Hot Springs is bound to be a good time year-round, but come summertime? That’s our specialty, and the whole family is in for a real treat. Here, you have the choice of getting your feet wet in one of our three lakes; hitting Magic Springs Theme and Water Park; and attending one of our free community-wide block parties, bathtub races, or firework shows. And when each day comes to an end, and you find yourself exhausted after a day of fun in the sun and are in search of the one food able to put a smile on everyone in the family (pizza, of course!) we have many delicious options.
As someone who grew up vacationing in Hot Springs, I hold the memories made on Lake Hamilton with my family very near and dear to my heart to this day. And now, as an adult who is a full-time resident, I count the days it takes to get back out on the water as much as possible once the weather warms. Luckily, we have three lakes you can choose to enjoy a hot summer’s day on: Hamilton, Ouachita, and Catherine.
If you're looking to boat, bring your own or rent a pontoon from one of our many local rental shops and cruise the sparkling waters of Lake Hamilton. For a rental, head to Hot Springs Marina, Kahuna Bay, Gregg Orr Marine, Marineland, or Salty Dog (just to name a few). Grab some fun accessories like innertubes to drag your beloved family members behind the boat along your way, giving everyone an exhilarating experience.
If you want to get out on a boat, but don’t want to be the captain, simply hop on a local boat cruise run by Captain Jack, who has decades of experience navigating the waters of Lake Hamilton.
For swimming, I highly recommend one of the many swimming areas off Lake Ouachita — Three Sisters Springs is my highest recommendation. Don’t wait too long to head out to swim, because Park Rangers are there to manage capacity levels for each area (which is a good thing when you’re on the inside!) But even if you don’t make it to Three Sisters, there are many other areas designated for swimming, and no matter where you are on Ouachita the clean and warm water can still be enjoyed.
If you’re looking for a little warm up before a swim underneath a 10-foot waterfall, hike the Falls Branch Trail at Lake Catherine State Park, which leads you to this rapid beauty. I make time to do this alluring nature excursion at least once a year with my family, and it’s worthwhile everytime. (Even the toddlers in the family love it!)
The hike is 1.6 miles, and a doozy, so be prepared with plenty of sunblock, snacks, and water. It can be accessed from the park’s main trailhead at the south end of Camp Area C. When you start the hike you will veer off to the right, following the trail markers. Not looking to conquer a long hike, but still want to swim and see the waterfall? No worries. At the start of the trailhead instead veer off to the left, and you will be about a 10 minute walk away from the water.
I will forever stand by the following claim: Magic Springs is one of my absolute favorite things Hot Springs has to offer. Regardless of age, this park is fun for all ages, making it the perfect family friendly to-do. You can never outgrow the thrill only a roller coaster or treacherous water slide can give. Start at the theme park (don't miss out on the Gauntlet, X-Coaster, Plummet Summit, and Brain Drain.) Then head over to the water park and cool off while zooming down water slides, floating the lazy river and riding the boogie board wave.
What makes Hot Springs a fantastic destination is the community residing here, and man, does this community know how to have a good time. There are a few upcoming community-wide events that are completely free, and an open invite to everyone. These are annual events that come almost as a celebration of summer.
Come June, every week will bring a Bridge Street LIVE! block party to downtown Hot Springs. This community-wide event will have five nights of free concerts, food, beverage, merchant and craft vendors. Live music entertainers include The Party Jammers on June 2nd, Dikki Du & the Zydeco Crew on June 9th, country band Texas Hill on June 16th, The Big Dam Horns on June 23rd, and DJ Kramer on June 30th. It can all be found in downtown’s entertainment district from 5-10 p.m. on Thursday’s.
Another can’t-miss June event is Hot Springs’s sacred World Championship Running of the Tubs bathtub race. Contestants line up on the streets of downtown in front of Historic Bathhouse Row, racing bathtubs full of water while wearing wacky costumes and enduring super soakers to the face. It’s not a race for the weak, but it’s fun for any spectator. Come line the streets and cheer on your favorite contestants in a race that celebrates our history of bathing the world.
And come July, don’t miss our Annual Independence Day Firework show. Head to the lakeshore of Hamilton across from the DoubleTree once the sun goes down on July 4th, and be amazed at the hundreds of festive colorful explosions shooting into the sky over the water.
Pizza is delicious, it’s easy, and it’s a dish everyone in the family can share and love as they fill their tummies after a long day of fun in the sun. And lucky for you, it can be found in many styles at many joints around Hot Springs.
Pizza Chicago style (and my personal favorite): Rocky’s Corner
Pizza New York style: Mama’s Little Italy
Pizza Booklyn style: Deluca’s Pizza
Pizza from a patio: Grateful Head Pizza Oven and Taproom
Pizza on the lake: Sam’s Pizza Pub
Pizza with a brew: SQZBX Brewery and Pizza Joint
Pizza on a budget: Beano’s Pizza
It’s summertime, and most families are looking for one amenity with their lodging to appease the children: an outdoor pool. An outdoor pool puts smiles on everyone’s faces during a vacation, and we have many options for you to choose from. Look to the DoubleTree by Hilton, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, Towneplace Suites by Marriott, Gold-Inn, and Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa. For a complete list of places to stay check out hotsprings.org.
And there you have it, those are just a few of the many family-friendly summertime options to pursue while vacationing and making special memories with your loved ones this year in Hot Springs. I for one am happy the warm weather is finally here, and can’t wait to soak up the sun at the lake, water park and community events on the horizon.
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.