The Best Things to Do in Hot Springs, Arkansas – A Weekend Itinerary
When Logan and I were in college we frequently visited Hot Springs for a day trip and explored the national park, walked along bathhouse row, and visited the botanical gardens – we even got engaged there! But even though we spent a lot of time in Hot Springs, we knew there was still more to discover so we recently headed back to see what else we could find. In this Hot Springs travel guide, you’ll find many fun and unique things to do in Hot Springs as well as places to eat and where to stay!
Where is Hot Springs?
Hot Springs is a small city located just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. It is most famous for Hot Springs National Park and the horse races at Oaklawn Racing & Casino. Although it is a small city, it boasts many unique things to do that are perfect for a variety of travelers. If traveling as a couple looking for a romantic getaway there are plenty of chic bed and breakfasts or nicer hotels to stay in. Hot Springs is also a great family-friendly destination with many activities perfect for kids and adults.
How to Get to Hot Springs
If you are flying, the best way to get to Hot Springs is by flying into Little Rock Airport and renting a car to drive to Hot Springs. Once you get to Hot Springs the downtown area, where Hot Springs National Park is located, is fairly walkable but you’ll want to have a car to visit other areas of Hot Springs like Lake Catherine, Garvan Woodland Gardens, and more.
Traveling from Little Rock: Approximately 1 hour by car
Traveling from Northwest Arkansas (Fayetteville/Bentonville): Approximately 3.5 hours by car
Traveling from Texarkana: Approximately 2 hours by car
Traveling From Dallas: Approximately 4.5 hours by car
Traveling from Shreveport: Approximately 3 hours by car
When is the Best Time to Visit Hot Springs?
Visiting Hot Springs is great any time of the year, each season has its charm so it’s really personal preference.
Visiting Hot Springs in the Winter: Winter is a beautiful time to visit Hot Springs! Every time we visited in the winter there always happened to be snow which added to the extra romance for a couple’s trip to Hot Springs. It’s also really neat to see the outdoor natural springs with so much steam against the chilly air and it’s the perfect time to enjoy the bathhouses. Winter is also the least busy time to visit Hot Springs so if you want to avoid the crowds, it’s a great time to book your trip and there are still plenty of things to do and see.
Visiting Hot Springs in the Spring: I am partial to visiting Hot Springs in the springtime because of the tulip festival at Garvan Woodland Gardens. It’s absolutely beautiful and all of the other spring flowers and trees are blooming around this time too. In addition to the beautiful blooms, the temperatures are fairly mild making it enjoyable to spend lots of time outside whether it be walking to the shops downtown or hiking in Hot Springs National Park. I personally believe Early or Mid-April after the spring break crowd is the best time to visit!
Visiting Hot Springs in the Summer: I’ve visited Hot Springs only once during the summer months and I have to say, it’s probably my least favorite season. It can be really hot and more crowded than at other times of the year because of summer break. However, in saying that, there are a lot of nice indoor activities and Garvan Woodland Gardens is decently shady so it can still be enjoyed during the summer. If you happen to have time to visit Hot Springs in the summer, definitely still go! Just make sure you plan to do any outdoor activities early to avoid crowds and the high mid-day temperatures.
Visiting Hot Springs in the Fall: Autumn in Hot Springs is, as you can imagine, beautiful. There is so much fall foliage to enjoy outside and the temperatures tend to cool off again in mid-late October. It’s by far one of the best seasons for hiking because of how beautiful the leaves are in the National Park!
Where to Stay in Hot Springs
The Waters Hot Springs
When we used to take day trips to Hot Springs we talked about staying at The Waters Hot Springs sometime because we loved its location, the rooftop patio, and beautiful hotel rooms. On our most recent trip, we finally did stay here!
We loved the location which is right in the middle of downtown and a number of things to do in Hot Springs. And yes, that rooftop area is just as dreamy as we imagined it. In fact, I personally believe it offers the best free view of downtown Hot Springs.
Because of its location, parking at The Waters is valet (the lot is right next to the hotel) and it is $18 for unlimited access. However, if you don’t mind walking there is a free parking garage just a 5-minute walk away. If you decide to use the parking garage you can unload your luggage at The Waters Hot Springs first, then go park!
Gold-Inn Hot Springs
We’ve stayed before at the Gold-Inn Hot Springs when it was the Alpine Inn, now it is under new ownership with a new name and look. To reminisce on our stay we wanted to stay at the Gold-Inn Hot Springs on this visit but it was fully booked. But we both are aching to go back and stay there next time. I absolutely love the retro charm that the rooms have, almost resembling a motel in California!
Parking in Downtown Hot Springs
All around Downtown Hot Springs, you’ll notice free 2-hour parking on the streets. From what we gathered, they were pretty lax about the 2-hour time limit but we decided to park at the Exchange Street Parking Garage which is free to park. // MAP
Things to Do in Hot Springs, Arkansas
Enjoy Serene Nature at Garvan Woodland Gardens
Garvan Woodland Gardens is located just outside of Hot Springs city center near Lake Hamilton. It is by far one of our favorite things to do in Hot Springs and holds a lot of special memories for us, it’s actually where we got engaged!
Garvan Woodland Gardens is a 210-acre botanical garden that features a large variety of seasonal flowers, plants, and themed gardens. One of my favorite times to visit is during the Tulip Extravaganza which usually takes place between March 1-April 10. I recommend checking their Facebook page to see what blooms they currently have – they usually post regularly with bloom updates and events.
One of the newer additions to Garvan Woodland Gardens is the treehouse that is architecturally stunning. If you want to visit here to enjoy a peaceful moment I recommend visiting here when the gardens first open because it can get really busy!
Overall, Garvan Woodland Gardens is a place we never tire of because there is always something new to see and it’s so peaceful to walk around here. We easily spend at least two hours here every time we visit.
Location: 550 Arkridge Rd, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: 10am-6pm daily
Cost: $15/adults, $5/children, $5/dogs
Visit Hot Springs National Park
Of course, if you’re visiting Hot Springs, you’re probably coming to visit Hot Springs National Park, which has been a U.S. National Park since 1921. I have to say, Hot Springs National Park is truly unlike any other National Park we’ve visited because it is an urban park. The city of Hot Springs, Arkansas, got its name from the thermal spring waters that you can find within the town and the park. Typically, the hot springs produce one million gallons of water per day at an average temperature of 143°F!
The History of Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park has a lot of history from many different aspects. But before I dive in, I want to first acknowledge that the land that Hot Springs National Park sits on is stolen land from the Osage, Caddo, and Quapaw people.
In the mid-1500s, Hernando de Soto was suspected to be the first European to visit Hot Springs and later, it was claimed by French and Spanish Settlers. Many years later, in 1804, the Dunbar-Hunter Expedition sent by President Thomas Jefferson, came to Hot Springs when surveying land for the Louisiana Purchase. Soon after, a town was built around the natural hot springs and became popular for those searching for the health benefits of the springs.
In 1832, President Andrew Jackson declared Hot Springs a Federal Reservation in order to “conserve its natural resources.” Therefore, in essence, Hot Springs was the very first National Park (although it wasn’t named one until 1921).
In the 20th century, Hot Springs became known as the “American Spa” and was promoted as a place for healing and relaxation. The bathhouses that you’ll see standing today on Bathhouse Row (which we’ll talk about more in a moment) became a focal point for tourists, movie stars, baseball players, and other notable famous people including Andrew Carnegie, Babe Ruth – Hot Springs was very popular for baseball players there is even a Historic Baseball Trail, and Al Capone.
In fact, Hot Springs was once considered “neutral ground” for notorious gangster criminals from Chicago and New York while they came to illegally gamble underground and at the horse races. Hot Springs was once referred to as “the site of the largest illegal gambling operation in the U.S.” by the federal government.
While there are a number of historical stories to share about Hot Springs National Park, I believe it’s also important to note that during Jim Crow, Black Americans were not permitted to use the bathhouses, even though they did work at them. Therefore, Black Americans decided to build their own bathhouses in the early 1900s.
Crystal Bathhouse was the first Black-owned bathhouse owned by M.H. Jodd and A.R. Aldrich and it opened in 1904. It was located on the edge of the “African American Business district” on the 400-block of Malvern Avenue. Sadly, in 1913 there was a fire that destroyed 50 city blocks and The Crystal burned down.
After The Crystal plans were made to build a new hotel and bathhouse known as the Pythian. It was designed by prominent architect W.T. Bailey. In 1922, W.T. Bailey also designed the Woodmen of the Union Building which would be used primarily as a health care center for Black Americans. Inside the building, there were first-class hotel accommodations, a bathhouse, a 2,000-seat theater, auditorium, print shop, beauty parlor, and newsstand. The Woodmen of the Union Building would remain in service until 1983*.
Today in Hot Springs you can visit the downtown area shops and bathhouses that remain, two of which are still operating as public bathhouses where you can soak in the thermal waters (more on the existing bathhouses soon!).
*This information came from the National Park Service website. To read more, click here.
Hiking in Hot Springs National Park
Directly behind Bathhouse Row, you’ll find the trailheads of many Hot Springs hiking trails that range in difficulty. There are two main areas of hiking trails within the park, the shorter trails are within the Hot Springs and North Mountain Trail Area and the West Mountain Trail. Whereas, the Sunset Trail is longer and more remote.
Hot Springs and North Mountain Trails
The Hot Springs and North Mountain Trail area comprises 16 different trails some of which connect. They are some of the most popular trails in Hot Springs National Park because they are shorter in length (the longest trail is 1.7 miles one-way) and offer scenic viewing points that are more easily accessible.
The Grand Promenade Trail (0.5 miles/one-way) is the one that most people venture to first because it is an easy paved path located directly behind Bathhouse Row. There are stairs and ramps on each side to access the trail.
Another popular trail in this area is the Gulpha Gorge Trail (0.6 miles/one-way) which is located close to the Gulpha Gorge campsite. It has a number of pretty water features and is located further into the National Park.
The longest trail in this area is the Hot Springs Mountain Trail which is a 1.7-mile easy trail to hike on with multiple scenic overlooks. // MAP OF TRAILS.
West Mountain Trails
The West Mountain Trails are usually less-trafficked making them the prime location for seeing wildlife! The two main trails in this area are the Mountain Top Trails (North 0.9 miles one-way and South 0.6 miles one-way) and the West Mountain Trials (North 0.5 miles one-way and South 0.7 miles one-way). You can access these trails from Whittington Park and the Canyon Trailhead off Central Avenue in Downtown Hot Springs. // MAP OF TRAILS
The Sunset Trail is the longest trail in Hot Springs National Park at nearly 10 miles one way or 15-17 miles if you decide to do one of the loops. If you want to hike this trail it is typically broken up into three other Hot Springs hiking trails West Mountain (2.8 miles), Sugarloaf Mountain (2.6 miles), and Stonebridge Road trails (3.8 miles). In addition, you can combine it with the Hot Springs Mountain trails, North Mountain trails, and West Mountain trails for the 15-17 mile loop. // MAP OF TRAILS
Other popular outdoor activities to enjoy in Hot Springs National Park are camping at Gulpha Gorge, bicycling, photography of animals, and birding. There is even a list of birds that can be found in Hot Springs National Park depending on the season.
For those bringing kids to Hot Springs National Park, be sure to head to the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center to talk to a Park Ranger and get a Junior Ranger booklet. After your child(ren) have completed some of the activities in the booklet they can get a Junior Ranger badge!
Location: 369 Central Ave, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: 5am-10pm daily
Cost: Free to visit, Hot Springs National Park is also dog-friendly, on-leash
Go Biking on One of the Hot Springs Trails
Hiking the trails not your speed? Consider bringing or renting a mountain bike and venturing out onto the trails! Many people who visit Arkansas don’t realize how many biking trails there are in the state. In fact, did you know that the mountain biking capital of the world is Bentonville, Arkansas?
Where to Rent A Bike
Hot Springs Northwoods Trail System
The Hot Springs Northwoods Trail System is made up of 260miles of world-class mountain bike trails and is located only a few minutes from downtown Hot Springs. Within the Northwoods trails, you’ll find green, blue, and black trails making it perfect for the beginner or expert mountain biker.
- Distance: 26 Miles
- Skill Level: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Trails Available
Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail
Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail is currently only 2.25 miles but will soon be a 4.2-mile, multi-use trail that connects to downtown Hot Springs and part of Lake Hamilton.
- Distance: 2.5 miles
- Skill Level: Beginner
Entergy Park has nine different off-road and paved trails that are mostly under a mile which in our opinion makes it a great network of trails for families and those wanting to dip their toes into mountain biking by going off-road first.
- Distance: Most trails less than one mile
- Skill Level: Beginner
Iron Mountain Trail
The Iron Mountain Trail is often used for cross-country rates, XTERRA events, and other off-road excursions. The trail has varying levels of difficulty at different points so it can be used for a range of bikers.
- Distance: 21.5 miles
- Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
The Womble Trail is the most popular mountain biking trail in Hot Springs and is regarded as “the jewel of the Ouachita Mountains”. In fact, the Womble Classic Mountain Bike Race is held here each year and is frequented by out-of-state travelers. If you’re only going to ride one mountain bike trail while in Hot Springs, I’d recommend this one!
- Distance: 33 miles
- Skill Level: Intermediate
Ouachita National Recreational Trail
If you’re coming to Hot Springs with plans to spend a day or multiple days mountain biking, I recommend the Ouachita National Recreational Trail. It cuts through remote areas of the Ouachita Mountains and has a lot of neat downhill areas. This trail also connects to the epic Wobble Trail I mentioned earlier. There is also camping and dining available at Queen Wilhelmina State Park for those making a longer trek
- Distance: 108 miles
- Skill Level: Intermediate and Advanced
Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT)
The Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT) covers over 40 miles of shoreline and ridgetop riding and was built on conservation corp land. It’s a great trail for mountain bikers, runners, and hiking.
- Distance: 45 miles
- Skill Level: Intermediate
Peruse Bathhouse Row
The Bathhouse Row that exists today has eight buildings that were constructed between the years of 1892 and 1923. In 1987 Bathhouse Row and the Grand Promenade were designated as a National Historic Landmark District. While all of the buildings were once operating bathhouses, only two are still operating as bathhouses. However, the rest still hold interesting places to visit!
Starting from the southernmost part of Bathhouse Row is Lamar Bathhouse. Lamar Bathhouse was built in 1923 and was named after the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar. At its prime, it was considered to be one of the most unique bathhouses in Hot Springs because it had a variety of tub lengths ranging from 5’-6’6” to allow guests of various heights to enjoy the baths. It closed its doors as a bathhouse in 1985 but today you can still visit Lamar Bathhouse which has now been converted into Bathhouse Row Emporium, the park store and houses park archives, the museum collection storage, and a research library.
Hours: 9am-5pm daily // MAP
Built in 1912, Buckstaff Bathhouse is one of two bathhouses that are still operating as such. At Buckstaff Bathhouse you can enjoy soaking in the thermal hot spring water in a private bath. The thermal waters have been proven to help with a number of different health ailments and provide temporary relief from joint and muscular pain! In addition to thermal baths, Buckstaff Bathhouse also offers spa services like facials, manicures, and massages.
Buckstaff Bathhouse provides guests with bathing sheets and towels, lockers, and safety deposit boxes for more expensive items you might want to store like a watch or other jewelry.
Cost: Starting at $38/person
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 8am-3pm, Closed Mondays // MAP
Ozark Bathhouse opened in 1922 and closed in 1977. It originally catered to middle-class patrons who wanted to enjoy soaking in the thermal waters without paying for extra spa services that some of the other bathhouses had. Now, Ozark Bathhouse serves as the Hot Springs National Park Cultural Center featuring art from the Artist-in-Residence Program at the park and various temporary exhibits.
Cost: Free to visit
Hours: Friday-Sunday afternoons, check the website for more hours // MAP
Around the same time the Ozark Bathhouse was being built, the Quapaw Bathhouse was being built as well. It closed in 1984 but then later reopened in 2008 as a family-oriented spa. They offer public baths in a beautiful setting, private baths, and other spa services.
Cost: Starting at $20/person
Hours: Wednesday-Monday 10am-6pm, Closed Tuesdays
The Fordyce Bathhouse opened its doors in 1915 and is the largest bathhouse on the row! It closed its doors in 1962 but was restored in 1989 and is now the National Park Visitor’s Center. This is a great place to talk to a ranger, learn more about the park’s history, or take your kids to join the junior ranger program!
Hours: 9am-5pm // MAP
Currently, Maurice Bathhouse is the only one on the row that is not operating as any sort of business. It originally opened in 1912 and had three stories with different areas and services like a gymnasium, staterooms, a rooftop garden, and of course the bathhouse area which was a thermal pool located in the basement. At the time, it was the only bathhouse to have a thermal pool. It closed its doors in 1974 and has remained vacant. Although I hear it is available for commercial leasing so there could be a lovely business opportunity there!
Completed in 1892 Hale Bathhouse is the oldest bathhouse that is still standing on Bathhouse Row. It closed its doors as a public bathhouse in 1978. Today Hale Bathhouse operates as a small luxury hotel known as The Hotel Hale. The interior has been remodeled but guests can still enjoy the experience of staying in a historic room and experiencing the thermal springs located in the hotel.
Superior Bathhouse was built in 1916 and was the smallest of the bathhouses on the row offering the lowest rates of the bathhouses and basic services like hydrotherapy and massage spa services. It closed in 1983. Today it is home to Superior Bathhouse Brewery which is the ONLY brewery located inside a United States National Park. It is also the only brewery in the world that uses thermal spring water (direct from the source itself obviously!) to make its beer. If you don’t like beer or drink beer, that’s okay! They also have a full menu and it’s a neat place to check out regardless.
Hours: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursdays 11am-9pm, Friday & Saturday 11am-10pm, Closed Tuesdays // MAP
Walk The Grand Promenade
The Grand Promenade was created by an architect named Charles Peterson. He was inspired by the Prado, a pedestrian walkway in Havana, Cuba, and decided to give The Grand Promenade a similar feel. Although construction started in the 1930s it wasn’t until the 1950s that it was finally finished!
Today the Grand Promenade is a very popular 0.5-mile trail (one-way) that is located directly behind Bathhouse Row. There are stairs and ramps on each side of the straight, paved path where you can enjoy a leisurely walk reading more about the history of the park, and admiring the scenery. There are also many benches, picnic tables, and even chess tables to enjoy extra time outside. To access the Grand Promenade you can enter from Reserve Street on the south side, the Arlington Lawn area on the north side, or via the staircase between Maurice and Fordyce Bathhouses.
Hours: 10am-6pm // MAP
Cost: Free to visit
Fill Up A Bottle With Hot Spring Water at A Jug Station
In addition to viewing the natural hot springs outside and bathing in hot springs water at bathhouse row, you can also drink natural hot springs water from one of the fountains located within the park! In 1832 congress protected the hot springs and intended for guests and residents to use the water for drinking purposes. At some of the fountains, you can even take your own jugs to fill up with hot spring water to take home! Because of the high temperature in the water, it kills most harmful bacteria and is regularly monitored for safety standards.
Hot Spring Fountains
- Outside the park boundaries at the Hill Wheatley Plaza on Central Ave. // MAP
- Suitable for filling jugs.
- Libbey Memorial Physical Medicine Center on Reserve St. // MAP
- Suitable for filling jugs.
- In front of the National Park Service Administration Building on Reserve St. // MAP
- Suitable for filling jugs.
- The Noble Fountain
- Location: Reserve Street at the south entrance of the Grand Promenade // MAP
- Dripping Spring
- Location: Between Hale & Maurice Bathhouses // MAP
- The Shell Fountain
- Location: Stevens Balustrade between Fordyce and Maurice Bathhouses // MAP
Cold Spring Fountains
- Happy Hollow: Flows out of the North Mountain // MAP
- Whittington Spring: Flows out of the West Mountain // MAP
Check out the Mountain Valley Spring Water Museum
Thirsty yet? I know you might be thinking, “Really? A water museum?” But the Mountain Valley Spring Water Museum is actually very fascinating! It is located on the outskirts of Hot Springs National Park in the downtown area in a 1910 Classic Revival building. Inside you can learn more about the history of this water brand and purchase some to take with you by the bottle or case. On your way out I recommend getting flavored sparkling water to go – my favorites were the blackberry pomegranate and peach!
Location: 150 Central Ave, Hot Springs National Park // MAP
Hours: 9am-5pm daily
Cost: Free to visit
Visit the Downtown Hot Springs Shops
The shops located in Downtown Hot Springs are composed of many locally-owned, small businesses that offer a variety of services and items for sale! Here are a few of our favorite shops to visit.
- All Things Arkansas: As the name suggests, this store sells products and goods that are made in Arkansas, are from Arkansas, or are related to Arkansas. You’ll find items like pottery, crystals and gemstones, soaps, lotions, candles, food products, and more.
- Bathhouse Soapery: Has soaps, soaking salts, bath bombs, candles, perfumes, and other skincare items that smell soooo good!
- Evilo sells olive oils and balsamic vinegars with many different flavor infusions. All of their olive oil is imported from Spain and is 100% extra virgin olive oil with natural infusions. The balsamic vinegars are imported from Italy and are also naturally infused. When you walk in you can sample any of the oils and vinegars you’d like! We loved the garlic, Meyer lemon, and chili pepper-infused olive oils as well as the lavender, strawberry, and fig-infused balsamic vinegars.
- Dryden Potteries is actually located outside of the downtown Hot Springs strip and is near Tiny Town, another spot we’ll cover in this Hot Springs itinerary, but it’s definitely worth a visit. The Dryden family has been making pottery for three generations here since 1946 and quickly became a coveted collectible and has even won numerous awards. You can go to browse through the pottery works and even purchase your own piece to take home.
Enjoy A Wine Tasting at Bathhouse Row Winery
If you enjoy wine you have to do a wine tasting at an Arkansas winery! Lucky for you The Winery in Hot Springs has two locations for tastings one is even located on Bathhouse Row. Arkansas is most known for Muscadine wine which comes from the Muscadine grape that grows wild in Arkansas and other southern states. The wine tastings are free and you can try up to 12 different one-ounce pours!
Location: 220 Central Ave, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10am-6pm, Friday & Saturday 10am-8pm
Cost: Tastings are free
Learn About Famous Arkansans at Arkansas Walk of Fame
If you’re interested in history and famous Arkansans then you’ll definitely want to take the quick walk on the Arkansas Walk of Fame. The Arkansas Walk of Fame is located just outside of the national park area on the south side and wraps around the Hot Springs Visitor Center. On this path, you’ll find nationally-recognized Arkansans like Maya Angelou, President Bill Clinton, and Johnny Cash.
Location: 629 Central Ave, Hot Springs National Park // MAP
Hours: Available 24/7
Get A Drink at the Infamous The Ohio Club
Opening in 1905, the Ohio Club is the oldest bar in Hot Springs! It was a popular hang-out spot for notorious criminals Al Capone, Bugsy Segel, Bugs Moran, and Lucky Luciano. In addition to mobsters, there were also a number of Major League baseball players who frequented the Ohio Club including Babe Ruth. During prohibition, the Ohio Club turned into a speakeasy and casino under the cover of being a cigar store. Needless to say, the Ohio Club is steeped in history and continues to be a hot spot in Hot Springs. Stop by on the weekend to get a cocktail or a bite to eat while enjoying one of their jazz or rock music nights.
Location: 336 Central Ave, Hot Springs National Park // MAP
Hours: Friday 11am-1am, Saturday 11am-12am
Experience the Mid-America Science Museum
The Mid-America Science Museum is one of the coolest science museums I’ve ever seen. The setting is located in a beautiful wooded area and inside you’ll find a ton of interesting exhibits great for all ages. One of my favorite exhibits in the permanent collection is the science skywalk where you can enjoy the beautiful outdoor scenery while also trying out electricity experiments and cross rope and fog bridges.
When visiting the Mid-America Science Museum make sure you get tickets for the show in the Habeeb Tesla Theater. At this show, you can view the 1.5 million volts of electricity sparking off the World’s Most Powerful Conical Tesla Coil!
Location: 500 Mid America Blvd, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 1pm-5pm, Closed Mondays
Cost: $10/adults, $8/children, discounts available for teachers, seniors, and military.
Take the Elevator to the Top of Hot Springs Mountain Tower
If you are looking for great views then don’t miss the Hot Springs Mountain Tower where an elevator will take you up 216 ft to the expansive observation decks offering panoramic views of Hot Springs Mountain, the Ouachita Mountains, and Diamonds Lakes. There is also a gift shop that offers a variety of goods you can purchase to commemorate your trip.
Location: 401 Hot Springs Mountain Dr, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: 9am-8pm daily
Cost: $10/adults, $6/children
Enjoy the Free Scenic Views from the 1920s Observation Gazebo
Near the Hot Springs Mountain Tower is the 1920s Observation Gazebo which offers a free view of downtown Hot Springs and Hot Springs Mountain, although it isn’t quite as expansive as the mountain tower, it’s still a pretty place to stop and enjoy the scenery, especially at sunset! The last time we visited Hot Springs we had a lot of overcast so we, unfortunately, didn’t get to witness a sunset here, but the pictures that others have taken look phenomenal!
Location // MAP
Learn Interesting History at the Gangster Museum of America
With only seven galleries, the Gangster Museum of America is a small museum but despite its size, it has a number of interesting stories, artifacts, and more to peruse. The Gangster Museum’s focus is Hot Springs in the 1920’s-40’s when notorious criminals would coexist with locals and visit Hot Springs for illegal gambling, bootlegging, and an occasional soak in the spring waters. After visiting, it will be hard not to look at certain spots in Hot Springs and think about Al Capone staying in one of the historic hotels or walking the streets. If you’re interested in true crime and history, this museum is definitely an experience not to be missed!
Location: 510 Central Ave, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10am-5pm, Friday & Saturday 10am-6pm
Cost: $15/adults, $6/children
Enjoy A Moonshine Tasting and Tour at Crystal Ridge Distillery
Crystal Ridge Distillery is located in a beautiful historic building in Hot Springs and offers daily tours that give visitors the opportunity to learn more about the 1920s building and its moonshine. After your tour be sure to enjoy a moonshine tasting at one of the bars which even includes a few seasonal moonshine “cocktail” tastings too! If you are short on time or want to skip the tour they offer tastings every 30 minutes no reservations are required!
Now Logan and I both enjoy a number of different spirits but moonshine is one we haven’t found a taste for. At least until visiting Crystal Ridge Distillery! Their moonshine is not only delicious, but it’s also incredibly smooth in comparison to other moonshines we’ve tried. Our favorite flavors of moonshine were honey lemonade, strawberry, and apple pie. But I have to also give a little shout-out to the cinnamon moonshine. I am not one for Fireball or any other cinnamon-infused alcohol but this one I will not make an exception for. So if you have tried moonshine and didn’t like it, love moonshine, or haven’t had moonshine before, I implore you to give Crystal Ridge Distillery a try!
Location: 455 Broadway St, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: Sunday 12pm-5pm, Monday-Thursday 11am-7pm, Friday & Sunday 11am-9pm
Cost: $10 for a tasting
Explore Tiny Town
One of the most unique things to do in Hot Springs is making a visit to Tiny Town. Tiny Town is the vision of Frank and Louise Moshinskie and took 50 years to complete. At 13, Frank began building his miniature town, a town that took 50 years to complete and is mostly made from household items or trash. Today you can visit the museum and see the nostalgic town run by motors.
Location: 374 Whittington Ave, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours:10am-2pm daily, closed Sundays
Cost: $7/adults, $5/children
Visit Nearby Lake Catherine State Park
After visiting, Lake Catherine State Park is now one of our favorite Arkansas State Parks. It has great campgrounds and some of the most beautiful hiking trails! When we visited Lake Catherine State Park we decided to hike Falls Branch Trail which is a 2-mile hiking trail that has a beautiful waterfall at the end.
Location: 1200 Catherine Park Rd, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: 8am-5pm daily
Take A Zipline Tour at Adventureworks Hot Springs
Looking for a thrill? Then spending a few hours at Adventureworks Hot Springs is a great place to visit. At Adventureworks you can sail through the trees on 10 different ziplines. In addition to the ziplines, they also have an aerial adventure canopy tour which has 16 different course elements like swinging bridges, hanging vines, and cargo nets.
Location: Catherine’s Landing RV Resort, 1700 Shady Grove Rd, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: Sunday 12pm-4pm, Monday-Saturday 10am-4pm (February 14-November)
Cost: Starting at $35
Attend the Horse Races at Oaklawn Racing & Casino
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort is home to the $1 million Arkansas Derby and has been a premier horse racetrack in Hot Springs since 1904. The horse races take place every year from December-May. In addition to racing, you can visit the casino to play slots or card games.
Location: 2705 Central Ave, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: Races December-May
Where to Eat in Hot Springs
Best Cafe & Bar
Best Cafe & Bar is one of the best-kept secrets in Hot Springs that is bound to get out VERY soon. They are located inside a modern diner-like space within the historic Best Motel and have the most delicious breakfast options on their menu. We loved the avocado toast and the Creme Brûlée French Toast.
Location: 632 Ouachita Ave, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: 7am-2pm daily, closed Tuesdays
Kollective Coffee & Tea
Kollective Coffee & Tea is my favorite coffee shop in Hot Springs. It has a wide variety of teas and also a number of dishes great for lunch including a large menu of vegan options made from mostly locally sourced products. They have a great Nitro Cold Brew which is made with spring water and for teas, their Earl Grey is a World Tea Expo winner and it’s great as a London Fog.
Location: 110 Central Ave, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, & Friday 8am-3pm, Wednesday 8am-9:30pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am-6pm
Superior Bathhouse Brewery
I talked about the history of Superior Bathhouse Brewery earlier in this post and its debut as a brewery but it also has fabulous food! We decided to get a variety of appetizers to share along with a flight of beer. Our favorite was the Bavarian Soft Pretzel, it was so soft and delicious and we loved it with the house-made beer cheese and honey mustard. For our flight, we decided to get a variety of beers that had more unusual flavors including The Beez Kneez, a honey basil Kolsch and Spicy Ride, a jalapeno ale.
Location: 329 Central Ave, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday & Saturday 11am-10pm, Closed Tuesdays
Purple Cow Restaurant
The Purple Cow Restaurant is an Arkansas staple for burgers, fries, shakes, and other American classics. Be sure to grab some of their well-known onion rings, a steak knife burger or the house blt, and of course, one of their infamous purple milkshakes!
Location: 1490 Higdon Ferry Rd, Hot Springs National Park // MAP
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday & Saturday 11am-10pm
Since 1928, McClard’s BBQ has been serving up delicious barbecue but the sauce is what they’re well known for. The story behind their barbecue sauce is even better. So it goes, a traveler couldn’t pay for the two-month stay he had at his hotel and offered the McClards his recipe for “the world’s greatest barbecue sauce.” Thinking it was better than nothing they took him up on his offer and much to their surprise, the recipe was delicious. Logan got one of their pulled pork sandwiches which had coleslaw and their signature sauce.
Location: 505 Albert Pike Rd, Hot Springs National Park // MAP
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 11am-7pm, Friday & Saturday 11am-8pm, Closed Sunday & Monday
Capo’s Tacos serves up delicious Michoacán dishes in a vibrant and modern atmosphere. Inside you’ll find fresh ingredients like handmade tortillas, slow-cooked meats, and fresh vegetables used for all of their dishes. Of course, we had to try the tacos which had traditional options as well as some favorite fusion tacos as well. We really enjoyed the southern taco with fried chicken, the spicy Baja snapper taco, and al pastor. In addition to tacos, they have burritos, tortas, and a number of starters. I’m making it my mission to try the elote bites next time!
Location: 200 Higdon Ferry Rd, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: Sunday 11am-3pm, Monday-Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday & Saturday 11am-10pm
For over 30 years Rocky’s Corner has provided Hot Springs with delicious Chicago-style pizza and beer pints in a laid-back environment. They also have a variety of pasta dishes and sandwiches to choose from if you’re not feeling pizza! We ordered a pepperoni pizza (Logan’s classic favorite) and the pizza bianca which had an alfredo sauce base and cheese with spinach and tomato.
Location: 2600 Central Ave, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday & Saturday 11am-11pm
Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcakes
For a sweet treat stop by Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcakes which has been featured on a number of TV specials including the Food Network and Cupcake Wars. We first visited Fat Bottomed Girls when they opened in 2011 at a smaller location in downtown Hot Springs but they have since expanded their business to a larger spot in Hot Springs and a few other locations in Arkansas. If you love their cupcakes you can also have them shipped! I recommend trying the Lemon Lavender, Strawberry Cheesecake, and their famous Creme Brulee cupcake which is a vanilla bean cake with vanilla custard and torched sugar on top.
Location: 502 Central Ave, Hot Springs // MAP
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10am-7pm, Friday & Sunday 10am-9pm
We hope you enjoy these things to do in Hot Springs as much as we have!