Have you heard of Eureka Springs, Arkansas? If not, it’s probably time you did. Filled with fun activities and attractions, live plays, and fun tours, it’s an ideal spot for families with kids of all ages. Here are 11 fun things to do in Eureka Springs in summer with kids.
Disclosure: This post is in partnership with the folks at Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce. All opinions are my own!
When the folks at the Eureka Springs Chamber reached out to me to visit with my family, I took one look at the fun things to do in the town and immediately said yes! For one, I’d never been to Arkansas but knew just how beautiful it was. Second, I love exploring historical places – and Eureka Springs has plenty of that. So, we hit the road for a 14-hour drive from home and found the city was worth every hour spent in our car. Here are our 11 favorite things to do in Eureka Springs in summer with kids.
1. Fun Things to Do in Eureka Springs in Summer with Kids: See All the Big Cats
If you look up the #1 thing to do in Eureka Springs on TripAdvisor, you’ll find it’s Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. It’s one of the largest big cat sanctuaries in the U.S., but it’s so much more than that. It houses plenty of other exotic animals that needed a place to spend their days, offers daily tours, and is, honestly, very pretty.
What we loved was the backstory on each of the animals. It definitely added to our morning, self-guided tour of the facilities and turned the sanctuary into so much more than big cats in large enclosures. While I’m focusing on summer activities for this post, the refuge is open year-round apart from Christmas Day.
2. Visit A Chapel Fit for Frank Lloyd Wright
Just a short walk into the woods sits Thorncrown Chapel. Created by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, the tall beauty is a pretty respite from the heat of the summer. As a fan of FLW, I definitely saw the similar architectural style before I even knew about its creator.
When you visit, which is free of charge, take a trip around the walking paths. Also, if you’re looking for a beautiful family photo, this is your spot.
3. Fun Things to Do in Eureka Springs in Summer with Kids: Get the Spa Treatment
My teen daughter had never visited a spa until our visit to Eureka Springs, so she really didn’t know what to expect. Truth? Spas are my happy places, so assuring her it would be probably the most-relaxing place she’s ever been made her curious.
During our visit, we had the pleasure of visiting Spa 1906 at The Basin Park Hotel in Down Eureka Springs. With plenty of pampering options on its menu, we relaxes with a mother-daughter massage. And, while a little hesitant at first, The Kid soon relaxed and enjoyed every moment. Also, it was a way for us to spend time together while not having to say a word. Afterward, she told me she absolutely loved it.
4. Take a Ghostly Tour
During our stay, we stayed at the famous Crescent Hotel. It’s worthy of its own post, honestly, so here’s a full review of the 1886 Crescent Hotel.
But, one night we took a VIP Ghost Tour. If I’m being absolutely honest with you, I love ghost tours, and I’ve been to several in my area and around the country. The VIP Tour took place on all floors of the hotel, including its morgue (yeah, it has a morgue in the basement!), and I really enjoyed myself.
Not only did we have plenty of chances to take photos, but our guide was highly knowledgeable about the hotel’s history – including stories about the alleged ghosts that still “live” there.
Tip: We didn’t find the ghost tour scary at all, but if you have kiddos that might get creeped out, please use your own discretion.
5. Grab Some Ice Cream from a Disney-Loving Dude
If you’ve check out Sand and Snow before (thank you!), you’ll probably have seen a mention of my fave food, ice cream. So, it’s no surprise to know that I actively seek out fun ice cream shops when we travel. Walking around Downtown Eureka Springs, we came across a shop that melds a love of all-things Disney (especially Mickey Mouse) and ice cream together – that’s two of our favorite things!
You won’t be able to miss it as it’s right next door to Basin Park Hotel at 8 Spring Street. If you and the kiddos love ice cream and Disney, it’s a must-stop.
6.Fun Things to Do in Eureka Springs in Summer with Kids: Get Retro with a Photo
When I was a kid, I always wanted to take one of those old-fashioned photos that you can find in theme parks and touristy spots but never did. That all changed, friends, with our visit to Eureka Springs. At Judge Roy Beans Old Time Photos & Weddings (Yeah, it actually holds wedding ceremonies!), The Kid and I chose a speakeasy-style photo from several of its themes. The costumes we very elaborate, and choosing which ones was pretty hard as they were all so cool, so from walk-in to framed photo it probably took around 45 minutes.
But it was definitely worth it. Our photographer plenty of pictures, which gave us plenty to choose from. If you want your photo framed, it’s an extra charge, too.
7. Get the Lay of the Land Down Below
Another thing I’ve always loved are caverns. That love was handed down to my teen daughter, happily. So it was a no-brainer to check out Onyx Cave in Eureka Springs. It’s about 20 minutes from Downtown Eureka Springs, but that drive is worthwhile. What we found very cool is the fact that the tours our self-guided. You’ll get headphones to wear on your tour that sync up to buttons along the path. Each spot talks about cave highlights and points out cool formations and what to look for.
Plan on spending about an hour on your visit, and don’t forget to take a photo with its famous geode angel wings.
8. Walk “UP” a Rainbow (Stairway)
If you like looking for cool spots to take photos like I do, you’ll definitely want to walk around the downtown area. From an homage to Humpty Dumpty to natural springs, there are plenty to keep you snap happy.
But, one of my favorite places is hands down the UP Staircase. Located at 2-34 Main Street, you’ll need to walk down the staircase and look “UP” for the best view.
9. Show the Kids What Was Cool in Candy
If the name Sugar & Spite doesn’t draw you in, the old-school candy definitely will. Mainly sold by the pound, you’ll find everything from wax bottles to those delicious ICE Cubes chocolates.
For me, it was like stepping back in time to my childhood and all of those delicious memories came flooding back. For my daughter, it was an education about what was cool in the 70’s and 80’s.
10. Fun Things to Do in Eureka Springs in Summer with Kids: Pretend You’re Tarzan
Quick lesson in Eureka Springs geography in case you need it: it sits right in the heart of The Ozarks. If you’re familiar with Branson, MO, it’s under 30 minutes away.
So, with all of the peaks and valleys, it’s a beautiful spot for ziplining. That’s where the Ozark Mountain Zipline company comes in. The course offers 10 ziplines and a swinging bridge to mix things up a little. And while you can leave all of the safety up to the guides, please make sure you wear closed toe shoes when you visit and pack plenty of sunscreen. Also to note: guests need to be at least three years old to enjoy the course.
11. Get a Glimpse of the Good Book -Live
Last on my list, but definitely not least, is the Great Passion Play. It was named “America’s #1 Attended Outdoor Drama” according to the Institute of Outdoor Theatre and Drama of East Carolina University at Greenville, so you’ll definitely want to check it out. During the summer, the live play begins at 8:30pm each night, so make sure the kids get a nap in the afternoon if they’re not used to staying up later.
As for the premise, the play follows Christ’s last days on earth. If you’d like to visit before the play begins, you and the kiddos can hang out in Noah’s Ark Park, a free-admission petting zoo. There are also Bible and Sacred Arts museums, a Marketplace, and Christ of the Ozarks, a giant statue that sits at an altitude of 1,500 feet.