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Our visit all over the ‘Natural State’

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Life can get busy sometimes for all of us. Even in a pandemic, life gets busy. That busyness can lead to some serious stress and anxiety.

Andrea and I found ourselves at a really stressful point as the calendar moved from 2020 to 2021. Our Christmas gift to each other was promising to take a road trip in January, just the two of us. We were looking for somewhere we had never visited that offered up some spaces specifically for rest and relaxations.

I’ve heard a good deal about Hot Springs, Arkansas, over the years. It’s the boyhood hometown of Bill Clinton, and it has a history that goes back hundreds of years to Native American tribes as well as a visit from Spanish explorer Hernando de Sota who came to the area in 1541. 

In reading about Hot Springs, I also came across information on Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which is much smaller than Hot Springs but has become a big tourist town, drawing weirdos and hippies like us for years now.

Both cities are known for their natural springs and seemed like great spots for a wellness retreat, so that’s where we traveled in mid-January for a 4-day getaway.

I’ll hit the highlights on both cities. 

Most trips that we take, the top priority for me is where are the best easting establishments and which one are we going to try next. Both of these cities had incredible food. We ate at an Irish pub in downtown Hot Springs, then an underground café, an upscale restaurant in a cavern and a little taste of New Orleans at the Creole Girls Café in Eureka Springs.

Hot Springs is located in the Ouachita Mountains in southwest Arkansas. It is legendary for the healing benefits of its 47 naturally heated, mineral-rich springs and the bathhouses that started tapping them in the mid-1800s. Bathhouse Row is located within Hot Springs National Park and features some great architecture. The neatest location on the row is Buckstaff Bathhouse, which still offers a complete traditional thermal mineral bath experience. I won’t go into great details, but if you decide to go, don’t be bashful and enjoy the pampered experience. It was very relaxing.

We stayed two days and one night in Hot Springs before making the three-hour trek north to Eureka Springs for three days and two nights. When I read about Eureka Springs, the words history, bohemian and funky kept coming up. Haunted was another fun word that was listed on many of the Google searches about the town. Eureka Springs was all that and more.

The Crescent Hotel is a more than 100-year-old establishment that claims to be the most haunted hotel in America. It is reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining.” It looked even more like it once the snow started falling on our trip. A highlight of our visit was getting to swim in a heated, outdoor pool as the snow fell. We did the ghost tour at the hotel and found out that a woman in the early 1900s either fell or was pushed to her death from the balcony of our room. The third floor, which is where we were staying, is also known as the most paranormal active floor in the hotel. We did hear the doorknob to our balcony move many times throughout both nights that we stayed at the Crescent.

If you’re looking for a little religion with your hauntings, Eureka Springs is also home to the Christ of the Ozarks, a 65-foot white statue of Jesus. I’ve seen that statue in different things on television, so it was neat to see it in person and get a selfie with it. That same piece of property is home to “The Great Passion Play,” and one of the most interesting things on the property is a 10-foot by 10-foot sections of the Berlin Wall.

Hot Springs and Eureka Springs both offer a lot of nature escapes as well. That is something we will have to dig deeper into on a trip in the Spring or Fall sometime. It was too cold in January for to be outside a lot.

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James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.