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Downtown N Underground Tour in Eureka Springs

Downtown N Underground Tour in Eureka Springs

I’ve been visiting Eureka Springs for ages, but the Eureka Springs Downtown N Underground tour gave me a whole new perspective on the city!

Notice anything unusual about this street?

 

No? Looks pretty normal, right? Let’s look a little closer…

Oh, no big deal, just a secret underground tunnel!

Most of downtown Eureka Springs was originally about 10 feet lower, but due to unusual circumstances (it’s a long story), they eventually had to build new streets above the old. As a result, a series of tunnels created by the old roads and limestone walls ran underneath the town, making it easy for all kinds of shady stuff to go down, from prohibition-era liquor runs to private access to the brothels and bath houses that were popular back in the day. Yup, there’s a whole other Eureka Springs underground, so as you’re strolling along the sidewalks downtown, you’re walking on top of history! Eventually, most of these tunnels were closed off or filled in, but some are still accessible, and the best way to see them, and learn some of the town’s totally fascinating history, is the Downtown N Underground Tour. As far as I know, this is currently the only Eureka Springs underground tour!

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The Downtown n Underground Tour tour meets in Basin Park, right next to the Basin Park Hotel.

 

The forecast was looking pretty dark for my tour time, so as we were waiting for it to begin I asked about what happens if it rains. The tour does continue in the rain, with the guide doing their best to keep you under cover when possible,  but you may want to bring an umbrella just in case. Lightning, on the other hand, does cancel the tour. It did rain on and off during my tour, but the main impact that had was making some of the walkways and stairways taking a little more attention to navigate. Be sure to wear good shoes even in great weather! (And not just on the tour – while visiting Eureka Springs in general. The whole town is hills and stairs.)

Speaking of stairs, this is one Eureka Springs attraction that’s not really accessible for those with mobility disabilities. There’s a lot of walking (close to 2 miles, going by the activity app on my phone), mostly on uneven terrain, and a whole lot of stairs. Staircases are so abundant in this hilly town that the original 19th century mapmakers assumed they were small roads and gave them names and addresses!

 

Just kidding… mostly.

That said, the tour moves at a pretty leisurely pace, with lots of stopping to listen to stories. If you can comfortably walk around for about an hour and handle stairs (mostly down, thankfully!), you’ll be fine. If you don’t think you’re up to that but still want to hear the stories of the town’s history, you can get in touch with the tour operator and they can arrange a private tour that meets your needs.

The storytelling is engaging enough to keep older kids entertained, and the more sordid topics (see aforementioned brothels and bath houses) are handled in more of a “wink-wink” way than anything explicit,  so I’d call it family friendly. You know your kids best, but I’d lean towards suggesting it for at least 8-ish or older, just due to the walking and the need to be fairly quiet to listen to stories without interrupting. There is plenty of time to chat as you walk between stops, though.

 

 

But back to the tour! After waiting at the kiosk pictured above for all of the tour participants to show up (I think we had around 12 people), the tour begins by climbing up those stairs you see in the background to learn about the origins of the town at the site responsible for them. Yup, it involves the springs! I loved learning that way before white settlers caused the town’s population to explode (by like 20,000 people in a few years, which was a LOT in the 1800s!) by spreading word of the “healing waters”, the Osage living nearby allowed other passing tribes, even their enemies, to use the springs because they felt they belonged to everyone.

One of the first things our guide said on this tour was that “unique places attract unique people”, and that stayed in my mind throughout my stay in town, because it’s so true. The Downtown N Underground tour covers most of historic downtown Eureka Springs, and includes stories of the failed bank robbery in 1922, the radical anti-alcohol exploits of Carrie Nation, and the fires that wiped out large portions of the town multiple times. (They eventually figured out they should stop building everything with wood.)

One cool stop on the tour was the Auditorium, where we got to stand on a stage where legends from BB King to Willie Nelson to the auditorium’s very first act in 1929, John Phillip Sousa and his band have performed. Can you imagine seeing any of those acts in a theater that only holds about 1,000 people?

Eureka Springs auditorium

 

Most of the tour takes place above ground, but there are a few opportunities to check out the underground tunnels, and even step inside a couple. I tried to take a photo of the tunnel we popped into beneath the historic Grand Central Hotel, but something about the moist subterranean setting wasn’t iPhone camera friendly! (That, or the tunnel is totally haunted, as pretty much everything in Eureka Springs is rumored to be, and this is an awesome ghost photo. Take your pick. 😉)

 

We were able to walk through another portion of tunnel in a former bath house where a grate opening up to the street resulted in a much better photo!

Looking up from the underground Eureka Springs tunnels on the Downtown N Underground Tour

I’m a huge fan of learning the history of a place before you visit it. I always make the analogy of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. If you’ve never read the books, it’s just a cool-looking, whimsical land full of interesting things to look at. If you do know the stories, every location and prop means something to you. Learning the story of a real place is the same. I noticed so many things that I would have otherwise overlooked thanks to what I learned on the tour.

I’d suggest making the Downtown N Underground Tour one of your first stops when visiting Eureka Springs. You’ll get the lay of the land and learn tons of interesting history that will enrich the rest of your trip.

You can learn more about the Downtown N Underground Tour on their website, check them out on Facebook, and read the tour reviews on TripAdvisor.

At the time of writing this (6/2017, but also when I’m updating it in 2022!), adult tickets are $13.50.  Kids under 12 are free, so this is a seriously economical to have a fun family afternoon and learn a lot along the way! Groups are limited in size so it’s a great idea to reserve your Downtown n Underground tickets in advance!

Thanks so much to the Eureka Springs City Advertising & Promotions Commission for assisting me with a complimentary tour so that I could share my experience with my readers!

 

Other posts you may enjoy: Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour, Cabin Fever Resort in Eureka Springs

Cabin Fever Resort – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Cabin Fever Resort – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Between my love of travel and my hospitality industry background, I’m a total hotel nerd. Choosing an interesting place to stay is one of my favorite parts of any trip. When I was planning my visit to the Chihuly exhibition at Crystal Bridges, I decided that it would be way more fun to spend the night after the event in Eureka Springs so that I could turn the trip into a mini getaway and fit in a little sightseeing.  While searching through the accommodations available in the area, I found the perfect fit for this trip: Cabin Fever Resort.

 

cabins with jacuzzis eureka springs arkansas

 

Cabin Fever Resort is located just half a mile off of Hwy 62 near two of my favorite local outdoor attractions, Blue Spring Heritage Center and Lake Leatherwood City Park. It’s about five miles to historic downtown Eureka Springs, so you can enjoy a stunning wooded setting while knowing that countless local attractions, quirky shops, and restaurants are just minutes away.

Eureka Springs is a popular destination for weddings, and the resort offers a really cute reception space for groups of up to about 50, and can accommodate larger gatherings outdoors.

Cabin Fever Resort offers luxury cabins with Jacuzzi tubs and spacious porches where you can take in the beautiful natural surroundings. There are three one-bedroom cabins and two two-bedroom cabins, which have full-size kitchens.

 

 

The two bedroom cabin I stayed in was lovely. Between the fireplace, jetted tub, and massage chair in front of the 60″ TV, this is definitely not “roughing it”. There are so many thoughtful touches throughout the cabin, from charming decor that gives the space a homey feel to a full supply of dishes, utensils, and cookware (including the ever-important corkscrew!).

 

cabin fever kitchen cookware

 

How cute are those? Cabin Fever Resort is a popular spot for family reunions, and I can definitely see preparing for a pot luck in the well-equipped cabin kitchen!

 

Cabin Fever Resort Eureka Springs cabins with kitchens

 

 

You’re totally surrounded by nature here, from the incredible wooded views you can take in from the balcony, to the natural wood walls and ceilings, to the stone around the fireplace. There’s also this guy, who I lovingly named Hank:

 

 

The massage chair I mentioned? My best explanation of the chair is that it’s inhabited by tiny elves with degrees in massage therapy. If I had one of these, I would never leave my house.

 

I loved that there were DVDs and books in the cabin! (Plus playing cards and Scategories). I curled up with a book of poetry in the massage chair in front of the fireplace. Is that the coziest sentence ever written? Possibly!

Behold my foxy pajama pants.

 

Instead of a guest book, there are rocks with notes from previous guests above the fireplace. Such a cool, unique idea!

 

 

Slipping into the Jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom is the perfect way to relax after a long day of walking Eureka’s crazy hills and stairs. Between the tub and the massage chair, my muscles were pretty happy!

 

The bedrooms are pretty simple in design, but cozy and comfortable. I slept in the one on the main floor.

 

 

The stairs leading up to the second bedroom and half bath are pretty steep, so if you’re traveling with kids or anyone with mobility challenges, the first floor bedroom is probably a better fit for them. It’s a cute woodsy retreat, and I love the privacy that comes with not being right next to the other bedroom.

 

One of my favorite parts of the cabin was the spacious back deck. It was furnished with a barbecue grill and a patio table and chairs, and looked out over the surrounding hills.

 

two bedroom cabin eureka springs

 

How great is that view?

 

 

With only five cabins on the property, the resort stays pretty quiet. The cabins are set pretty far apart, so you don’t have to worry about noise from neighbors. Here’s the cabin that was closest to mine, as seen from my back porch:

 

There’s also a front porch with a porch swing and a smaller BBQ grill.

 

This became my official cat cuddling spot.

Here’s the thing – when you’re a #catlady, you make cat friends everywhere you go. I randomly woke up at like 5:45 am after my night in the cabin, so I decided to take a walk around the resort. I walked up to the main check-in building and was greeted by two cats! We played a solid game of “chase the stick” and I gave some high quality chin scratches, then headed back towards my cabin.

So did they.

For some reason the video of the cats visiting that I uploaded is refusing to embed in the post, but you can click to watch until I figure out a way to make it work. Kitty Video!

 

I spent quite a while hanging out with the grey kitty, who even accompanied me on the rest of my walk. She was an excellent tour guide!

 

 

log cabin rentals eureka springs

 

I had such a relaxing stay, and I’d definitely recommend Cabin Fever Resort to anyone looking for a peaceful setting, home-like amenities, or a cozy, romantic setting for a weekend away. The cabin I stayed in rents for $249/night, and if you reserve 6 nights, you get the 7th free! The one bedroom cabins currently have a rate of $169/nt. You can also add on special requests, like in-cabin massages, a romance package with roses and champagne, or a special cake waiting for you upon arrival.

While updating this page in 2022, I discovered that Cabin Fever doesn’t seem to have a website or a Facebook anymore, but there are still recent reviews on TripAdvisor so booking may not currently be available.

Thanks so much to Cabin Fever Resort for hosting me for a night in exchange for sharing my honest opinions with you guys! No other compensation was received for this post, unless you count kitty cuddles.

Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour 👻

Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour 👻

Eureka Springs Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour

 

Last week, I took a quick trip down to the quirky town of Eureka Springs in Northwest Arkansas. While I was there, I got to check out one of the most popular attractions, the Crescent Hotel. Known as “America’s Most Haunted Hotel”, there are a LOT of stories surrounding this place, and one of the best ways to hear them is to take the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour, which I got to experience thanks to the local visitor’s bureau. (Thanks!)

 

The Crescent Hotel in 1886, via Wikipedia. I need to go back and get a similar shot so you can compare the current appearance. It’s basically identical!

My only other visit to the Crescent Hotel was back around 2000 when I was freshly out of high school. We met my sister and her family there for breakfast, then wandered the hotel a bit to explore. My nieces were around 3 and 6 at the time, so I’m not sure how much they understood about the whole “haunted hotel” concept. What I do know is that after we walked around on one of the upper floors, the younger one started throwing a fit, wanting to go back up there. It’s literally just a hotel hallway, so we couldn’t figure out why until she finally said that she liked all of the people up there.

We had been the only ones up there. 😮

Crescent Hotel Hallway Eureka Springs Ghost Tour

Helllooo? Anyone there?

When we were almost back to our cars, I turned around to snap a photo of the hotel exterior and my camera shut off. Nope, it wasn’t the battery or anything normal – it just completely died, never worked again.

So, that was my history with the hotel before now. Paranormal or just weird happenings? Who knows.

For a little extra background before we dive into the tour, there are different types of “hauntings” – one that I totally believe in and others that I’m not super sure about. The one I completely believe is known as a residual haunting. Think of a cassette tape (if you’re old enough to remember those. If not, get off my lawn, you crazy kids!). While I don’t totally understand the science behind them, I think we all get the basic idea – you make some kind of sound, and whatever weird material the tape is made of happens to be able to capture it and play it back when it is triggered to (aka when you press “play”). Residual hauntings work the same way. Something about the building or the atmosphere or maybe a whole combination of things is able to “record” sounds or images, just like the tape does. Then, those sounds or images are played back, sometimes decades or centuries later, causing people to hear footsteps in an empty hallway, children’s voices in an old school, or see a figure running down a staircase. The sound or image always plays out in the same way, often at the same time of day.

This one totally makes sense to me, because it seems scientifically explicable. Just like when you play back a tape, what you’re seeing or hearing doesn’t interact with you, it’s just repeating back. Although I have no idea how it works, some kind of natural, unintended recording happening seems possible.

The other kinds, involving spirits who move things and can be felt touching you and all that? Jury is still out. But I think the most fun way to approach this kind of tour is with an open mind! The guests on the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour range from complete skeptics to people who come equipped with ghost hunting equipment, and everything in between those two extremes. Even if you’re not so sure about the ghost part, learning about the history of the hotel is fascinating, too. It’s had quite a past!

Crescent Hotel Eureka Springs

Maybe the stone used to construct old buildings like the Crescent contains some of the same properties that let cassette and video tapes record things? Who knows!

There are multiple tours per night and the earliest tour of the evening is generally the most kid-friendly. That’s the time slot that I toured in, but I only know of one difference based on the reviews I’ve read. (We’ll get to that towards the end!) They recommend ages 8 and up for the tour, but there was a little girl on mine who was 6 who was super curious about everything. I think the best rule of thumb here is that you know your kids best. If the Haunted Mansion is their favorite Disney attraction, you’re probably fine. If they’re going to want to run around the hallways all willy-nilly while the tour guide is telling stories, it’s probably not for them.

 

Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour Meeting Location

The tour meets up on the fourth floor and works its way down the building, stopping along the way for stories about the hotel’s ghosts and history. One nice part about starting at the top is that you’re always walking *down* staircases, not up! (Although the hotel is old, it does have an elevator – it was the first building in Arkansas with an elevator! – so the tour is accessible for those in wheelchairs or with other mobility disabilities, but they do ask that you let them know when reserving your tickets so they can prepare accordingly.)

The heart of the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour is its stories. The hotel dates back to 1886, and over the years it has been the site of quite a few deaths. Each ghost’s story is told in the location where it happened, from the balcony a young woman jumped off of after learning she was pregnant back when the hotel doubled as a girls’ school, to the room now located where a 17 year old Irish boy working construction suffered a fatal fall when the hotel was being built. (Apparently he’s still very much a 17 year old boy, so to speak, and enjoys moving the blankets and shower curtains of female guests.)

Crescent Hotel Room 218 Michael

Room 218 is known as Michael’s Room 

Due to this being a working hotel, the stories are often told outside the door of hotel rooms because they can’t just barge in on the guests staying in them. If a room happens to be vacant that night, though, you may get the chance to go inside. I wouldn’t plan on this, since the hotel stays pretty busy (The room of Michael, the teenage boy mentioned above, reportedly sometimes has a 2 year wait for reservations!), but consider it an awesome perk if it happens!

There’s one ghost who likes to tidy people’s rooms up, but if she decides she doesn’t like them, they’ll return to the room and find their suitcases packed and waiting by the door!

Being the #catlady that I am, my obvious question was if anyone ever sees the ghost of the hotel’s former resident cat, Morris. (He has a memorial photo in the lobby and a fancy grave out in the garden. And yes, I made sure to meet the current hotel cat while I was there! You can see him here!) Turns out that yup, kitty ghost sightings are a thing! Man, maybe I can talk some cable TV network into giving me a reality show where I travel around as a kitty ghost hunter?? That would be an amazing way to get to answer the “So, what do you do?” question. Actually, I might start answering “kitty ghost hunter” anyway. Explaining the whole blogging and social media thing gets old. (And LOL, you guys, I Googled Morris and found that he has a page on Find A Grave! I also found this page that lists most of the former Crescent cats.)

But uh, back to the tour before I give up travel blogging to start a ghost cat blog… (But seriously, call me, History Channel. Or TLC. Or whatevs.)

After stops on the “creepy” 3rd floor (back to that in a minute), outside several rooms, the staircase, and lobby, it’s time to head down to the morgue and autopsy room.

What, your favorite hotel doesn’t have a morgue? Lame.

The vast majority of the deaths that occurred at the Crescent were not accidents. Around 1937, the hotel became a “cancer hospital”. The quotation marks there are because the “doctor” running the hospital was a total fraud who never actually cured anyone. He was charismatic and famous, thanks to having his own radio station, and because of that he was able to convince tons of people who were running out of hope to spend all of the money they had to come receive his “cure”. (Thank goodness we no longer live in a time where countless people will follow a horrible, unqualified person just because he’s famous and claims to have the answers they’re seeking! Oh, wait.)

You can read the full story of Dr. Baker in this great article on the Crescent’s website or hear about it on this episode of the “Stuff you Missed in History Class” podcast, but I’ll keep things short for the sake of this post. Everyone who came seeking treatment received horribly painful injections several times a day, suffered a lot, and died. Remember my earlier mention of the “creepy” third floor? There’s an area up there where quite a few guests have felt ill and have even fainted. That’s the area that was soundproofed as a place to stick patients who were moaning and crying in pain so they wouldn’t be seen and heard by potential customers touring the hospital. (Um, it’s also now where the honeymoon suites are.)

Crescent Hotel Baker Cancer Hospital Sign

 

It seems that the ol’ doc was getting pretty delusional by the time he was eventually arrested for fraud in 1940. He was keeping organs of the deceased patients in jars so he could show people how totally cancer-free they were! (Because logic!) And so as the tour draws to a close, you get to visit the former morgue, autopsy room, and “body parts room” where the jarred specimens were kept. (Fun fact: Apparently when Dr. Baker died, four whole people attended his funeral. In comparison, 50 people attended Morris the hotel cat’s funeral. Cats: They’re better than most people!)

 

The morgue and autopsy room can only be seen by signing up for the Crescent Hotel ghost tour!

 

As I mentioned earlier, this seems to be the main difference between the kid-friendly 7 pm tour and other reviews I’ve read. Other guests mention the lights being turned off to experience the room in darkness, and a rather long video of the Crescent Hotel’s appearance on Ghost Hunters. On my tour, the guide asked if anyone wanted to go into the former cooler where bodies were kept with the lights off and door shut to try to capture ghost photos, but everyone else stayed out in the (dimly) lit autopsy room. We got a shortened version of the Ghost Hunters video, which I think was around a minute.

One moment that struck me as hilarious while we were down here – While the tour guide was telling the story of the morgue, a little boy around 2 started babbling to himself the way kids that age tend to do. Since it was pretty distracting, the guide suggested to his dad that he might want to step outside, but since it was kind of icky out there (There was a pretty strong grease smell coming from the kitchen at the time), they might be more comfortable in the autopsy room. Ahh, the Crescent, where the autopsy room is the LESS icky/uncomfortable option! 😂

I’m a total whimp when it comes to spooky stuff, but I didn’t find this portion of the tour bad at all. There’s quite a bit of freedom to explore after the video, so if you want to go in the dark body parts room on your own to try to have a spooky experience you can, or you can stick to areas where you feel more comfortable. (I did NOT hang out in the room from the above video very long! Although the creepy old wheelchair in there freaked me out more than the locker from the video.) If you’re really not feeling the vibe down there, I’m sure the guide wouldn’t be offended if you wanted to head out early, since it’s the last stop on the tour anyway. If it IS totally your scene, take note – the ghost tour is the ONLY way to get access to the morgue and autopsy areas. While you can wander around most of the hotel any time, these areas are off limits to the general public, so if you want to explore them, the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour is the only way in.

One other funny note – I didn’t pay much attention to the hallway we exited the morgue through at the time, but then I found myself there the next morning when I returned to the Crescent for my massage at their New Moon Spa. Only in a town as quirky as Eureka Springs do you find a spa right next to the morgue! (The spa is amaaaaaazing, though, so don’t let the unusual location scare you away from it! You’ll find a link to my post about it in the previous sentence.)

 

 

I would definitely recommend the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour to Eureka Springs visitors who want to learn more about the town’s history, especially those staying at the hotel! It’s also an obvious must-do if you’re into the paranormal or mysterious. I do think that the tour experience will vary a lot depending on which guide you get. Each tour guide puts their own spin on it, has their own experiences to share, and (obviously) their own personality. My guide, “Aunt Reba”, was a fantastic storyteller and never crossed over into being cheesy or trying to force a spooky feel.

You can learn more about the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour on their website and Facebook page, where they share photos and videos sent in by people who have been on the tour. You can also find tons of reviews on TripAdvisor. The tour lasts around 75 minutes, and the current price as of 2023 is $28 for adults and $15 for kids. Want to spend more than an hour at the Crescent Hotel? Click here to check the current room rates and availability!

Have you ever had a ghostly experience? 👻 Do you think the Crescent’s ghost stories are real? Share your stories and opinions the comments!

 

Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour Eureka Springs