Best Things To Do in Hot Springs, AR
Hot Springs National Park houses the lion's share of the attractions in Hot Springs. The park's Bathhouse Row houses historic buildings, including the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and the Buckstaff Bathhouse. Between soaks, set aside time to explore the park's extensive hiking trails, or venture out to the nearby Lake Catherine State Park. For even more outdoor adventures, Ouachita National Forest offers numerous activities, most prominently the large Lake Ouachita for water sports.
Updated August 21, 2019
- #1View all Photos#1 in Hot Springs, ARHiking, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Given that Hot Springs National Park shares a name with the nearby town, it should come as no surprise that the 5,500-acre park serves as the main attraction in Hot Springs. The park's thermal waters are its primary draw, and visitors can still soak in the historical establishments lining Bathhouse Row, including the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and the Buckstaff Bathhouse. Additionally, numerous trails weave throughout the park. A majority of the trails are concentrated between the Hot Springs and North Mountain trails as well as the West Mountain Trails. Both these areas offer short, interconnected trails, while the approximately 10-mile Sunset Trail provides a more challenging trek for experienced hikers.
Past visitors suggested taking on the 2.6-mile Sugarloaf Mountain segment of the Sunset Trail, which includes a short spur trail to the Balanced Rock that rewards hikers with one of the most stunning views in Arkansas. They also appreciate the park's attractions in the middle of town, like Bathhouse Row and the Grand Promenade.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Hot Springs, ARHistoric Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDHistoric Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Fordyce Bathhouse serves as the visitor center for Hot Springs National Park. The bathhouse welcomed guests from 1915 to 1962 with treatments ranging from massages to electrotherapy. The building eventually closed, remaining vacant until it reopened as the park's visitor center in 1989. Now, travelers can admire the ornate architecture of the storied buildings, which are outfitted with stained-glass ceilings, ceramic fountains and intricately tiled floors.
Past travelers appreciated the opportunity to explore nearly the entirety of the building, which spans three floors and a basement. Some additional gems to discover include a grand piano and a bowling alley. Recent visitors enjoyed the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center's self-guided tour, because they were able to enjoy the attraction at their own pace. Those looking for a more in-depth experience can go on one of the bathhouse's guided tours, but groups must contact the park in advance to make sure space is available.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Hot Springs, ARHiking, Parks and Gardens, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Parks and Gardens, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
While Hot Springs National Park naturally draws the spotlight for visitors to Hot Springs, it's not the area's only outdoor attraction. Travelers would be remiss if they skipped a visit to the wonderful Lake Ouachita State Park. Outdoorsy travelers can even spend the night, as the park houses 93 campsites, eight full cabins and four camper cabins. Those who trek to Lake Ouachita State Park for a shorter period must choose between enjoying the park's water and land attractions. The water is accessible through the park's two beaches, while a marina is also available for travelers who chose to rent a boat. Additionally, visitors can bathe in the Three Sisters Springs, whose alleged healing benefits rival the storied waters of Hot Springs National Park. Lake Ouachita State Park offers two trails for visitors who prefer to stay on land, ranging from a half-mile to 4 miles.
Previous park visitors appreciated its tranquil waters and clean campsites. They also particularly enjoyed the variety of activities orchestrated by the park rangers, which range from nature "Jeopardy!" to starlight lake tours to snakeskin bookmark making. They also praised the availability of watercraft rentals at the on-site marina.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Hot Springs, ARMonuments and Memorials, Parks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, Parks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Garvan Woodland Gardens boast an impressive assortment of natural and man-made attractions. Surprisingly, flowers are not the garden's main draw. The Anthony Chapel Complex in particular appeals to architecture enthusiasts with its latticework of wood and glass. The Joy Manning Scott Bridge of the Full Moon, one of the most photographed features within the gardens, is equally admired for its nod to the ancient stone bridges of western China. Meanwhile, green thumbs appreciate the attraction's natural areas, including the bonsai garden and woodland walk, which covers just a fraction of the Garvan Woodland Gardens' diverse green spaces.
Reviewers suggested visiting the gardens during the winter for its stunning annual Christmas lights display. Recent travelers said the spring season, when the garden's array of flowers begin to bloom, provides an excellent alternative if you don't visit during the holidays. Regardless of when you visit, be sure to stop by the spectacular Anthony Chapel, which serves as the garden's primary attraction according to visitors.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Hot Springs, ARHiking, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Comprising roughly 3 1/2-square-miles of the Ouachita Mountain's forest and coastal areas, Lake Catherine State Park attracts visitors with its collection of beautiful trails. The 2-mile Falls Branch Trail, which leads to a scenic waterfall, draws the majority of the park's hikers. Along with the trails, the park is also a popular fishing spot. Anglers will enjoy the park's fishing pier, as well as the option to rent boats from the on-site marina. American history enthusiasts appreciate the historic stone and wood buildings, which were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
Past travelers enjoyed taking on the assortment of hiking trails. Plus, they said the park's swimming beach provided the perfect opportunity to cool off after a long day of walking or boating. The only downside: Many visitors felt that the power plant on the opposite side of the lake ruined the area's otherwise picturesque setting, especially when its lights competed with the moon and stars for overnight campers.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Hot Springs, ARMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Mid-America Science Museum sports an eclectic mix of exhibits, so you're essentially guaranteed to stumble upon something interesting during your visit. Inside the museum, travelers marvel at the massive Tesla coil, as well as explore the underground cave maze, which features displays devoted to geology. The museum houses numerous other indoor activities, but visitors should set aside some time to explore outside. The museum's grounds include a massive skywalk and sculptures of dinosaurs, which wind through a wooded trail.
The Mid-America Science Museum's hands-on activities impressed recent travelers. Subsequently, they claim that the museum's exhibits will entertain everyone in your group, regardless of their ages. Saving the Mid-America Science Museum as a rainy day activity proved to be the most common advice provided by past travelers, though, be sure to set aside a few hours to get the most out of the museum.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Hot Springs, ARSightseeing, SpasTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, SpasTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
While the Buckstaff Bathhouse may first strike you as a standard spa, the historical property has actually been attracting travelers since it opened in 1912. The illustrious building still sports its noteworthy Romano-Gothic architecture and even riffs on its original offerings. Services include baths (in the city's thermal water) and massages, as well as manicures, pedicures and facials. Keep in mind that massages and baths are walk-ins only, while you need an appointment for other services.
Past visitors enjoyed the Buckstaff Bathhouse's assortment of novel offerings, particularly its sitz baths (soaking water up to the hips) and needle showers (small jets of water around the torso). Several travelers also appreciated the bathhouse's paraffin wax hand treatments, concluding that nearly every option on the Buckstaff Bathhouse's menu justifies its price.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Hot Springs, AREntertainment and Nightlife, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Host to thoroughbred races since 1904, the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort is popular with visitors who need a break from the area's natural attractions. The Oaklawn Racing Casino began a phased expansion in May 2019, but travelers can still try their chances with Lady Luck at the storied attraction. When you're not rotating between the track and the casino's floor, grab a bite at the Silks Bar & Grill or take in some live music.
Recent visitors particularly praised the racetrack, as the horses are a novel source of entertainment. In between races, travelers suggest heading inside to enjoy the casino's slot machines and table games. Whether you're betting or just enjoying the race, past tourists insist that you try one of the track's signature corned beef sandwiches when lunchtime rolls around.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Hot Springs, ARAmusement Parks, Swimming/PoolsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDAmusement Parks, Swimming/PoolsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Beating the Arkansas heat is easy at the Magic Springs Theme and Water Park. The park offers an array of rides designed to appeal to travelers of every age. Past travelers offer mixed reviews of the park: Many visitors appreciated the park's short lines and clean facilities, but some found the rides outside the water park to be a bit lacking. Still, the park's main appeal comes from its waterslides, lazy river and wave pool.
The park's hours vary greatly depending on the day of the week and season, but it generally welcomes guests daily in June and July, as well as on weekends in April, May, August and October. It is closed November through March. Admission at the front gate starts at $59.99, but you can purchase a variety of discounted tickets in advance on the Magic Springs Theme and Water Park's website. The attraction sits on the northeastern edge of Hot Springs, about 3 miles from the downtown area, and is accessible via the No. 3 (green) bus route. Taking the bus proves an excellent alternative to parking, as the daily parking fee is $15.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Hot Springs, ARRecreation, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRecreation, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Reaching a whopping 1,256 feet above sea level, Hot Springs Mountain Tower provides travelers with unmatched views of the surrounding area. Those who ride to the tower's top will be able to make out the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs Mountain and the Diamond Lakes. The panoramic view overlooks 140 miles. In addition to views, visitors can grab a keepsake or snag a snack from the Hot Springs Mountain Tower's gift shop and small cafe.
Past visitors enjoyed their Hot Springs Mountain Tower experiences. Travelers even described the winding road leading to the tower as a beautiful drive. Once you arrive, stop in the surprisingly robust gift shop on the base level. From the gift shop, you'll board a glass elevator, which will whisk you 216 feet up to the observation deck. From the deck, you'll be treated to stunning views of Hot Springs National Park.
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