Forget extravagant dining and luxurious lodging—you're looking to cut corners on the necessities. When on the go in a new place with a limited time, there are bigger fish to fry. And when in Hot Springs, Arkansas, there is so much surrounding you, you won't want anything less than a packed itinerary.
So the question is: How much can you fit into your Spa City adventure? And if this sounds like a challenge, that's because it is Go-Getter. Take a gander at what just three days here could look like for you:
Welcome to the Spa City! Let's get into what it's all about, hitting all essential spots over the next three days. Are you ready, go-getter?
• 3 p.m. - Hotel check-in.
• 4 p.m. - Take a scenic drive up to West Mountain. Do you want to see a little of what Hot Springs National Park is all about? Take your time at each of the beautiful overlooks to downtown Hot Springs and the National Park along the way.
• 5 p.m. - Take a stroll downtown. Exploring what you saw from the mountain view, head to the sidewalks of downtown and venture into the unique shops. You'll love the numerous art galleries showcasing local works; there's a little something for everyone. Try the Bathhouse Soapery, where you'll find homemade soaps. Maybe It's All About Rocks is more your speed, housing a wide variety of metaphysical crystals and rocks.
• 7 p.m. - Dinner. SQZBX (pronounced squeezebox) is a delicious quick option walking distance from downtown and your next destination! Enjoy a fresh-made pizza and beer brewed in-house.
• 8 p.m. - Catch a Maxwell Blade Magic Show. Have a seat in the seats of the historic Malco Theatre to enjoy a mind-bending magic show by none other than grand illusionist Maxwell Blade. Prepare to be genuinely impressed and left scratching your head after witnessing a mind-boggling performance. And don't let magic show fool you into thinking it's something for the mere enjoyment of children.
• 10 p.m. - Are you tired yet? I sure hope not, because there is more fun to be had! End your first successful day at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort playing slots, games of skill, or enjoying one of the numerous restaurant/bar options inside this smokeless casino. And a plus: There's also a good chance live music can be found somewhere inside.
Yesterday we explored West Mountain. Today, we'll take on North Mountain. But don't worry, Go-Getter, it's a little more involved than just a scenic drive.
• 8 a.m. - Breakfast. Get caffeinated and enjoy a light yet filling breakfast before getting this busy day going! Kollective Coffee & Tea is within walking distance from your first destination of the day.
• 9 a.m. - Hike North Mountain. Hit the 1.5-mile hiking trail off Fountain Street leading up to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. Once arrived, ride 216 feet up the elevator of the tower and take in the stunning panoramic views of the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs Mountain, and Diamond Lakes Area. Before heading back down the mountain, visit the white pagoda slightly downhill from the tower for a few more serene views. Tip: Fill up your water jug before and after your hike at Happy Hollow Spring.
• 11:30 a.m. - Take a bath. After hiking down the mountain, you'll be back in Downtown Hot Springs, probably ready to take a load off. There's no better way to do this than spend the afternoon at one of the bathhouses. Hot Springs is famous for its thermal waters thought to be medicinal, so go ahead and soak in a private bath and massage at Buckstaff Bathhouse, or bring a swimsuit along for a soak in the public thermal water pool at Quapaw Bathhouse.
• 1 p.m. - Lunch. Get a quick burger, hot dog, or something of the sort, and top it off with a dairy treat — you've earned it! King Kone will be on your way to your next destination and is a local treasure.
• 2 p.m. - Garvan Woodland Gardens. Tis' the season of the tulips in this massive botanical garden. Surrounded by incredible nature, any trip to Garvan in March or April will permit 150,000 tulips to be enjoyed at peak bloom! Tip: Look for the four-story treehouse, the glass chapel, and George the peacock.
• 4 p.m. - Learn the history of the bathhouses. Do you remember that super nice and relaxing soak you took earlier? Well, we're going to explore that a bit more. In the Fordyce Bathhouse, you'll find a free three-story museum. Take yourself on a self-guided tour to see how the bathing was once done in Hot Springs. See vintage contraptions used for medicinal purposes, clothing, artifacts, and more.
• 5:30 p.m. - Make A Narrow Escape. Before leaving downtown, meet some robots and put your mind to the test spending an hour trying to get out of an escape room.
• 7 p.m. - Dinner. Stop through The Hungry Greek's drive-thru for a quick but absolutely decadent meal on your way out of downtown to your next destination.
• 8 p.m. - Putt-putt at the Cove. Play a round of putt-putt at Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf to end the day. In this 18-hole course, you'll putt along streams, caves, and lots of pirates. This is a classic Hot Springs staple and a ton of fun.
Time flies when you're having fun! This is the last day; let's make it count go-getter.
• 8 a.m. - Hotel Check-out and breakfast. Give the Track Kitchen at Oaklawn a try! There's a ton of options at budget prices. Tip: Keep an eye out; you might be eating next to a famous jockey.
• 9 a.m. - Rent a bike from the Hot Springs Bicycle Touring Company. Whether you're an avid biker or haven't been on a bike in years, don't worry, we're about to have some fun. (And if you have a different form of transportation on wheels — i.e., skateboard, roller skates, scooter — any will suffice!) Allow me to introduce you to the Hot Springs Creek Greenway, which will veer off to your right when leaving Hot Springs Bicycle Touring Company. This scenic trail will take you to Shady Grove Road near Oaklawn, but there are a few things to note on the way. First, check out the skate park on Valley Street. Which ramps can you conquer on the bike? Once done here, hop back on the trail. You'll pass the beautiful and newly-constructed Majestic Park (and maybe catch a glimpse of a few baseball games if you're lucky). Then you'll come upon Hollywood Park. Stop here. Park your bike and explore this truly unique park. From the giant wood-carved wizard to stone castle-like structures, this park is something of a "far away land." Shaded by trees, you'll walk along this beautiful park observing artistic installations placed throughout and crossing over streams. Once done, hop back on the trail and keep going until you reach the trail's end, where the boulders cut you off! Now turn around and head back, enjoying all the beauty you passed along the way one more time.
• 12 p.m. - Lunch. Head to Capo's Tacos for lunch and margarita to refuel before doing one last thing...
• 1 p.m. - Dig for crystals at Ron Coleman Mining. Before getting on the road, there's just one more thing left to do: digging for treasure to take back with you. Did you know the Ouachita Mountains surrounding Hot Springs is where some of the world's largest deposits of quartz crystals can be found? It takes a little digging and luck that you're looking in the right spot. Try your hand at it in Coleman's mine, where they guarantee you'll dig up enough quartz to cover the cost of digging, or else you'll receive a credit to use in the gift shop. And before you leave, feel free to give their zipline a go to really end things on a high note.
• 3 p.m. - Now, go-getter — we head home and rest.
(Note: Don't leave us out of your fun! Photograph your journey and post with #VisitHotSprings.)
Spring break go-getter travelers are in luck; you may just have the opportunity to catch a few of the town's most celebrated annual events. Let's talk about a few "save the dates" that should be added to your itinerary if scheduling permits. Check it out in the following:
With the oldest games in history, great food, shopping, and more, the Ouachita Highland Games and Mountain Market is a historical fun-filled experience. Admission price $5.00. Click here to purchase tickets.
Head to the Bank OZK Arena to catch a few basketball games featuring the best of the best high school teams across the state. Live-action and tough competition will leave you cheering for a team you may have ties with or one you even just met. Click here to purchase tickets.
The 19th Annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade - March 17, 2022! The parade will take place on one of the world's shortest streets: Bridge Street in downtown Hot Springs. There will be zany floats, live music, and you bet your lucky knickers there will be no shortage of green food, beer, and costumes. Don't miss this year’s Grand Marshall Cheech Marin and Parade Starter Danny Trejo at this free parade.
The World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade will be extended an extra day with a free public concert by famed rock band Sugar Ray. (Iiiiiiiii Just Wanna Fly? Yeah, those guys.) The Bridge Street Entertainment District will open at 5 p.m. An opening act will perform at 7 p.m., and Sugar Ray will take the stage at 8 p.m.
The 18th Annual Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival will take place at Cedar Glades Park. Come out to see live underground indie artists play their hearts out on-stage in the great outdoors. This is paired with food trucks, artistic vendors, workshops, games, camping, and more. Click here for more information.
The Arkansas Derby comes once a year to Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, and it's a time of celebration. Dress to the nines, wear your fancy hat, and enjoy the most lucrative thoroughbred horse race in Arkansas, offering a "purse" of $1 million.
And finally, we'll get into the nitty-gritty of lodging and dining.
A few quality lodging locations in a central location include Microtel by Wyndham and Best Western Winners Circle. Both are located near downtown and Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. Home2 Suites by Hilton and DoubleTree by Hilton; both located off Lake Hamilton. And Country Inn by Radisson, La Quinta Inn by Wyndham, and Hampton Inn, all conveniently located off Central Avenue.
As for some additional options for quick bites to squeeze in, you can't go wrong with the following mouthwatering drive thru's and curbside pickup's: Chick-fil-A, David's Burgers, Dairy Queen, Zaxby's, Slim Chickens, Jimmy John's, Chicken Express, Dunkin' Donuts, Freddy's, Schlotzsky's, Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Bailey's Dairy Treat, Stubby's and Wok Express.
That's it. That's the skinny on making the absolute most out of your time when experiencing Hot Springs in a limited amount of time. Now make me proud, go forth and conquer, go-getter! hot-springs.cjrw.rocks
Cassidy is a Hot Springs-based freelance journalist. She spends most of her time exploring and writing about the city for her online platform The Hot Springs Post. In her freetime she enjoys skating, swimming, car camping and spending time with her nieces and nephews. Cassidy aspires to create a positive impact with her writing, be it fun or informative.