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The town of Hot Springs, Arkansas got its name because of the natural thermal waters that flow underground and produce nearly a million gallons of water every day. People have always loved hot springs for their healing and soothing health benefits, and this area became a national park in 1921. You can still take a dip in the thermal waters in Hot Springs, but there is a lot more to do here as well! These are our favorite things to do while visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas!
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Bathhouse Row is along the Grand Promenade in Hot Springs, which is a wide portion of street about half a mile long. It’s a pedestrian-friendly area where you can stop into the buildings to check out the visitor’s center, gift shop, art galleries, and other local business. There are eight bathhouses here, and some have served as restaurants and shops over the years. Buckstaff Baths, which is in one of these historic bathhouses, operates as a spa where you can soak in whirlpool tubs and get a massage. You can also enjoy a modern spa day at the Quapaw Baths and Spa to experience these healing waters for yourself.
Hot Springs National Park is one of the few national parks that doesn’t charge an entry fee. You can take a self-guided tour of the Fordyce Bathhouse to see the old bathhouse facilities and learn about traditional bathing and spa routines. You’ll see gender-separate baths and dressing rooms, the music room, stained glass and marble décor, and other interesting features. Camping is also available in Hot Springs National Park for both tents and RVs with full hookups. All sites are $30 per night for camping.
How would you like sipping delicious craft beer in a historic bathhouse while watching the tourists go by on a nice afternoon? This brewery is unique because it actually uses water from the springs to make its beers. The brewers turn this 144-degree water into many different styles of beer ranging from light to dark and mild to strong. It’s also the only brewery in the U.S. that’s in a national park. The brewery is open every day from 11am or noon to 8pm through 11pm, depending on the day and season.
This mountain is part of Hot Springs National Park and offers amazing views of the region. There’s a trail that starts at below the Hot Springs Mountain Tower that’s great for hiking to the top. Along the trail, you’ll see a lovely mixed hardwood and pine forest, but be aware that some parts of the trail are quite steep. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can also drive up to the top on a winding road. You can also check out the Hot Springs Mountain Tower while you’re here, which stands at 1,256 feet above sea level and is located on top of the mountain. The admission fee is $8 for adults and $4.50 for kids ages five to 11 to go to the top of the tower.
To experience some natural beauty during your time in Hot Springs, stop by the Garvan Woodland Gardens. One peaceful place to spend some time in is the Garden of the Pine Wind Japanese Garden with bridges, ornamental flowers, and flowing streams. The garden is open from 9am to 6pm daily between February and November. The adult admission fee is $15, and the fee for children ages four through 12 is $5. Unlike many botanical gardens, you can even bring your dog along to these gardens as long as your dog is well-behaved, on a leash, and you pay a $5 dog fee.
If you’re traveling to Hot Springs with kids, then the Mid-America Science Museum is definitely worth a stop. Here you’ll see the Marvelous Motion Gallery, the Light Bridge, the Anamorphic Bench, the Bob Wheeler Science Skywalk, and much more. The adult admission fee is $10 here, and the fee for kids ages three to eight is $8. Stop by to check out the exhibits on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9am to 5pm and on Sundays from 1-5pm.
This part of Arkansas is very wooded and wild, with beautiful scenic drives and outdoor recreation opportunities all around. The Ouachita National Forest spans about 1.8 million acres and towards the Oklahoma border. Some of the most popular activities to do here include hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, and riding off-road vehicles.
In addition to thermal waters, the town of Hot Spring also became famous for its role in organized crime. Everything from gambling to bootlegging and prostitution took place here in the late-1800s and early 1900s with big names like Al Capone and Frank Costello hanging out here. To learn about this fascinating time of the city’s history, head to the Gangster Museum of America. Here you’ll find lots of galleries and exhibits about notorious gangsters that ruled the town in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.
Most of us steer clear of alligators when we see them in the water, but at the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo, you can hold a baby one in your very own hands. This is a popular tourist attraction that has hundreds of alligators and other animals too, such as emu, sheep, and deer. Live alligator feeding shows take place Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at noon in the summer. The adult admission fee is $9 and children between the ages of two and 12 are $7.
A great way to experience life as a local when you travel is to attend a live theater performance in town. The Pocket Community Theatre is a nonprofit, volunteer-based theater in downtown Hot Springs. Its history dates back to 1991, and the actors put on a wide variety of shows. Check the venue’s website to see what’s playing during your visit. Ticket prices tend to be around $15 for adults and $5 for children.