10 Best Things To Do In Hot Springs, Arkansas

This mountain town is home to hiking trails and lakes; some of the best fried pies around; and Hot Springs National Park, the nation’s oldest national park.

<p>Sean Pavone/Getty Images</p>

Sean Pavone/Getty Images

When it comes to adventure in the Ouachita Mountains, you can’t do much better than a visit to Hot Springs, Arkansas. This small mountain town has a deep history and is filled with natural wonders, including the famed thermal springs around which the town developed. It’s also home to hiking trails and lakes; some of the best barbecue and fried pies around; and Hot Springs National Park, which is the nation’s oldest national park and also the place where you’ll find the springs that give the park and the town their names. Read on for a list of fun things to do in and around Hot Springs.

1. Visit Hot Springs National Park

This small town is located next to the nation’s oldest and smallest national park, though those monikers belie the big fun that can be found here. Home to thermal springs that release water at an average of 147 degrees Fahrenheit, the park has long beckoned visitors to visit the area bathhouses and soak in the storied spring water. To see the scope of the park and the beauty of the landscape, ride the elevator to the top of Hot Springs Mountain Tower (216 feet high!) and take a look at the spectacular scenery.

2. Stroll Bathhouse Row

In addition to its forested acres, Hot Springs National Park is home to Bathhouse Row, a collection of eight bathhouses along a magnolia-shaded sidewalk. Each has its own architectural style. Today, two are still bathhouses, while the others have been repurposed through a historic leasing program. You can visit the grandest of them all, Fordyce Bathhouse, to see what the row was like in its heyday, as Fordyce is now a visitor center for the park.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

3. Stay in a historic property

You’ll have your pick of places to stay in Hot Springs, but two properties will keep you close to the action. Hale Bathhouse, which is located along Bathhouse Row in the national park, is now a hotel. Hotel Hale houses suites complete with large soaking tubs that fill with the park’s famed thermal water. Across the street, The Waters Hotel makes its home in a historic medical office building and has a rooftop restaurant with views over Bathhouse Row.

4. Sip beer brewed with thermal spring waters

Another bathhouse with an innovative new use is located at the north end of Bathhouse Row. There, you’ll find Superior Bathhouse Brewery, where founder Rose Schweikhart and her team brew beer using the park’s thermal spring waters. (They’re only brewery in the world to do so!) Order a flight of Superior’s creatively named beers, and find a seat on the breezy patio to take in the sights and sounds of this corner of the park.

5. See Garvan Woodland Gardens

South of town is Garvan Woodland Gardens, a wooded botanical garden that stretches over 210 acres along Lake Hamilton. In addition to outdoor sculptures and walking trails, the gardens are home to the breathtaking Anthony Chapel, a wood-and-glass structure that’s ideal for quiet moments of contemplation and has also become a popular venue for weddings.

6. Explore the area’s hiking and biking trails

Mapped hiking trails criss-cross Hot Springs National Park and are well worth an afternoon trek. Many can be accessed in and around Bathhouse Row. For a paved saunter, take to the Grand Promenade, which is located just behind the row and will lead you past two uncapped thermal springs. Stand next to them to feel the heat emanating from the moving water. For mountain biking, head over to Northwoods Trails, a system of over 30 trails located a few minutes from downtown.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

7. Eat beloved barbecue

Ask anyone about the best barbecue in Arkansas, and they’ll point you to McClard's Bar-B-Q Restaurant, which is located in Hot Springs. A family-owned spot that’s been churning out delicious plates since 1928, it’s still a must-visit place if you’re in town and hungry for a bite of ribs and a pour of McClard's legendary hot sauce.

8. Indulge in a once-in-a-lifetime fried pie

Arkansas is famous for its fried pies, and some of the best of the best can be found at Morrison’s Fried Pies, a food truck-turned-Hot Springs institution. The retirement project of Edgar Morrison, the food truck turns out deliciously golden and crisp pastries filled with a lineup of delectable fillings ranging from savory to sweet. When you see the blue-and-white checked flags flying, pull over and order yourself a fried pie.

9. Splash on the shores of nearby lakes

This is a watery corner of Arkansas. In addition to the area's hot springs, lakes and rivers abound. Lake Catherine, Lake Ouachita, and Lake Hamilton offer many opportunities for fun on the water. Boating, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, swimming–the adventures are yours to embark on.

10. Shop Central Avenue

Downtown Hot Springs buzzes with opportunities for shopping and dining. You’ll find a huge concentration of shops along Central Avenue just across the street from Bathhouse Row. Browse Trail Mix Outdoor & More for outdoor accouterments, Historic District Antiques for one-of-a-kind treasures, Bathhouse Soapery and Caldarium for bath-and-body elixirs, and Evilo for specialty oils and vinegars ideal for gifting. You can also stop by the Gangster Museum of America to learn about the town’s gambling history and visit the statue of Al Capone that sits outside of The Ohio Club, Arkansas’ oldest bar and once a hangout for the gangster and his friends. Afterwards, recharge with a slice of pizza from SQZBX Brewery & Pizza on Ouachita Avenue.

Plan a trip to this mountain marvel, and see Hot Springs for yourself. 

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