When you think of a small town vacation spot, you normally picture some quaint village or sleepy countryside, but that’s not the case for Hot Springs, Arkansas.
This little town is packed with adventure and interesting locales, including museums, parks, concerts, gardens, plenty of shops, critically-acclaimed restaurants, and more.
The major Hot Springs attractions are its thermal springs bathhouses with their attractive art deco design.
Surrounding the town are several national parks that offer hiking and striking vistas, providing visitors with plenty of things to do in Hot Springs.
When exploring the national parks, visitors should not forget the area's many lakes with their campgrounds and fishing, especially the clear and inviting Lake Ouachita.
Let's explore the top attractions in Hot Springs you must visit.
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The 5,500-acre Hot Springs National Park is undoubtedly one of the major Hot Springs attractions.
It is also the first and oldest national park in the U.S. The mountain trails surrounding the town provide visitors with easy and challenging trails leading to Arkansas's most breathtaking views.
In Hot Springs itself, Bathhouse Row and the Grand Promenade provide a show of their own.
What makes the park so unusual and popular are the natural hot springs and the bathhouses lining Bathhouse Row.
Two of the bathhouses are still in business and offering geothermal services, attracting visitors from everywhere. A third bathhouse, the Superior Bathhouse Brewery, is creating its beers from the actual spring waters.
Most activities in Hot Springs National Park involve its healing waters.
Address: Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, AR 71901
Also Read: What to Pack When Going to a National Park
The Fordyce Bathhouse on Bathhouse Row served as a luxurious bathhouse until 1962 and became the official Hot Springs Visitors Center and Museum in 1989.
Authentic Spanish Renaissance architecture is one of the places to visit in Hot Springs for historical accuracy.
This bathhouse is lined with stained glass, statues, large fixtures, and, of course, spacious tubs for everyone to soak and enjoy with complimentary spa services.
Visitors can take self-guided or guided tours through the 23 rooms, the men’s and women’s bathing rooms, as well as the gymnasium, which was the largest of its kind in 1915.
Local rangers will provide guidance and information daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. This is the perfect escape for someone who needs to recharge their batteries.
Address: 369 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR 71901
The Grand Promenade in Hot Springs runs parallel to Bathhouse Row and provides a lovely mile-long scenic stroll.
Entrances are located on Reserve Street on the south and the Arlington Hotel on the north. A walk in the fall surrounded by bright foliage and an active hot mineral spring is a stunning delight.
The walk is made entirely of bricks, so comfortable shoes are advised. There are benches along the path for rest and contemplation.
NOTE: this is one of the places to go in Hot Springs that is NOT a bike path.
Address: Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, AR 71901
One of Hot Springs attractions that has its very own "Godfather" moments is the Gangster Museum. Hot Springs didn’t only attract people eager to "take the waters."
Al Capone discovered it in the 1920s, and other mobsters like Luciano followed. It was actually a nice place to get together, soak, and make plans to rob a bank somewhere else.
Of course, Hot Springs was never innocent and had its share of gambling and brothels before Capone came. The division was quite visual.
One side of the main avenue was lined with beautiful bathhouses, while on the other side, lawlessness ruled, with Capone outselling the spring waters with his jugs of moonshine.
The mobsters are no longer, but the museum is filled with old gangster paraphernalia, casino games, and guides dressed in 1920s gangster suits (the roulette table is an original).
You will walk out of this museum enlightened and probably relieved that gangsters no longer exist the way they did back then.
Address: 510 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR 71901
The 1.8 acres that makeup Ouachita National Forest stretches from Arkansas to Oklahoma.
It’s the type of place you would love to get lost in—as long as you aren’t actually lost/without your phone, of course.
The mountain vistas are breathtaking, with lakes and rivers highlighting opportunities for outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, and hunting, making it one of the major attractions in Hot Springs.
There are many trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and exploring the forest on off-highway vehicles. Campgrounds have RV hookups.
The forest is divided into convenient sections, such as 60 recreational areas, 2 rivers, 6 designated wilderness areas, and 700 miles of scenic trails.
Address: Ouachita National Forest, Hot Springs, AR 71902
Garvan Woodland Gardens is an aesthetic 210-acre botanical garden that is a part of the University of Arkansas, created with the intent of educating visitors about plants, landscape architecture, and gardening.
It was created by Verna Garvan, who considered gardening her true passion.
Her decision to share her gardens with the public inspired her to work with the University and turn them into one of the loveliest things to do in Hot Springs.
It is one of the most magical gardens in the U.S.
One of the last gardens to be completed was the Garden of the Pine Wind, which the Journal of Japanese Gardening ranked number 15 out of 300 US Japanese gardens.
Another 45 acres are set aside as a bird sanctuary for 70 species of birds.
The rental of the Anthony Chapel Complex is popular for outdoor weddings. It seats 160 and has fantastic acoustics and a Steinway piano.
Address: 550 Arkridge Rd, Hot Springs
One of the primary Hot Springs attractions is Bathhouse Row which consists of a row of eight bathhouses dating back to the late 19the and early 20the century. Main Street in Hot Springs divides the bathhouses from Hot Springs National Park.
Each of the bathhouses siphoned its water directly from a natural hot spring. As guests enjoyed the healing benefits, it became known as "taking the waters."
The slogan for Hot Springs used to be, "We Bathe the World." By the mid-1900s, there were more than one million baths. Eight bathhouses still stand, and two are still functional: the Buckstaff and the Quapaw.
The Buckstaff Bathhouse consists of 3 floors and is the best-preserved of the bathhouses, and little has changed in its operation.
The original bathtubs remain in use and offer massages and body treatments. Men and women have separate facilities.
The Quapaw Bathhouse is unique in that visitors can actually see the hot spring in the basement, along with the steam cave.
It offers private and public baths, spa services such as massages, thermal pools, and 4 public pools that vary in temperature between 95 and 104 degrees.
Today the Superior Bathhouse is known for something very different. It is home to Superior Bathhouse Brewery, the only brewery located in a United States National Park.
It is also the only brewery to brew its beer and root beer using thermal spring water as its main ingredient.
The Superior Bathhouse has taken a different path and is now a full-service restaurant with beer tasting, or, as it is called, "Hot Springs On Tap."
Address: 509 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR 71901
Anthony Chapel can be found in the aforementioned Garvan Woodland Gardens.
The beautiful gardens are the perfect wedding venue, and Anthony Chapel is one of the places to visit in Hot Springs as couples begin their life together.
The chapel seats 160 guests and is known for its Steinway piano and superior acoustics.
The chapel is usually rented in three-hour increments, including an hour of rehearsal time. A property coordinator will help facilitate the arrangements and handle the sound system or musicians. A security guard ensures the couple's privacy.
In addition to the chapel, there is a bridal hall and groom’s quarters for use in preparation for the big event. The bridal hall includes an official kitchen for catering.
The couple and their guests can enter the gardens for free on the wedding day, and the chapel rental fee can range from $3,000 to $4,000.
Address: 550 Arkridge Rd, Hot Springs National Park, AR 71913
Hot Springs attractions include the neighboring Lake Ouachita State Park, with the state's largest lake surrounded by a forest.
Visitors embrace the lake for boating, fishing, kayaking, swimming, and scuba diving. The fishing for various types of bass is exceptionally good here.
The park offers 93 different campsites, eight cabins overlooking the lake with all the necessary amenities, and four camper cabins. There is a bathhouse, as well.
The Three Sisters Springs within the park are part of the original springs and are named after three sisters who claimed to have been cured of a variety of diseases by the healing waters.
The springs still flow into the lake. Visitors can enjoy guided hikes and kayaking tours throughout the year.
Address: 5451 Mountain Pine Rd, Mountain Pine, AR 71956
Also Read: 25 Best State Parks to Visit in the US
Hot Springs attractions include Lake Catherine State Park with its five lakes. The full-service marina is available for fuel, food, and bait.
There are picnic sites, playgrounds for children, and a trail with several footbridges leading to Falls Creek Falls, the park’s enchanting waterfall.
Lake Catherine State Park has 20 cabins with all amenities as well as 70 campsites and several tent sites, and year-round guides offer tours around the lakes and hiking trails.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, guides lead horseback riders at $50.00 per person through the park.
Address: 1200 Catherine Park Road, Hot Springs
The Hot Springs Mountain Tower started as a wooden tower in 1877, enabling visitors to enjoy the view of the Hot Springs Mountain region as far away as 40 miles.
A new tower was erected in 1983, complete with an observation deck at 1,256 above sea level and an elevator to the top.
It is one of the best places to go in Hot Springs for a breathtaking mountain view. A car is the only mean of reaching the tower.
The entrance fee is $8.00 for adults and $4.50 for children under the age of 11. The tower is open Sundays through Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Address: 401 Hot Springs Mountain Dr, Hot Springs
When Albert Einstein said, "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence," he could have been speaking of the Mid-America Science Museum.
Of all the places in Hot Springs, this museum is specifically designed to satisfy children’s endless curiosity. The exhibits encourage children to ask questions out loud and touch and explore.
New programs are constantly being added to keep them wondering and asking. In truth, curiosity is never satisfied. The museum is also known for its fabulous children’s parties.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. and opens at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. Adult tickets are $12.00, and tickets for children under the age of 12 are $10.00.
Address: 500 Mid America Blvd, Hot Springs
Also Read: Best Science Museums in the USA
This water park is one of the places in Hot Springs to stay cool during hot weather.
The new Splash Island has 10 water slides for adults, a bucket dump, and waterfalls. It also has surf simulators and splash areas for smaller children.
For absolute relaxation and comfort, there are private cabanas for rent to enjoy the action and some personal space; the rental cost ranges between $169.00 to $199.00.
Eateries in the park include Smoke on the Water, which offers delectable barbeque.
Magic Springs offers more than a dozen outdoor concerts each season. The cost of the concerts is included in the daily admission price.
For visitors who only wish to attend the concert, the fee per ticket is $39.99, and the earliest entrance is 6:00 p.m.
Tickets to the Magic Springs Theme and Water Park are $59.99 on Saturday (which can be turned into seasonal tickets) and vary between $49.99 and $39.00 from Sunday to Friday.
Click here for specific operating days and hours.
Address: 1701 E Grand Ave, Hot Springs
Also Read: The Best Water Parks in the USA
Hot Springs isn't just about healing; it's about having fun. The newly opened Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort is a must-see in Hot Springs as the town’s best entertainment.
The resort has 198 rooms with luxury amenities and a convenient restaurant. The resort is located by the racetrack, and guests can watch the races from their rooms or a special sports betting area.
The same guests can also lull by the swimming pool or laze in a private cabana.
The 24/7 casino has gaming tables, slots, and blackjack. The racetrack hosts major races between December and May.
The prime location of the resort places it minutes from Hot Springs National Park and two picturesque lakes, Lake Hamilton and Lake Ouachita.
It is the ideal place to stay while exploring the fabulous attractions in Hot Springs.
Address: 2705 Central Ave, Hot Springs
Who doesn't want to feed a baby alligator? One of the Hot Springs attractions where this is possible is the unique Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo.
Of course, there is more here than alligators. The petting zoo includes goats, sheep, rabbits, and more, and they are all eager to be fed!
Monkeys and turtles have joined the zoo family but cannot be fed.
The zoo staff fed the adult alligators daily at noon during the summer months.
The zoo is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The admission fee is $11.00 for adults and $9.00 for children under the age of 12.
Address: 847 Whittington Ave, Hot Springs
Also Read: 30 Best Zoos in the USA
Hot Springs has long been appreciated for its thermal soaking pools that reach a temperature above 100 degrees and its mud bath designed explicitly with natural springs mineral water and the surrounding soil. Mud, too, has its powers.
Much of the activities in Hot Springs involve water. Hence, the best time to visit is when the weather is comfortable, such as fall and spring. This avoids any chill while drying off and from being unable to explore the fabulous state parks because of the summer heat.
Hot Springs National Park has nearly 50 natural hot springs amidst miles of hiking trails through the stunning mountains with their camping and picnic areas. Nature has provided more than just healing waters here. Visitors come to see nature at its finest.
People don't get to feed baby alligators every day. When in Hot Springs, the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo allows the petting and feeding of most of their inhabitants, including the baby alligators. It's a wonderful experience for children.
There are many reasons for visiting scenic Hot Springs, but the bathhouses top the list of things to do. While most of these bathhouses and prime Hot Springs attractions are no longer functional, visitors can revel in the pampering services of the Buckstaff Bathhouse, which includes its traditional bathing services and massages.
The Quapaw Bathhouse has clothing-optional private and couple baths, a hairstylist, and an intimate steam cave (clothes required), which allows the natural hot air from the springs to flow through the room.