of supplies to help build those towns into what they are today.  Buggies awaited the train passengers, whisking them up the steep streets to numerous hotels and spas helping the small town grow and prosper.  Judging by the size and variety of the Victorian era houses that march up the hills of the city, money came quickly to Eureka Springs throughout the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

The Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway train depot is worth a look even without the ride.  They are closed on Sunday, which was when we were there, but looking through the windows you can see the attraction has tried to maintain the original furniture and accouchements that would have made the station unique to the time period.  That train line continues to take on passengers today as a lunch and dinner attraction covering 4 ½ miles in 2 hours from May through October.  Excursion trains with no meal run from April to October.  Buy tickets ahead at

Now a tourist destination for many reasons from spas, to shopping, to ghost hunting, Eureka Springs is eclectic, busy and beautiful.  With our combined interest in history and antiques, Tim and I spent more time looking at Victorian houses and in the antique and junk shops than anything else.  Driving around early on Sunday morning was much easier than the previous evening and gave us a chance to really see what was what.  We had breakfast at Main St. Café, checked out the historic Carnegie Library right next to the Crescent Spring, and gaped at the architecture of the Crescent Hotel.   Some of the original structures are still standing from the towns founding including the St. Elizabeth Cathedral which survived the fires that swept through the town in earlier years.

After asking a local where to eat Saturday night, two contenders were Sparkys and The Rockin Pig Saloon.  Since we weren’t in the mood for BBQ, Sparkys won.  Though busy, the place was large enough that we were seated right away.  My spicy chicken enchiladas were delicious, though I did not care for their guacamole which had a lot of onions and not enough avocados.  Tim decided he did want BBQ and went with the pulled pork sandwich with fries.  After removing some of the copious amounts of sauce, the sandwich won final approval and the fries were perfect.  BBQ is a very subjective dish, to each his/her own.

Eureka Springs pretty much beds down in the winter months and not much happens after Christmas.  Even the Main St. Café closes some days and the residents rest up for the next tourist season which begins in late March and April.  We will go back next year to ride the dinner train, visit some of the springs when they are running high after our Ozarks spring rains, and maybe catch that Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour.  I may even grab the kids and head down there this Christmas to see the town lit up and look up at the Crescent Hotel when the leaves are off the trees, standing over the town like a sentinel marking time until the tourists return, bringing it back to life.


Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art


During our anniversary vacation, Tim and I decided to visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  The buildings themselves are an architectural wonder set back on 120 acres in Bentonville, Arkansas.  One of the best parts about the museum besides the beautiful setting, Frank Lloyd Wright home, nature trails and art is the price: Free.  Yes, free for the permanent collection on view to the public.

As a woodworker and remodeler, Tim was most interested in the Frank Lloyd Wright home located on the property.  The home was originally built for a couple in New Jersey, but was consistently inundated with water from the nearby river (sound familiar Ozarkians?) prompting the owners to decide to move the house to a more practical environment.  The home was taken apart, the pieces numbered, crated and sent to its new home in the Ozark hills.  There are numerous videos available online about this particular house if you are interested in its history.  Unfortunately for us there were only so many tickets available for purchase on any given day to actually tour the inside of this home and we were too late.  I recommend you buy online ahead of your trip.  Tim and I arrived at the museum 15 minutes after opening and they were already sold out due to the high demand and internet sales.  The home is small and so to preserve the structure admission is very restricted.

There are 3.5 miles of trails which showcase large, weather resistant art pieces available for the nature lover/artist to see while wandering about the property.  One section of trail requires a purchased ticket due to the exhibit on display currently: Chihuly In The Forest.  This artist’s glass creations are especially beautiful in park settings and his work is displayed on the North Forest Trail.  Not being fond of exercise while on vacation, Tim vetoed the idea of a nature walk and we marveled over the inside architecture instead.

Crystal Bridges reminds one of steel turtles nestled in a river, interconnected by more steel and concrete walkways, decks, patios and outdoor seating.  To the untrained eye the wooden arches spanning the immense space look as though they were hewn from some ancient and enormous log.  On closer inspection, one can see the divisions and edges of the separate pieces brought together and curved to create the beams, a technical marvel.

American art, from as early as the 1600’s, purchased from collections all over the country are on display and give one an appreciation for the workmanship, detail and time it takes to create something so realistic and lasting.  The collections are grouped mostly by century, but also by artist or by genre of subject making it easier to make sense of the timeline and influences the artist may have been under at the time.  At times the frames showcasing the paintings were as intricate and interesting as the paintings themselves.

Modern American artists, of course, dominate the last steps of the museum.  While walking down the staircase to the Buckminster Fuller exhibit, look up.  The most fascinating piece of modern art Tim and I had ever seen was in this intricate string art displayed over the staircase.  I won’t tell you anymore here, you just have to see it for yourself.  To me, most modern art requires a lengthy explanation from the artist to understand.  As these folks were not available, we didn’t spend much time in this section.

All in all, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was worth the 2 hour drive.  If you wanted to wander around on the trails, it would definitely take longer than the 2 hours we were in the museum admiring the art.  The museum also has a coffee bar and restaurant, Eleven, if you wanted to make a whole day of it.  I would also recommend, if you dislike crowds, that you call ahead and see if any school field trips are scheduled for the day you wish to go.  Tim and I tried to visit on a Friday afternoon around 2, but upon spying the 4 school buses and the line to get in the door, quickly revised our schedule and we went early Saturday morning.  They are open until nine at night on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and closed on Tuesday so plan accordingly.

No flash photography is allowed and knowledgeable museum guides are prominent in every room to make sure the rules are followed and to answer any questions you may have.  Self-guided headphone tours are also available; ask at the front desk when you check in.  Even though admission is free, you must check in and receive your day pass, so inquire about headphones there.   The museum website: is very informative and user friendly so check it out before you plan your trip.  Upon reflection after your visit you may surprise yourself at how much you have learned and how appreciative you are of what American artists have to offer.


War Eagle Mill, Rogers AR


Once again in celebration of our anniversary, Tim and I decided to visit a mill site within driving distance of Springfield, MO.   War Eagle Mill, just a few curvy, steep miles outside Rogers, Arkansas was our choice this past weekend.  Built in 1832, this is the only operational mill still grinding grain for sale in Arkansas today.  Of course, the mill has been rebuilt several times over the last 185 years, due to fires and flooding, so it’s not the original.  The folks who rebuilt the mill in 1973 followed the original footprint for the new three story structure which sits alongside War Eagle Creek.   The mill standing on the original site today was reconstructed for a fourth time with the mill machinery powered by an 18 ft. cypress waterwheel instead of a turbine.

Unlike Dillard Mill, one cannot get close to the machinery used to grind the flour and corn sold by the pound or in bulk by War Eagle’s store.   The mill grinds corn, wheat, buckwheat, rye, barley and spelt into different flours and mixes which are all available through mail order service at  There are also cereals, popcorn, syrups and biscuit mixes available as well.  I bought unbleached whole wheat flour and yellow cornbread mix to try in my recipes at home.  The second floor of the mill also boasts local artists’ work including photos and prints of the mill in different seasons.  Situated in a huge valley between two turns of War Eagle Creek, the mill is incredibly photogenic along with the one lane iron bridge running alongside.

Several employees give informal and formal tours and are well versed in the area’s history; especially the history of the families involved in settling the area and bringing commerce to Rogers, Bentonville, and Springdale.  The challenges the owners of the mill faced both in the past and today make a great story.  The history is written on the walls and in the markers both low and high indicating rising flood waters and is well worth the time it takes to listen or read about it.

The Bean Palace, the mills restaurant, occupies the third floor.  Once upon a time the menu consisted of beans and cornbread and not much else.  Thankfully, the proprietor of the restaurant expanded the menu  and the weekend breakfast buffet is a hit.  The blue corn pancakes, spicy sausage, and hash brown casserole were all wonderful, though the brewed coffee and the sausage did not agree with my palate Saturday morning so I switched to soda.  Though it’s a buffet the servers are attentive to your need for drinks and dish clearing as well as answering questions about the restaurant and mill. (Hint: tip them if you agree)

October is craft fair month in northern Arkansas, with over 125,000 people flooding into War Eagle Mill and the surrounding area.  This coming weekend, October 19-22, is the area’s Black Friday, when everyone has an opportunity to get back into the black.  With 350 vendors, you should be able to get some Christmas shopping done or at the very least have a good time walking around and checking out the latest in craft fair art.  Everyone we spoke with is getting rested up for this big weekend, so if you decide to go, they are ready for you! As for Tim and I, we will take the slow times, the off season times and be content.