If it’s not on your radar already, Hot Springs needs to be your next destination. It has everything that I look for in a city, beautiful outdoor spaces, a quaint downtown, unique shops, and of course great eats!
Stay at The Waters Hotel
The Waters Hotel is located right in the heart of downtown Hot Springs on Central Avenue across from Bathhouse Row. The location is an absolutely perfect homebase for your Hot Springs adventure. This is a historic building that has been beautifully renovated (opened in 2017) and many of the original details such as flooring and doors remain. I particularly love the mail drop that’s still in the hallway.
How do I put this gently? The rooms are GORGEOUS and have the most comfortable beds. I’m not even joking when I say, this is one of the best beds I have had in a hotel. I can also attest to the quality of the AC, so many times in a historic building the air condition leaves a bit to be desired but not at The Waters, you will be nice and cool even in the hot summer.
In addition to amazing rooms, there is also The Rooftop Bar. You need to go experience it for yourself at sunset. Looking out over sweeping views of downtown and the National Park is the best way to spend your evening while enjoying a drink and some nibbles.
Grab a brew and a bite at Superior Bathhouse
Super cool place alert! Superior Bathhouse is a brewery and restaurant in a renovated bathhouse at the end of Bathhouse Row and get this – they use the thermal spring water to brew their beers and root beer. You would be remiss if you didn’t stop in to grab a drink and a bite to eat. Once again, another historic building that retains many of its original features (I love the care and attention to history that this city has), you are going to see this in the tile and even some of the old bath lockers in the dining area.
I highly recommend the chicken sandwich, get it “Bock Bock” fried with the Tajin dry rub for a kick. While I didn’t try any of the beers (very impressed with all the varieties) I did get a root beer which is also made in house with local spring water and it was oh so good! You may not know this about me, but I love root beer and am particularly picky about it and this totally surpassed my taste test!
Soak in thermal waters at Quapaw Baths and Spa
You cannot come to Spa City without experiencing a dip in the thermal waters and there’s no place better to do this than Quapaw Baths and Spa. Back in the day, the hot springs were believed to be healing waters, and now you can enjoy the same spring water that has been bringing visitors to Hot Springs for many, many years. The main attraction at Quapaw are the thermal pools filled with spring water that have been Carbon-14 dated at 4,000 years old and are high in silica, calcium, magnesium, free carbon dioxide, bicarbonate and sulfate. There are four pools in the main bathing area, each at a different temperature. It was so relaxing to soak in the pools and was exactly what I needed after the drive up from Austin, TX.
The bathhouse was built right on top of one of the thermal springs and on the bottom level there is a steam cave where you can see and hear the spring rushing through the building. The room is heated from a natural 143° hot spring creating a nice, steamy experience.
In addition to the thermal pools, Quapaw also has a full service spa so you can make a day of it being pampered with massages, facials, and more. There are also private baths available as well as a cafe and a boutique.
Hike in Hot Springs National Park
One of my goals has been to explore more National Parks and public lands in the United States so getting the opportunity to cross Hot Springs National Park off my list was certainly a highlight. The downtown area is actually a part of the park and there are many trails that start and go through that area. Unlike some National Parks, Hot Springs has no park fees to visit.
I did a morning hike on the Gulpha Gorge trail and it was a perfect trail for enjoying the forest. The trailhead is right by the Gulpha Gorge campground and the first part of the trail goes over Gulpha Creek which is so beautiful. I had a great time taking photos of this area.
Go shopping in the historic district
I spent a few hours walking through the downtown checking out all the little shops and boutiques. There are many cute and unique places to visit! One of my favorites was Bathhouse Soapery & Caldarium, this shop smells so good! And what’s a more perfect souvenir from Spa City than some locally made bath goodies?
A couple other places I enjoyed were:
Fat Bottomed Girl’s Pupcakes – a cupcake shop for puppies. There is also a cupcake shop for humans on the other end of Central Avenue but I saw this one first and fell in love with the name.
Mountain Valley Spring Water – Yup THAT spring water is from right here in the Ouachita Mountains. There is a visitor center, museum, and shop right on Central Avenue.
I also appreciated the historical markers throughout the area, I learned a lot about the history of Hot Springs and was able to give myself a little walking tour. Highlights included the Hot Springs Baseball Trail which includes information about spring training in Hot Springs. The Gangster Museum of America is located in downtown Hot Springs as well.
Make sure you check out the Grand Promenade behind Bathhouse Row, it’s a beautiful brick-paved walkway and you shouldn’t miss it!
Grab coffee at Kollective Coffee and Tea
I think we all can agree that coffee is life and a necessity when traveling. Kollective is a sweet little spot right on Central Avenue (see how everything you could possibly want is right on this street?) and they pride themselves on their 3rd wave coffee, excellent tea selection, and locally sourced products.
I had a delightful lunch there, opting to order from the “healthy-ish” section of their menu. I got the Blissful Balance which is naan topped with kale and basil pesto, cilantro, avocado, sriracha sauce, a fried egg, and a lemon wedge. It was yummy and now I’ll be trying to make it at home! I also got an iced rose latte and an iced mint matcha, both were fantastic.
Take in the views at the Mountain Tower
If you love a great view then you cannot miss the Mountain Tower. This attraction provides views of the city of Hot Springs and the beautiful Ouachita Mountains. You can spend as much time as you like at the top enjoying the sights.
Explore Garvan Woodland Gardens
I adored my visit to Garvan Woodland Gardens. It’s just over 200 acres so I would encourage you to set aside a nice chunk of time to explore and discover. It’s described as the crown jewel of botanical gardens in Arkansas and I couldn’t agree more.
The two biggest attractions in the garden are Anthony Chapel and the Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House.
The Anthony Chapel is a beautiful glass and wood structure nestled in the woods. It’s also pretty popular on Instagram and Pinterest so be ready to have a photoshoot when you get there. I would try to visit on a weekday as it is used for weddings which primarily happen on weekends.
The Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House is part of the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden and it’s designed to inspire an educational experience for children. However, this adult fell in love with it too!
In doing my research about Garvan Woodland Gardens it seems like there is no bad time to visit. In the spring there are colorful tulips, the fall foliage is also beautiful, and in December there is a holiday lights celebration. Check out this Bloom Calendar on their website to see what will be there when you visit.
Dogs are also welcome for a fee of $5.
Experience the thrills at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort
Oaklawn is the number one attraction in Arkansas so I had to stop in and check it out. The racetrack has over a century of history in Hot Springs. There unfortunately weren’t any races happening while I was there but if you are newbie to the sport there is a great Racing 101 guide on their website. There have been some pretty famous thoroughbreds that have raced here including American Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah. The casino is almost completely brand new. There is a massive expansion underway to add a luxury hotel, spa, pool, additional restaurants, and multi-purpose event center. There will be a lot more to see on my next visit!
While I was there I stopped at the Silks Bar and Grill for dinner and had an especially tasty Reuben sandwich. Highly recommended for your visit as well.
What to bring on your Hot Springs trip
First and foremost you are going to Spa City so make sure you bring that bathing suit! With all the great outdoor activities you are going to want to pack clothing and shoes suitable for exploring the National Park and walking around the downtown area. I also recommend bringing some cute outfits for when you visit Garvan Woodland Gardens because it is photo heaven.
Do I need a car?
I would recommend bringing a car. It is easy to get around the downtown area by walking but to get to some of the further out attractions such as Garvan Woodland Gardens, Oaklawn, and parts of the National Park having a car made it so much more convenient.
For more information and to plan your trip to Hot Springs visit HotSprings.org.
This blog post is sponsored by Visit Hot Springs. All thoughts and opinions are my own.