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15 Fun Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas

15 Fun Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas

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Marty and I love to get away on little Spring Break getaways.  One day, while perusing the internet looking for something quirky to do when we came across The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I mean, what a quirky thing to have on your couple’s bucket list. Marty got this huge, silly smile on his face when he told me that the whole parade route was only 98 feet in length!

Well, of course, I’m in!!!

We discovered there are so many things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas that we could easily stay entertained for several days.

Whether you are making a special trip just to Hot Springs, AR, or are including it on a Southeast USA road trip, Hot Spring is definitely a destination you should consider.  We think after spending some time here you will see why.

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Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas

World’s Shortest St. Patty’s Day Parade-Hot Springs, AR

things to do in hot springs, arkansas

The World’s Shortest St. Patty’s Day Parade is what drew us to Hot Springs, AR. 

The thought of a parade that is only 98 feet in length is just quirky enough to get my attention.  Couple that with a chance to dress up and be silly, and you know I’m in.

This fun parade began as a quirky idea dreamed up over a couple of pints by an Arkansas man of Irish descent.  The pub where these pints were being consumed is located on the World’s Shortest Street in everyday use, Hot Spring’s Bridge Street, right in the heart of Hot Springs.

The first parade was held in 2004 and has been a Hot Springs, AR tradition ever since, drawing visitors from far and wide.  Though Hot Springs has been challenged over the years, there has yet to be anyone to steal this claim to fame!

If you are in Hot Springs, AR in March, be sure to check out this parade.  Don your best St. Patty’s Day costume and head out.  Be sure to get there early to claim your spot, as this small area fills up quickly.

Hot Springs National Park-Hot Spring, AR

Hot Springs National Park is what draws most visitors here, making it one of the most popular things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Now when you first see Hot Springs National Park, you might start to wonder, “Is this really a National Park?”  I mean, it isn’t like most other National Parks you have visited.  Nope!  This one is located right smack in the middle of the city!

Don’t worry though, friends, you are in the right place!

Hot Springs National Park was a reservation dating back to 1832, and then it became a National Park in 1921.  This is because even back in the 1800s, people knew what a jewel of an area this was, especially the natural hot springs that they found here.

Located on the western slope of the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs National Park is the area where the natural thermal hot springs come to the surface, giving the park its name.

The Hot Springs National Park is well known for the Historic Bathhouse Row that you will find right in the heart of town.  Here there are eight hot springs bathhouses, 2 of which are still working, and the others have been transformed into the Visitor Center, a gift shop, and a brewery.

The Hot Springs National Park is comprised of 5,500 acres containing the above-mentioned Bathhouse Row, numerous hiking trails, and a campground.  The Hot Springs National Park hot springs are open year-round, but it is really best to visit in the low season (winter) when it is much less crowded.

While here, don’t miss the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center, which is located in Fordyce Bathhouse, to learn more about the park. The Visitor Center has loads of information telling you the history of the area, and a great gift shop. It is also at the Visitor Center that you can get information about the junior ranger program!

Honestly, don’t miss this Visitor Center, it is a great experience and this is definitely one of the unique National Parks in America.

Fordyce Bathhouse-Hot Springs, AR

things to do in Hot Springs Arkansas-Fordyce bathhouse

The hot springs are what have drawn visitors to Hot Springs, Arkansas for years, and that is still true today.

What was one of the most luxurious bathhouses, the Fordyce Bathhouse, which is now the Visitor Center of Hot Springs National Park, was in operation from 1915 until 1962.  The Fordyce Bathhouse, located right on bathhouse row, is now the visitor’s center and museum and has to be on your list of things to do in Hot Springs, AR.

The Fordyce Bathhouse has been completely restored to its former glory allowing visitors to glimpse into what the bathhouse experience was like.

Here you can take a tour to learn all about the history of these thermal waters and to see the fully restored bathhouse.

During the tour of the Fordyce Bathhouse, we were especially surprised at some of the “contraptions” used during the bathing ritual.  I mean really, some of these things have to be illegal right?  Some form of cruel and unusual punishment?

Treat Yourself to a Spa Experience

A trip to Hot Spring would not be complete without a visit to Bathhouse Row to experience the hot spring.  For centuries, the natural hot springs found in this area drew visitors from far and wide to experience the healing waters.

After a long day of sightseeing, a relaxing hot springs spa treatment is just what the doctor ordered.  While you will find many operating bathhouses in the Hot Springs area, I recommend the Buckstaff Bathhouse for your spa experience.

The Buckstaff is the only remaining continually operating bathhouse and is located right on Bathhouse Row and is one of the eight bathhouses that were built over the natural hot springs.  It’s amazing to think that their Hot Springs Spa has been in operation since 1912!

Keep in mind that the Buckstaff doesn’t accept reservations, so get there early to ensure you have time for your hot springs spa treatment. This is one of the attractions in Hot Springs that you don’t want to miss!

The Hot Springs Grand Promenade

The Hot Springs Grand Promenade is a half-mile-long brick path that runs behind Bathhouse Row in downtown Hot Springs.  This “trail” runs parallel with Central Avenue and Bathhouse Row from Fountain Street to Reserve Street throughout the town of Hot Springs.

This elevated pedestrian-only walkway is a nice little escape from the hustle and bustle of the main street. 

The raised elevation of the walkway gives visitors a great view of historic downtown Hot Springs.  It also allows visitors to view the Hot Springs National Park hot springs, the springs that this area is famous for.

Garvan Woodland Gardens-Hot Springs, AR

things to do in hot spring arkansas

Located on the shore of Lake Hamilton, the Garvan Woodland Gardens is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon in Hot Springs.   Garvan Woodland Gardens contains beautiful walking trails with quaint bridges, natural foliage, and serene lake views.

Interestingly enough, the Garvan Woodland Gardens complex belongs to the University of Arkansas and consists of 210 acres of beautifully manicured garden, and natural wild areas.

While visiting Garvan Woodland Gardens, don’t miss the Garden of the Pine Wind Japanese garden.  This Asian-inspired garden combines beautiful waterways, gorgeous bridges, and incredible Asian flora and fauna.

Marty and I were lucky and happened to visit Garvan Woodland Gardens during the spring tulip bloom.  Of course, I was super excited as tulips are one of my favorite flowers!  Thousands of daffodil and tulip bulbs are carefully planted to celebrate the end of winter.  During our trip, one of the gardeners explained to us that they planted over 13,000 tulips!

As you can see from the photos, the tulips created a blanket of color.  They were stunning!

I would definitely recommend visiting Garvan Woodland Gardens during your time in Hot Springs, AR.

multi colored tulips

Hot Springs Mountain and Hot Springs Mountain Tower

Hot Springs Mountain is a great place to go if you want to see completely unobstructed views of the Hot Springs area.

Hot Springs Mountain is accessible to hikers by accessing a trail at the picnic shelter and observation deck located below the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.  Be careful though as this path can get slippery if there has been any rain recently, so bring appropriate footwear.

If you would rather drive to the top of Hot Springs Mountain, you can do that as well.

Once you get to the top, you can go up even further by accessing the Hot Springs Mountain Tower if you choose to pay the per-person fee.

Gangster Museum of America

Long before the casinos of Las Vegas were popular, people flocked to the small town of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

For you see, Hot Springs was not just a small town with therapeutic waters.  Back in the 1920s and 30s, Hot Springs was the place to see and be seen.  Hot Springs, AR was full of gangsters, gamblers, and elegant ladies.

Thanks to that history, visitors to Hot Springs can enjoy a visit to the Gangster Museum of America and learn all about the gangsters that once considered Hot Springs their playground.  The Gangster Museum of America is quite interesting and consists of several galleries for visitors to enjoy and even has an antique casino!

Adding Gangster Museum of America to your list of things to do in Hot Springs, AR, is a great idea as its one of the best things to do!

Ouachita Mountains and the Ouachita National Forest

things to do in hot springs, arkansas

The surrounding mountain range, the Ouachita Mountains, offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities to enjoy during your visit to Hot Springs, AR.

The Ouachita National Forest offers you an opportunity to hike, mountain bike, fish, and boat on the 1.8 million acres that comprise the Ouachita National Forest. 

The Ouachita National Forest has an extensive trail system that is designated for all ability levels and even for different uses, making this the perfect place to spend some time outdoors!

Definitely add the Ouachita National Forest and some outdoor activities to your itinerary when you visit Hot Springs, AR! This is one of the best things to do in the area!

Magic Springs Water and Theme Park

The Magic Springs Water and Theme Park is the perfect place to escape the southern heat in the summer months.  Built as an entertainment venue for children and families, Magic Springs Water and Theme Park is a great addition to your list of things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

At Magic Springs you can enjoy a giant wave pool, or slide down a four-story water slide!

In addition to that, you can enjoy numerous adrenaline-pumping rides.  Don’t worry though, the park also has rides for the smaller children.

Anthony Chapel

You will find the beautiful Anthony Chapel on the grounds of Garvan Woodland Gardens.  Anthony Chapel is a gorgeous but intimate chapel made from exposed wooden arches and built mostly of glass.

The ceilings of Anthony Chapel reach almost six stories high, and because of the glass enclosure, you feel like you are being engulfed by the woods around you.  I guess that is why over 150 couples a year choose to have their wedding in Anthony Chapel.

Charlton Recreation Area-Hot Springs, AR

Located deep in the Ouachita Forest between Crystal River and Mount Ida is the very popular Charlton Recreation Area.

Here visitors to the area can hike, ride mountain bikes, fish, and swim in the gorgeous Walnut Creek. There is also a small lake that was created when the Charlton Dam and Spillway were created.

Nearby you can also visit the Charton Bathhouse, a bathhouse that is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic

The Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic is perfect for those of you that love a good magic show.  This intimate setting allows visitors to get up close and personal with a master magician and illusionist, Maxwell Blade.

Blade combines his love of magic, music, and comedy into a family-friendly show that is sure to wow you.

In addition to the show, visitors can also enjoy the theatre’s Oddity and Curiosity Museum which houses over 300 exhibits.

This is a fun and quirky thing to do while visiting Hot Springs, AR.

Arkansas Alligator Farm

alligator farm-things to do in hot springs, arkansas

Just across from Hot Spring’s Whittington Park, you will find Arkansas’ oldest alligator farm, the Arkansas Alligator Farm.

What originally began as a business that intended to raise alligators in order to sell their hides quickly turned into one of the area’s most popular tourist attractions.  Not only can you hold a baby alligator here, but you can also pet many other animals including emu, deer, and sheep.

Lake Catherine State Park

Located just outside of town is the beautiful Lake Catherine State Park.  Being one of the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas, Lake Catherine is a great addition to your list of things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Lake Catherine State Park is home to a great visitor’s center where you can learn all about the park’s amenities.  Visitors to this state park can enjoy four hiking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, guided tours, horseback riding, and a marina.  In addition, there are also cabins and a dedicated campground area.

Where to Eat in Hot Springs, Arkansas

One of the joys of visiting a new area is experiencing the food and wine, and I don’t mean the chain restaurants!  We like to go to local places, eat street food, and just dive in like a local!

Fat Bottom Girls Cupcakes

I first learned about Fat Bottom Girls while watching an episode of Cupcake Wars.  I have to admit, I wanted to run to Hot Springs immediately and get one of their cupcakes!

I had the salted caramel cupcake, it was the perfect balance of sweet and salty!  Marty had the Ooey Gooey Buttercake.

The crumb on this cake is incredible, but even if it hadn’t been, you wouldn’t care.  The cream cheese frosting and the gooey vanilla layer between the cake was decadent!

This little store is one of the best things in Hot Springs!

Bathhouse Row Winery

If you show me a sign that says “free wine tasting”, you better get out of the way!  Marty knew we were going in the minute I noticed this sign.

Bathhouse Row Winery is a small storefront that carries an assortment of Arkansas wines as well as some wine-related products.

I really enjoyed my tasting but was extremely surprised at the tax that is applied to alcohol in Arkansas.  Buyer Beware!

Rolando’s

Outdoor patio at Rolando's

You know that Marty and I are from Texas, so we are picky about our Mexican food.  I do admit, we are suckers for TexMex, that is just what we have grown up on!

We found Rolando’s located right on Central Avenue and noticed that they had a great outdoor patio. Honestly, we didn’t go to Rolando’s for any reason, but to enjoy the patio.  I know, I know, that sounds rude, but it’s true!  

It was St. Patrick’s Day, so I wanted a fun green drink.  Since I don’t drink beer at all, much less green beer, it only seems fitting that I have a margarita!

We really had a great time at Rolando’s.  The patio was super cute and the service was really good.  We had the queso flamado and some taquitos with our margaritas and it turned out to be one of the best things we had eaten in Hot Springs!

Final Thoughts on Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas

As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas to keep you busy.   This area is fabulous for outdoor recreation and for indulging in a bit of history. Of course, we only scratched the surface.  Please comment below and tell us what other activities or places we need to add to our list.

Happy Travels, Friends!!

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Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight:

We love using CheapOAir, Kayak, and Kiwi to search for the best prices on flights. We love using these search engines because they search the web for airlines all over the world to ensure you get the best deal! In addition to flights, you can also find great hotel prices on Kayak and Kiwi.

Book Your Vacation Package:

If you want to book an entire vacation package, then we suggest using Expedia. We love how easy Expedia is to use and we always find good deals on entire vacation packages on their site.

Another great site for vacation packages is BookVIP. BookVIP offers super cheap vacation packages to incredible destinations. You are sure to save money using their site!

For full guided vacations including hotels, some meals, transportation, and guides, then we book with Trafalgar. Trafalgar is a trusted tour company that will meet all of your needs while ensuring that you have a great experience.

Trip.com allows you to book flights, hotels, train tickets, rental cars, airport transfers, tours, and more all on one site. Owned by the parent company that also owns Skyscanner, this is a trusted resource for travel booking and a great “one-stop-shop.”

Book Your Accommodations:

We always begin our search by checking out the honest review on hotels at TripAdvisor. This allows us to narrow our search for specific properties once we are ready to book. Of course, you can also book directly on the TripAdvisor site as well!

There are several accommodation sites that we like to use. One of our favorites is Booking.com because it gives you a wide variety of hotels and guesthouses at a good price.

Another “go-to” hotel booking site for us is Hotels.com. We love their loyalty program that allows you to earn free nights, and their “secret prices” for members are fabulous deals!

HotelsCombined is another cool site. They allow you to compare all of the top travel sites with one search to ensure you are finding the best deal out there. Kayak works in this way as well.

If you are looking for a luxurious all-inclusive vacation, then consider checking out the Sandals/Beaches properties. Sandals properties are for couples only and Beaches are for families. We have visited Sandals in the past and absolutely love the attention to detail and the service they provide.

Tour Companies We Trust:

We love taking guided tours when visiting new places. Our go-to tour companies are Viator.com and Get Your Guide. Both of these companies have been in business for years and provide excellent customer service. You can trust booking tours from their sites for sure!

For a guided city tour, check out City Sightseeing and BigBus Tours. These bus tours are so much fun and easy to hop on and hop off at top attractions in cities around the world.

CityPass is a great way to save money when visiting large cities. CityPass allows you to get free admission to major attractions once you buy their pass. The savings add up quickly with this pass, often saving 50% with combined admissions.

Another great pass to save money in larger cities is the Sightseeing Pass. This pass allows you to save valuable time and money by combining admissions to major attractions. They also have a handy app that keeps everything you need at your fingertips.

Looking to Save Time and Money?

Check out our resource page for all of our favorite vendors. These companies help us to save time and money on our travels!

Michelle Snell-Founder That Texas Couple

About the Author

Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures.  While she is a professional educator by day, her passion for travel has her jet-setting all over the world during her free time. 

Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blog, That Texas Couple.  Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region.  She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.

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Cosette

Sunday 17th of January 2021

Such a small parade how fun. The cupcakes from Fat Bottom Girls sound delicious.

thattexascouple

Sunday 17th of January 2021

The parade was so fun and, yes, those cupcakes are amazing!

Rebecca

Saturday 16th of January 2021

An alligator farm?! That is crazy! Seems like a hidden gem in the US.

thattexascouple

Sunday 17th of January 2021

It is such a fun place to visit.

Lisa

Saturday 16th of January 2021

Going to an alligator farm sounds like such a unique experience! So cool!

Holidays from hels

Saturday 16th of January 2021

Wow what a place! You had me at Hot Springs but add in mountains, alligators, a theme park and the world's shortest parade and I have a whole new entry on my bucket list! Love it!

thattexascouple

Sunday 17th of January 2021

It really is a fun little city. It is very laid back but has plenty to keep you busy.

Rachel - Rays of Adventure

Saturday 16th of January 2021

Great post! Looks like so many fun things to do, I'd love to visit one day!