Top Things to Do in Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park is a stunning natural gem located in central Arkansas. This national park is renowned for its natural thermal springs, beautiful hiking trails, and rich historical significance. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or history buff, Hot Springs National Park offers a wide range of activities and experiences for all visitors. Here are the top things to do in Hot Springs National Park:
1. Explore the Historic Bathhouse Row
Bathhouse Row is the heart and soul of Hot Springs National Park. These beautiful buildings, dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were once luxurious spas where people from all over the country came to “take the waters.” Today, visitors can explore the various bathhouses, some of which have been converted into museums and visitor centers. The Fordyce Bathhouse, in particular, showcases the glorious past of spa culture.
2. Soak in the Thermal Springs
No visit to Hot Springs National Park is complete without experiencing a relaxing soak in the thermal springs. The park offers both public and private bathhouses where you can immerse yourselves in the warm, mineral-rich waters. The Buckstaff Bathhouse, one of the oldest operating bathhouses in the area, provides an authentic and rejuvenating thermal bath experience.
3. Hike the Scenic Trails
Hot Springs National Park boasts numerous picturesque trails that wind through its lush forests, promising breathtaking views and encounters with wildlife. The Hot Springs Mountain Tower Trail leads visitors to an observation tower, offering panoramic vistas of the surrounding Ouachita Mountains. For a more challenging hike, the West Mountain Trail provides a rewarding workout and an opportunity to appreciate the park’s diverse flora and fauna.
4. Visit the Gangster Museum of America
Step back in time and learn about the intriguing history of organized crime in Hot Springs. The Gangster Museum of America provides an entertaining and educational experience, showcasing the city’s connection to notorious gangsters and illegal gambling activities during the 1920s and ’30s. Explore the exhibits, see vintage artifacts, and hear fascinating stories about this captivating era.
5. Enjoy Outdoor Activities on Lake Hamilton
For those seeking outdoor adventure and water-based activities, Lake Hamilton is just a short drive from Hot Springs National Park. This magnificent lake offers opportunities for fishing, boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Rent a boat or join a guided tour to fully immerse yourself in the scenic beauty of the lake, surrounded by the Ouachita Mountains.
6. Discover Native American Heritage
The Quapaw Tribe has inhabited the Hot Springs area for thousands of years, and their rich connection with the land and its thermal springs is deeply embedded in their culture. At the Quapaw Baths & Spa, visitors can experience Native American-inspired healing traditions, including massages, facials, and thermal mineral baths. Learn about the tribe’s history and immerse yourself in their ancient practices.
7. Attend a Horse Racing Event at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort
Hot Springs is known for its vibrant racing scene, and there’s no better place to experience the thrill of horse racing than at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. From January to April, visitors can witness world-class thoroughbred horse racing at this historic venue. Place bets, feel the excitement, and enjoy the festive atmosphere that surrounds this annual event.
8. Capture the Beauty of Garvan Woodland Gardens
A visit to Hot Springs National Park wouldn’t be complete without exploring the enchanting Garvan Woodland Gardens. This botanical paradise spans 210 acres and features stunning gardens, walking trails, and a breathtaking lakeside setting. Take a leisurely stroll through the vibrant landscapes, snap photos of the colorful blooms, and discover the architectural beauty of the Anthony Chapel.
9. Indulge in Local Cuisine
Hot Springs offers a variety of dining options to satisfy your culinary cravings. From delicious southern comfort food to international cuisine, there’s something for everyone. Visit one of the local restaurants and savor the flavors of the region, including the mouthwatering barbecue, traditional southern fried chicken, and delightful homemade pies.
10. Experience the Downtown Hot Springs’ Vibe
Downtown Hot Springs exudes charm with its quaint shops, art galleries, and historic landmarks. Take a leisurely stroll along Central Avenue, browse the unique boutiques, and admire the beautiful architecture. Don’t forget to stop by the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center for more information about the park and its history.
Hot Springs National Park offers a captivating blend of natural wonders, historical significance, and cultural experiences. From exploring the architectural marvels of Bathhouse Row to immersing in the thermal springs and indulging in local cuisine, a visit to this national park promises an unforgettable journey. Discover the beauty of Hot Springs National Park and create lasting memories in this unique destination.