NO ONE CAN deny that Bikes, Blues & BBQ in Fayetteville is an amazing event. Over the past 19 years, this “world’s largest charity motorcycle rally” has raised over $2 million for various nonprofit organizations that benefit women, children and underserved folks in Northwest Arkansas. But neither can anyone deny that BBB is an unbelievably popular event: It was estimated that more than 400,000 people from all over the country attended the annual get-together and massive party in 2015.

So … to go or not to go?

On its homepage, BBB makes a good argument for attendance and clearly states that the event is a family-friendly function and will not tolerate any, well, intolerance (leave your racial supremacy, hate speech and fascism firmly in the 1940s). And while that’s a super-compelling reason to attend, it reminds me of another place where I felt unconditionally accepted: Eureka Springs. Just an hour’s drive northeast of Fayetteville, Eureka is where the misfits fit year-round, and if you’re looking for an alternative to (or even a brief respite from) BBB, you’re gonna love “The Magic City” and its own BBB offerings.


The Place Where Magic ‘ B’


For the first B in Eureka Springs, we’ll remain faithful to the original BBB and explore the Blues in Eureka Springs. St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church, on Crescent Drive, showcases a striking, often-blue (sometimes black) cupola topping its magnificent, medieval-looking stone chapel. For ecclesiophiles such as myself, St. Elizabeth’s is a true treasure. Under the direction of Father Lauro in the 1950s, an Italian artists’ society created marble statues of children, sheep and Our Lady of Fatima, which now grace the gardens of the church. You can also view the Stations of the Cross—sculpted in Italy as well, from white Carrara marble, no less—on the wall beside the ramp that leads to the bell tower.

And if you enjoyed the gardens at the church, you’ll definitely have to go to Blue Spring Heritage Center, 33 acres of botanical gardens steeped in rich Arkansas history. Once a stop on the Trail of Tears (and now a part of the Arkansas Heritage Trails System), Blue Spring has been a pilgrimage destination for Native Americans for tens of thousands of years, with the Bluff Shelter (or Blue Spring Shelter, as it’s called on the National Register of Historic Places) serving as both refuge and site for sacred ritual. You can stroll through the Medicine Wheel Garden, which is built in a circle design, per American Indian tradition and features herbs and plants that were important in their spiritual practices. Or sit next to the trout-filled lagoon, which receives 38 million gallons of cold, clear water from the spring every single day. Both Blue Springs and St. Elizabeth’s showcase awe-inspiring beauty. If you’re finding yourself with the wrong kind of blues, finding these blues will chase them straight away.


Basin Spring Park, in the heart of downtown Eureka Springs, was built around a spring known to Native Americans for its healing properties; health-seekers from around the country began camping there for cures as early as 1879. In 1890, a formal park with limestone walls and fountains was created, and in 1921, a wooden gazebo was replaced by a band shell that was—and still is—used for public performances. So what’s going on in September 2019? Plenty.

On Sept. 16, head to Basin Spring Park for a celebration of Mexican Independence Day, where you can listen to some live, bilingual music and eat un pastel delicioso. Or amble down on Sept. 21, for the Basin Park Music Series, where you can hear—for free!—the “string-band pop” sounds of Nashville-based bluegrassers Front Country. Or go on Sept. 28, for Drumming in the Park, where you can bring a noisemaker of your own to this autumn monthly drum circle and dance to the beat of your own … well … drum. For celebrations or relaxations or what-in-the-hecks, Basin Spring Park is one of the best Bs Eureka has to offer.


On Sept. 6 and 7, the town will be host to the 49th annual Eureka Springs Antique Auto Festival, held for the first time on the grounds of the Great Passion Play. Events this year include a parade (including a bank-robbery re-enactment that has been an annual spectacle for over 30 years), free music, vendors and a mind-boggling display of restored classics, hot rods, rare trucks and more. 

But that’s not all the town has to offer in the mode of motor merrymaking.

From Sept. 20-22, Eureka will also host Slingshots in the Ozarks, when owners of Polaris Slingshots, a three-wheeled motorcycle (or “open-air roadster,” as the vehicle brands itself), collectively cruise the curvy autumn landscape of the Ozarks around Eureka. Whether you want to look at fancy vehicles or ride in one—or chase the Blues or hit Basin Spring Park—September is definitely a good month to visit the Stairstep Town. 

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