It’s not “beginning to look a lot like Christmas” in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, the holidays are unmistakably here. The town is shining brighter than the nose that guided Santa’s sleigh that one foggy Christmas Eve. Here, we have holiday lights by the millions.
Hot Springs’ beloved botanical garden is dressing in the magic of the holidays. Garvan Woodland Gardens’ holiday lights attract thousands, not without good cause. From 4-9 p.m. nightly (excluding Christmas Day), take a stroll or ride through this wonderland. Mystical scenes like light tunnels, giant flowers, and myriad illuminated creatures make this a “must” this holiday season. While there, grab a snack or warm up with a hot beverage at the Chipmunk Cafe. The light show will run through Dec. 31.
The magic of holiday lights does not stop at Garvan Gardens. Take a stroll through downtown Hot Springs to see a variety of lighting displays, and stop at charming local shops along your way. Say hello to the illuminating scene of children carollers in front of the Convention Center before heading toward Hill Wheatley Plaza to see the enormous flashing Christmas Tree. Head through the dreamy plaza under the lights, to see things like the beauty of the inspiring Adair Park and the Christmas Tree forest in Arlington Park.
Kringle’s in the Park is a year-round holiday store. While downtown, visit KITP and Kringle’s and Kones for the cherry on top of your festive outing. Grab an ornament (or seven) to remember your time in Hot Springs. Across the street, you will find Kringle’s and Kones, a cafe where you can get coffee “Santa’s way” and a Kringle to fill your tummy. And if you need any more convincing to visit Kringle’s, just read their raging reviews on Facebook. The praise speaks for itself.
Before leaving downtown, don’t forget to stop by The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, where you will find the splendid traditional 8-foot-tall gingerbread house. Take it all in because this masterpiece is something you could stare at for hours and still find new things in its decorative and scene-setting detail. With real gingerbread, candies, and frosting, the house weighs almost 1,000 pounds. Viewers can look at how many pieces of candy they think are on display, and the winner will win a “special prize.”
Mid-America Science Museum is a magical place no matter the time of year, but for the holidays, the dinosaurs greeting visitors outside are all dressed up. Visitors who come through December have the chance to admire these hard-working locals’ creations and vote on their favorite. The winning business gets $500! Dino Lights is a time for local businesses and organizations to come together and “adopt” one of the 18 dinosaurs on the Oaklawn Foundation’s Dino-Trek to dress in lights.
The Oaklawn Christmas Parade is a long-lived and loved tradition. A town-wide Christmas Parade is like something out of a Hallmark movie, and Hot Springs has just the charm to reinforce that sentiment. Come out to line the streets of Downtown Hot Springs and watch as dozens of businesses and organizations ride through on their most festive homemade parade float. There is no better time to get in that holly-jolly holiday spirit! The parade will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 5.
Hot Springs’ very own Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort has enticing lights year-round. Still, on a holiday note, a beautiful Christmas Tree display can be found at the casino this year.
Another lighting display not to miss is that of the Garland County Courthouse. Located in “side-town,” a branch off of downtown Hot Springs, the lights lining the historic structure and decorating its lawn are a magical experience found on “off the beaten path.”
And last but certainly not least, take an old-fashioned drive through neighborhoods known for showing off their homes during the holidays. After you’re done with downtown and side-town, check out the Quapaw/Prospect area comprising one corner of these districts. These historic homes dressed in holiday cheer will make you feel nothing less than nostalgic. While out on your drive, also check out the homes in Eastgate Estates off Lakeside Road. The love of our community is shown in every one of these home displays.
I wish you all a very happy holiday and, in turn, a new year!! I’m glad to see Hot Springs closing the year with these growing traditions. I know I feel lucky to live here during the holiday season.
Cassidy is a Hot Springs-based freelance journalist. She spends most of her time exploring and writing about the city for her online publication The Hot Springs Post, and has recently published her first book, 100 Things to Do in Hot Springs Before You Die. In her freetime she enjoys playing games, skating, walking her dog Murphey and spending time with her nieces and nephews. Cassidy aspires to create a positive impact with her writing, be it fun or informative (or both!).