Hot Springs, Arkansas, nestled in the Ouachita Mountains, is a hidden gem offering a unique blend of natural wonders, rich history, and therapeutic relaxation. With its famous thermal springs, stunning landscapes, and vibrant downtown, Hot Springs offers a myriad of activities and attractions that cater to every taste and interest. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a rejuvenating getaway, Hot Springs has something for everyone. Let’s dive into the top things to do in this captivating city.
- Discover the Historic Bathhouse Row:
Hot Springs’ claim to fame lies in its historic Bathhouse Row, a collection of eight bathhouses built between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Explore the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center, which now serves as a museum, offering a fascinating glimpse into the city’s bathing and spa culture. Take a self-guided tour to witness the elegant architecture and learn about the therapeutic benefits of the natural thermal waters.
- Relax in the Thermal Springs:
Experience the healing powers of Hot Springs’ thermal springs by indulging in a rejuvenating bath or spa treatment. Buckstaff Bathhouse, the only remaining operational bathhouse on Bathhouse Row, offers traditional thermal baths that have been popular since the late 1800s. Surrender yourself to a soothing soak and let the mineral-rich waters work their magic.
- Explore Hot Springs National Park:
Situated within the city limits, Hot Springs National Park is a true natural wonder. Lace up your hiking boots and embark on one of the park’s many scenic trails, such as the Sunset Trail or the Goat Rock Trail, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and lush forests. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample the park’s thermal water by sipping from the traditional spring fountains found throughout the area.
- Visit Garvan Woodland Gardens:
For a tranquil escape into nature, head to Garvan Woodland Gardens. Spanning 210 acres, this botanical garden is a haven of blooming flowers, meticulously manicured landscapes, and enchanting architectural features. Take a leisurely stroll through the themed gardens, marvel at the stunning Anthony Chapel, and relax on the peaceful shores of Lake Hamilton.
- Immerse Yourself in History at the Gangster Museum:
Hot Springs has a storied past as a popular destination for gangsters during the Prohibition era. Delve into this fascinating chapter of history by visiting the Gangster Museum of America. Learn about notorious figures like Al Capone and admire authentic artifacts and exhibits that depict the city’s gambling, bootlegging, and gangster culture.
- Enjoy Lake Ouachita:
Outdoor enthusiasts will find paradise at Lake Ouachita, the largest lake in Arkansas. With over 40,000 acres of crystal-clear water, the lake offers a wide range of activities such as boating, fishing, swimming, and camping. Rent a kayak or a pontoon boat to explore the numerous coves and secluded beaches, or try your hand at catching largemouth bass, striped bass, or catfish.
- Sample the Local Cuisine:
No visit to Hot Springs is complete without savoring the local culinary delights. Indulge in traditional Southern comfort food, fresh seafood, and mouthwatering barbecue at one of the city’s many charming eateries. Don’t forget to try the world-famous Hot Springs tamales, a local delicacy that has been a staple since the early 1900s.
- Take a Scenic Drive:
Explore the picturesque landscapes of Hot Springs by taking a scenic drive along the breathtaking roads that wind through the Ouachita Mountains. The Talimena National Scenic Byway and the Arkansas Scenic 7 Byway are two popular routes that offer stunning vistas, vibrant fall foliage, and opportunities to stop and hike or picnic along the way.
- Visit the Mid-America Science Museum:
For a family-friendly adventure, visit the Mid-America Science Museum, the largest hands-on science center in Arkansas. Engage in interactive exhibits and experiments that make learning about science and technology fun for all ages. From exploring the solar system to experiencing the wonders of physics, this museum offers a captivating experience for curious minds.
- Attend a Horse Race at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort:
Experience the excitement of live horse racing at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, a premier entertainment destination in Hot Springs. Place your bets, cheer on your favorite horses, and soak up the electrifying atmosphere. If horse racing isn’t your cup of tea, try your luck at the casino or enjoy the resort’s dining and entertainment offerings.
- Explore the Downtown Area:
Hot Springs’ vibrant downtown area is brimming with unique shops, art galleries, and charming restaurants. Take a leisurely stroll along Central Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare, and explore the eclectic mix of boutiques, antique stores, and local businesses. Stop by the Hot Springs Farmers Market to savor fresh produce and handmade crafts from local artisans.
- Discover the Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic:
Prepare to be amazed at the Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic, where master illusionist Maxwell Blade captivates audiences with his mind-boggling tricks and mesmerizing performances. Sit back and enjoy an evening of spellbinding illusions, comedy, and audience participation that will leave you wondering how it’s all done.
- Soak in Hot Springs Mountain Tower:
For panoramic views of the city and its surrounding natural beauty, head to Hot Springs Mountain Tower. Take an elevator ride to the observation deck, situated 1,256 feet above sea level, and marvel at the breathtaking vistas. Capture memorable photos and gain a new perspective on the charm and allure of Hot Springs.
- Experience the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo:
Get up close and personal with fascinating reptiles at the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo. Observe alligators, turtles, and other exotic animals in their natural habitats and even have the opportunity to hold a baby alligator. With its educational exhibits and interactive experiences, this unique attraction is a hit with both kids and adults.
- Attend a Hot Springs Event:
Check the city’s event calendar and see if your visit aligns with any festivals or events taking place in Hot Springs. From the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival to the Hot Springs Jazz Festival, there’s always something happening in this lively city. Immerse yourself in the local culture, enjoy live performances, and make lasting memories.
Hot Springs, Arkansas, offers a captivating blend of natural beauty, rich history, and therapeutic relaxation. Whether you’re immersing yourself in the healing thermal waters, exploring the historic Bathhouse Row, or venturing into the great outdoors, Hot Springs has something to captivate every visitor. So, pack your bags and get ready to discover the charm of this enchanting city nestled in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains.