To the surprise of many GLBT folks who have never visited, or don't live in Arkansas or a neighboring state, the tiny Ozark Mountains community of Eureka Springs (population 2,100) has one of the highest per-capita gay populations of any little town in the country. Although it's in the heart of the Bible Belt - just an hour's drive from Branson, MO - and its top tourist attractions include one of the largest statues of Christ in the world as well as a May–Oct. daily showing of The Great Passion Play, this lovely little town of historic buildings and stunning mountain vistas has a tremendous following as a gay weekend destination. Eureka Springs has long had an artsy, individualistic personality, and the town's rather eclectic and sometimes seemingly unlikely factions get along surprisingly well. Many B&Bs, inns, and restaurants in the hilly, atmospheric downtown historic district are gay-owned, and you'll bump into plenty of same-sex couples as you amble around town (it's a great romance destination - more popular for couples than nightlife-seeking singles). You'll find an especially strong LGBT presence during any of the three Eureka Springs Diversity Weekends, which take place three times per year: early April, early August, and early November.
These festive weekends, which in some respects function as de facto Gay Pride celebrations, take place on the following dates throughout 2014 and into 2015:
- Eureka Springs Spring Diversity Weekend: April 4-6, 2014
- Eureka Springs Summer Diversity Weekend: August 1-3, 2014
- Eureka Springs Fall Diversity Weekend: Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2014
Each of the three Diversity Weekends features several events and gatherings. Typical weekends include fun diversions like Fabulous Big Gay Yard Sales, Domestic Partnership Registries so that you can have your commitment ceremony in town (this is a very popular gay wedding and honeymoon destination, even though same-sex marriage isn't yet legal in Arkansas), and parties and live music at some of the favorite gay nightlife spots in town, such as New Delhi Cafe, Voulez-Vous Lounge, Henri's Just One More, and the Beer Garden in Eureka Live Underground. If you haven't gathered by now, there's a decidedly cheeky, humorous bent to many of the events that take place during the Diversity Weekends.
The summer Diversity Weekend is also time for the annual MVR Men's Pool Party at Magnetic Valley Retreat - this takes place on Saturday, with a cost of $20 for an all-day pass. For details on each weekend, check the Out in Eureka Events Calendar.
It's a bit of a drive to reach Eureka Springs from most of the big cities in this part of the country, although it is a pretty drive once you're in the rolling, verdant Ozark Mountains. Driving times are 3 hours from Tulsa, 3.5 hours from Little Rock, 4 hours from Kansas City, 4.5 hours from Oklahoma City, 5 hours from Memphis, 5 hours from St. Louis, and 6 hours from Dallas.
You can also fly into Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Bentonville, a one-hour drive west of Eureka Springs, which is served by most major airlines, with direct flights to Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City, and many other large hubs. Branson Airport, just over the border in Missouri, is also just an hour away and has service on Frontier and Southwest airlines.
For ideas about where to eat, shop, stay, and play while in town, check out the excellent website of Out In Eureka, which is a terrific resource - the site lists a number of gay-friendly inns, hotels, and B&Bs in town - Eureka Springs has lots of distinctive options amid its many Victorian houses and spa resorts. Also very useful is the main tourism and travel information site of the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce and EurekaSprings.org.