What to do in Hot Springs in Arkansas?

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what to do in hot springs Arkansas
Photo by Scott Ellis on Flickr

Known for its healing waters, hot springs Arkansas is located in the central part of the state of Arkansas. But, what to do in hot springs Arkansas?

A vast majority of people who believe that the water’s soothing properties will heal their diseases visit hot springs. It is a beautiful resort city amidst the several natural hot springs of the scenic Ouachita mountains. There are a plethora of answers to what to do in hot springs Arkansas.

Apart from hot springs, there are national parks, and botanical gardens like the Garvan Woodland Gardens, the famous historic bathhouse row consisting of eight buildings, a mid-America science museum, gangster museum, amusement parks, the hot springs mountain tower, the Magic Springs theme park, and numerous trails. It holds different themed musical and cultural events annually. There is no end to the fun things that you can do in hot springs ar.

The time period of August to October is considered the best time for visiting hot springs as the climate would be warm. Without further ado, dig into what to do in hot springs Arkansas.

 hot springs
Photo by Keisner on Pixabay

What to do in Hot Springs Arkansas?

1. Visit Hot Springs National Park

The hot springs national park happens to be the prime attraction in hot springs. It was designated as a National Park by the US congress in 1921.

Spread over an area of 5.5 acres and located in the middle of the city of hot springs, it is home to 47 thermal springs which are being maintained for thousands of years. You can also go on hiking trails. It draws over a million visitors a year.

2. Check out Bathhouses at the Bathhouse Row

The Bathhouse Row is a series of eight bathhouses, buildings, and gardens in the national park along the central avenue. All eight bathhouses are plumbed with thermal water from the hot springs national park. The Bathhouse row gives you a unique experience and is a wonderful answer to what to do in hot springs in Arkansas.

Bathhouse row
Photo by ilovebutter on Flickr

Different places to explore in Bathhouse at Bathhouse Row include:

(a) Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center (Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center)

Also known as the Fordyce Bathhouse, it is an early 1900s-style museum of 4 floors and currently serves as the National park visitor centre. You will get to see how people use to bathe back in the day.

You have the options of a self-guided tour and a guided tour as well. The ornate assembly room, piano, antique writing tables, marble floors, elaborate fountains, stained-glass windows, and the gym depict history.

(b) Buckstaff Bathhouse

Number two in the list of Bathhouse rows is the Buckstaff bathhouse. This was built in the early 1900s and is still used as a bathhouse. The best part about Buckstaff is that it is still used as a traditional-style bathhouse.

You will be given a roman style toga and can take hot water baths in the traditional style. It also offers other services such as massage, facial, steam room, manicure, and pedicure. Their friendly staff will assist you.

(c) Hale

The Hale is a bathhouse converted into a beautiful boutique hotel and never disappoints while seeking answers to what to do in hot springs Arkansas. Each room has a bathtub with the hot springs national parks thermal water connections.

It has all the products and facilities that define a great experience. It offers room breakfast service and a morning beverage of your choice. Hale houses two restaurants – Zest and Eden. Both offer varieties on their menu, and thermal drinking water.

(d) Lamar Bathhouse or Bathhouse Row Emporium

Lamar was operational as a bathhouse from 1923 to 1985 and now houses offices for the National Park employees. The gift shop is the main reason why you should visit the Lamar. You can purchase your bathhouse souvenirs from here. Lamar is known for its exceptional hospitality because the staff assists you to get water from the hot springs.

(e) Ozark Bathhouse

The Ozark bathhouse was popular in the bathhouse row until 1977. It currently serves as the art centre of the Bathhouse row. It houses a private spa and pool.

(f) Quapaw Baths & Spa

Known as the Quapaw bathhouse until 1984, it was renamed Quapaw Baths and Spa and opened to the public in 2008. Make sure you get your bathing suits and flip-flops while visiting the Quapaw.

You can enjoy the water spa here and avail of massage services. You must not miss the natural cave here, where the hot springs water will be seeping down through the walls of the caves. There is a nice little cafe from where you can grab some refreshments.

(g) Superior Bathhouse Brewery

If you are looking to grab some beer, then the Superior Bathhouse Brewery is your answer to what to do in hot springs Arkansas. It is the first brewery to have been set up in the hot springs national park. A bathhouse-themed brewery, it is the only brewery in the world that uses thermal spring water.

Their root beer is famous here and a must-try. They also have delicious snacks and meals on their menu- Pretzels, cheese, chips, and burgers to name a few. Superior Bathhouse Brewery is dog-friendly.

3. Go hiking at Ouachita National Forest

The Ouachita national forest is a wonderful place to go for hiking trails and mountain biking in the hot springs. It is a lovely place with tall trees and a beautiful lake and is well-suited for a family picnic. Serenity is at its best here.

You can carry your own portable stove to cook your own meals at the Ouachita national forest. You can enjoy a game of miniature golf as well here. Lastly, do not forget to view the hot springs sunset. Hence, Ouachita gives you not one but multiple answers to what to do in hot springs Arkansas.

Ouachita national forest
Photo by Fredlyfish4 on Wikimedia

4. Checkout History at The Gangster Museum

The Gangster museum in Central Avenue, hot springs Arkansas showcases how criminals from the 20s, 30s, and 40s used to indulge in gambling and other illegal activities. It also showcases how those criminals engaged with the decent population. The knowledgeable staff will explain everything and clear all your doubts.

There is a hat shop if you would like to buy some. Do not forget to grab the opportunity to play in the antique casino. Finally, you may visit the theatre if you would like to click a picture with the statue of the infamous American gangster Al Capone.

5. Feed Animals at Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo

Continue with your answers to what to do in hot springs Arkansas at the Arkansas Alligator Farm. It is an over 120-year-old family-run zoo in hot springs Arkansas. Here you get to view different classes of alligators up close.

What started as an alligator farm in 1902 is now a zoo housing a wide variety of animals- Arkansas mountain lions, emus, turtles, wolves, and rabbits. What is unique about the zoo is that you can hold and feed the animals. There is a gift shop from where you can purchase zoo-themed souvenirs.

6. Recreate at the Charlton Recreation Area

Located 25 miles to the west of hot springs is the serene Charlton recreation area, which is great for camping, fishing, picnics, or just relaxing. Nature lovers will love the tranquillity and the sound of birds here. There is a small artificial lake as well.

You can stay in the tent overnight at a fairly decent price or go camping in the forest. The best part of the Charlton Recreation Area and the main reason why people flock here is that you can swim in the cold swimming holes during the warm weather. Bathhouses are also present and you can indulge in fishing as well.

Charlton recreation area
Photo by Ken Lund on Flickr

7. Enjoy your Rides at The Magic Springs Theme and Water Park

You can beat the Arkansas heat with the magic springs water at the Magic springs theme and water park. Kindly note that the park will remain closed from November to May, so you will have to plan your trip accordingly. It has plenty of dry and water rides for its visitors and has rides for people of all ages and some rides take you through the woods.

It has five roller coasters, with the highlight being the Arkansas Twister. On the Arkansas Twister, you will see scenic mountain views while enjoying the ride. You can cool yourself off in the wave pool and the lazy river. Finally, head over to the gift shop to buy presents for family and friends.

8. Witness Natural Beauty at Garvan Woodland Gardens

If you love flowers, then the Garvan Woodland Gardens is the perfect answer to what to do in hot springs Arkansas. It is an over 200-acre botanical garden with an array of flowers. The fee is around $20 for adults and $5 for children.

The garden is famous for tulips and beautiful walking trails. If you are a photographer, then this would be your dream location as there are a diverse set of backgrounds to choose from. Garvan woodland gardens are best visited during the spring season.

You can spot koi fish at the pond in the gardens. There are also a couple of waterfalls and a beautiful lake where you can just sit by and enjoy the scenic view.

Garvan Woodland Gardens
Photo by angel1238812 on Pixabay

Other attractions at the Garvan Woodland Gardens include:

(a) Anthony Chapel complex

The Anthony Chapel complex, overlooking Lake Hamilton is renowned for its unique and beautiful architecture. The columns and beams are made of yellow pines that are hundreds of feet tall, and it has floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

Weddings often take place here. So if you have the Anthony Chapel in mind, make sure to confirm if there is a wedding while buying a ticket. If there is one, then you cannot go near the Chapel.

Anthony Chapel complex
Photo by Ed Uthman on Flickr

(b) Joy Manning Scott Bridge

The Joy manning Scott bridge is the most recognized and the most photographed feature of the gardens. The stunning 11-foot-high structure is reminiscent of Western China’s stone bridges. The full moon opening or sphere-shaped arch is an iconic Asian image that symbolizes a historical architecture tradition rarely seen in the modern world.

9. Enjoy Magic and Comedy at the Maxwell Blade Theatre of Comedy

If you want to see magic, then the Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic and Comedy is your answer to what to do in hot springs Arkansas. Hot springs local Maxwell Blade amuses the audience with his performances in this one-of-a-kind theatre in hot springs Arkansas. It is kids-friendly and has something for everyone – comedy, great illusions, music, dance, and some old-school magic tricks.

There is a small cafe on the premises from where you can grab some popcorn, drinks, or a refreshment of your choice. Famous musicians make guest appearances at times.

10. Go to The Top of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower

Hot Springs Mountain has breathtaking views to offer to its visitors. The drive to reach here is excellent, which most people enjoy. You must go to the top of the 216-feet tower here via the tower’s elevator. Once you are on the top of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower observation deck, you get spectacular views of the Hot Springs National Park, the Ouachita Mountains, and the Diamond Lakes. You can also enjoy the cool breeze.

You will have to shell out approximately between $4.50 and $8 to go to the observation deck, depending on your age group. The panoramic view overlooks 140 miles. The Hot Springs Mountain Tower also has a gift shop for purchasing merchandise and a small cafe to grab a quick snack.

11. Spend Quality Time at Lake Catherine State Park

Located 10 miles to the southeast of Hot springs is the lake Catherine state park, a beautiful park away from the hustle-bustle of the city. The lake is one out of the five diamond lakes in Arkansas state.

You have a plethora of answers here to what to do in hot springs Arkansas. You can rent a regular boat, a pedal boat, a canoe, a kayak, or go fishing. In 1935, the Lake Catherine State Park became the first park to be located beside major man-made lakes built for hydropower and flood control purposes.

The retaining wall and outdoor oven remain as the last structures at Lake Catherine state park known to have been worked on by the prisoners of war.

You have the option to camp and rent cabins as well. It has a beautiful waterfall and a playground for children. It offers 70 hookup campsites, six primitive tent sites, an arena camp with a platform tent, a yurt, and twenty fully-equipped cabins. It houses a group pavilion and a bathhouse as well.

Fun things at the lake Catherine state park do not end here. There are four beautiful hiking trails:

  • The horse-shoe trail of 3.5 miles.
  • The Dam mountain trail of 4.5 miles.
  • The Falls branch trail of 2 miles takes you by the lake to the beautiful waterfall.
  • The Slugger creek nature trail of 5/8th of a mile if famous for Ouachita streambed salamander.

Hoese rides are offered seasonally. To add more to the itinerary, you may add the 18-hole golf course just down the road, go rainbow trout fishing at Remmel dam, or take a ride on the zipline.

Lake Catherine State Park
Photo by finchlake2000 on Flickr

12. Check out Star Wars Collections at The Galaxy Connection

Galaxy connection is a unique museum located in the hot springs national park area and is themed behind Star Wars. So if you are a Star Wars fan, then this is your answer to what to do in hot springs Arkansas.

The owner Jon Clowers who grew up a Star Wars fan has maintained vintage Star Wars toy collections, props, and Star Wars superhero characters. He started this business, especially for Star Wars fans. Many people visit here for their childhood memories.

It is highly recommended to opt for the VIP tour instead of the self-guided tour if you want intricate details of Jon’s work. Check out their website for advance booking of the tour as it is available only at selected times.

13. Take Kids to The Mid America Science Museum

The Mid America Science museum has lots of hands-on exhibits for kids and adults. Kids are sure to enjoy exploring this museum. Hence, the museum is the perfect answer to what to do in hot springs Arkansas for kids. Whatever is studied in their textbooks comes into practice at the Mid America Science museum. And, the dino trek located just the outdoors of the museum is the highlight.

They also organize a Tesla coil show which shows how a tesla coil produces electricity. The Bob wheeler science skywalk is a famous outdoor attraction of the Mid America science museum. You can walk through this skywalk and get a close-up view of the forest and get your hands on the exhibits along the way. It is also sure that you will enjoy the underground cave maze, an exhibit dedicated to geology.

14. Feel The Hot Springs Water at Display Springs

Right behind the national park visitor center are the display springs. Here you will find the hot spring water seeping through a mountain and flowing into a shallow pool below. You must visit here to witness some natural beauty because the area is equipped with trees and various types of plants. The main reason people come to the display springs is to feel the hot springs’ water.

15. Take a Stroll at The Grand Promenade

The Grand promenade is a half-mile brick path along the bathhouse row designed for walks. It is a pedestrian-only path and is synonymous with peace and tranquillity. While you walk, you can view the natural springs, the street, and the mountains. You can also get to know about the history of hot springs while you trail.

16. Gamble at The Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort

If you feel like gambling in hot springs Arkansas, then the Oaklawn racing casino resort is your answer to what to do in hot springs Arkansas. It is the largest gambling facility in hot springs.

You may bet on the horses or try your luck at the casino. The area has plenty of restaurants offering a variety of cuisines and drinks. You can also enjoy live music because Friday and Saturday nights are the most happening at the Oaklawn. The resort also has rooms if you wish to stay overnight.

17. Enjoy Games at the Funtrackers Family Fun Park

family park
Photo by Alexey Matveichev on Flickr

Head over to the Funtrackers family fun park because it has fun activities for people of all ages. Their games categories are:

  • Arcade games.
  • Wild bumper boats.
  • Laser tag.
  • Miniature golf.
  • Go-karts.

18. Go to Tiny Town for Miniatures

Looking for a different answer from outdoor activities to what to do in hot springs Arkansas? If yes, go to Tiny town, located just north of downtown hot springs. You must spend about an hour seeing miniatures by the late Frank and Louise Moshinskie.

All that you will see here is made from scrap material. It has miniatures of railway lines, mountains, homes, picnics, villages, and humans. The human miniatures make moves at the press of a button.

19. Visit the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum

If you are a fan of wax museums, then hot springs Arkansas has its own Madame Tussauds, the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum. It houses wax figures of many celebrities and fictional characters.

20. Shop at the Malls of Hot Springs Arkansas

The United States has the best malls in the world. Although malls are common in all major cities of the world, but the malls in the US give you a one-of-a-kind experience.

If you are at hot springs Arkansas, then you must visit the Uptown hot springs mall, Hot Springs Plaza Shopping Center, Cornerstone market place, Temperance Hill Square, Central Avenue Market Place, FYE, and Indiandale Shopping Centre.

Whether it’s apparel, accessories, gifts, a service, or even food and entertainment, hot springs malls have all that you need. 

So that concludes hot springs Arkansas. If you do not know what to do in hot springs Arkansas, you can go through the above list. Beautiful trails, museums, lakes, mountains, and gardens are what hot springs in Arkansas are notable for, but the highlight is undoubtedly the bathhouse row.

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