The Ozarks’ Cutting-Edge Take on the Past

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Arkansas, the birthplace of Johnny Cash, Rosetta Tharpe and Levon Helm, has leapt into ‘you-gotta-see-this’ status while still honoring its noble hillbilly roots. Exploring this Northwest corner of Arkansas, every curving, hilly road leads to Eureka Springs, an eclectic, liberal-art colony in a sea of traditional conservativism.

With a population hovering around 2000—minus a steady stream of visitors—one-quarter of its locals make a living via the arts. It’s a random-hug kind of place where conformity is an oddity. Arkansas’ version of Key West has no traffic lights or stops signs and remains to be a living architectural museum sporting Victorian and “carpenter Gothic” gems built between 1880 and 1910.

The healing springs that made the town famous still gurgle, but are outshined by the 1960s hippie-counterculture tradition that forever changed this one-off hamlet.

Overlooking but escaping the buzz of Eureka Springs is the majestic-mountaintop 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, which is a world unto its own. The evolution of this palatial Historic Hotel of America included it being a women’s college and a charlatan-run cancer hospital from 1937-39.

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