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Eureka Springs, Arkansas: An Ozark Gem

Beautiful Ozark mountain terrain, a charming historic district and a thriving arts community come together to make Eureka Springs one of the most beloved destinations in northwest Arkansas.

“We have more than 100 structures that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” said Karen Pryor, director of sales for the Eureka Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission. “We don’t have any chains, outlet malls or discount stores in the downtown area. We have 80 to 90 shops that are independently owned. The owners will probably greet you when you walk in because they’re also the people working there.”

The downtown district is built on the side of an Ozark hill, and the steep incline and winding streets make it impossible for motorcoaches to drive through. The best way for groups to explore the area is by tram.

“It goes through the historic district, where motorcoaches aren’t permitted to go,” Pryor said. “You learn all about the history and architecture of Eureka Springs and see houses of famous and infamous people who lived here. You also make a stop at one of our 62 in-town springs.”

Church groups that visit Eureka Springs almost always plan to see a performance of the Great Passion Play, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season. In addition to the large-scale production, which tells the story of Jesus’ ministry, death and Resurrection, visitors can eat dinner, attend a preshow and even take a behind-the-scenes tour of the large outdoor set.

“I suggest groups see the play and then come back the next day to do the behind-the-scenes tour,” Pryor said. “If they do the tour first, they’re going to learn some of the special effects and see how Jesus is raised from the dead. To me, it’s more meaningful if you’re surprised along the way by the way they do their effects.”

Groups that make the return trip for the behind-the-scenes tour can also enjoy some other attractions at the complex, including the Sacred Art Center, a bible museum, a re-created Holy Land streetscape and the iconic Christ of the Ozarks, a 67-foot-tall statue of Jesus with outstretched arms that overlooks Eureka Springs.

In addition to these essential Eureka Springs experiences, groups can supplement their itineraries with numerous other attractions and activities around town.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.