Girlfriend Getaway in Eureka Springs
Two of my long-time girlfriends from childhood and I meet up once a year for a getaway. We reconnected several years ago on social media and hook up to reminisce, catch up on each other’s lives and laugh; we mostly laugh.
We all live within five hours of our hometown and meet up at a different location each year. This year, we chose Eureka Springs, Ark., a quaint town nestled in the beautiful Ozark Mountains in Northwest Arkansas. The town is known for its cute wedding chapels, downtown shopping, art district and outdoor activities on Beaver Lake.
It was my turn to “host” in my region and since we meet in the fall, I thought the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa, reportedly one of the most haunted hotels in America, would be a great place to do a little ghost hunting adventure with my two gal pals.
Before we embarked on this journey, we decided to spend at least half of the day of our trip in the New Moon Spa. We each selected a package and booked it for our last full day at the hotel.
After we all arrived and checked in on our first day, we decided to spend some time catching up in Dr. Baker’s Bistro & Sky Bar before meeting up with the hotel’s ghost tour.
“Doctor” Baker is the main reason the hotel has earned a reputation for being haunted. Baker, who didn’t spend one day in medical school, transformed the former luxury hotel-turned- girl’s boarding-school into a cancer hospital in the 1930s and 40s.
Over 300 patients are thought to have died there under the care of the fraudulent doctor. “Not many people can tour a hotel’s morgue,” says Bill Ott, spokesperson for the hotel. Guests can tour the former morgue and step into the former cooler where bodies were stored before being returned to family or secretly buried on the hotel’s grounds to help conceal the actual mortality rate.
Despite its macabre namesake, the bistro, which is located on the 4th floor is a great place to unwind, have a few drinks and bar food and catch up with old friends. The outdoor terrace provides breathtaking views of the surrounding grounds, mountains and in the distance, the 67-foot-tall Christ of the Ozarks statue.
By the time our 8 p.m. ghost tour rolled around, we were primed for some scary stories and hopefully, a ghost. While we didn’t see any ghosts or catch any “orbs” (balls of light thought by some to be that of spirits), the guide did engage the group with creepy stories, mostly of the hotel’s former cancer patient residents who are said to have never really left.
One story of a phantom nurse that wheels a gurney night after night scared one bride on her honeymoon so badly that she began crying when she was told the nurse reportedly passes right by the bridal suite.
Ott says that the spirits are all benign, however. “They really don’t bother anyone.”
The next day, we had a lovely complimentary hot breakfast buffet and we splurged on delicious mimosas before our morning appointments in the spa. The grandeur of the dark wood, high ceilings and fine linens in the dining room easily puts guests in the mindset of the Victorian age in which the hotel was built.
I’ve hesitated in the past to book massages at hotel spas, as I’ve always heard that massage therapists that work in hotels are typically not the best.
It was quite the contrary for me and my friends at The New Moon Spa. While all of us had different therapists, we all had an excellent relaxing therapeutic massage. I rank the therapist I had in the top two in my entire life.
After spending all morning and part of the early afternoon in the spa, we caught the free shuttle downtown for some shopping. Eureka Springs is a quaint town that takes you back into the 19th century – and so are its streets – narrow and congested. One wants to avoid driving there if at all possible.
We hoofed the steep sidewalks carved into the slope of the Ozark Mountains for several hours before heading back to the hotel, several bags in hand, to pick up a car and go to dinner.
Autumn Breeze Restaurant is legendary in Northwest Arkansas and when we asked the hotel staff if it was worth finding the out-of-the-way fine steakhouse (and pay the prices), they told us there was no better place in the area.
They were right. We each had a different dish so we could try each. We selected Beer Battered Coconut Shrimp for an appetizer, which was crunchy, but not over-done and the shrimp was delicately sweet. The Rack of Lamb was tender and juicy; the Tastes Like Heaven Thai Chicken was creamy with coconut milk, but without the flavor overwhelming the dish and the Chicken Chevre had just the right amount of goat’s cheese.
But what Autumn Breeze is most famous for is the chef’s special chocolate soufflé, which can only be described as heaven in a bowl. Fair warning, you have to order dessert at the time you order your entre as it is prepared to order. It is definitely sweet enough to share, not one of us finished our individual bowls.
Stuffed and exhausted from our day, we only spent an hour in Dr. Baker’s Bistro before heading back to our room. As we parted the next day, we had such a wonderful time in Eureka Springs, we discussed making this a permanent home for our annual get together ritual.
The town definitely has something for everyone, especially for grown up girls on a much anticipated getaway.
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