Hot Springs, AR Travel Guide

USA  #4 in Best Relaxing Getaways in the USA
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Free Things To Do in Hot Springs, AR

If you have extra time, Lake Ouachita State Park is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Hot Springs, AR
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    #1 in Hot Springs, AR
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME 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.

  • #2
    Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center
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    #2 in Hot Springs, AR
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME 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.

  • #3
    Lake Ouachita State Park
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    #3 in Hot Springs, AR
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME 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.

  • #5
    Lake Catherine State Park
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    #5 in Hot Springs, AR
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME 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.

  • #8
    Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort
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    #8 in Hot Springs, AR
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME 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.

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