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With hectic schedules and a world that is more connected than ever, it is easy to lose sight of your own place and purpose in the world. As we head into the new year, it’s a great time to commit to periodically unplugging and taking a break to not only rejuvenate but also refocus.
In Arkansas, there are many places waiting for you to enjoy and explore that also provide you with a sense of calm and serenity. For those eager for spiritual renewal and self-reflection, here are six destinations that may be able to provide the energy and enlightenment you have been seeking.
Subiaco Abbey is an American Benedictine abbey with a preparatory academy and retreat center. The abbey is comprised of impressive sandstone buildings, circa 1891, and a Romanesque-style Abbey Church. A self-guided walking tour is available with general information brochures on the Benedictine Order, Subiaco Abbey, Academy, and Coury House available free of charge at the front desk. For groups of 10 or more, a monk-led tour can be arranged if reserved before your visit. Retreat facilities include a chapel, meeting rooms, dining room, and 36 furnished guest rooms with private bath facilities.
Located at the historic Abbey, the monks sell monk sauce, handmade peanut brittle and candles and brew amazing beer at County Monks Brewing.
Nestled in a woodland setting, Thorncrown Chapel rises forty-eight feet into the Ozark sky. This magnificent wooden structure contains 425 windows and over 6,000 square feet of glass. It sits atop over 100 tons of native stone and colored flagstone, making it blend perfectly with its setting. The chapel’s simple design and majestic beauty combine to make it what critics have called “one of the finest religious spaces of modern times.”
It was designed by Arkansas native E. Fay Jones, a nationally-honored and recognized architect. The chapel was chosen in 2001 as one of the Top 10 Designs of the 20th century by The American Institute of Architecture. It has also won the institute’s Design of the Year for 1981 and Design of the Decade for the 1980s. Non-denominational services and weddings take place here.
Thorncrown Chapel is located on Highway 62 West just outside of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. There is no admission fee, but donations are accepted.
St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, situated just below the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, is a domed structure inspired by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Listed in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” this 1904 stone church is the only one that is entered through the bell tower. Saint Elizabeth’s Church has become a landmark in Eureka Springs and is listed on the National Historic Register. The church’s unique unattached bell tower has welcomed thousands of visitors each year from all over the world.
Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel is a beautiful sanctuary and quiet oasis to visit any time of year. Built to honor her life, the family enlisted E. Fay Jones and Maurice Jennings to design the structure, and they choose a Gothic style, reminiscent of fourteenth-century Europe. The view overlooks a walking trail and Lake Norwood on the edge of Bella Vista and also has walking paths around it and benches for sitting and reflecting. It’s popular for weddings, vow renewals, concerts, cultural events, baptisms and memorial services.
The Chapel of the Transfiguration is an open-air chapel designed in the Gothic revival style, located at Camp Mitchell, the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas‘s retreat center on top of Petit Jean Mountain. The chapel is located on the edge of a bluff on Petit Jean Mountain, and the building is oriented so that worshipers face south overlooking the Ada Valley below. The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program announced in January 2022 the chapel’s entry into the National Register of Historic Places.
An hour-and-forty-five minute reenactment of the last week of the life of Jesus Christ, The Great Passion Play is staged in a 4,000-seat outdoor amphitheater in Eureka Springs. The multi-level set, special lighting and sound effects, live animals, and a cast of 170 biblically-costumed actors come together to create a thrilling epic drama.
At 67 feet, Christ of the Ozarks is one of the largest Christ memorial statues in the world. Also, visit The Holy Land Tour where guests walk through a full-size replica of the biblical elements from Jerusalem; the Bible Museum with a collection of more than 6,000 Bible manuscripts in over 625 languages and dialects and fascinating artifacts; the Sacred Arts Museum showcasing hundreds of pieces of religious art dating as early as 9th century; the History Museum provides a brief snapshot of the history of creation and mankind, gift shops, Noah’s Ark Park Petting Zoo, Great Hall Buffet, mission trips and 20 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails.
While this list of Arkansas Destinations for Peace and Spiritual Growth is focused on brick-and-mortar destinations, Arkansas is The Natural State after all and overflowing with places that will feed you body, soul and spirit. Here are a few of my favorites:
Dispersed Camping in the Natural State
Arkansas’s 10 Tallest Mountains
Hiking Whitaker Point
Hiking Sugarloaf Mountain
6 Natural State Outdoor Activities to do this Winter
5 Single Night Backpacking Trips
25 Urban Hikes and Walking Trails
Arkansas Water Trails
Ozark St. Francis National Forest Multi-Use Trails
Ron Coleman Mining
Arkansas Bluff Shelters
Glory Hole Waterfall
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