Here in Hot Springs, you may fly across miles of mountain biking trails one moment and hold a baby alligator while petting a pygmy goat the next. You may experience a thrilling zip-line through the trees, a daring ropes course, exhilarating twists around roller coasters, and refreshing rides down steep, long water slides in a single day. In one afternoon, you may even find yourself on one of the three lakes, cruising through on a kayak, pontoon, jet ski, or innertube. No matter what adventure you're seeking, it can all be found in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
First, let's talk mountain biking. (It's kind of a big deal around here.) Hot Springs has you covered whether you're an avid mountain biker or looking to pick up an exciting vacation hobby. There is a slew of options in helping you get out there on a trail, from bike rentals to multi-level trail systems. Namely, the Northwoods! You will find more than 30 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails in this multi-level trail system.
With zip-lining and ropes courses, Adventureworks is another avenue to look down for one of those "time of your life" experiences. Book a canopy zip tour that flies you through a forest of trees from the tower to the ground. Alternatively, try a 16-element challenge course (more commonly known as a ropes course) with swinging bridges, cargo nets, rock walls, and hanging vines. One more zip-lining choice lies at Ron Coleman Mining. Make a day out of it by checking out the zip line at Ron's and then going down to the mine to dig for quartz crystal.
You can find more of a unique adventure at this Arkansas staple at the Alligator Farm. Let me first ask, do you like alligators? And before you answer, let me say I can almost ensure you will love alligators after having the opportunity to cuddle one of the baby gators at this farm. OK, I'm pretty sure I can't use the word cuddle for legal purposes, but you get to hold these guys in your two hands, and it's such a rare, tender experience. Along with holding baby alligators, you also have the opportunity to feed full-grown alligators and come in contact with pygmy goats, emus, sheep, and more in the farm's petting zoo.
Here's a personal favorite of mine: Magic Springs Theme and Water Park. Like Adventureworks, this is another one that gives you that "time of your life" experience. To put this into perspective, I visited Magic Springs as a child. As an adult, I continue to go and have just as much fun as I did the decade prior. You can never outgrow the thrill only a roller coaster or treacherous water slide can give. Before going to this park, I would recommend setting aside at least three-fourths a day to spend there. Start at the theme park — don't miss out on the Gauntlet, X-Coaster, and Brain Drain — then head over to the water park and see just how daring you can be when conquering every—single—slide. The fun all begins opening weekend at the park on May 7!
Don't stop now. Any true adventure seeker has got to hit Hot Springs Off-Road Park. Bring your dirt bike, ATV, jeep, or any all-wheel-drive vehicle, and hit this 1,242-acre rock park. The trail system at ORV accommodates all types of riders, from beginners to experts. Never done anything like this and don't have an appropriate vehicle? No worries. The park offers two-hour guided side-by-side tours that are just as fun.
Finally, let's hit the lakes. Here in the tri-lakes area, three beautiful lakes — Hamilton, Ouachita, and Catherine — and countless ways to play on them. Rent a pontoon with fun accessories like innertubes to tie onto the back, or rent a jet ski from Great White Rentals, Kahuna Bay, or Hot Springs Marina. Or bring your own kayak and explore the lakes to your desire! Or you could simply post up at one of the many swimming holes available at any of the three lakes. At Catherine, I'd suggest the swimming hole underneath its waterfall. At Ouachita, I'd recommend Three Sisters Springs.
And, of course, every adventure-seeker looks for those bold foods to satisfy that intrepid palette. Hot Springs has you covered in that area, too. Find adventure in the following cultural eats.
How about a heaping bowl of hot, fresh pho paired with all your favorite toppings at The Pho House? Step into Mexico through the doors of La Bodeguita and gorge yourself on their authentic cuisine. Hit the Biergarten of Steinhaus Keller and enjoy popular German eats like massive hanging pretzels, delectable charcuterie boards, and brats. At The Hungry Greek, you will find some of the best, most fresh gyros you've ever had. Osaka provides a chance to remove your shoes and sit at one of the kotatsu tables for a peaceful dining experience filling up on sushi rolls—or take it up a notch and dine at the fiery hibachi bar. Some excellent food trucks to look out for include those parked in 420 Eats Food Truck Court, located at 420 Malvern Ave. At the court, check out Brina Thai-Laos, Kroc-Coos, Rock N’ Roll Hibachi and Taqueria Oaxaquena.
Now, where is an adventure-seeker to stay? While Hot Springs has countless hotel and AirBnB options, I feel like camping recommendations fit best with this one. And luckily, Hot Springs and its National Park are not short on camping accommodations either. Take advantage of the campgrounds found at Gulpha Gorge, the local Kampgrounds Of America, Catherine's Landing, Hot Springs Off-Road Park, or Lake Ouachita.
While in Hot Springs, save the date for these upcoming local events: Garvan Woodland Gardens Tulip Extravaganza, the Oaklawn Handicap & Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, Garland County Master Gardeners Plant Sale & Garden Show, Art Springs, Arts & the Park, Don McLean Live for 50th Anniversary of American Pie at Oaklawn, Jurassic Quest's Epic Indoor Event and the annual Memorial Day Fireworks.
As the weather warms and you're itching to get out on that next adventure, get your fill of all the thrill in one of the most beautiful places in the country — Hot Springs, Arkansas.
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.