Eureka Springs Winter Activities | Big Cats at Turpentine Creek

Looking for things to do in the winter?
Eureka Springs has plenty of cold weather activities. To find out more, we talked to the very cool Ike Weaver, promotions coordinator at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge (one of only a handful of big cat sanctuaries in the United States accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries). TWCR is an ethical animal tourism destination and with every visit, every purchase and every overnight reservation, guests are actually helping protect survivors of the exotic animal trade. 

Read our interview below to discover how to have some fun and learn something new. Visit the Big Cats for an experience you’ll never forget!

Sissy in the snow
Q: What does Turpentine offer in the winter?
A: While many area businesses temporarily close this time of year, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge (TCWR) is open every day – excluding Christmas Day – during the Winter season. We offer unique opportunities to see and learn about exotic and native animals, and we also share eye-opening insight into the harmful nature of the exotic animal trade. At the Refuge, guests can enjoy fun, family-friendly experiences through daily tours or overnight experiences in our adults-only and family-friendly lodging accommodations. But even if you can’t visit, we offer membership opportunitiessponsorship options and a variety of other ways get involved. Go to for more information in that regard. And we’re pretty active on social media, too. So curl up with our cat videos if you’re not able to visit!


Spyke the not so snowy Leopard
Q: What is special about visiting y’all in the colder months?
A: If you haven’t visited the Refuge or stayed overnight during the Winter months, you’re missing out on a neat experience. The majority of our animal residents develop heavier coats leading into the cooler season, so dropping temperatures really don’t affect them much. Having said that, our African animal residents (i.e. lions, servals, etc.) tend to stay close to their heated night house areas, whereas our native residents (i.e. bobcats, cougars, black bears, etc.) and tigers love to be active in the colder weather. In fact, tigers are one of the few felines that like water. So when it snows, guests can often see tigers playing with “snowman enrichment” or otherwise enjoying their habitats all Winter long.
Bam Bam the Holiday Bear
Q: What can readers look forward to?
A: Guests are in for fun, educational experience when they visit! TCWR admission includes access to our Discovery Area, as well as guided tours along our half-mile tour loop. In a lot of instances, guests within our Discovery Area can safely be within 5 feet of apex predators while learning about our animal residents through educational signage and animal biography plaques. After spending time in our Discovery Area, guests can learn about our larger animals (i.e. lions, tigers, ligers, etc.) during half-mile guided tours by our knowledgeable animal care interns. During the tours, guests learn a great deal about the harmful nature of the exotic animal trade while viewing residents in 5,000-20,000 square foot habitats. While on property, guests may also hear unique exotic and native animal vocalizations – like “caroling” or “chuffing” – or witness natural animal behaviors, and they may also see our animals enjoying habitat enrichment like boomerballs and other large carnivore playthings.
Rocklyn and her big red ball
While daily guests can have a great time at the Refuge, overnight lodging guests receive a really unique, immersive experience. Collectively known as Africa In The Ozarks, we offer a variety of family-friendly and adults-only lodging accommodations, each with their own unique color schemes, decor and features. All of our accommodations are really comfortable and fun, and include amenities you would expect in any standard hotel room. What’s more, is that the Refuge is located seven miles south of Eureka Springs, so during this time of year there is hardly any light pollution. Which means stargazers are in for a real treat when they stay overnight at the Refuge!
Abagail playing it cool
Q: What is different about Turpentine’s routine in the winter? (Animals, staff, etc.)
A: Regardless of the season, we are always working for our animal residents. And while we work like dogs to take care of all of these cats, some things do change a bit during the Winter season. Our animal care team are more vigilant when monitoring water levels/status, as freezing temperatures tend to do…what freezing temperatures do. With the exception of our bears and a few other species, the majority of our residents expend more energy during the colder months, so we increase their food intake accordingly. During this time of year, our bears actually go into a state of slowed physiological activity known as torpor. In this state, our bears do not eat as much as they would during the warmer months, so we reduce their food intake as necessary.
Willy Lion chillin in the leaves
You can find their hours of operation, tour times and other important information on their website, as well as educational content, and photos and videos via Facebook.

More Inspiration