This blog post is sponsored by Arkansas Tourism. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Photos by Ready Set Jet Set
Welcome to spa city! Just an hour from the heart of Little Rock, Arkansas is Hot Springs – it’s a scenic drive with great views of Hot Springs National Park. Eat all the pizza, hike Hot Springs National Park, and soak in the thermal baths!
Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Hot Springs National Park owe their existence to an array of springs that still supply naturally heated water for thermal baths. Hot Springs National Park is the smallest and oldest of the parks in the National Park System. It dates back to 1832 when Congress established the first federally protected area in the nation’s history.
Fun fact: Hot Springs was a popular hangout for Al Capone, Frank Costello, Bugs Moran, and other infamous mobsters.
FAQS ON HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS
When is the best time to visit?
Hot Springs, Arkansas is known for, well, its hot springs! So winter (October to April) is the best time to visit, in my opinion. If you come in late October to early November, you can see fall foliage, too!
Austin to Hot Springs – what’s the best way to get here?
The drive from Austin to the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas is 7 1/2 hours or you can fly into Little Rock and then drive to Hot Springs.
What should I pack for Hot Springs?
Definitely pack a swimsuit because you’ll need it to soak in the hot springs. Also, pack hiking or tennis shoes to hike in Hot Springs National Park.
HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS HOTEL
The Waters Hotel
We stayed at The Waters Hotel in downtown Hot Springs, a boutique hotel nestled in Hot Springs National Park, located right on Central Avenue. You can’t beat the location – we valeted our car and walked to the restaurants and Bathhouse Row (you also get 15% off at Quapaw Baths & Spa as a hotel guest!). The hotel is the result of a multimillion-dollar historic renovation of the revered Thompson Building on Bathhouse Row (originally built in 1913) and combines vintage details with up-to-date comforts and amenities.
340 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR, thewatershs.com
THINGS TO DO IN HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS
HIKE HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK
You can hike into Hot Springs National Park or drive into the park and then hike as we did. Hot Springs National Park is the country’s smallest and oldest National State Park and features thermal springs and more than 30 miles of hiking trails through the Ouachita Mountains.
Outdoor activities in the Hot Springs area include mountain biking, hiking, golf, horseback riding, fishing, digging for quartz crystals and water sports that center around the Diamond Lakes Catherine, DeGray, Greeson, Hamilton, and Ouachita.
Hours: Sunrise – 10pm daily (Visitor’s Center hours are 9am-5pm)
369 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR, nps.gov/hosp/index.htm
STROLL DOWN BATHHOUSE ROW
These eight picturesque and historic bathhouses built between 1892 and 1923 on Bathhouse Row are preserved by the National Park Service as a significant national cultural landmark. I highly recommend spending some time to see these historic buildings.
Lamar Bathhouse – the Lamar first opened in 1888 and then reopened in 1923. The Lamar bathhouse is now a gift shop for Hot Springs National Park.
Buckstaff Bathhouse – this is the only bathhouse that has operated continuously since 1912 for traditional bathing.
Fordyce Bathhouse – inspired by the spas of Europe, Colonel Samuel Fordyce opened this Renaissance Revival bathhouse in 1915. Currently, the Fordyce serves as the National Park visitor center and museum of the bathing industry.
Superior Bathhouse – Superior Bathhouse had the longest continuous operation of all Hot Springs bathhouses before closing in 1983. It was built in 1916 and was the smallest bathhouse. Superior reopened in 2011 as a brewery and is the only brewery located within a National Park. It’s also the only brewery in the world to utilize the thermal spring water to create their now-famous craft beers.
Ozark Bathhouse – the picturesque Ozark Bathhouse is home to a new Ozark Bathhouse Cultural Center, which hosts events that reflect the history and many cultures of the area.
Quapaw Bathhouse – this bathhouse has been renovated into a modern-day spa with services like massages, facials, etc.
FILL UP ON FREE WATER
Walk around the corner of the Lamar Bathhouse to fill up on free hot springs water! The locals showed me how to fill up!
509 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR
SOAK IN A HOT SPRINGS BATHHOUSE
You can’t come to Hot Springs without soaking in a bathhouse. I wish we had an extra day in Hot Springs so we could soak in both Quapaw and Buckstaff Bathhouse, but we only had time to soak in Quapaw. The thermal pools at Quapaw are filled with natural Hot Springs water that has been carbon-14 dated at 4,000-years-old and is high in silica, calcium, magnesium, free carbon dioxide, bicarbonate, and sulfate.
Soaking in the thermal waters at Quapaw Baths & Spa costs $20 and you can stay all day if you want. There is no admittance after 5pm and the pools close at 6pm.
413 Central Ave, AR 71901, quapawbaths.com
SEE THE VIEW FROM HOT SPRINGS MOUNTAIN TOWER
For a panoramic view of the Ouachita Mountains, go to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. The 216-ft observatory tower was built in 1982 and opened in 1983.
Admission: $8 for adults
401 Hot Springs Mountain Dr, Hot Springs, AR 71901, hotspringstower.com
WALKTHROUGH Garvan Woodland Gardens
If you’re visiting Hot Springs this year, Garvan Gardens has its own tree-lighting ceremony and holiday lights with over 4.5 million lights in a variety of natural settings! Don’t miss this beautiful botanical garden.
Holiday lights admission: $13.70 for adults, $4.57 for children, and free for children under 3. Tickets here.
Regular garden admission: $15 for adults, $5 for children, and $5 for dogs.
550 Arkridge Road, Hot Springs, AR, garvangardens.org
VISIT THE ANTHONY CHAPEL
The Anthony Chapel complex at Garvan Gardens is a beautifully designed building of native wood & glass with a 57-ft. ceiling. It’s no wonder it’s a popular wedding chapel! Admission is free but it is closed when there are events or a wedding.
550 Arkridge Road, Hot Springs, AR, garvangardens.org/the_gardens/anthony-chapel-complex/default.aspx
BEST RESTAURANTS IN HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS
There are three things you have to eat and drink in Hot Springs: pizza, beer, and Mountain Valley Spring Water – because it’s all made with thermal spring water from Hot Springs, Arkansas!
Superior Bathhouse Brewery
Superior Bathhouse was originally built in 1916 and was the smallest bathhouse on Bathhouse Row. It reopened in 2011 as a brewery and uses thermal spring water to brew unique craft beers. We dined here twice for the giant pretzel with beer cheese, sour beer, and root beer floats!
Deluca’s is one of the top spots in Hot Springs, Arkansas so I wanted to visit this pizza spot first. The pizzas are cooked in a 725-degree brick oven that creates a charred crust. The pies are 18 inches so be prepared to have leftovers unless you come with a friend! We had the Sarah Meadows with tomato sauce, cheese, sliced garlic, chili flakes, Sicilian oregano, and fresh basil. It was SO good.
I wanted to try at least one more pizza spot in Hot Springs to do a comparison so we went to a newer pizza spot called SQZBX and I love both of them. SQZBX pizzas come in three different sizes so you don’t have to commit to a giant pie. I got the pepperoni pizza and brought home leftovers with me.
The Pancake Shop – don’t miss this local diner that’s been around since 1940 and is known for their pancakes.
Kollective Coffee + Tea – this is the local coffee + tea shop. I stopped in to get my morning coffee before hiking Hot Springs National Park.
The Ohio Club – this spot is Hot Springs’ oldest bar and former gangster and baseball player hangout.
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN HOT SPRINGS ARKANSAS
Lake Hamilton – one of Arkansas’s most popular lakes and is just a quick 15-minute drive from Hot Springs.
Bill Clinton Boyhood Home – (also known as the Birnbaum-Shubetz House) you can visit Bill Clinton’s historic house in northern Hot Springs at 1011 Park Avenue
Ouachita National Forest – this National Forest that lies in the western portion of Arkansas and portions of eastern Oklahoma.
Lake Ouachita – Arkansas’s largest lake, Lake Ouachita offers 40,000 acres of clear, clean water surrounded by the scenic Ouachita National Forest.
Gangster Museum of America – learn how about how the most notorious criminals in America resided in Hot Springs. Did you know Alphonse Gabriel Capone first came to Hot Springs in the early 20’s and owned a suite on the fourth floor of the Arlington hotel?
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort – if you’re feeling lucky, try your hand at the slots at this casino resort that has been open since 1904 .
Valley Of The Vapors – this year the 16th annual Valley of the Vapors is March 20-23, 2020.
Horse Racing – Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, formerly Oaklawn Park Race Track, is an American thoroughbred racetrack and casino.
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival – one of the oldest documentary film festivals in the world is held annually in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The festival began in 1992 and this year’s festival is OCT 9-17th, 2020.
For more travel ideas and inspiration to plan a trip to Arkansas, visit Arkansas.com.