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Trip Report Carthage MO and Eureka Springs AR - A road trip with my mother-in-law and her sister

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Recently my mother-in-law came for her annual visit. I don't always have days to take off while she is here, but I did this time. She's generally pretty content to find a good book, visit the occasional casino, and go on a shopping trip or two. But this time, at the last minute, I decided she needed a little more adventure in her life.

Where could I go, what could I do, in a short three-day road trip from the Kansas City MO area? Well, I came up with roadtripping down 71 to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Let me say up front that this was a very good idea. My MIL, and her sister, 69 and 63, had a wonderful time.

But, I will also say up front, what was I thinking not asking my fodorite friends for some advice? My only excuse was it was really last minute, I'm in grad school and working full-time, and I just barely had time to find a room and a map.

So, in a fairly disjointed fashion, here you go.

LODGING
This is where I wish I had asked for ideas. The web site looked so cute. The TripAdvisor reviews varied, but it didn't sound too bad. We stayed at The Joy Motel: http://www.thejoymotel.com/ C'mon, they said there would be s'mores! Who could resist? Apparently not me.

The good:
$58/a night per room. I was paying for 2 rooms so I was trying to keep it cheap. We had two adjoining rooms and there was a front and a back door, the back door opened onto a little balcony which my MIL enjoyed when she had a cigarette, and Cathy and I enjoyed because she was out there having her cigarette. It was nice to sit out in the warm evenings out of the rain. The woman we checked in with and who made the pancakes in the morning was great fun. The pancakes in the morning were very good....but the second morning we didn't get any because they never answered the buzzer. I guess that leads to

The Bad

The s'mores never happened the first night, although we waited and waited. They said it was drizzling, but I was out there the whole time and it didn't start drizzling till quite awhile after the time they said they would be there. It was pretty funny though the second night as it was actually raining that night, we were sitting on the balcony in the back chatting and watching the rain, and here she came with three s'mores she had made on her stove.

Mixed Bag

So overall, a mixed bag. They were very nice, but the rooms are sorely in need of refurbishing (but clean) and you can get comparably priced rooms at other places. But, I promised Shirley and Cathy an Adventure and I gave it to them by golly.

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    The Road Trip

    I live NE of Kansas City, MO. I hauled Cathy and Shirley out of bed at 7 am and we were on the road by 8. No time to waste, they got sausage biscuits from the McDonalds drivethrough.

    Neither of them had ever been on this route to southern Missouri before, so they truly seemed to enjoy the drive through the countryside down Hwy 71.

    Cathy wanted to stop at the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, MO, so I was keeping an eye out as we approached. But wait! There is a historical site in Carthage! Let's take this exit first. Cathy and Shirley had never been on a roadtrip with me before. They had no choice but to go, though, as I was driving.

    Carthage was the site of a Civil War battle, so sure enough there was a historical marker. That was about it for the battle, but, what a courthouse! The marker is right on the square in Carthage, and the courthouse is fantastic. Yes, I have pictures, I'll put a link up in a bit.

    We stopped and walked around, and walked inside the courthouse as well. It's gorgeous. They've maintained a lot, including the attendant-operated elevator. She has a little chair and bulletin board inside, like it's her little office. It was fun to visit this site.

    I got to chatting to a fellow waiting outside the courthouse with the dog while the wife went inside. He had a brochure and was showing me the info on the bldg, and I mentioned that I heard there was a tour of Victorian houses in Carthage. Well, the brochure had the map and all the descriptions of the homes, and he gave it to me. People from Missouri are so nice.

    I gathered up the sisters and we proceeded to go take a look at these houses. They were beautiful(the houses). Many of them still had hitching posts out front, and whatever you call the step to step to out of the carriages. Shirley and Cathy were in 7th Heaven and we hadn't even made it halfway through the first day!

    This is something I found about the courthouse:

    This magnificent Romanesque Revival building was constructed with Carthage stone and has medieval castle features that include turrets, towers, and arches. An array of historical artifacts, local mining displays, and a wrought iron cage elevator with a full time operator are located inside of the building.

    Here's a picture:

    http://www.city-data.com/picfilesv/picv15661.php

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    The Road Trip Cont'd - The Precious Moments Chapel

    We hopped back on the hwy and went a few miles down the road to the exit for the Precious Moments Chapel. Cathy really wanted to see this. It is quite a bit farther off hwy than I expected, really tucked away.

    This was a rainy weekday outside of tourist season,so the very very large parking lots were not that full. This was okay as this meant we could pretty much go where we wanted when we wanted. We had lunch at the snack bar (not impressed, your basic hot dogs, chili, baked potato snack bar food)

    You enter through the visitor center, where naturally all the gift stores are. There is this area in the beginning that kind of reminds me of Disneyland or those Holiday animated displays with all sorts of figures in different everyday activities, like fishing, or sewing, or whatever. It's kind of cute.

    You then have to exit through the back, and it is a walk to the Chapel and a museum. It's a little longer than I think Cathy expected. I hate to say it, but I think she was a little disappointed. I don't know if it was because it was no longer tourist season, but the grounds were looking a little ragged, lots of weeding that needed to be done, and the paintings in the chapel were looking rather worn.

    After visiting the chapel we came back in through the gift shop. If you like Precious Moments, this is the place to be. There is everything you can possibly imagine. Don't expect a bargain though. They may have sales, of course, and they have frequent buyer type plans, but this is not a discount store. They have a wonderful Christmas shop. I bought a few Christmas ornaments to get my shopping started.

    http://www.preciousmoments.com/

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    The Road Trip Cont'd, Eureka Springs!

    Shortly after leaving Carthage we branched off of Hwy 71 and started winding south and east through the Missouri countryside. There is no straight way to get to Eureka Springs! Then it started getting really windy as we neared Eureka Springs.

    This really is a pretty spectacular part of the country. Very rugged, lots of ravines, beautiful pines. I thought it was really beautiful.

    After checking into the Joy Motel we did a quick (well, not that quick as the roads are narrow, winding, and the speed limit low) trip through the ER downtown. My MIL and her Sis fell in love with ER immediately.

    I've never seen so many Victorian houses that were in such good shape. A few were breaking down, but there was a huge number that were well-kept. It seems like most were BnBs!

    I'll try to wrap this up and give you my impressions of Eureka Springs.

    1. I think they have done a really good job of making it tourist-accessible. The shuttle system will take you everywhere you need to go for $4.50 a day. No need to take your car out of your hotel parking lot until evening.
    2. There was a good variety of shops. A lot of these kinds of towns are all antique shops, or all art galleries, etc. ER had jewelry shops, art galleries, quilt shops, folk art shops, needlework shops, well, I could go on and on. I thought it was a nice variety.

    Well, I'm cutting it shorter than I thought, I have to attend to something now, will come back.

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    Impressions of Eureka Springs

    I stopped after the shopping so, here's the rest:

    3. It's a really nice area to walk around. There are a lot of strategically placed benches, and when the sisters were a little tired there was a little place on the sidewalk we could get a soda and watch people walk by, Then the Basin Springs Park is another great place to sit and watch the world go by.
    4. It is a very funny mix of the very religious (Christ of the Ozarks and the Passion Play are there on the outer area of town) and a kind of hippy dippy vibe -- lots of crystals and massages etc.
    5. Lots of spa options!
    6. Lots of "festival" type options on the weekends it appears.
    7. ER proper is very pretty with all the victorian homes and old bldgs. Outskirts are more touristy, but then, it's where tourists go, isn't it? And nothing is far away and the shuttle bus stops everywhere so is still okay to stay outside.
    8. A LOT of restaurant options. I was surprised.
    9. There appears to be a nightlife as well

    I really enjoyed it and think there is a little something for everyone. I did drag the sisters off to a number of scenic outlook spots which they ended up enjoying, and I think it was worthwhile to get a perspective of the town.

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    Dining

    Again, I can't believe I didn't ask my Fodor friends for advice before I went. Not only for advice on hotels, but also restaurants. Not that the places we went were bad, they just weren't spectacular. Mostly they were guided by the fact that we could walk across the street or we were driving by at the moment.

    Dinner:

    Night 1 - walked across the street to the Best Western Inn at the Ozarks and ate at the Myrtle Mae restaurant. Actually, I had the special, a lemon pepper trout, that was pretty good. There is trout on the menu as well. I can't actually remember what Shirley and Cathy had. There's also a salad/soup/dessert bar that was decent.

    Night 2 http://www.foresthillrestaurant.com/

    It says it's Restaurant/SteakHouse and Gift Shop, which seems like an odd combo, but I stopped because it had wood-fired pizza, and I had an urge. We shared one that was pretty decent. Seemed odd to have a pizza at a steak house, but there you go.

    Lunch - Day 2 (remember we had lunch at Precious Moments First Day)

    We went for country cooking. The sisters were hungry, tired, cranky and needed a loo, so when the restaurant presented itself we stopped. I think it was Eureka Grill, but I can't remember for sure. It was a basic cafe and the country-fried steak was pretty good although I could feel my arteries harden as I ate(:

    Lunch - Day 3
    This was on the way home. We drove up through Branson and Springfield, and hit Ozark at lunchtime so I took my MIL to Lambert's Cafe as she had never been. More artery-hardening, but it is still a fun place to stop and she loved it. Food is plentiful. Suffice it to say that we did not eat dinner that night.

    http://www.throwedrolls.com/

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    The last one! Web site to help, and a link to the pictures:

    Pictures first if you would like to see them:

    http://tinyurl.com/46m5nt

    The trolley system, maps, and more:

    http://www.eurekatrolley.org/

    a fairly good overview:

    http://www.offbeattravel.com/eureka-springs-arkansas.html

    I forgot to mention The Crescent Hotel, which is gorgeous and if you look at the pictures is the big hotel on the hill. On the fourth floor is an amazing view over the valley. There is a lounge up there, so seems like the perfect place for a sunset drink. They did advise that if you check out the web, there are often midweek specials. It's Gorgeous:

    http://www.crescent-hotel.com/

    Anyway, I hope someone finds some of this helpful. I didn't know quite what I was expecting, but I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would like to go back!


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    Toucan2

    Enjoyed reading your trip report this morning drinking my first cup of tea of the day.

    'The sisters were tired and needed a loo' - are your originally from the UK?

    Excellent report - very well done. Thank you for taking the time to post.

    Sandy

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    Hi Sandy, No, I'm not originally from the UK. But I got in the habit from having an English staffer for a long time, then an Australian boss for several years. It always sounds better than bathrooms (cause you know, there's not a bath) or restrooms (Well, because you don't really rest there often) and sounds better to my ear than toilet(:

    I'm glad you enjoyed the report.

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